Monday, April 29, 2013

New Colorado Trail Segment: The Collegiate West Alternative

The nearly 500-mile Colorado Trail between Denver and Durango, already a crown jewel among long-distance hikers, bikers and horse riders as well as thousands of day users, is adding 80 miles of trail through the spectacular Collegiate Peaks, home to a dozen of the state's 14,000-foot mountains.

The new "Collegiate West" forms a western complement to the existing 80-mile stretch of trail on the eastern side of the Collegiate Peaks from Twin Lakes, southwest of Leadville, to south of Monarch Pass, southwest of Salida. It also creates a 160-mile loop we expect to become one of Colorado's most popular multi-day hikes/rides.

Loop hikers can park at access points anywhere along the east or west trail and not have to worry about shuttling vehicles. There are also good resupply spots – Twin Lakes, Buena Vista, Mount Princeton Hot Springs, Monarch Pass, and Salida – along the route.

The new 80 miles, which also are part of the 3,000-mile Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (CDNST) that runs from Canada to Mexico, won't add to the 486-mile distance for hikers and other enthusiasts tackling The Colorado Trail, but will provide a high-elevation alternative that features such landmarks as the beautiful Hope Pass and Lake Ann.

The Colorado Trail has long shared 234 miles of trail with the CDNST. After the Continental Divide Trail Alliance, which oversaw the building and maintenance of the CDNST, dissolved in early 2012, The Colorado Trail Foundation responded and agreed to provide CTF volunteer stewardship on 80 additional miles as well as add this scenic and fun alternative route to the heart of The Colorado Trail.

The Collegiate West, much of which now follows old logging and mining roads, is being rerouted and rehabilitated as part of a multi-year project involving crews from The Colorado Trail Foundation, U.S. Forest Service, Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado, Southwest Conservation Corps, and even the Buena Vista Correctional Facility. Trail signs are already in place to aid users along the new route.

5 New Segments that make up Collegiate West:
• Twin Lakes to Sheep Gulch TH, 9.8 miles
• Sheep Gulch TH to Cottonwood Pass Road TH, 25.2 miles
• Cottonwood Pass Road TH to Garden Basin TH, 10.3 miles
• Garden Basin TH to Hancock TH, 14.2 miles
• Hancock TH to Intersection with CT above S. Fooses Creek, 22.6 miles

Highlights of Collegiate West:
• Elevation gain: 18,478 ft.
• Hope Pass
• Lake Ann Pass
• Higher route (and sometimes more exposed)
• Top-of-the-World views
• Tunnel Gulch - Alpine Tunnel
• Great fishing route with numerous lakes and streams
• Nearby 14ers: La Plata, Huron Peak
• Resupply locations: Twin Lakes, Taylor Park Trading Post, Tincup, Saint Elmo, Garfield, Monarch Pass

The Executive Director for the Colorado Trail Foundation, Bill Manning, predicted in the Winter edition of tread lines that the new 160-mile Collegiate Loop is bound to become one of most popular long hikes in Colorado.

For more information on the Colorado Trail and the new Collegiate West Alternative, please click here.


Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Grand Canyon: Views from the North Rim

I don’t know if it was due to the proximity to Los Angeles or not, but Kathy and I saw a lot of strange stuff during our short visit to the Grand Canyon. At the Grand Canyon Lodge we saw a guy walk out onto the porch wearing a black Japanese kimono donning a large red dragon on the back. We saw another guy on the Cape Royal Trail walking with a stuffed poodle in his arms. Then on the way back from Bright Angel Point we passed a young gentleman, presumably Dutch (tall and blonde hair), walking down the trail in traditional Dutch wooden shoes. Oh well….

On the flip side we did meet some very interesting people. One person in particular was an older gentleman who served in the Army Air Force during WWII. During his tour of duty he flew the hump, that is, he flew over the Himalayan Mountains between India and China to resupply the Chinese war effort against the Japanese. After the war he became a NASA engineer and helped build the Apollo program, and was very involved in helping to bring back Apollo 13. I asked him about the Tom Hanks movie. He told us they got the story just about right.

During our visit we did several short hikes, including Bright Angel Point, which is a quarter-mile walk along the peninsula that juts out from the historic Grand Canyon Lodge. From this vantage point you can “see” Grand Canyon Village on the edge of the South Rim - roughly 11 miles away in the hazy distance. You can also see 12,633-foot Humphreys Peak, the highest point in Arizona roughly 64 miles away! You may be able to see the peak in the first photo below - rising above the "horizon line" through the haze:

While soaking in the views we noticed a helicopter fly into the canyon. We assumed it was a tour ride, however, after a few minutes it flew back in our direction with a rescue basket hanging from it. It then made another run, this time coming back with two large cargo loads tethered to the bird. We never found out if this was a rescue or not. Coincidentally, there actually was a search and rescue operation carried out that same day, but it was in another part of the park.

Although we didn’t get an opportunity to see one, you should definitely keep an eye out for California Condors riding the thermals over the canyons along the North Rim. Extremely close to extinction in the late 1980s, condors were reintroduced into the wild in 1991, and have been making a steady comeback ever since. As of May 2012 the population count of known condors was 405, including 226 living in the wild, mostly in northern Arizona and southern Utah. These rare birds have wingspans that exceed 9 feet, and can live up to 60 years! Although we weren’t lucky enough to see one, we did see a golden eagle floating on the breeze.

Our next stop took us out to Cape Royal, a place with a reputation for great sunsets. This easy 0.6-mile roundtrip hike offers a few peeks at the Colorado River flowing through the bottom of the canyon. The view while standing atop Angels Window was quite stunning.

You might consider this to be a bit of national park heresy, but I thought Zion National Park was far more impressive than the Grand Canyon. However, I should say, we never ventured into the canyon itself, so that opinion could possibly be changed.

Hiking Grand Canyon National Park provides firsthand descriptions and detailed maps for all of the developed trails in the park—from easy day hikes suitable for novices and children to extended backpack trips geared for intrepid wilderness travelers. The guide covers 15 hikes on the South Rim and 13 hikes on the North Rim. Also included are tips on safety, hiking with children, access, and services, as well as indispensable information about backcountry regulations, permits, and water sources.


Saturday, April 27, 2013

Special Ranger-led Hikes to be offered in Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde National Park is expanding the number of backcountry ranger-led hikes being offered to the public. Mesa Verde will be offering visitors opportunities this year to learn more about the park through special hikes and tours. These hikes include a 2-hour hike to Oak Tree House, half-day hikes to Wetherill Mesa and Upper Navajo Canyon, an all-day hike to Spring House:

Oak Tree House

Oak Tree House is a 60-room site built on two ledges, and is one of the largest cliff dwellings in the park. It's a well-preserved but fragile site that features plastered walls and varied architectural styles. In addition to close up views of this site, you will have stunning views of Cliff Canyon, Cliff Palace, and Sun Temple. Group size is limited to 10 people. This hike will be offered on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, May 28 to September 7.

