Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Horseback Riding in Yosemite

In this short video from Finley-Holiday Films, Yosemite National Park ranger Shelton Johnson talks about seeing Yosemite on horseback (or mule back) - an experience that hasn't changed much since the earliest visitors ventured into Yosemite. You may recognize Ranger Johnson - he was featured quite extensively in The National Parks: America's Best Idea, the Ken Burns film from a few years ago:

If seeing Yosemite on horseback isn't your thing, or if you've never been to the park, did you know that you can do one hike that encompasses nearly all of Yosemite’s iconic sights? This epic 12.6-mile hike includes a full view of Yosemite Falls from the only place in the park to see both the upper and lower falls in their full glory. Along the way you’ll also see El Capitan, Half Dome, Sentinel Rock, Illilouette Fall and Nevada Fall. The one-way hike begins from the Yosemite Valley, climbs up to Glacier Point via the Four Mile Trail, and then travels back down to the valley via the Panorama Trail and the famous Mist Trail.


Sunday, December 29, 2013

Florissant Fossil Beds to Host Hikes for Your Health Program

Is getting more exercise one of your New Year’s Resolutions? Want to avoid crowds at the gym, and would rather exercise outdoors, hiking and snowshoeing?

On Wednesday, January 15th, Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument will launch a new community health program called, “Hikes for Your Health”. This new program will run every Wednesday and Saturday from January 15th to March 15th, 2014. These ranger-led hikes will vary in length from 2 – 5 miles. Depending on conditions, the hikes may either be on foot or by snowshoe. The Monument offers free snowshoes if needed. Participants must provide all other equipment and safety gear such as layered clothing, appropriate footwear, water, and snacks. Trekking or ski poles are recommended. Participants must be 10 years or older.

The first hike will begin at the visitor center at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, January 15th and will hike along the Sawmill Trail (2.3 miles). The Hikes for Your Health program will be offered in partnership with Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, the Teller County Community Partnership Family Resource Center, and the Friends of the Florissant Fossil Beds. This hiking program is part of the National Park Service’s Healthy Parks, Healthy People US initiative working to reintegrate human, environmental, and ecological health into the mission of public parks and public lands.

Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. The entrance fee for the park is $3.00 per adult (16 years or older) or free with one of the many federal land passes. For more information please call the Monument at (719) 748 – 3253 ext. 122 or 202 or visit the park website.

Rocky Mountain Hiking Trails

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Celebrate the New Year with a First Day Hike

Colorado Parks and Wildlife will sponsor guided hikes in 18 state parks on New Year's Day. The First Day Hikes initiative offers individuals and families an opportunity to begin the New Year rejuvenating and connecting with the outdoors by taking a healthy hike on Jan. 1, 2014. First Day Hikes offer a great way to get outside, exercise, enjoy nature and welcome the New Year with friends and family. The hikes themselves are free but park visitors must have either a daily parks pass or a valid annual pass.

"Getting outdoors is a great way to start the year off right - whether you're burning off holiday calories or resolving to be more active," said Bob Broscheid, Director of Colorado Parks and Wildlife. "These hikes are perfect for the Colorado lifestyle and we are excited to again be part of the national First Day Hike initiative."

State parks boast a variety of beautiful settings for year-round outdoor recreation, and each First Day Hike will offer an opportunity to explore the unique natural and cultural treasures close to home. Visitors can expect to be surrounded by the quiet beauty of nature in winter, experience spectacular views and vistas and benefit from the company of a knowledgeable state park guide.

First Day Hikes originated over 20 years ago at the Blue Hills Reservation, a state park in Milton, Mass. Since that time, "America's State Parks" and the National Association of State Parks Directors have helped grow the program to all 50 states.

Park staff and volunteers will lead the hikes. All Colorado State Parks recommend that First Day Hike participants bring water, sun protection and appropriate clothing for the weather conditions. Other recommended items, depending on the weather conditions and terrain, include snow shoes, strap-on ice cleats, snacks, trekking poles, cameras, binoculars and wildlife guide books.

Details about all First Day Hikes in Colorado can be found here.

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Rocky Mountain Hiking Trails

Friday, December 27, 2013

Harney Peak: The Top of South Dakota

Not only does Harney Peak offer outstanding views of the Black Hills, and the chance to stand atop the highest point in South Dakota, but it also allows hikers the opportunity to visit the old stone fire tower that sits atop its summit. It was built by the Civilian Conservation Corp in 1939, and was used as a fire lookout for several decades. Visitors are now free to explore this castle-like structure.

For more information and photos on this outstanding hike, please click here to visit our new Discover the West website.


Friday, December 20, 2013

National Parks to Offer Free Admission on 9 Days in 2014

Circle the dates on the calendar and plan your trip – America’s 401 national parks will offer free admission on nine days in 2014, including several holidays. The 2014 entrance fee-free days are:

◾January 20: Martin Luther King Jr. Day
◾February 15-17: Presidents Day weekend
◾April 19-20: National Park Week’s opening weekend
◾August 25: National Park Service’s 98th birthday
◾September 27: National Public Lands Day
◾November 11: Veterans Day

“America’s national parks welcome more than 280 million visitors a year. To say thanks for that support and invite every American to visit these treasures that they own, we are declaring nine days of free admission next year,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “Whether it’s that once-in-a-lifetime family trip to Yellowstone or taking a daily walk along the National Mall in Washington, D.C., or the moment at Central High School that your child suddenly understands what civil rights are all about, national parks offer places for unforgettable experiences.

With more than 84 million acres of spectacular scenery, 17,000 miles of trails, 5,000 miles of shoreline, 27,000 historic and prehistoric structures, and 100 million museum items and an infinite number of authentic American stories to tell, national parks offer something for every taste.

Those in search of superlatives will find them in national parks including the country’s highest point (in Denali National Park) and lowest point (in Death Valley National Park), deepest lake (Crater Lake National Park), longest cave (Mammoth Cave National Park), tallest trees (Redwood National Park), and highest waterfall (Yosemite National Park).

Normally, 133 national parks charge an entrance fee that ranges from $3 to $25. The entrance fee waiver does not cover amenity or user fees for things like camping, boat launches, transportation, or special tours.

Other Federal land management agencies that will offer fee-free days in 2014 are: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Forest Service and the Army Corps of Engineers. Please contact each for details.

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Rocky Mountain Hiking Trails

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Winter Survival Skills: Eating Snow versus Ice

We posed a similar situation over the weekend, but will ask again: What if you're out several miles from the trailhead during a winter hike and find yourself in an emergency situation in which you've run out of drinking water? In this particular situation you'll have plenty of snow and ice around, but the question is, do you consume any of it to help with your increasing dehydration? Is one source better than the other? And do you know why? The folks over at Vermont-based Peak Survival provide the answers to these questions in this short video:

Rocky Mountain Hiking Trails

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Hewlett Gulch Trail in Canyon Lakes Reopens

The Hewlett Gulch Trail, closed following the September flood, will temporarily reopen by tomorrow. There are icy areas along the trail due to saturated soils and higher-than-average water levels. Hikers should use extra caution. The trail is expected to re-close during the spring runoff. Work on the trail will take place after that.

Much winter recreation across the Canyon Lakes Ranger District (CLRD) has been impacted due to the flood and hazardous tree removal projects. Long Draw Road remains closed; this includes closed to over-snow travel. Snowmobiling opportunities on the district are limited due to the reasons listed above and snow conditions. Many roads also seasonally close in December.

For more information on the CLRD roads and trails closed due to the flood, please click here.

Rocky Mountain Hiking Trails

The Yosemite Valley

Half Dome "presents an aspect of the most imposing grandeur; it strikes even the most casual observer as a new revelation in mountain forms; its existence would be considered an impossibility if it were not there before us in all its reality..."

- Josiah D. Whitney

The Sentinel Meadow & Cook's Meadow Loop hike is the perfect way to experience the Yosemite Valley. The loop hike offers a variety of attractions, including lush meadows filled with wildflowers, wildlife, and outstanding views of El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, Sentinel Falls and Half Dome.

For more photos, and to learn more about this short easy hike, please click here.


Monday, December 16, 2013

First Day Hikes 2014

Start the new year off on the right foot by taking a First Day Hike in a state park near you. All across the country state parks will once again be offering guided First Day Hikes on New Year’s Day 2014.

The idea for First Day Hikes originated over 20 years ago at the Blue Hills Reservation State Park in Milton, Massachusetts. The program was launched to promote both healthy lifestyles throughout the year and year round recreation at state parks. Many other states have offered outdoor recreation programs on New Year’s Day, however, all 50 state park systems have now joined together to sponsor a range of First Day Hikes.

This year, for the first time, the American Hiking Society has joined America’s State Parks in support of their First Day Hikes program. So far more than 400 hikes in all 50 states have been scheduled for this years events, with numerous options for a First Day Hike in the Rocky Mountain region. You can find a First Day Hike by clicking here.

Rocky Mountain Hiking Trails

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Procuring Water in a Winter Survival Situation

What if you're out several miles from the trailhead during a winter hike, and you find yourself in an emergency situation in which you've run out of drinking water. In the video below, the folks over at Vermont-based Peak Survival offer some interesting and "outside of the box" alternatives for creating and storing drinking water. These are probably some good skills to learn and remember for anyone who ventures out into the wilderness during the winter months:

Rocky Mountain Hiking Trails

Saturday, December 14, 2013

CMC Video: Avalanche Safety and Winter Travel

Planning a trip into the mountain this winter? You should probably watch this video first - as a first step towards building your winter skills set and practicing safety while recreating in the backcountry during the winter. This is the first video in the Colorado Mountain Club's upcoming series focused on backcountry education. The series was made possible by the CMC Steve Gladbach Memorial Fund.

Steve Gladbach was a beloved Colorado mountaineer, a long time member of the Colorado Mountain Club and belonged to the 14ers.com community. He loved climbing. In the summer of 2013 he lost his life while descending Thunder Pyramid Peak.

One of Steve's passions was mountaineering education and safety. Through the generosity of family and friends, the Steve Gladbach Memorial Fund was created to promote Colorado mountaineering education.


Friday, December 13, 2013

Video of the Day: Road Bike Party 2

Below is an outstanding video with some absolutely incredible stunts on road bikes by Martyn Ashton, Danny MacAskill and Chris Akrigg. As mentioned on the Youtube page, "No bikes were harmed in the making of this film."


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Zion Canyon Overlook: Don’t bypass this one!

Just inside the east entrance of Zion National Park, but far from the hustle and bustle of the main portion of the park, is the hike to Zion Canyon Overlook. Unfortunately many people will pass this one by, instead opting to visit the more popular attractions within the canyon itself. Many visitors, in fact, probably aren’t even aware of its existence. However, this vantage point offers hikers a view of Zion Canyon that’s just as beautiful as those you’ll find along the park’s most popular hikes. Even better, for some, is that it’s much easier to reach. An easy roundtrip hike of only 1 mile will reward you with outstanding views such as this (for more information on this hike, please click here):


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Kayaker Trapped Underwater Saved by Friends' Quick Reaction

Below is a pretty amazing video from EpicTV showing the rescue of a kayaker who became trapped underwater after paddling down a small waterfall. The incident occurred on November 2nd on the Lyn River in the United Kingdom. In the video description, EpicTV describes the situation like this:
In one of the drops Mark Hardingham is pushed offline and becomes 'vertically pinned' with his body trapped and his head held underwater by the current! This GoPro clip shows the reactions of his friends who pull him out of this sticky situation just in time.

Rocky Mountain Hiking Trails

How To Dress For Winter Hiking

Although the winter season is already upon us, we shouldn't use it as an excuse to NOT go hiking. It all comes down to being prepared and knowing how to dress properly. Below is a pretty good video demonstrating how you should dress when venturing out on a winter hike. Although the spokesman doesn't mention it, you should always have an extra pair of socks in your pack, just in case the ones you're wearing get wet. An extra pair of gloves aren't a bad idea either, not to mention an emergency blankets and the ability to start a fire.

Rocky Mountain Hiking Trails

Monday, December 9, 2013

Flood Closes Old Fall River Road Through 2014

Rocky Mountain National Park received significant damages on bridges, roads and trails in the historic floods that occurred in September. However, damages in the park were relatively minor in comparison to the disastrous flooding that downstream communities east of the park experienced. The west side of the park was largely unaffected by the storm with flooding occurring only east of the Continental Divide.

Damages on Old Fall River Road are extensive and the road will remain closed to vehicles through 2014. Old Fall River Road is a historic dirt road built between 1913 and 1920. Due to the winding, narrow nature of the road, the scenic 9.4-mile route is one-way only and normally opens from the fourth of July to early October. It follows the steep slope of Mount Chapin's south face. It is unknown at this time whether hikers and bicyclists will be allowed on the road next year. Park staff are working with the Federal Highway Administration on assessments of the Alluvial Fan area and Old Fall River Road. Cost estimates and design concepts are still being determined.

Repair work has been completed in the Wild Basin parking lot, the Twin Sisters Road, and is nearing completion on the McGraw Ranch Bridge and the Aspenglen Bridge.

Known damage to trails and pedestrian access are mainly in the Fall River, Lumpy Ridge, Bear Lake, Northfork, Twin Sisters and Wild Basin areas. Some trails are closed to stock use.