Spring House

As you hike to Spring House, you will be rewarded with views of alcove sites in Navajo and Wickiup Canyons. With 86 rooms and seven kivas, Spring House is the largest unexcavated cliff dwelling in the park. It's extremely fragile, so you will not enter the site, but will get excellent views of the cliff dwelling from a platform at the south end of the village. Group size is limited to 10 people. The Spring House Hike will be offered on Sundays and Wednesdays, May 26 to June 5, 2013, and September 1 to October 6.

Upper Navajo Canyon

Enjoy the autumn weather and fall color as you hike this historic trail, built in the 1930s by the Public Works Administration. You will view Pinkley House and other small alcove sites, and experience two natural communities as you descend from the drier mesa top to the mountain chaparral in the canyon bottom. Group size for this hike is limited to 14 people, and will be offered on Thursdays and Saturdays, from September 5 to October 5, 2013.

Wetherill Mesa Experience

Expansive canyon views, spectacular glimpses of cliff dwellings, and Wetherill Mesa in the autumn will reward hikers on this moderate 4-hour, 4-mile round-trip hike. You'll be introduced to the story of the Ancestral Pueblo people, the environment in which they lived, and the ecology of the pinyon-juniper woodland. Hikers will follow an old fire road and an unpaved trail that crosses Wetherill Mesa. Group size for this hike is limited to 14 people, and will be offered on Tuesdays and Fridays, September 6 to October 4, 2013

Tickets for each of these special hikes are limited, and can be purchased online at, or by phoning the call center at 1-877-444-6777. For more information on each of these hikes, please click here.


Friday, April 26, 2013

Colorado Parks & Wildlife: Bears have emerged from winter dens

Black bears have emerged from their winter dens and it's time for Colorado residents to take precautions to help keep bears wild.

Because of dry conditions in some parts of the state, Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials are cautioning residents that bear activity in towns and residential areas may be high again this year. Human-bear conflicts are a fact of life in Colorado, but with some simple actions residents of bear country can help to significantly reduce those conflicts.

The biggest issue in conflict situations is the availability of human sources of food -- garbage, pet food, livestock food, compost piles, bird feeders, chicken pens, etc. Bears have a phenomenal sense of smell and can pick up odors of food sources from miles away.

"Bears receive a big calorie reward if they get into something like pet food, or bird seed or leftover pizza," explained Patt Dorsey, southwest regional manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. "Once they get a taste they quickly become habituated to human food and conflicts start. When that happens, things usually don't go well for the bear."

Once black bears have discovered a food source they may defend it and can become dangerous. Those types of situations can be dangerous and it is undesirable to have wild, unpredictable animals in close proximity to people.

"Some bears can be relocated. But bears deemed dangerous must be destroyed. We put down problem bears because we have to, not because we want to," Dorsey said.

From the Front Range to the mountains to the Western Slope, Colorado offers bears good natural habitat. Bears will go to the areas with the best food availability, and it's best that they find their food in the wild. If food sources in town are limited, bears will likely spend more time in wild lands.

Colorado residents play a major role in keeping bears wild, explained Renzo DelPiccolo, area wildlife manager in Montrose. "The public can help us by being conscientious and not leaving any types of food available to bears," DelPiccolo said. "Without the public's diligence in reducing human sources of food, we have limited success in avoiding and reducing conflicts."

Colorado Parks and Wildlife ask that residents follow the following tips to keep bears out of trouble and to reduce conflicts:

- Obtain a bear-resistant trash can or dumpster. Check with local authorities or your trash service to determine what types can be used where you live. Keep garbage in a well-secured location; and only put out garbage on the morning of pickup.

 - Clean garbage cans regularly to eliminate food odors. If you don't have secure storage, put food scraps and items that might become smelly into the freezer. Then put them in the trash on pick-up day.

- Don't leave pet food or feeding bowls outside.

- Attract birds naturally to your yard or garden with flowers and water features. For those who use bird feeders, suspend them high above the ground so that they're inaccessible to bears; clean up beneath them every day and bring them in at night,

- Tightly secure any compost piles. Bears are attracted to the scent of rotting food.

- Clean-up thoroughly after picnics in the yard or on the deck. Don't allow food odors to linger.

- If you have fruit trees, pick fruit before it gets too ripe. Don't allow fruit to fall and rot on the ground.

- If you keep chickens or other small livestock, build a secure enclosure and bring the animals inside at night. Clean up pens regularly to reduce odors.

- Keep the bottom floor windows of your house and garage doors closed when you're not at home. Lock car doors.

- Never intentionally feed bears or other wildlife. It's illegal and dangerous.

- When backcountry camping, hang food high in trees; at campgrounds, lock food and trash in vehicles.

- For more information, go to the Living with Wildlife section on the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website:

If you know of someone in your neighborhood or town who is intentionally feeding wildlife, please call the nearest Colorado Parks and Wildlife office to make a report.

If you would like a wildlife officer to come to your neighborhood or homeowners' association to talk about bears or other wildlife issues, contact your local Parks and Wildlife office.


The Top 10 Mountain Bike Rides in Colorado

Looking for the best mountain biking trails in Colorado? Dan Hickstein spent a year living in the back of his Subaru and riding great singletrack to research his recently released book, The Mountain Biker's Guide to Colorado. In this presentation at REI he'll show many of his excellent photos while giving you the scoop on the best mountain bike rides in Colorado, from sublime after-work loop rides to the epic Colorado Trail.

Dan's presentation will be held at the REI in Westminster on May 13th, from 6:30 to 8:00 PM. To register for the free event, please click here. The REI in Boulder will also offer the same presentation on May 16th, from 6:30 to 8:00 PM. To register, please click here .


Thursday, April 25, 2013

U.S. Forest Service Seeking River Ranger Volunteers

The Canyon Lakes Ranger District is seeking volunteers who love spending time on and along the Cache la Poudre River to assist the district’s river ranger.

The Cache la Poudre River is Colorado’s only Wild and Scenic River and sees an abundance of use during summer months from rafters, kayakers, anglers and others.

The volunteer is asked to assist the river ranger one to two times a month from May 1 to September 2 and have their own thermal gear, helmet and life jacket. Duties for the volunteer include river patrols with the district’s river ranger; promoting Wild and Scenic River knowledge and values; providing radio support in rescue situations; monitoring of commercial boat outfitters; shuttling boat transport vehicles to and from the river; and others as needed.

Volunteers must be at least 18 years old and have a driver’s license. Skills required for the position include driving a manual transmission vehicle; the ability/certification to swim class 3/4 whitewater; and, if using a kayak, able to boat class 3/4 rapids. Skills recommended include swift water rescue training and first aid/CPR.