Due to the flood, backcountry travelers may encounter different conditions than they have experienced in the past. Visitors may find missing foot bridges, missing trail segments, uneven trail surfaces, unstable slopes, falling trees due to soil moisture, rutted trails, damaged water bars and steps, difficult water crossings, and missing directional signs. Visitors should be prepared. Most of Rocky Mountain National Park is designated wilderness, where self-reliance, discovery and adventure are expected.

The next steps will be to assess at what level park staff will "repair" damaged trails. The flood was a natural event which will be taken in to consideration as park staff move forward in determining what repairs should be made.

For more detailed information about flood impacts to trails please visit the park's website, www.nps.gov/romo or call the park's Information Office at (970) 586-1206.

Rocky Mountain Hiking Trails

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Drone Video: Estes Park from the Sky

ColoradoSky published this video the other day. Taken from a drone, the short film shows-off the snow-covered mountains surrounding Estes Park. ColoradoSky notes on his page that "Zero degrees numbed my fingers and limited my time in the air to just a few minutes, but I had to take a quick look. From the overlook on Hwy 36 entering Estes Park."

As drone technology spreads, this is likely only the beginning of this genre of film making:

2013-12-5 Snow and cold in Estes Park, but oh it's beautiful! from ColoradoSky on Vimeo.

Rocky Mountain Hiking Trails

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Discover the Joys of Winter Hiking

Many hikers tend to run from the woods as soon as the first snow flakes begin to fall. However, winter is great time to hit the trail. Not only are the crowds gone, but many parks show off their true beauty after a fresh snowfall. With just a little more attention to detail beforehand, anyone can have a safe and enjoyable hike during the winter.

Although it might feel quite frigid at the trailhead, your body will begin generating plenty of heat after just 10 or 15 minutes of walking. The best thing you can do to keep the cold out is to dress in layers: a base layer that wicks moisture off your body, a fleece jacket for insulating warmth, and a shell to keep you dry and to keep the wind from penetrating your core. Most importantly, dressing in layers allows you to adjust your attire as you heat-up or cool-off. When dressing for a winter hike, always remember the adage: cotton kills! Never wear anything made of cotton while hiking in the backcountry. Once wet, cotton no longer insulates you from the cold. Moreover, it wicks heat away from your body and puts you at risk of becoming hypothermic.

Some people are prone to cold feet in the winter. One of the keys to keeping your feet warm is to make sure they stay dry. Wear a good pair of hiking socks, made of wool blends or synthetic fabrics, that wick moisture away from your skin, retain heat when wet, and dry faster if they become wet. I always keep an extra pair in my pack in case the ones I’m wearing do get wet. (Expert Advice: How to Choose Socks) You should also wear above-the-ankle hiking boots which help to keep snow away from your feet. You may want to consider wearing gaiters, especially if there are several inches of snow on the ground.

To round-out your winter apparel, don’t forget about a good pair of gloves, a ski cap and maybe even a balaclava.

If the snow is too deep in the mountains, consider hiking at lower elevations, or even wearing snowshoes. If you expect a lot of ice, especially in areas where there might be steep drop-offs, consider bringing crampons specifically made for hiking. These are sometimes referred to as traction devices, or in-step crampons, which you can either strap-on or slide onto your boots.

Trekking poles are another excellent choice for helping to maintain your balance on sections of trail with slick ice and snow.

After outfitting yourself with the proper winter gear, hikers will then need to focus on staying hydrated and properly fueled while out on the trail. Hiking in the cold, especially in snow, burns more calories. By some estimates, hikers can burn as much as 50% more calories when compared to similar distances and terrain in the summer. By not consuming enough calories while on the trail you become prone to getting cold faster. Make sure you bring plenty of high-energy snacks with you to munch on periodically throughout your hike. Watch out for foods that can freeze solid, such as some power bars. Or, instead of storing in your backpack, put some snacks inside your fleece jacket. Your body should generate enough heat to prevent them from freezing.

Although it may sound counter-intuitive, it can actually be easier to experience dehydration in the winter, versus hiking in the summer. Dehydration can occur faster in cold weather because the air is much drier. Moreover, dehydration can be dangerous because it can accelerate hypothermia and frostbite. Make sure you bring plenty of liquids with you, and drink often while on the trail.

If you’re storing water bottles in your backpack during a very cold day, you may need to insulate them to prevent them from freezing. An old wool sock will work in this case. Also, you may want to turn the bottle upside down to prevent the water from freezing at the neck. If you plan to be out for several hours, consider bringing a thermos containing a hot drink, or even soup.

Other winter hazards hikers need to be aware of include hiking in steep terrain that’s prone to avalanches, or a storm that covers the trail with fresh snow, thus making navigation difficult. You should always carry a topographical map and a compass with you in case you ever need help finding your way back to the trailhead if you were to become lost.

Other gear to bring with you includes a first aid kit, firestarter, waterproof matches, a pocket knife, an emergency blanket and maybe even a bivy sack.

Finally, let someone know where you’re going, when you’ll be back, and who to call if they don’t hear back from you at a specified time.

With a little care and preparation up front, anyone can discover the joys of winter hiking.

Rocky Mountain Hiking Trails

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Burroughs Mountain at Sunrise

The Sunrise area of Mt. Rainier National Park offers big expansive views of the park’s star attraction, 14,410-foot Mt. Rainier. There’s no better way to experience the area than a hike along the Burroughs Mountain loop trail. This hike offers outstanding 360-degree panoramic views as you walk along the alpine tundra plateaus of Burroughs Mountain. From the summit you’ll have up-close views of Mt. Rainier’s impressive east face, as well as the largest glacier in the lower 48, the Emmons Glacier.

For more information and photos on this Rainier classic, please click here.


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The 114th Audubon Christmas Bird Count

Since 1900, the National Audubon Society has led the charge in counting birds during the annual "Christmas Bird Census" across the U.S., Canada and many other countries in the Western Hemisphere. It's longest-running citizen science survey in the world!

From December 14th through January 5th, tens of thousands of volunteers will take part in an adventure that has become a family tradition among generations. Families and students, birders and scientists, armed with binoculars, bird guides and checklists go out on an annual mission - often before dawn. For over one hundred years, the desire to both make a difference and to experience the beauty of nature has driven dedicated people to leave the comfort of a warm house during the Holiday season.

Audubon and other organizations use data collected in this longest-running wildlife census to assess the health of bird populations - and to help guide conservation action.

If you would like to participate this year, please click here.

In addition to the international count, local birdwatchers will be participating in the annual Rocky Mountain National Park/Estes Park Christmas Bird Count on Saturday, December 14th. Teams of field counters will spend the day locating, identifying, and counting every bird in a 15-mile circle bounded by the Longs Peak Campground on the south, the Ute Trail crossing on Trail Ridge Road on the west, and Dunraven Glade and Meadowdale. Potential participants should contact count coordinator Gary Matthews by Sunday, December 7th to receive a team assignment. You can email him at gjmatlop@aol.com or call at 970-586-5093.