The Forest Service will provide training, including radio use and protocols, Wild and Scenic River regulations and information, a defensive driving course, and river corridor orientation.

If you are interested or have any further questions, please contact Rob Overstreet, Canyon Lakes River Ranger, at 970-295-6729 or


Visiting Rocky Mountain National Park this summer?

Planning a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park this summer? Now's the time to make your reservations, as accommodations are beginning to fill-up for peak season travel.

I wanted to take this opportunity to remind readers that if you're planning a trip to Rocky Mountain this summer, please take a moment to check out the listings on our lodging and accommodations page on Our website offers a wide variety of overnight accommodations that offer a wide variety of amenities in the Rocky Mountain National Park area.

We also offer several other tools and information resources that can be helpful as you plan your vacation. Trying to figure out where to hike can be challenging, especially if you're unfamiliar with the park. As a starting point you can check our list of the Top 10 Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park, as well as our Best Easy Hikes in the park.

If you're looking for other activities besides hiking, check out our Things To Do page. Maybe take a day to go horseback riding, rafting, birding, photography touring, or maybe even take a hot air balloon tour of the Rockies!

Please know that by supporting one of our advertisers you help to support

Finally, if you know of anyone else that is planning a trip to RMNP this year, we would really appreciate if you could forward this link onto them as well.

Thank you very much!


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Massive avalanche caught on film

Earlier this month a massive avalanche was caught on film by a group of climbers on the via Ferrata de Saint Christophe in the French Alps. The climbers were extremely lucky to be high enough above the impacted area that their lives were never in danger. However, their location on the wall on the opposite side of the valley did provide them with an excellent birds-eye view of the avalanche as it happened:


Pawnee Buttes Trailhead Grand Opening Rescheduled

Everyone is again invited to come celebrate the newly constructed Pawnee Buttes Trailhead on the Pawnee National Grassland. This event has been rescheduled for May 4th at 10 a.m.

Due to snowy conditions, the U.S. Forest Service had to postpone the grand reopening ceremonies originally scheduled for April 20.

The U.S. Forest Service was able to complete the various improvements at the trailhead with the support of partners, including the Federal Highway Administration’s National Scenic Byway Program, the Pawnee Pioneer Trails Scenic and Historic Byway Committee, and Cedar Creek Wind Energy, LLC. Approximately $250,000, mostly received from grants, was spent to reroute the trail, build a new parking area, and add picnic tables and shelters, restrooms, and interpretive information. A portion of the new trail is also ADA accessible. Volunteers helped with some of the trail construction.

The trailhead is located 56 miles from Ault and 73 miles from Greeley. Directions from Highway 14, travel north on Weld County Road 129. Next, travel west on Weld County Road 110. Then follow signs to the trailhead area. The trailhead is northwest of New Raymer.

Remember, facilities are limited on the grassland. Be sure to bring plenty of water and sunscreen and have a full tank of gas in your vehicle before arriving.

The Pawnee Buttes are a signature landmark of the Pawnee National Grassland, rising more than 200 feet from the prairie floor and offers hiking opportunities.

For more information about recreational activities, please call the Pawnee National Grassland office at 970-346-5000 or check online at


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Even bears like to have their backs scratched

Who doesn't like a good back scratching? Even bears like to have their backs scratched! This game camera in Swan Valley, Idaho caught several bears using a nearby tree as a backscratcher over the course of last summer. Be sure to check out the response of the moose at the end of the video:


Monday, April 22, 2013

Rocky Mountain Seeks Public Input On Wild Basin Area Improvements

Rocky Mountain National Park staff are considering making improvements at four locations in the Wild Basin area located in the southeast part of the park. These four locations include the picnic area located just west of Copeland Lake, the winter turn-around located midway along the road that leads to the Wild Basin Trailhead, the Wild Basin Trailhead located at the terminus of the road and the provision of a parking area adjacent to the road to accommodate vehicles towing horse trailers. The purpose of the proposed improvements is to enhance visitor services and improve park operations.

Proposed plans for the Copeland Picnic Area include installing a vault toilet and providing an accessible picnic site meeting American's with Disabilities (ADA) standards. Proposed plans for the winter turn-around include providing additional parking and providing a turn-around for snowplows. Proposed plans for the Wild Basin Trailhead include providing a new visitor contact facility by renovating an existing cabin located west of the trailhead parking area. The new facility would be accessible to those with disabilities. The plans also include providing a new trail connection to the visitor contact facility and the Wild Basin trail system, and providing access to the trail system for equestrians. Proposed plans for vehicles towing horse trailers include developing a new area with three parking spaces for vehicles towing horse trailers and providing a trail connection from the parking area to area trails. Maps with these specific proposed changes can be found in an on-line newsletter at the website referenced below.

The Wild Basin Trailhead provides access to several popular hiking destinations, including Lion Lake, Thunder Lake, Ouzel Falls and Bluebird Lake.

The park welcomes public input on the proposed improvements. Comments must be in writing, and can be submitted on-line or by mail. Comments are due by April 30, 2013. The preferred method for submitting comments is to use the National Park Service Planning, Environment and Public Comment (PEPC) website at

Although the preferred method is through the PEPC site, comments may be submitted in several ways:

By mail: Superintendent, Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park, CO 80517

By fax: (970) 586-1359

By email:

Hand-deliver: Rocky Mountain National Park Headquarters, 1000 Highway 36, Estes Park, Colorado.

For further information about Rocky Mountain National Park, please call the park's Information Office at (970) 586-1206.


Undiscovered Hikes: Ring the Peak Trail

A couple years ago Backpacker Magazine ran an article that highlighted several "Undiscovered Hikes" around the country. One of those hikes was the Ring the Peak Trail in Colorado. The article stated that the trail, which circumnavigates Pikes Peak, will "give Colorado an answer to Rainier's Wonderland Trail".

According to the Friends of the Peak website,
"the Ring the Peak trail is a collection of trails, four wheel drive roads, and a few paved roads that circumnavigates Pikes Peak. The trails cross federal, state, county, city, and sometimes private lands. The total length of the trail system is approximately 63 miles with approximately 80% of the route completed. Evaluation and planning is ongoing for the remaining 20%. The altitude ranges between 6,400 feet in Manitou Springs to 11,300 feet east of Portal 8 on Trail Segment 8-9; consequently, many trails are obscured by snow during the winter months. Currently, 9 portals provide access to the Ring trails, although there are numerous other ways to find your way to the Ring."
Here's a map of the trail as it stands today:

In addition to being a great way of enjoying the Pikes Peak area via day hikes or extended backpacking excursions, there are a couple sections along the way that provide access points that lead to the summit of the 14,110-foot peak.

You can also enjoy the Ring the Peak on a mountain bike. An unofficial, roughly 100K mountain bike challenge, is scheduled for Saturday, September 7th.


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Suspects sought in park vandalism case

Colorado Parks and Wildlife and Pueblo Crime Stoppers are looking for information regarding vandalism that caused $10,000 in damages at Lake Pueblo State Park.

Sometime between 11 p.m. Thursday, April 11 and 5 a.m. Friday, April 12, multiple 9mm rounds were fired into the north and east entrance stations. An electronic message sign was also shot and two outhouse structures on park property were vandalized and damaged.

"We believe somewhere between 25 - 30 rounds were fired into the buildings," said Park Manager Brad Henley. "Luckily, no one was in them at the time."

Investigators collected shell casing and recovered multiple bullets. There was extensive damage to windows, signs, and the interior and exterior finishes of the buildings.

Initial damages estimates were $4,000 but Park officials discovered the cost to repair the electronic variable message sign was over $7,000 alone.

If you have any information about this crime, or any person(s) involved, you are urged to call Pueblo Crime Stoppers at 719-542-7867 or submit a Web Tip at You do not have to give your name. If your tip leads to a felony arrest, Pueblo Crime Stoppers will pay a cash reward of up to $2,000 and you can remain anonymous.


Friday, April 19, 2013

Moraine Park Campground to close for 3 Weeks for Paving Project

Beginning on April 30th through May 20th, the Moraine Park Campground in Rocky Mountain National Park will close for a major repaving project. Aspenglen Campground will open early for the season on April 30 to accommodate campers. Aspenglen Campground will be first-come, first-served until May 22, when it will revert to the reservation system.

Loop B in Moraine Park Campground, which consists of 77 sites, will reopen on Tuesday, May 21 and the rest of Moraine Park Campground will reopen on May 22 for the beginning of the reservation season.

For more information about Rocky Mountain National Park, please call the park's Information Office at (970) 586-1206.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

The National Park Week Getaway Giveaway

The National Park Foundation has partnered with Globus to launch the National Park Week Getaway Giveaway! The lucky winner of this sweepstakes will receive airfare, hotel stays, transportation, and VIP access to some of the most spectacular national parks including Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore, and Grand Teton National Park. The total value of the Grand Prize is approximately $4800!

The National Park Week Getaway Giveaway winner and a guest will experience the breathtaking landscapes, wildlife, and history of the West. This trip features an 11-day guided tour from Denver to Salt Lake City with stops at national parks, museums, and historic sites. Expert Globus tour guides will present fascinating information and stories about each of the destinations and offer a unique level of access to park attractions. Globus has developed a full itinerary, including lodging and transportation, for a completely hassle-free touring experience.

The sweepstakes closes on Wednesday, May 8, 2013 at 11:59 PM EST.

For more information, and to enter, please click here.


Ultimate High: Mountain Biking The Colorado Trail

With its high-altitude riding, spectacular vistas, and wild, remote segments, the 486-mile Colorado Trail from Denver to Durango offers mountain bikers the adventure of a lifetime. Join four riders, ranging in age from 17 to 52, who traversed the trail over the course of two summers as they discuss gear and food selection, training, and logistical challenges, as well as the rewards of tackling this incredible adventure.

The presentation will be held at the REI in Englewood on April 25th, from 6:30 to 8:00 PM. To register for the free event, please click here. The REI in Lakewood will also offer the same presentation on April 29th, from 6:30 to 8:00 PM. To register, please click here.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

U.S. Forest Service to reopen two climbing areas in Boulder Canyon

The U.S. Forest Service has reopened Security Risk and Eagle Rock climbing areas in Boulder Canyon. The Blob Rock and Bitty Buttress areas remain closed to climbing and other activities through July 31, 2013.

These areas were closed Feb. 1 to protect nesting golden eagles. The areas, approximately 1.5 miles east of Boulder Falls, are located along Colo. Highway 119. Forest officials plan to reinstate these closures annually on Feb. 1 to allow the birds to choose nest sites without being disturbed.

It is against federal and state law to disturb any nesting bird of prey. Visitors can help protect wildlife by respecting all closures and leaving immediately when accidentally entering one.

For current closure information, call the Boulder Ranger District office at 303-541-2500 and check for area closure signs. Visitors can also check the Forest webpage (click on Boulder Canyon for more info).


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Wyoming Results of 2012 Forest Health Survey Announced

The U.S. Forest Service and Wyoming State Forestry Division have announced the results of the annual aerial forest health survey for Wyoming. Both the mountain pine beetle and spruce beetle epidemics have declined across Wyoming in 2012. Statewide the number of new acres affected by the mountain pine beetle has declined from 719,000 in 2011 to 180,000 acres in 2012. The total footprint of the outbreak in Wyoming is now 3.4 million acres since 1996. In 2011, the total acreage for the epidemic was 3.3 million acres.

“Our actions today and in years to come will shape the forest of the future. Active forest management on both public and private lands can lead to healthier trees on the landscape and create the diversity necessary to reduce future large-scale insect epidemics.” said Bill Crapser, Wyoming State Forester.

Mountain Pine Beetle:

In south central Wyoming, including the Medicine-Bow National Forest, the aerial survey indicated a decline of mountain pine beetle activity from 378,000 in 2011 to 49,000 acres in 2012 largely due to fewer trees available for beetle infestation.

In western Wyoming, including the Shoshone, Wasatch-Cache and Bridger-Teton national forests, mountain pine beetle activity has declined from 280,000 in 2011 to 83,000 acres in 2012 in lodgepole and 5-needle pines largely due to fewer trees available for beetle infestation.

In north central Wyoming, including the Bighorn National Forest, large areas of forest remain unaffected by mountain pine beetle. In 2012, only 440 acres of mountain pine beetle activity was detected.

Northeast Wyoming, including the Black Hills National Forest, mountain pine beetle activity continues with aerial photograph interpretation detecting 730 acres additional acreage from 2011’s survey.

Spruce Beetle:

Spruce beetle activity has declined from 76,000 in 2011 to 32,000 acres in 2012 statewide. Since 1996, 558,000 acres have been affected by spruce beetle statewide leaving many areas of large dead standing spruce in the high country.

In south central Wyoming, the spruce beetle epidemic is declining leaving large areas of dead standing large spruce in the Sierra Madre, Snowy Range, and Medicine Bow Mountains in Albany and Carbon counties.

In northwestern Wyoming’s Absaroka Mountains in and adjacent to the Shoshone National Forest, spruce beetle continues to kill spruce and many areas have few surviving mature spruce remaining.