Monday, December 2, 2013

The Top 5 Survival Stories of All Time

What’s the definition of a great survival story? Some of the obvious answers to that question include, coming face to face with death, an unbelievable escape, or, because of fate or just plain dumb luck, an individual was able to survive some extreme disaster.

For me, my list of the top five survival stories of all time is based on two criteria: a convincing story of human perseverance and an iron will to survive, and the author’s ability to tell the story in a compelling manner which keeps me on the edge of my seat.

So, in reverse order, here's my all-time best survival stories:

The Long Walk
Stephen Ambrose, the late historian and author of Undaunted Courage and Band of Brothers, said that “The Long Walk is a book that I absolutely could not put down and one that I will never forget”. I couldn’t agree with him more.

My only hope is that Slavomir Rawicz, the protagonist in this story, hasn’t pulled the wool over the eyes of everyone, including Mr. Ambrose.

Ever since The Long Walk was published in 1956, the authenticity of the story has been challenged. Unfortunately Rawicz was never able to provide any documentation to prove his story. However, it does seem that the general consensus among most critics is that the story is mostly true, but, possibly embellished. It’s even possible that the embellishment occurred at the hand of his English speaking ghost-writer. For an interesting perspective on the veracity of the story from someone who retraced the steps of Rawicz in 2004, and who came to believe the story to be true, please click here.

Slavomir Rawicz was a cavalry officer in the Polish army when he was captured by the Red Army during the German-Soviet partition of Poland in 1939. After being tortured and put on trial in Moscow he was sentenced to 25 years of hard labor in a Siberian Gulag.

After a year of unbearable and inhumane conditions, Rawicz and six other prisoners escaped from their labor camp in Yakutsk.

In order to make their way to freedom the escapees marched 4000 miles, on foot, across the frozen Siberian tundra, the Gobi Desert, through Tibet, and over the Himalayan Mountains to British India. Along the way they conquered fatigue, thirst, starvation as well as their own inner demons. The story is also famous for the claim that the surviving escapees saw a pair of yetis while traversing the Himalayas.

Whether the story is actually true, partially true, or totally fabricated, this book is still a great read, one that will definitely keep you on the edge of your seat.

We Die Alone
Stephen Ambrose wrote the introduction for We Die Alone. In it he states that it was “a book that I absolutely could not put down, and one that I will never forget”. That quote might sound a little familiar. I did a double take at first as well, but Ambrose states in the intro that, in addition to We Die Alone, he has only described three other books in his life this way, one of those being The Long Walk.

Like The Long Walk, We Die Alone is a story of survival in extreme circumstances that takes place during World War II. However, there’s never been any controversy surrounding the validity of this story.

In March 1943 a team of four expatriate Norwegian commandoes, including Jan Baalsrud, sailed from England to Nazi-occupied Norway to organize and supply the Norwegian resistance.

Somehow the commandoes were betrayed shortly after landing and the team was ambushed by the Nazis, leaving Baalsrud as the lone survivor.

We Die Alone recounts Baalsrud’s incredible and improbable escape and his iron will to survive. Poorly clothed, with one foot entirely bare, and part of his big toe shot off, Baalsrud was relentlessly pursued by the Nazis.

Surviving an avalanche, and suffering from frostbite and snow blindness, Baalsrud fought his way over the Norwegian mountains and tundra to a small arctic village. He was near death and was a virtual cripple when he stumbled into the village of Mandal. Fortunately, the locals were willing to help save him, and at mortal risk to themselves, help him escape to Sweden.

Into Thin Air
I remember reading Jon Krakauer’s original article on the infamous Mt. Everest disaster in Outside Magazine and being completely astounded by what occurred on that mountain that day. And then, a year later, he published his bestseller, Into Thin Air, which fleshed out many more details of the ill-fated expeditions that left eight people dead that day. Although several books and articles have been written, Into Thin Air would become the definitive account of the deadliest season in the history of Mt. Everest.

Originally, Krakauer went on assignment for Outside Magazine to report on the growing commercialization of guided trips up Mount Everest and the inherent danger to unsuspecting clients. Instead, he wound up writing a first-hand account of the disaster that unfolded after a ferocious storm blasted Everest with gale force winds that killed eight climbers.

The most amazing aspect of the story centered around Beck Weathers. Twice abandoned and presumed to be dead on the South Col, Weathers spent some 18 hours in subzero temperatures - in the death zone - before miraculously regaining his senses and staggering into camp. He was suffering from severe frostbite, corneal lacerations, hypothermia, and had a face so badly frostbitten it barely seemed human.

Over the course of the next year Weathers underwent ten surgeries, the longest lasting 16 hours. His entire right hand and most of his left was amputated; surgeons were able to fashion a thumb out of muscle from his side and back.

The updated paperback edition of Into Thin Air includes an extensive new postscript that sheds fascinating light on the acrimonious debate that flared between Krakauer and Everest guide Anatoli Boukreev in the wake of the tragedy.

Miracle in the Andes
I must admit I was pretty apprehensive about reading this story in detail. I was quite familiar with the basic facts of the story: a plane carrying a Uruguayan rugby team crashes in the Andes Mountains; many on board are killed, and after several weeks without rescue and a few failed attempts to walk off the mountain, the survivors are forced to resort to cannibalism. My apprehension, as you might suspect, had to do with the cannibalism aspect of the story. It just seemed too disturbing to me.

My fears, as I discovered, were unfounded. Nando Parrado, the hero and author of the book, spent relatively little time discussing the details surrounding this aspect of the story.

Miracle in the Andes is actually a fresh re-telling of the high altitude plane crash through the lens of the person most responsible for the rescue of the survivors. The original story was recounted in the 1974 bestseller, Alive.

Although he suffered a fractured skull, was unconscious for three days after the crash, and was presumed to eventually succumb to his injuries, Parrado was able to revive. After several weeks of recovery he eventually devised a plan and led a team over the 17,000-foot peak that trapped the survivors on a glacier, and marched ten days to rescue and freedom.

The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition

The best survival story of all time, and overall, one of the best books I’ve ever read is The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition.

The story is about Sir Ernest Shackleton’s failed attempt to cross Antarctica on foot just prior to the start of World War I.

Before the expedition was able to reach the continent, their ship, the Endurance, became stuck in an early ice floe in the Weddell Sea. The crew of 27 had no means of communication or hope of outside help, thus condemning themselves to isolation for the next 22 months.

The men lived within the bowels of the Endurance for almost a year before the ice destroyed it, forcing the expedition to move out onto the frozen sea. Several months later, the expedition built sledges and moved to Elephant Island, a rocky deserted spot of land just beyond the Antarctic Peninsula. At this point no one knew what happened to the expedition or where they were. Most people assumed they had been killed.