The 2012 aerial survey results for Wyoming can be found at


Monday, April 15, 2013

How to Travel Over Snow

Join longtime outdoors instructor Mike Zawaski, author of Snow Travel: Skills for Climbing, Hiking, and Moving Across Snow, for an inspiring talk and slideshow about how to avoid making common mistakes, how to use your ice ax for traversing, chopping steps, self-arresting, and much more, how to navigate a snowy patch if you don't have an ice ax, pre-trip planning and picking the right gear such as crampons and safety essentials, and finally, where to go in Colorado with your new-found snow travel skills.

The presentation will be held at the REI in Westminster on April 23rd, from 6:30 to 8:00 PM. To register for the free event, please click here.


Removing snow from the highest paved road in the United States

With snow removal crews getting ready to tackle Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park over the next couple of weeks, I thought I would highlight a couple of short videos that show how much snow accumulates over the winter, what the conditions are like, and how crews go about removing snow from the highest contiguous paved road in the United States.

Weather permitting, Trail Ridge Road is projected to reopen this year on May 24th.


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Zion National Park: Exploring The Lesser Known Areas

Down through the millennia the North Fork of the Virgin River has cut a swathe of Navajo Sandstone, nearly 15 miles long and a half-mile deep, to create what is now known as Zion Canyon. Before it became a national park the Anasazi and the Southern Paiutes lived among the mountains, canyons, buttes, mesas, monoliths and natural arches of Zion. Spanish priests first visited the present-day park in 1776. Eventually Mormons came to the area in 1858, and would settle there by the early 1860s.

In 1909 President William Howard Taft signed legislation that made Zion a national monument, which was known at that time as Mukuntuweap National Monument. In 1918 the name was changed to Zion National Monument, and in the following year was upgraded to a national park.

One of Zion’s most famous features is the death-defying hike up to Angels Landing. The trail climbs 1200 feet in roughly 2.4 miles. To reach the top hikers have to ascend Walter's Wiggles, a series of 21 steep switchbacks up to Scout Lookout. The last half-mile features sharp drop-offs along a narrow path, which includes chains for hikers to grip. The chains are there for a very good reason. In the past eight years alone six people have plunged to their deaths after losing their footing along this trail.

Although Zion Canyon is the main attraction, I highly recommend spending at least 2 or 3 hours exploring the area east of the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel. In addition to hiking the easy half-mile trail out to Zion Canyon Overlook, there are several interesting rock formations to check out. Here are a few random photos from this strange and beautiful area of the park:

Hiking Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks covers 56 hikes in the two parks, as well as the surrounding areas, such as Cedar Breaks National Monument.


Friday, April 12, 2013

Video: Hundreds of Elk in Migration

Check out this video of hundreds of elk - presumably in migration - crossing a road in Drake, Colorado (just east of Estes Park). What makes this video so amazing is that during the span of the 4.5 minute clip, there's a constant flow of elk crossing the road. It's obvious that the flow started before the video began, and continued afterwards (someone in the comments section said they counted 241 elk):


National Park System Advisory Board Report Offers Strategies to Strengthen 21st-century National Park Service

Strategies to strengthen the work of the National Park Service as it prepares for its centennial in 2016 are included in a report released today by the National Park System Advisory Board (NPSAB). The report, Engaging Independent Perspectives for a 21st-Century National Park System, summarizes the board’s recommendations to National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis for the future in four areas: stewardship, education, relevancy and the National Park Service workforce.

The NPSAB consulted with National Park Service employees and more than 100 outside subject matter experts, including scholarly and professional organizations, and private sector representatives. Their report focuses on 10 separate tasks designed to:

■ Plan for a future National Park System.

■ Recommend national historic landmarks that represent a broader, richer representation of America’s story.

■ Propose national natural landmarks that increase awareness of America’s diverse natural history and explore new opportunities for public and private support.

■ Support the economic valuation of National Park Service parks and programs, including cooperative programs outside the National Park System.

■ Revisit the “Leopold Report,” a 1963 report that influenced the philosophy, policies and people of the National Park Service, and prepare a contemporary version to help the National Park Service confront modern challenges in resource management.

■ Expand collaboration in education to broaden contacts with educational institutions and incorporate National Park Service parks and programs into educational media.

■ Explore American Latino Heritage by developing a theme study to identify American Latino related places for inclusion in new national historic landmarks and national parks, as well as existing National Park Service sites.

■ Support the National Park Service centennial by providing advice for a centennial public awareness initiative.

■ Build community relationships to explore new approaches for broader relevancy and public engagement.

■ Support leadership development by providing advice on National Park Service leadership, workforce, organizational development, and more effectively advancing innovation.

Established under the Historic Sites Act of 1935, the NPSAB is a congressionally chartered body of 12 private citizens appointed by the Secretary of the Interior that provides advice to the Secretary of the Interior and to the Director of the National Park Service on matters relating to operation of the parks and management of the NPS. A primary purpose of the NPSAB is to provide independent perspectives on current issues and to identify long-range opportunities and possible solutions to Systemwide challenges. Its 2001 report, Rethinking the National Parks for the 21st Century, recommended a 25-year vision for the NPS; today’s report builds on that work.

The report is available online at


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Obama's Budget Proposal Slashes National Parks Budget by 13%

The National Park Service announced today that the "President’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget requests $2.6 billion to support the critical conservation, preservation, and recreation mission of the National Park Service."

This request represents a 13% reduction in the amount from the original 2013 NPS budget, which gave total budget authority to the NPS in the amount of $2.99 billion. That figure was recently reduced by 5% as a result of sequestration, which brought the NPS budget down to roughly $2.84 billion for fiscal year 2013. When compared to the revised sequestration budget, the President’s budget is still 8.5% below 2013 levels.

More importantly, the President’s 2014 budget request takes National Park funding back to 2004 levels, when the NPS had $2.56 billion in total budget authority. Indeed, each year since 2010, when total NPS budget authority reached $3.16 billion, the budget for National Parks has decreased.

According to the National Parks Traveler, the President's 2014 budget:
"calls for a reduction of more than 100 full-time employees to an agency that currently has 900 full-time vacancies"

"The budget also calls for a reduction of 92 employees under park operations, and 30 from the construction programs."

"According to a synopsis of the budget provided by the department, the proposal calls for more than $600 million in programmatic reductions to offset spending. It also would sustain current administrative cost reductions in travel, contract services, and supplies and equipment that would save $217 million."
Given that Obama's overall Federal spending remains relatively flat in 2014, versus 2013, the decision to reduce the National Parks budget in the amount he's requesting is extremely disappointing. Are National Parks a lower priority when compared to other government agencies?

For more details on what's in the NPS budget, you can click here to read the NPS press release.


Arapaho National Forest to provide updates at town meetings

The Sulphur Ranger District is scheduled to update town boards around Grand County over the next several weeks regarding its current projects and planning efforts.

To learn more about upcoming U.S. Forest Service roadside hazard tree work, trail projects, fuels reduction efforts and forest health projects, plan to attend one of these upcoming community meetings. The presentation takes about 30 minutes and includes time for questions.

Presentations are scheduled:

* Grand Lake Town Hall: 3 p.m. April 22

* Fraser Town Hall: 7 p.m. May 1

* Winter Park Town Hall: 8 a.m. May 21

* Granby Town Hall: 6:30 p.m. May 28

To schedule a presentation with your community group, please contact Reid Armstrong at 970-887-4145. To receive regular updates about Sulphur Ranger District projects, email


Improvements to Poudre River Access

Two river access points will be temporarily closed starting April 16th while work to improve access along the Poudre River occurs. The sites are expected to reopen by May 9th.

The U.S. Forest Service has decided to remove and reconstruct access steps at the Bridges Put-in and the Bridges Take-out. The Put-in is located near mile marker 113, and the Take-out is located between mile markers 114 and 115.

Each site will receive two reconstructed steps for a total of four new sets. The steps will be custom formed/custom poured stamped concrete to match surrounding scenery. The new steps will not only improve access, but also improve safety and help minimize resource damage.

These improvements will help not only those who raft the river, but also those who fish. The project is being done predominately with funds collected from recreational outfitter/guide fees, including the rafting companies.

Work will take place from sun up to sun down, including over weekends, to ensure the steps are constructed by early May before water levels get too high and the commercial rafting season begins.

For questions regarding recreation on the Canyon Lakes Ranger District, please call visitor information at 970-295-6700 or check the web at


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Protection of High Value Trees and Hazard Mitigation Projects Continue in Rocky Mountain National Park

Bark beetles continue to be active within Rocky Mountain National Park, impacting large numbers of conifer trees. The park's priorities for mitigation of the effects of beetles are focused on removing hazard trees and hazard fuels related to the protection of life and property. For several years, Rocky Mountain National Park has had a proactive bark beetle management program. In recent years, bark beetles have been considered at outbreak levels throughout the park. In 2013, the park will continue its mitigation efforts, including applying insecticide, removing hazard trees, prescribed burns, utilizing an air curtain burner, pheromone treatments and implementing temporary closures in a variety of park locations.

Starting in early April and ending by Memorial Day weekend, the park is planning to protect up to 6,700 high-value trees from bark beetles by applying a Carbaryl-based insecticide. Treatment will occur in the following developed areas of the park: Beaver Meadows Visitor Center and Headquarters, Upper Beaver Meadows Picnic Area, Moraine Park Visitor Center, Kawuneeche Visitor Center, Aspenglen, Moraine Park, and Glacier Basin Campgrounds, Hollowell Park, Mill Creek Ranger Station, Wild Basin Entrance Station, Sprague Lake Picnic Area, Bighorn Ranger Station, McGraw Ranch, Holzwarth Historic Site, Leiffer Cabin, Kaley Cottages, Lumpy Ridge Trailhead, and the east and west side park service housing areas.

Last year, almost 6,600 trees were treated and nearly all of these trees were protected from attack by bark beetles. Additional sites have been expanded on the east side of the park as infestation rates increase in forests adjacent to high value trees. Insecticide will be applied from the ground and sprayed onto individual trees to repel beetle attacks. Temporary closures to the public and employees will be in effect during spraying operations.

The park is also treating up to 300 high value limber pine trees with verbenone pheromone packets to minimize infestation from bark beetles. Limber pine trees in the park are currently at risk of mountain pine beetle infestation and infection from white pine blister rust, a lethal non-native invasive fungus. Research is being conducted to identify if any limber pine trees within the park are resistant to white pine blister rust.

Park staff and contracted resources will continue to conduct hazard tree mitigation, through tree removal, throughout the year. Planned project sites include: Sprague Lake Trail and Picnic Area, selective hazard removal along the Wild Basin corridor, Old Fall River Road, Trail Ridge Road, Glacier Creek Picnic Area, and the Bear Lake Area. Smaller scale, selective hazard tree removals should be anticipated at trailheads, parking areas, picnic areas, roadside pullouts, campgrounds and visitor centers.

Temporary site closures can be expected at smaller sites to facilitate safe and efficient project completion. More detailed information will be provided on upcoming tree removal contracts along Trail Ridge on the west side of the park and possible temporary delays. Material disposal will involve piles for future burning and consolidation at designated sites for future use including firewood collection permits. More information on wood utilization will be available in the summer of 2013.

For more information about Rocky Mountain National Park you can contact the park's Information Office at (970) 586-1206 or visit the park's website section on forest health.


Spring breakup begins on Lake Granby

Spring breakup is underway on Lake Granby, located within the Arapaho National Recreation Area. As temperatures warm, typically in April, ice on the lake begins to rot and weaken, and holes develop, making conditions increasingly unsafe.

The U.S. Forest Service does not mark specific hazards as they emerge on the lake in the spring and recommends that anyone going ice fishing or otherwise recreating on the lake carefully evaluate the quality and strength of the ice prior to walking on it.

The level of Lake Granby has been drawn down in recent weeks to accommodate spring runoff, leaving most of the area’s boat ramps well above the ice line. To prevent resource damage, most boat ramps on Lake Granby are currently closed, however Sunset Boat Ramp remains open and available for use.

Shadow Mountain Reservoir has almost completely melted off and Green Mountain Boat Ramp also is open and some boating has already begun.

For up-to-date information about the status of lakes located within the Arapaho National Recreation Area, please contact Visitor Information Services at 970-887-4100.


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Major Construction Delays on Park County Road 77 (Tarryall Creek Road)

The Federal Highway Administration - Central Federal Lands Highway Division (FHWA-CFLHD), in cooperation with Park County and Pike National Forest, has awarded a construction contract to Kirkland Construction, LLLP for the next phase of construction on Park County Road 77 (Tarryall Creek Road), just southwest of Denver in the Pike National Forest.

This project is the fourth phase of construction on the Tarryall Creek Road. This segment of the construction is located in the middle of the route, starting south of Tarryall Reservoir, and extending 9.2 miles to the southeast. The project is for full reconstruction and widening of the existing roadway. The primary scopes of work are: roadway excavation and embankment, rockery wall(s), aggregate base, superpave pavement, and drainage improvements.

Travelers will experience construction delays over the next 7-8 months. Construction operations have already begun and travelers should anticipate delays throughout the spring, summer, and fall.

Travelers should anticipate the following construction delay scenarios:

• April 8 thru Noon May 24, 2013 up to 60 minute delays seven days a week.

- Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday roadway will be closed from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (Alternate routes are advised: Possible alternate routes are Park County Roads: 15, 23, 31, 34, and Forest Service Road 211)

• May 28 thru Noon August 30, 2013 up to 40 minute delays seven days a week.

• September 3 thru project completion (anticipated to be October 30, 2013) up to 60 minute delays seven days a week

• Other nighttime closure(s) may be enforced, but are not anticipated at this time.