Knowing that a rescue wasn’t going to happen, Shackleton made the decision to take one of the open lifeboats and cross the 800 miles of frigid sea to South Georgia Island where a small whaling station was located. Incredibly, he landed on the wrong side of the island and was forced to trek over the frozen mountains to reach the station.

This incredible book is also accompanied with the previously unpublished photographs of Frank Hurley, one of the members of the expedition.


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Oregon’s Rugged Coast

For many years the Oregon Coast has been near the top of my bucket list of places to see. Based on the hundreds of photos I’ve seen over the years I knew there were numerous spectacular places to visit. Whenever I looked at a map of Oregon I was always amazed by the number of state parks that line the coast from top to bottom.

When we finally arrived at Cannon Beach back in early September of this year, it was the first time I’d ever laid eyes on the Pacific Ocean. Perhaps my reaction was similar to that of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. When they arrived on the coast in November of 1805, William Clark noted in his journal: "Ocian in view O! The Joy!"

I posted two blogs on our new Discover the West website that describes and shows some of the amazing sights we saw along the north coast and the southern coast.


Saturday, November 30, 2013

Never Stop Exploring

"Humans have always been driven by curiosity and fed by an innate need to explore. There is an allure in the pursuit of the unknown." Here's a pretty inspiring video from the North Face that I think you'll probably enjoy:

I don't know about you, but I think it's time to get out and explore:

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Glacier National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park


Friday, November 29, 2013

A Wonderful World Awaits: Explore Rocky Mountain National Park this Winter

For many visitors, winter is their favorite season to enjoy Rocky Mountain National Park. The park is less visited but still very much open and alive with activity. Beautiful backcountry areas can be reached on snowshoes, skis, and at lower elevations - even with hiking boots! Elk, coyotes, deer, snowshoe hares, and other wildlife remain active through the winter. Their story is told by the tracks left in the snow. For those visitors who are prepared, winter is an enchanting time to explore the park.

Snowshoeing and skiing are excellent ways to experience the backcountry of Rocky Mountain National Park. The park will once again offer ranger-led snowshoe ecology walks for beginner-level snowshoers on the east side, and for beginner and intermediate-level snowshoers and cross-country skiers on the west side of the park. Reservations are required and there is no additional fee beyond the regular park entrance fee.

Snowshoeing is easy to learn and opens up a new way to see the beauty of nature during its quietest season. For beginners, the snowshoe program is a two-hour exploration of the natural world of the subalpine forest. No previous snowshoe experience is required. On the east side, this walk is held on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 12:30 p.m. between January 4th and March 23rd. The beginner snowshoe tour on the west side is held on Saturdays at 1:00 p.m. between December 28th and March 8th. 

For more experienced snowshoers, a two-hour snowshoe walk is offered on the west side of the park on Sundays at 1:00 p.m. between December 29th and March 9th. Previous snowshoeing experience is recommended because of the elevation gain, mileage, pace and terrain covered in this program.

Ranger-led cross-country ski tours are also offered on the west side of the park on Saturdays at 9:30 a.m. between December 28th and January 25th. Participants ski a snow-draped landscape and learn about the Kawuneeche Valley.

All snowshoe walks and ski tours require reservations. Reservations can be made in advance, seven days or less prior to the desired program. Participants must furnish their own equipment, including poles with baskets, and be at least 8 years old. To make reservations for east side snowshoe walks, call the park's Information Office at (970) 586-1223 between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. daily. To make reservations for west side snowshoe walks, call the Kawuneeche Visitor Center at (970) 627-3471 between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. daily.

Frontcountry and backcountry camping take place in the winter too! Timber Creek Campground and designated sections of Moraine Park Campground are open all winter; the fee is $14 per site per night. Water and dump stations are not available in winter at the campgrounds. Self-registration permits for backcountry camping in winter zones are available. There is no charge in the winter for backcountry camping.

Sledding activities can be enjoyed in Rocky Mountain National Park at the Hidden Valley area. Hidden Valley slopes have been contoured to enhance the safety of sledding and other -more- snowplay activities. The gentle sledding hill is especially enjoyed by younger park visitors. Facilities at Hidden Valley include a warming hut, which is open weekends, and heated restrooms which are open daily. This area is also a good base location for visitors interested in backcountry skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing in the undeveloped areas in and around Hidden Valley.

Podcasts on Winter Recreation and Introduction to Snowshoeing can be found on the park website at, http://www.nps.gov/romo/photosmultimedia/roaming_rocky.htm Backcountry users should be aware of avalanche conditions, always check the Colorado Avalanche Information Center website at http://avalanche.state.co.us before an adventure.

Full Moon Walks will be offered on November 17, December 17, January 15, February 14, and March 16.. Times and locations will vary each month. Reservations are necessary and may be made seven days in advance by calling (970) 586-1223.

If planning an overnight trip to Rocky Mountain National Park this winter, please visit our Accommodations page on RockyMountainHikingTrails.com to find a wide variety of lodging opportunities in Estes Park or Grand Lake.


Monday, November 25, 2013

Report Estimates Backcountry Winter Recreation Contributes $22.5 Million Annually to Teton-West Yellowstone Economy

A new study from Jackson economist Mark Newcomb estimates that human-powered backcountry winter recreation in Grand Teton National Park, parts of the Bridger-Teton and Caribou-Targhee National Forests, and the Rendezvous Ski Trails in West Yellowstone contributes $22.5 million annually to the region’s economy.

Newcomb and colleague Karl Meyer conducted random surveys over the course of the 2012-13 winter season of resident and non-resident backcountry visitors who participated in the activities of backcountry skiing and snowboarding (also known as alpine touring or AT), cross-country skiing both on and off groomed trails, snowshoeing, walking/jogging on groomed backcountry trails, and over-snow biking. The survey asked for data about annual expenditures on goods and services related to these forms of backcountry recreation as well as the location and frequency of backcountry visits.

Topline findings include an estimated $12.5 million direct annual economic impact by nonresidents who participate in these activities while visiting the region and $6.5 million annual contribution from resident spending related to backcountry winter recreation. Newcomb estimates $3 million in annual wages to employees who work in jobs directly stemming from these forms of winter backcountry recreation and $1 million in tax revenues to state and local government. The geographic area of impact focused on the communities of Jackson, Driggs/Victor and West Yellowstone and includes Teton County in Wyoming, Teton, Bonneville, Fremont and Madison Counties in Idaho, and West Yellowstone, Montana.

“We know anecdotally that winter backcountry recreation is increasing throughout the study region,” said Newcomb who, in addition to experience in environmental economics and urban and rural planning, worked for 25 years as a backcountry ski guide and avalanche course instructor. “However, to date, there has been little information available about how these activities impact our economy.”

Newcomb added that the report takes a conservative approach both in its economic impact conclusions and in its estimate of total number of residents and nonresidents participating in backcountry winter recreation in the region. The report uses data from a combination of sources including National Park Service, USDA Forest Service, trail counts and concessionaire data to arrive at a population estimate of 7,419 residents and 41,336 nonresidents who participated in the above activities during the 2012-13 winter season.

“My intuition and my on-the-ground experience tell me the population numbers we arrived at are low,” said Newcomb, “and therefore, the economic impact is likely understated, but these are the best source numbers available so that’s what we went with.” Per person expenditure estimates are $803 spent annually by residents in-region and an additional $255 spent out-of-region on goods and services for backcountry winter recreation; and $273 per person per visit by nonresidents spent on backcountry winter recreation goods and services during their visit to the region.

The report incorporates data gathered in additional surveys: one of retailers in the area that sell gear, clothing and other goods and services related to backcountry recreation; and a second survey of organizations such as backcountry guide services and avalanche course providers, both for profit and nonprofit, that operate as authorized concessionaires on national forest or national park lands. This data provided information about employment and wages related to winter backcountry recreation and helped corroborate population estimates.

One surprise, according to Newcomb, is the significance of guided activity in the area. “While guided winter activity seems to have a relatively small footprint, our study found that the economic contribution is significant.” The study estimates that participants in guided activities and education programs spent 6,699 days in the backcountry and contributed $1.6 million in gross revenues and were responsible for $826,000 in wages.

The study also reinforced the quality of the winter backcountry opportunities in the region with 81 percent of nonresidents and 74 percent of residents who skied or snowboarded in the backcountry reporting they were "very satisfied" with their experience.

The report was commissioned by the Boise-based national nonprofit organization Winter Wildlands Alliance (WWA) and was funded through a grant from the LOR Foundation. “It’s a common refrain from land managers and decision makers that they need better and more economic data on our activities,” said WWA Executive Director Mark Menlove. “We chose to study the Teton-West Yellowstone area because it is renowned for its backcountry winter recreation, is well managed, and offers an excellent mix of recreational opportunities. This study verifies that backcountry recreation creates jobs and contributes significantly to the local economy. It’s hugely important for Winter Wildlands Alliance, both as a pilot project we hope to replicate in other regions and as a practical tool for land managers and planners in the region to use in resource allocation and management efforts.”

An executive summary and the full report, titled “Teton-West Yellowstone Backcountry Winter Recreation Economic Analysis,” are available at winterwildlands.org.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Top of Texas

The highest point in Texas, Guadalupe Peak, is one of only four state highpoints to be located within a national park. Denali, Mount Rainier and Clingmans Dome are the other three. However, since Clingmans Dome is an easy walk of about a hundred yards, and Denali and Mount Rainier are probably out of the league of at least 99% of all park visitors, Guadalupe Peak is really the only state high point in a national park that most people can hike up to. From its 8749-foot summit you can see for at least a 100 miles in all directions. For more information on this excellent and surprisingly scenic hike, please click here.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Planning a visit to Rocky Mountain this Holiday Season?

Planning a visit to Rocky Mountain National Park this Holiday Season? Please help support RockyMountainHikingTrails.com by supporting the sponsors on our Accommodations page. Our website provides a wide variety of overnight options - from cozy cabins to luxurious resorts.

Thank you very much!


Introduction to Snowshoeing Class

Discover the joy of winter and the freedom of snowshoeing next month at Echo Lake! On this field outing, you'll learn snowshoeing techniques, ascending and descending hills, snow hazard awareness, and winter preparedness. Don't have snowshoes? REI will provide snowshoes, snowshoe poles and professional instruction on the proper use of equipment to ensure every trip a success.

Some of the skills you'll learn during this 4-hour class include:

* Learn appropriate technique to ascend, descend and break trail in snow.

* Learn local areas to take your family outside in the winter.

* Learn how to use and care for snowshoeing equipment.

* Learn basic skills for winter travel and hiking .

The class will be held on December 15th, from 9:00 am - 1:00 pm at Echo Lake. Cost for REI members is $65.00. For non-members it's $85.00.

For more information on the class, including required gear, registration and directions, please click here.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Top 10 Hikes in America (my list!)

While putting together our newest website, Discover the West, I couldn’t help realize how fortunate Kathy and I have been to be able to hike in so many beautiful places over the years. Over this past summer and fall, while I was piecing the website together, I started thinking about which of those hikes have been the most memorable, and which ones I would consider to be among my favorites. As a result of this thought process, I thought I would put together a list of my top 10 hikes.

The criteria I used in developing the list is based on what I enjoy seeing the most: expansive panoramic views, rugged peaks, lush alpine meadows, pristine wilderness, and the opportunity to see wildlife and wildflowers. Generally speaking, the more of those qualities included on a hike, the more I’m likely to enjoy it.

So, here’s my list. Maybe it will inspire you to discover new hiking destinations:

1) Highline Trail - This world famous hike in the heart of Glacier National Park should be on the bucket list of any self-respecting hiker. The absolutely incredible views along the entire route, the wildlife and the wildflowers, all combine to make this a hike you'll remember the rest of your life.

2) Swiftcurrent Pass - Although this is one of the toughest hikes in Glacier National Park, it includes tons of spectacular scenery. You'll pass by three gorgeous lakes and a waterfall while traveling up the Swiftcurrent Valley. Once above the valley floor the trail offers outstanding birds-eye views of six lakes, as well as Swiftcurrent Glacier. Then, at the pass, you'll have stunning views of Heavens Peak and Granite Park.

3) Skyline Trail Loop - John Muir once said that Mt. Rainier’s Paradise valley was "the most luxuriant and the most extravagantly beautiful of all the alpine gardens I ever beheld in all my mountain-top wanderings." I dare say you might have the same reaction yourself. The best way to explore the Paradise valley is to hike the Skyline Trail loop. This hike was so incredibly beautiful that it was the first time that I ever kept my camera in my hand for the entire trip. The amazing scenery never ended!

4) Blue Lakes - The Blue Lakes Trail travels to an extremely scenic glacial basin within the 16,566-acre Mt. Sneffels Wilderness area. Although not a national park, the San Juan Mountains near Ouray, Colorado are as spectacular as some of America’s most famous national parks. You could also make a strong argument that the Blue Lakes hike is as good as any of the best hikes in our national park system.

5) Hallet Peak - For those that feel that Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park is just a little too difficult, or maybe too dangerous, Hallett Peak just might be the perfect mountain to satisfy your big mountain, “summit fever”. Reaching a height of 12,713 feet, the mountain provides the perfect opportunity to feel like you’re on top of the Rockies, without being exposed to dangerous drop-offs.

6) Huron Peak - At 14,003 feet, Huron Peak just barely qualifies as a “fourteener”. However, that doesn’t mean the views are any less stunning than peaks that are hundreds of feet higher. The summit still offers mind-blowing views of Colorado’s Sawatch Range, including the Three Apostles.

7) Siyeh Pass Loop - This one-way hike offers visitors the chance to take-in some of the best of what Glacier National Park has to offer. Hikers will pass through the incredibly beautiful Preston Park, climb up to one of the highest maintained trails in Glacier, and then travel back down through the Baring Creek Valley where you'll have a relatively close-up view of Sexton Glacier.

8) Piegan Pass - Okay, so this is the 4th hike from Glacier National Park to make the list. You may think I’m a little biased, but I’ll make no bones about it, Glacier is definitely my favorite park. When compared to the other three Glacier hikes listed above, Piegan Pass is probably only a notch or two below those on the “awesome meter,” but is far less crowded. Big panoramic views await hikers along most of this hike.

9) Chasm Lake - Hands down this is the best lake hike in Rocky Mountain National Park. In addition to the outstanding panoramic views you'll have on the way up, you’ll also have a front row view of the famous “Diamond”, the impressive east-facing wall of Longs Peak which rises more than 2,400 feet above this incredibly beautiful alpine lake.

10) Four Mile & Panorama Trail - Did you know that you can do one hike that encompasses nearly all of Yosemite’s iconic sights? This epic 12.6-mile hike includes a full view of Yosemite Falls from the only place in the park to see both the upper and lower falls in their full glory. Along the way you’ll also see El Capitan, Half Dome, Sentinel Rock, Illilouette Fall and Nevada Fall. The one-way hike begins from the Yosemite Valley, climbs up to Glacier Point via the Four Mile Trail, and then travels back down to the valley via the Panorama Trail and the famous Mist Trail.

Honorable mentions (in no particular order):

Gregory Bald and Mt. LeConte in the Great Smoky Mountains, Bear Lake to Odessa Lake, Emerald Lake and the Old Ute Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park, the Gilpin Lake Loop in the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness, Mt. Elbert near Leadville, Ptarmigan Tunnel, Pitamakan Pass, Gable Pass, Iceberg Lake and Cracker Lake in Glacier National Park, Avalanche Peak in Yellowstone National Park, Cascade Canyon Trail in Grand Teton National Park, Mt. Rogers in the Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area, Grassy Ridge Bald in the Pisgah National Forest, and Observation Point in Zion National Park.


Join the Sulphur Ranger District's 12th Annual Christmas Bird Count

The U.S. Forest Service’s Sulphur Ranger District will host its 12th annual Christmas Bird Count in conjunction with the National Audubon Society on Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013. Join tens of thousands of bird lovers and volunteers across the Americas in a holiday tradition that has taken place for more than 100 years. Families, birders and scientists, armed with binoculars, bird guides and checklists help provide critical data on bird population trends from around the world. Audubon and other organizations use the data collected in this wildlife census to assess the health of bird populations.

Granby-area bird counters can choose to participate by motor vehicle, skis or snowshoes, and all birding skill levels are welcome. Other opportunities to contribute, for those who live within the count area, include: volunteering to count and report birds that visit home feeders on the day of the count; allowing access to private property for volunteers to count birds; or simply filling bird feeders that are visible from public roads on the day of the count.

Children and families can get involved by participating in the kids’ route. This short walking loop, ideal for children ages 2-10, follows the Fraser River in Granby’s Kaibab Park and includes a lesson in using binoculars (bring your own or use the ones provided) and clues to identifying birds, followed by warm drinks. The children’s bird count will begin at 10 a.m. Please dress warmly and wear snow clothes.

To participate or contribute in any of these events, please contact wildlife biologist Brock McCormick at 970-887-4108 or email bmccormick@fs.fed.us.

To learn more about the Christmas Bird Count, visit http://birds.audubon.org/christmas-bird-count.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The tallest trees on the planet

The tallest trees on the planet are found along the coast of northern California and southern Oregon. Fortunately for today’s visitors, and generations to come, nearly half of all Coast Redwoods are under the protection of the combined Redwood National and State Parks. Walking through one of the old-growth groves in any of these parks is like walking into a cathedral.

The tallest redwood in the world, at almost 380 feet in height, is known as Hyperion. If you wish to visit this giant someday, you may want to note that its location is kept secret. However, there are many other areas where visitors can explore these ancient titans. One of the best places is the Stout Grove in Jedediah Smith State Park, considered by many to be the most scenic stand of redwoods in the world.

For more information on this truly remarkable stand of trees, please click here.


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Eldorado Canyon State Park re-opens two more system trails

Colorado Parks & Wildlife announced yesterday the re-opening of two more system trails at Eldorado Canyon State Park: Fowler Trail and Eldorado Canyon Trail. These trails were closed in September due to flood damage. These system trails connect the state park to the City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks, and Boulder County Parks and Open Space public land.

While nearly 75% of Eldorado Canyon State Park has re-opened, areas that will remain closed, or are of particular concern, include:

- The main park road will remain closed to vehicles; however, visitors can hike up the road to get to the hiking trails.

- Rattlesnake Gulch Trail remains closed.

- The Visitor Center and upper parking areas will remain closed for some time to come.

With the opening of Highway 72, Coal Creek Canyon and Flagstaff Road to Gross Dam road, access has opened to Crescent Meadows and the Walker Ranch loop.

Park resource staffs from the City, County, State and community volunteers have worked extremely hard to re-open these trails over the past two months, however, visitors should be aware they will encounter different conditions than they have experienced in the past. These changed conditions include, but are not limited to: uneven trail surfaces, rutted trails, damaged water bars and steps, falling trees due to soil moisture, unstable slopes, and loose rock.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife manages 42 state parks, more than 300 state wildlife areas, all of Colorado's wildlife, and a variety of outdoor recreation. For more information, visit: cpw.state.co.us.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Affordable Footwear Act?

Cheaper hiking boots could be coming to an outdoor retailer near you in the future! Members of Congress are apparently working on a piece of legislation, known as the Affordable Footwear Act, that could significantly lower the cost of hiking boots and other outdoor footwear.

Bi-partisan legislation from Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) would suspend import duties on outdoor footwear for five years. Also co-sponsored by Sens. Jerry Moran (R-KS), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Mike Johanns (R-ID), and Claire McCaskill (D-MO), the bill would lower consumer costs, promote jobs and drive innovation in domestically produced outdoor footwear.

While the average U.S. tariff on consumer goods is 2%, tariffs on outdoor footwear products are as high as 37.5%. In fact, many of the high tariffs on outdoor footwear exceed federal taxes on cigarettes, a striking disparity which would be corrected by the Affordable Footwear Act’s passage.

The U.S. Treasury collects $2.3 billion in import duties on outdoor footwear each year. With mark-ups at the wholesale and retail level, those $2.3 billion in duties amount to a $7 billion tax on American consumers. The Affordable Footwear Act seeks to target $800 million of that $2.3 billion in import duties. This effectively translates into a savings of $2-3 billion for consumers each year.

The Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) is working closely with its members to ensure that none of the products covered by the bill are produced in the U.S. Additionally, the limited duration of the bill will allow Congress to remove any products that may be made in the U.S. in the future.

Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) introduced the House version of the bill – HR 1708 – last spring. It currently has a bi-partisan group of 48 co-sponsors.

“This common sense piece of legislation will benefit consumers and businesses,” said Kirk Bailey, vice president of government affairs of Outdoor Industry Association. “By eliminating disproportionally high tariffs, this bill will fuel innovation in the outdoor domestic shoe industry and help create new jobs in the U.S. By lowering costs for consumers, the Affordable Footwear Act of 2013 will make outdoor recreation and outdoor products more affordable for more Americans.”

OIA is asking its members to urge their Senators to become co-sponsors on the bill.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Multnomah Falls

You’ve probably seen Multnomah Falls before. It’s been featured in many television and print ads over the years.

In fact, Multnomah Falls is likely one of the most famous and most photographed waterfalls in the entire world. In addition to dropping more than 600 feet, the view of the falls is enhanced by the iconic footbridge that spans just above its lower tier. It’s an easy hike to reach the bridge, but did you know that you can go all the way to the top for a birds-eye view of the waterfall as it plunges over the cliff?

Please click here for more information on this hike and traveling along the Columbia River Gorge.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Show Your Support for Rocky Mountain National Park with a new License Plate

Colorado residents can now show their support for the creation of a brand new Rocky Mountain National Park Group Special License Plate. The Rocky Mountain Nature Association (RMNA) is collecting signatures on a petition that will bring the bill for this special plate honoring Rocky Mountain National Park to the Colorado legislature in January 2014.

The unique plate design features a magnificent bull elk under a starry sky with alpine tundra flowers and reads, “Rocky Mountain National Park”.

The Rocky Mountain Nature Association, in partnership with Rocky Mountain National Park, will introduce this special license plate that will be available to Colorado registered vehicle owners. The plate will be available by 2015 to coincide with Rocky Mountain National Park’s Centennial celebration. It will remain available as long as 3000 plates are purchased each year.

Proceeds generated by the project will directly support Rocky Mountain National Park.

First, RMNA needs 3000 Colorado registered vehicle owner signatures in support of this initiative in order to bring a bill to a vote in the Colorado state legislature in January 2014. Signatures will also be considered as a pledge to purchase a plate (if the bill is approved by the Colorado state legislature). Once approved, a minimum of 3000 plate sets will need to be requested annually or the plate will be retired.

For information and to sign the petition, please click here.


Saturday, November 9, 2013

Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests Releases Initial Flood Assessment Findings

The Flood Incident Assessment Team on the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests, established following the September floods, has completed the draft initial assessment providing a snapshot of the scope and scale of flood damage and risks to Forest facilities and infrastructure. The assessment is the initial step to determine long-term repair and rehabilitation needs on the Boulder and Canyon Lakes ranger districts.

The assessment report covers approximately 609,000 acres that were preliminarily surveyed by both land and air as access allowed. The Forest cooperated with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) during this assessment to produce Damage Survey Reports (DSR) for roads under the Emergency Relief for Federally Owned Roads (ERFO) program.

Initial Assessment Findings:

* A total of 232 roads (382 miles), 70 trails (236 miles), 4 bridges, and 42 facilities were damaged by flooding.

* Multiple debris slides exist throughout the flood area with at least one covering two miles and crossing several land ownerships and roads.

* Piles of flood debris are deposited in streams and culverts and lands throughout the forest, many of these debris flows and piles may contain hazardous materials.

* Many roads, trails, and recreation areas are unrecognizable with ground cover washed away to bedrock.

* Due to access loss, fire suppression assets need to be reconfigured in order to respond to wildfires that could threaten values at risk located in inaccessible areas.

* Annual run-off and snow melt is expected to result in additional damage over the next one to three years. Alth

ough the full extent of damage across the forest is unknown, the infrastructure damage estimates in the report are considered a good initial assessment. Investment needed in roads, trails, facilities, ecosystems, and personnel may increase as more thorough assessments are completed and if additional damage is sustained over the winter to infrastructure compromised by the floods.

There is clearly much work to be done on National Forest System lands. Next steps for the Forest include providing an organization to address these needs, identifying additional assessment work that is needed, continuing work with the FHWA and setting priorities of the work that needs to be done. The timeframe for addressing all of these needs will take years.

Many roads and trails remain closed. Please use caution in all rain affected areas. Information about road status, closures and the assessment is posted here.


Friday, November 8, 2013

Canyon Lakes Recruiting Nordic Rangers for 2014 Season

The Canyon Lakes Ranger District is looking for volunteers to ski or snowshoe this winter in the busy Cameron Pass area, where 32 miles of trail can see over 300 skiers a day on a weekend.

This popular area includes trails that border Highway 14 between Chambers Lake and Cameron Pass. The area receives enough snow to ski before many others and snow often remains after other areas have lost their snow cover. For this reason, the number of winter recreationists at Cameron Pass continues to grow.

Volunteers ski or snowshoe “with a purpose,” helping the Forest Service educate winter visitors and provide winter use statistics. To volunteer, participants will take part in a minimum of four days patrolling and attend Forest Service-provided training. The kick-off meeting is Nov. 20 at 6:30 p.m. at 2150 Centre Ave., Building E, in Fort Collins. The required classroom training is Dec. 4, 6-9 p.m. and the required field training is Dec. 7 from 8 a.m.- 4 p.m. For more information or to RSVP, call Kristy Wumkes at 970-295-6721 or email kwumkes@fs.fed.us.

Along with a general introduction to the program, the kick-off also introduces potential new members to many of the partner-organizations, such as Jax Outdoor Gear and Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and to some of the returning Nordic rangers.

The Cameron Pass Nordic Ranger program began in 1992. Volunteers assist the Forest Service by skiing or snowshoeing area trails to provide safety, trail, and low-impact backcountry use information to winter enthusiasts; help maintain area ski trails and trailheads for safety; and gather visitor use information to aid in Forest Service planning. Some of the Nordic rangers work as a winter trail crew to help keep the trails cleared of downed trees and limbs, install signs, and shovel paths to the restrooms.

Many of the trails are in the Rawah and Neota Wilderness areas, where routes can be challenging. Backcountry skiing also includes risks inherent with winter conditions in the mountains, including extreme cold. These are some of the key reasons volunteers in the area are so valuable to its many users, especially those with little winter sports experience.