Note: Access to Tarryall Reservoir from Park County Road 77 and Park County Road 23 will not be affected by this project.

Here's a project map:


Monday, April 8, 2013

Is that a mountain goat or a sheep?

Is that a mountain goat or a bighorn sheep?

Our friends to the north in Banff National Park have possibly provided the definitive answer to this age old question in this "musical" video:

Any more questions?


Sunday, April 7, 2013

Mesa Verde to Conduct Prescribed Fire This Month

Mesa Verde National Park is planning to implement a prescribed fire during the weeks of April 6th through the 20th, weather permitting. The Bobcat Canyon Restoration Prescribed Fire is being conducted to reduce the wildland fire hazard and promote regeneration within a stand of ponderosa pine at the south end of Wetherill Mesa.

The prescribed burn is 10 acres in size and is primarily comprised of ponderosa pine, gamble oak, piƱon and juniper. This fire is part of an effort to protect one of the last remaining stands of ponderosa pine within the park. Most other stands of ponderosa have experienced high mortality rates due to the recent drought in combination with the large, intense fires over the past 15 years.

Burning at this time of year should produce low intensity fire behavior while still achieving desired fuel reduction goals. Ignition operations should take one to two days, but the unit may produce smoke for several days afterwards. Visitors to Mesa Verde may see smoke in the southwestern part of the park during these activities.

For more information contact Steve Underwood, Mesa Verde Fire Management Officer, at (970) 529-5049.


Saturday, April 6, 2013

Spring Brings Expanded Visitor Services to Dinosaur National Monument

"Now that spring is here, Dinosaur National Monument is preparing to offer expanded services for visitors," announced Monument Superintendent, Mary Risser.

On the Utah side of the monument, the Quarry Visitor Center is open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. The visitor center features exhibits, a film, and a sales outlet for the Intermountain Natural History Association; it also serves as the departure point for car caravans to the Quarry Exhibit Hall with its wall of dinosaur fossils. Caravans leave from the visitor center at scheduled times throughout the day. Visitors must first stop at the visitor center before driving to the Quarry. In addition to the fossil wall, the Quarry Exhibit Hall features exhibits about dinosaurs and other life during the Jurassic. Beginning on May 18, the shuttle which transports visitors between the visitor center and exhibit hall, will begin operations. For more information about seeing the dinosaur fossils, please visit the monument website or call (435) 781-7700.

The Split Mountain Group and Green River campgrounds are scheduled to begin providing water and restrooms starting Friday, April 12. With the return of water and restroom services, camping fees will be charged. For the Green River Campground, the fee is $12.00 per night, per site. Each site can accommodate up to 8 people. Reservations are not accepted at this time. The Split Mountain Group Campground has four group sites. Each site can accommodate up to 25 people and six vehicles. The fee for Split Mountain is $25.00 per site, per night. Reservations for the sites at Split Mountain Group Campground are accepted through the online system managed by or calling 1 (877) 444-6777 (10:00 am - Midnight, Eastern Time). Split Mountain and Green River Campgrounds are located approximately four miles east of the Quarry Visitor Center on the Cub Creek road.

Also on the Utah side of the monument, the Cub Creek Road is a 12-mile scenic drive beginning near the Quarry Visitor Center. Visitors in this area can see numerous petroglyph sites, explore the Josie Morris homestead, look for wildlife, or take a hike on several trails. On the Colorado side of the monument, the Harpers Corner Road will open on Friday, April 12 for the season.

The Harpers Corner Road is a scenic 32-mile one way drive that leaves U.S. Highway 40 two miles east of Dinosaur, Colorado. "Though the road is currently closed to vehicular traffic, bicyclists and hikers may travel on the road," commented Superintendent Risser, "but should use caution and watch out for any snow removal equipment." Cycling on the Harpers Corner Road may give visitors the opportunity to see an array of wildlife, including elk, deer, and grouse. The Canyon Visitor Center, located at the start of the Harpers Corner Road, is currently closed, but will open on Saturdays and Sundays starting April 13 from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm and daily beginning on May 24.

While there are no dinosaur fossils in the Colorado portion of the monument, overlooks along the road provide sweeping views of the Uintah Basin and into the canyons of the Green and Yampa Rivers. Several trails provide a closer look not only at the monument's scenery and but also its plant and animal life. Dirt roads leading off the Harpers Corner Drive are not maintained and are usually impassable when wet. Check at the visitor center before venturing onto the unpaved roads for road conditions. Visitors venturing into this portion of the monument should check the forecast prior to their visit and be prepared for rapidly changing conditions.

The Gates of Lodore Campground, located 106 miles north of the Canyon Visitor Center on the Green River at the head of Lodore Canyon, is scheduled to begin providing water and restrooms starting May 24. Once the water is turned on, camping fees of $8.00 per night, per site will be charged. May 24, is also when water is scheduled to be turned on at the Echo Park Campground, located 38 miles north of the Canyon Visitor Center near where the Yampa River meets the Green River, and at the Deerlodge Park Campground located 53 miles east of the Canyon Visitor Center on the Yampa River at the head of Yampa Canyon. Camping fees for both campgrounds are $8.00 per night, per site.

Entrance fees for Dinosaur National Monument are as follows: $10 per vehicle, valid for up to seven days; $5 per person for someone on a motorcycle or bicycle. Frequent visitors to the monument may want to purchase a Dinosaur Annual Pass for $20.00, which is great value for those who come often or bring family and friends when visiting the area. For more information, visit the fees and reservation section of the park website which also includes rates for commercial and non-commercial groups and how school groups can request an academic fee waiver.

More information can be found by visiting:


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Rocky Mountain Ranks as 5th Most Visited National Park in 2012

More than 282 million people visited America’s national parks in 2012, an increase of more than 3 million over 2011. It was the sixth highest annual visitation in the history of the National Park Service, despite nearly 2 million fewer visitors as a result of park closures caused by Hurricane Sandy.

“The National Park Service strives to represent all that America has to offer,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “People come to national parks for many reasons – for recreation and to learn about American history by strolling through a battlefield. They come to listen to a park ranger at Independence National Historical Park and marvel at the Continental Congress. And people come to national parks for old-fashioned enjoyment of the great outdoors.”

There are familiar park names in the Top 10 lists. Gateway National Recreation Area in New York lost nearly 1.2 million visitors from 2011 because of Hurricane Sandy yet still made the Top 10 list of most visited National Park Service sites.

Most Visited Places in the National Park System (2012):

1. Blue Ridge Parkway 15,205,059
2. Golden Gate National Recreation Area 14,540,338
3. Great Smoky Mountains National Park 9,685,829
4. George Washington Memorial Parkway 7,425,577
5. Lake Mead National Recreation Area 6,285,439
6. Lincoln Memorial 6,191,361
7. Natchez Trace Parkway 5,560,668
8. Gateway National Recreation Area 5,043,863
 9. Gulf Islands National Seashore 4,973,462
10. Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area 4,970,802

Most Visited National Parks (2012):

1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park 9,685,829
2. Grand Canyon National Park 4,421,352
3. Yosemite National Park 3,853,404
4. Yellowstone National Park 3,447,729
5. Rocky Mountain National Park 3,229,617
6. Zion National Park 2,973,607
7. Olympic National Park 2,824,908
8. Grand Teton National Park 2,705,256
9. Acadia National Park 2,431,052
10. Cuyahoga Valley National Park 2,299,722


Mesa Verde National Park Visitor and Research Center Receives LEED Platinum Rating

The new Mesa Verde National Park Visitor and Research Center (VRC) has received the U.S. Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification, the Council's highest rating for sustainable buildings. The 23,620 sf VRC consists of two components: a 16,256 sf Research and Collection Facility and a 7,364 sf visitor information center. The VRC houses the park's collection of over 3,000,000 artifacts as well as its archives. It also offers an orientation to the park for visitors, has a tour ticket sales area, an exhibit area and a bookstore run by the Mesa Verde Museum Association. The visitor information center was completed in November, 2012 and opened to the public in December 2012. A grand opening celebration is planned for May 23, 2013.

"Mesa Verde National Park is proud to have obtained this rating which is in keeping with the mission of the National Park Service (NPS) to preserve and protect," said Cliff Spencer, Park Superintendent. "It also answers the NPS Call to Action, an initiative to prepare the NPS for a second century of stewardships and engagement."

This project addresses the "Going Green" action item by reducing the Mesa Verde National Park carbon footprint through the use of renewable energy sources, and action item "Out with the Old" by installing interpretive media that offers interactive experiences and are accessible to all members of the public.

Many stakeholders & partners came together to create this high-performance sustainable building that demonstrates the use of energy efficiency, renewable energy, water conservation, recycling, and environmentally preferable materials. The on-site renewable energy systems are capable of providing 95 percent of the building energy requirements. The building includes many sustainability features such as improved building envelope, reduced lighting power requirements, advanced lighting controls, high-efficiency HVAC system, and on-site renewable energy systems (i.e. solar water heating, hydroelectric power from a micro-hydro turbine, and photovoltaics). Together with the other integrated sustainable features, LEED Platinum certification was achieved for the VRC.

In addition, all of the regularly occupied spaces within the facility have day lighting and most have access to outdoor views.

This $14.3 million construction project was funded through NPS Line Item Construction Funds and managed by the Denver Service Center, the NPS centralized office for planning, design and construction services. The Mesa Verde Foundation, the park's friends group, donated 37.5 acres of land for the building site.

This facility replaces the Far View Visitor Center and 'tin shed' which did not meet rigorous standards for museum artifacts and was in a high fire danger area as well. The Far View Visitor Center is currently closed to the public and will be used for other park purposes.

The VRC is located at the park's entrance just off Highway 160 approximately 8 miles west of Mancos, Colorado and 9 miles east of Cortez, Colorado.

LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is an internationally recognized green building certification system that provides a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance approaches. The Green Building Council is a Washington, D.C. - based nonprofit committed to achieving a sustainable future through cost-efficient and energy-saving green buildings.

According to the council, buildings are responsible for 39 percent of carbon dioxide emissions, 40 percent of energy consumption and 13 percent of water consumption nationwide. Greater building efficiency can meet 85 percent of future U.S. demand for energy, and a national commitment to green building could generate 2.5 million American jobs, according to council estimates.


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area plans hike to 'crater' volcano

Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area (AHRA) Volunteer Naturalist Bob Hickey will lead the public on a fascinating hike Saturday, April 13 to explore an extinct volcano northeast of Salida. The hike will begin at 8 a.m. and ends around 4 p.m.

There are lovely views of the surrounding area and as the hike enters the forest, the trail drops into upper Cottonwood Gulch and the volcanic rock zone of the Salida Volcano Field. There is a beautiful pond as the hike begins to climb up beside Rick Mountain, which is a large volcanic deposit. The trail then follows the west slopes of Big Baldy Mountain, the main volcano in this area, to a saddle connecting Big Baldy with The Crater where hikers can stand on the rim and look into a small, but real, volcanic cone.

Hikers should bring plenty of water, snacks, a sack lunch and sunscreen, wear good hiking shoes and dress accordingly for the weather. A hiking stick or pole would be helpful on the cone of the crater. This is a moderate 9-mile round trip hike. Because of the distance, it is not suitable for children under 10 years old.

Space is limited. Please call AHRA at 719-539-7289 by April 12 to register and receive more information. There is no charge. Dogs must be on a leash.


Annual National Natural Landmarks Photo Contest is Now Open

It’s once again time to grab your camera and head outdoors. The 10th annual National Natural Landmarks Program photo contest is officially open. “This contest is an opportunity for people to experience and celebrate our shared natural heritage,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “From staggering rock formations to unique forests, we are in search of images that capture the diversity, beauty and educational value these significant natural areas represent.”

Winning photographs will be featured in the 2014 National Natural Landmarks Calendar.

The National Park Service’s National Natural Landmarks Program recognizes significant examples of biological and geological features. The program also supports the cooperative conservation of these important examples of America’s natural heritage.

National natural landmarks are designated by the Secretary of the Interior following rigorous scientific study. These landmarks include features on private, state, municipal and federal lands. Program participation is voluntary. Not all landmark sites are open to the public.

Further information about the National Natural Landmarks Program, including a complete list of designated sites and their accessibility is available at

There are nearly 600 national natural landmarks nationwide representing an array of features. Top honors for the 2012 contest – featured on this year’s calendar – went to photographers whose images featured the old-growth hemlock-hardwood forest of Michigan’s Porcupine Mountain, the dwarfed alpine vegetation along the ridge of Bigelow Mountain in Maine, and the stratigraphically-controlled spring and cascading waters of California’s Burney Falls. Special places like these are found nation-wide, so there is likely to be a landmark site open to public visitation near you.

Contest entries will be accepted through June 30, 2013. Winners will be announced in September.

Each photographer may submit up to three entries. Each photograph must be from a different national natural landmark. Images of the 13 sites featured in the 2013 calendar will not be accepted.

Those winning photos can be viewed at

For full contest information and submission requirements, please visit


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Have you ever seen the Frazil Ice in Yosemite National Park?

The last gasps of winter in the Yosemite Valley....

Check out this amazing video showing the "giant slurpee" that forms when "frazil ice" collects on Yosemite Falls, and flows down Yosemite Creek each spring like a lava flow.

As you might expect, the scenery in this film is quite awesome: