Monday, June 30, 2014

The Best of Yosemite in One Epic Hike

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. You’ll also see El Capitan, Half Dome, Illilouette Fall and Nevada Fall. This epic one-way hike begins with a climb up the Four Mile Trail, and then travels back to the valley via the Panorama Trail. The following is a pretty good video which highlights the outstanding sights along the way:


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Video Hike to Mt. Elbert - the Highest Mountain in Colorado

At 14,433 feet, Mt. Elbert ranks as the highest mountain in Colorado. It’s also the highest point between Mt. Whitney in California, Fairweather Mountain in Canada, La Malinche Mountain in Mexico, and Mont Blanc in France. But don’t be intimidated - it’s a relatively easy hike - if you have good fitness and are properly acclimated. Below is a short video highlighting some of the outstanding scenery you'll see on this hike. For more detailed information on this hike, please click here.


Monday, June 23, 2014

NPS Bans Drones in America’s National Parks

National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis signed a policy memorandum last week that directs superintendents nationwide to prohibit launching, landing, or operating unmanned aircraft on lands and waters administered by the National Park Service.

“We embrace many activities in national parks because they enhance visitor experiences with the iconic natural, historic and cultural landscapes in our care,” Jarvis said. “However, we have serious concerns about the negative impact that flying unmanned aircraft is having in parks, so we are prohibiting their use until we can determine the most appropriate policy that will protect park resources and provide all visitors with a rich experience.”

Unmanned aircraft have already been prohibited at several national parks. These parks initiated bans after noise and nuisance complaints from park visitors, an incident in which park wildlife were harassed, and park visitor safety concerns.

Last September, an unmanned aircraft flew above evening visitors seated in the Mount Rushmore National Memorial Amphitheater. Park rangers concerned for visitors’ safety confiscated the unmanned aircraft.

In April, visitors at Grand Canyon National Park gathered for a quiet sunset, which was interrupted by a loud unmanned aircraft flying back and forth and eventually crashing in the canyon. Later in the month, volunteers at Zion National Park witnessed an unmanned aircraft disturb a herd of bighorn sheep, reportedly separating adults from young animals.

The policy memorandum directs park superintendents to take a number of steps to exclude unmanned aircraft from national parks. The steps include drafting a written justification for the action, ensuring compliance with applicable laws, and providing public notice of the action.

The memorandum does not affect the primary jurisdiction of the Federal Aviation Administration over the National Airspace System.

The policy memorandum is a temporary measure. Jarvis said the next step will be to propose a service-wide regulation regarding unmanned aircraft. That process can take considerable time, depending on the complexity of the rule, and includes public notice of the proposed regulation and opportunity for public comment.

The policy memo directs superintendents to use their existing authority within the Code of Federal Regulations to prohibit the use of unmanned aircraft, and to include that prohibition in the park’s compendium, a set of park-specific regulations.

All permits previously issued for unmanned aircraft will be suspended until reviewed and approved by the associate director of the National Park Service’s Visitor and Resource Protection directorate. The associate director must approve any new special use permits authorizing the use of unmanned aircraft. Superintendents who have previously authorized the use of model aircraft for hobbyist or recreational use may allow such use to continue.

The National Park Service may use unmanned aircraft for administrative purposes such as search and rescue, fire operations and scientific study. These uses must also be approved by the associate director for Visitor and Resource Protection.


Thursday, June 19, 2014

Community Weed Pull Event in Rocky Mountain National Park

On Saturday June 28th, join Rocky Mountain National Park staff and Estes Land Stewardship Association (ELSA) from 8 a.m. to noon to help pull exotic plants and learn more about noxious weeds. Meet at the corner of High Drive and Columbine Drive to sign in and test your skills in weed identification. Tools and water will be provided. Last year almost thirty people participated to tackle, dig, and pull noxious weeds!

One of the many challenges land managers face is the threat that invasive exotic plants or noxious weeds present. Invasive exotic plants can upset natural processes and often use that "strategy" to spread. Exotic weeds are not native to the area they are invading. As a result, they frequently have few effective predators, competitors, parasites, or diseases. They can spread across a landscape quickly and replace native species that have important functions in the ecosystem.

Exotic weeds upset natural processes in a variety of ways. Some are poisonous if consumed by wildlife. Some release compounds into the soil to prevent the seeds of other plants from germinating. Some produce such thick aggregations of plants, they shade out native plants. This can disrupt other native species such as butterflies and other pollinators.

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


Explore The Wonders Of Rocky Mountain National Park At Discovery Days

Discover the amazing world of Rocky Mountain National Park with your family every Tuesday at Discovery Days. Beginning on June 24th through August 12th, drop by any time from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Moraine Park Discovery Center.

Join Education Rangers to explore a unique park theme through hands-on activities, crafts, games, and stories. This free program allows families to learn and have fun together. Weekly themes include birds, predators of the park, geology, tracking, orienteering, and much more. Every week there will be something new to discover!

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


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Artists Selected For 2014 Program at Rocky Mountain National Park: First Art In The Park Program Begins Tonight

Six artists have been selected for the summer 2014 Artist-in-Residence Program at Rocky Mountain National Park. Artists are provided with a creative, contemplative environment in which to generate artistic works and share their works with the public. During their stay at the park, artists share their vision in two public presentations. These presentations are held on Wednesday evenings at 7:30 p.m. at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center and are free and open to the public.

Wildlife painter Dustin Van Wechel from Gilbert, Arizona, will be kicking off this year's Art in the Park Program with programs held June 18 and June 25. Dustin believes national parks have been his greatest teacher and inspiration for the arts. For his residency project at Rocky, Dustin will use plein air sketches to create a body of studio-work that will reveal relationships between the park's landscape and its wild residents. Van Wechel was a recipient of the Grand Teton Lodge Company and Wildlife Award for the 2006 Arts for the Parks contest. He was featured artist in the 2012 Southwestern Wildlife Exposition and exhibits in galleries in Jackson, Wyoming and Scottsdale, Arizona.

In addition to Van Wechel, other artists who were selected for this year's program along with their art medium are: Trine Bumiller, Visual Artist from Denver, Colorado; John Stansfield, Storyteller and Writer from Monument, Colorado; Michael Lang, Photographer from Lakewood, Colorado ; Jessica Bryant Painter and Art Teacher from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho; James and Jenny Tarpley, Photographers from Marion, North Carolina.

Artistic diversity, new ideas and creative uses of media were encouraged in the application process. Artists are given two-week residencies at the William Allen White cabin from June through September. For a specific schedule and to learn more about these artists, click here.

Artists have had a long-standing impact on the formation, expansion and direction of our country's national parks. Musicians, composers, painters, writers, sculptors and other performing artists also draw upon the multifaceted quality of parks for inspiration. All of these artists translate the national park's purpose, as a place of pleasure and preservation, into images which bring others enjoyment and a deeper understanding of the parks some may never visit. Rocky Mountain National Park's Artist-In-Residence program provides artists the opportunity to become a part of a long established tradition of artists in our national parks.

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


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Woman Airlifted From Chasm Lake Area In Rocky Mountain National Park

At approximately 4:30 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, June 15th, Rocky Mountain National Park staff received a 911 call regarding an incident near Chasm Lake. A 56-year-old woman, hometown unknown, took a reported 65-foot tumbling, sliding fall on the snowfield between Chasm Junction and Chasm Lake.

Members of the park's Search and Rescue team reached the woman just two hours later at 6:37 p.m. She had numerous injuries. Team members conducted a technical rescue and raised her in a litter back to the snow covered trail. She was carried in a litter to Chasm Meadows and was flown by Flight For Life to a hospital in Lakewood.

No further information is available at this time.


Monday, June 16, 2014

Tips for taking care of your hiking feet

The following are a few tips, suggestions and strategies for taking care of your feet before and during a hike to help ensure that it isn’t ruined as a result of blisters:

Toenails: Make sure you take the time to trim your toenails before a big hike, especially one that involves long descents. It’s best to clip your toenails as short as possible so that there’s no extra nail length. If need be, file the nails down until they’re flush with the skin. Sometimes I forget to do this and end up with a long nail digging into the flesh of a neighboring toe!

Socks: One way of preventing blisters is to wear proper socks. This means staying far away from 100% cotton socks which absorb sweat and can lead to blisters. It’s best to wear socks made from synthetics, or a blend of synthetics and cotton, which wicks moisture away and keeps your feet drier and cooler. Also, make sure you wear socks that fit properly. Socks that are too big can bunch together in boots and create friction areas that result in blisters.

Finally, I always keep an extra pair of socks in my backpack just in case the ones I’m wearing get wet.

Boots: Much has already been written on boots, including what type to wear, proper fit, etc. That discussion is beyond the scope of this article, but if you’re looking for an informative article on the subject I highly recommend this one. Also, my wife has had problems with blisters, and even lost a toenail while hiking to the bottom of the Grand Canyon several years ago. She’s since discovered that as a result of her narrow feet, she wasn't wearing boots that fit her properly. This article on Backpacker Mag offers solutions for people who have similar issues.

Boot laces: One way to help prevent blisters from forming on your heels, and toes from hitting the front of your boot, is to make sure your boots are properly laced, especially on descents.

When heading downhill it’s important to make sure that your heel doesn’t slip forward, thus causing friction which leads to blisters. The key is to keep your heel secure within the boot, while still allowing some room for natural swelling that occurs in the fore and mid areas of your foot.

Most good hiking boots have two types of eyelets: closed metal rings along the top of the foot, and quick-release types on the top of the boot above the ankle.

On the lower eyelets along the top of the foot, it’s best to lace your shoes with a little give. In other words, not snug, but not real loose either. This will give your foot room to expand as your foot swells during a hike.

Then, on that last lace before you start lacing through the quick release eyelets, do a single, very snug, overhand loop. Lace through the first pair of quick release eyelets and then do another snug overhand loop. Do the same all the way to the top of the eyelets (don’t strangle your ankle though!). This will anchor your heel area to the boot and keep it from sliding.

Another option for lacing boots, especially if you have narrow feet, is to use the technique outlined by the Hiking Lady in this video:

Gaiters: Most people would agree that wet socks suck. Wet socks are not only uncomfortable, but can also be dangerous if it’s cold out. Moreover, hiking for long periods in wet socks is a prescription for blisters.

One way to combat wet terrain, snow, and even sand and pebbles from jumping into your boots, is to wear gaiters. Basically there are two types: high and low. High gaiters are used for snowshoeing and mountaineering, extend to just below your knees, and are designed to keep your socks and pants dry. Short gaiters generally cover the lower part of your shin and are used in warmer weather to protect against wet terrain, sand and pebbles.

Blisters: The following are a few other suggestions for avoiding blisters:

* Train your feet. Don’t go out on a long hike without taking the time to toughen up your feet by doing walks or short hikes leading up to the big day.

* Don’t try to break in brand new boots on a long hike either. Wear a new pair around town, or on short hikes, before taking them long distance.

* Walking barefoot around the house, especially outside, will toughen the skin of your feet.

* Stop and remove dirt, sand, or any other debris that gets in your boots ASAP.

* Air your feet out during a break in order to cool and dry them off.

* For people with feet that sweat excessively, try using extra-strength antiperspirant creams, roll-ons, or powders to reduce sweating.

* If you have areas on your foot that have caused problems in the past, try putting moleskin or athletic tape on before blisters have a chance to form.

* If you do develop a hot spot, cover them immediately with moleskin, athletic tape, Adventure Medical Kits GlacierGel pads, or even duct tape before they become blisters.

Treating Blisters: Well, if all of the above fails, and you still wind up with a blister, here are a few tips for treating them (and another good reason for keeping a small first aid kit in your pack).

* If the blister isn’t torn and is full of liquid, pierce it from the side with a sterile needle at its base and let all the fluid drain out. If the affected skin is still intact, don't remove it. Instead, cover the drained blister with moleskin.

* If the blister is already torn, carefully cut away the loose skin and clean the area with antiseptic. Allow it to dry and harden in the open air for as long possible. Before resuming your hike, put a band-aid or gauze over the torn blister and then put a layer of moleskin over the blister area. It’s best to cut a doughnut shaped piece of moleskin that fits around the blister rather than putting it directly on it.

* If you have a blister that's buried deep in the skin and doesn't hold a lot of liquid, it’s best not to puncture them. Instead, just cover them with a moleskin doughnut to relieve the friction.

If you have any other helpful tips, please feel free to add them in the comments section.


Friday, June 13, 2014

Celebrate 50 years of Wilderness on the Sulphur Ranger District

2014 marks the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act and the 20th Anniversary of the Grand County Wilderness Group. The U.S. Forest Service’s Sulphur Ranger District and Grand County Wilderness Group are working together to present a series of events this summer:

June 21: Indian Peaks Wilderness Hike at Monarch Lake near Granby, Colo. Meet at 8:30 am. Lead by Tim Nicklas from the Grand County Historical Association. He will talk about the history of the area.

July 12: Indian Peaks Wilderness hike starting at Junco Cabin, starting at 8:30 a.m. Lead by Izzie Ditmarson, our wilderness ranger. Izzie will also talk about "Leave No Trace." 

July 21-23: Come for a day or stay overnight at the Broome Hut and help construct a trail , extending the Second Creek Trail to the Mt. Nystrom Trail in Vasquez Peak Wilderness, and restore alpine habitat.

Aug. 13-16: Reroute of Columbine Lake Trail. Come for a day or camp overnight and lend a hand in re-routing a half-mile section of the Columbine Lake Trail and restoring meadow habitat. Sign up required.

Sept. 12: Wilderness Hike in the Vasquez Wilderness – Meet at 8:30 am in the Fraser Alco parking lot Lead by Brock McCormick, Forest Service Staff Biologist, who will talk on the biodiversity of the area.

Sept. 27: National Public Lands Day. This year the Wilderness Group will be sponsoring a project to replace the turnpike on the Monarch Lake Trail.

For more information on these events, as well as a complete list of events on the Sulphur Ranger District, please click here.


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Additional Information Released On SAR Incident On Longs Peak In Rocky Mountain National Park

At approximately 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 27th, Rocky Mountain National Park rangers were contacted via cell phone by Samuel Frappier, 19, from Quebec, Canada. When Frappier contacted rangers he indicated he was stuck on the Keyhole Route. Using cell phone GPS coordinates, rangers determined he was not on the Keyhole Route, but was likely on the east side of Longs Peak.

On May 27th, Frappier and his friend had intended to go to the summit of Longs Peak via the Keyhole Route but mistakenly headed to Chasm Lake instead. From Chasm Lake, they climbed into the Chasm cirque and ascended The Flying Dutchman couloir. They separated on the couloir. Frappier's friend continued to head up The Flying Dutchman and went to the top of The Beaver formation by way of The Loft where he turned around and headed back down to Chasm Lake. Frappier came down The Flying Dutchman, ascended the Camel's Gully to Mount Lady Washington, and reached the summit of Longs Peak via the north face. Frappier descended from the summit down the Kiener's Route and eventually crossed the Notch Couloir. He then found himself at an extremely precarious, narrow location at roughly 13,000 feet along Broadway Ledge with a sheer 1,000 foot drop-off below him.

At this point, Frappier called park rangers via his cell phone and indicated that he could not go up or down. His friend heard Frappier's shouts of distress and hiked out to the Longs Peak Trailhead to get help.

Although Frappier was reported as being physically fit, he had no technical climbing equipment and was not an experienced mountaineer. He was not prepared to spend the night. He was fortunate that although overnight temperatures were in the 30s, there were no significant storms on Tuesday.

Late on Tuesday night, the initial park technical rescue team arrived at the Chasm Shelter at the base of the east face of Longs Peak to stage for Wednesday morning.

On Wednesday morning, May 28, the field team, using spotting scopes, was able to determine Frappier's exact location. A Trans Aero helicopter assisted with aerial reconnaissance and prepositioning of supplies. From the helicopter, rangers were able to further assess Frappier's location and condition.

The park's Search and Rescue team requested assistance from the Teton Interagency Helicopter from Jackson, Wyoming. They reached Rocky Mountain National Park at approximately 1:15 p.m. This helicopter and crew are able to perform short-haul operations. Short-haul is the ability to transport persons suspended beneath the helicopter to or from the scene. It eliminates the need for a helicopter to land. Often time, weather and conditions hinder short-haul capabilities.

Through Wednesday, the park's Search and Rescue team staged in the Chasm Meadows area. They were hampered with a number of hazards including active ice and rock fall due to spring melting. While the sun was shining on the east side, team leaders chose not to jeopardize the lives of the rescuers to reach Frappier. Down drafts of wind impacted the operations of the short-haul helicopter and crew. During the late afternoon, the intense sun moved from the area and conditions began to stabilize. Melting conditions slowed down and the rescue teams prepared to move to reach Frappier. Unfortunately, Frappier's cell phone battery was drained and rescuers were no longer able to communicate with him.

Frappier, concerned that he would be spending a second night on the mountain, started to move on his own at approximately 4:00 p.m. He was extremely fortunate, as this was roughly the same time he had moved on the east side of Longs Peak the day before, and the snow and conditions were more stable. Frappier moved down toward rescuers who were staged at Chasm Meadows. He was given initial medical care and flown to Upper Beaver Meadows in Rocky Mountain National Park where he was taken by ambulance to the Estes Park Medical Center for further medical evaluation. He was released later than night.

Forty-six people and two helicopters were involved with this incident. The final cost is estimated to be $41,000. The National Park Service does not charge for search and rescue services.


Wet Conditions Delay Road Openings on Canyon Lakes Ranger District

June 15th typically marks the day many seasonally closed roads on the Canyon Lakes Ranger District of the Roosevelt National Forest open to the public. This year, due to wet conditions and flood damage, many of these roads will remained closed.

The only roads opening June 15th will be Dadd Gulch/Salt Cabin (#259) and Old Flowers (#152) west of Jack’s Gulch Campground. Lower Deadman (CR86) was still wet last weekend, but will be reassessed this weekend. Work is also expected to take place this weekend on Johnny Park (#118), and conditions will then be reassessed. Other roads already open in the Forest include the Laramie River Road (CR103), Pennock Pass and Pingree Park. Information on the status of roads is available on the Canyon Lakes Roads Status website.

The national forest emphasizes that it's important for the public to respect these closures. When roads and trails are this wet, it's easy to cause resource damage that can take a great deal of time and resources to correct. Visitors also run the risk of getting stuck in these muddy conditions.

Work is already occurring on some flood damaged roads and trails. Stay up to date by checking the flood recovery website.

It's also important for visitors to make safety your top priority when heading into the forest - your safety is your responsibility. Live and dead trees can fall without warning, especially with the abundance of saturated soil throughout the forest. You should also know weather conditions before heading out as well.


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Fatality On Longs Peak In Rocky Mountain National Park

This morning, Tuesday, June 10th, Rocky Mountain National Park rangers were notified that a 24-year-old man from Fort Collins was overdue from the Longs Peak area. The man had left at approximately 2:00 am on Monday morning, June 9th, from Fort Collins. He was expected at work at 4:00 p.m. yesterday. An investigation revealed he likely planned to travel along the Keyhole Route .

Rangers searched the area and located the man's body at approximately 3:30 p.m. His body was found approximately 1,000 feet below the Keyhole Route down the Trough.

Weather prevented recovery efforts this afternoon and evening. These operations will resume when weather and conditions allow. His name will be released after next of kin have been notified.


Monday, June 9, 2014

Quandary Peak

Below is a short video highlighting the hike to Quandary Peak by some of the folks from the Sierra Trading Post office. At 14,265 feet, Quandary Peak ranks as the 13th highest mountain in Colorado, and is one of the more accessible 14ers in the state. The trailhead is located only 8 miles south of Breckenridge, and doesn't require a 4-wheel drive vehicle to reach it. Moreover, the route has very little exposure to steep drop-offs, and is only a 6.75-mile roundtrip hike. This is a great first mountain for novice peak baggers! For more detailed information on this hike, please click here.


Saturday, June 7, 2014

21 Trails Designated as National Recreation Trails

To promote outdoor recreation and reconnect Americans to nature, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Director of the National Park Service Jonathan B. Jarvis announced yesterday the recognition of 19 hiking and biking trails and two water trails as national recreation trails, adding 452 miles in 11 states to the National Trails System.

“I can think of no better way to celebrate National Trails Day than to support the efforts of local communities by formally recognizing these exceptional trails as national recreation trails,” Jewell said. “They provide easily accessible places to get exercise and connect with nature in both urban and rural areas, and promote our goal of encouraging all Americans, especially youth, to play, learn, serve and work in the great outdoors.”

National recreation trail designation recognizes existing trails and trail systems that link communities to recreational opportunities on public lands and in local parks across the nation. Each of the new national recreation trails will receive a certificate of designation, a letter of congratulations from Secretary Jewell, and a set of trail markers.

The national recreation trails program is jointly administered by the National Park Service and the Forest Service in conjunction with a number of other federal and not-for-profit partners, notably American Trails, which hosts the national recreation trails website. Both the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture have the authority to approve designations in response to an application from the trail's managing agency or organization.

For the full list of trails being designated this year as national recreation trails, please click here.


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Rocky Mountain National Park to Celebrate International Migratory Bird Day This Weekend

Celebrate International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD) in Rocky Mountain National Park by participating in any or all of the weekend events! On Friday, June 6, at 7:00 p.m. join local producer Nick Molle as he shows his documentary film "Birds Without Borders." Over 150 species of birds share the ecosystems of Rocky Mountain National Park and Costa Rica. Fifty are known to nest in Rocky and migrate to Costa Rica. "Birds Without Borders" focuses on four of these species. Filmed on location in both countries, the story follows the research team as they attempt to locate and film each of the four birds in sometimes difficult situations. The one hour film will be shown at Beaver Meadows Visitor Center and is free and open to the public.

On Saturday, June 7, the park will be offering two great events. In the morning, go on a bird walk in Rocky Mountain National Park! Join the park for an opportunity to learn more about migratory birds while exploring the park with experienced bird watchers. The event will begin at 8:00 a.m. at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center. After a short introduction, visitors and bird walk leaders will caravan into the park to view birds in a variety of habitats. The activity is free of charge, but park entrance fees will apply. This guided walk will have naturalists and expert birders help beginners identify birds; all ages and abilities are welcomed. Bring warm clothes, water, good walking shoes, binoculars and a snack. The event will end at noon, but visitors are encouraged to continue their birding adventures throughout the day.

The second event on Saturday, June 7, will be at 7:00 p.m. at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center. Join special guest speaker from Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory, Jason Beason. Jason, the Special Monitoring Projects Coordinator, has worked on a wide variety of projects involving birds in 13 western states. He has been involved with several bird migration research projects at Rocky Mountain National Park including Hermit Thrushes and Western Tanagers, and he helped place geolocators on Ospreys last summer to track their migrations. Founded in 1988, Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory is a Colorado-based nonprofit that conserves birds and their habitats through an integrated approach of science, education and stewardship. Their work spreads from the Rockies to the Great Plains, Mexico and beyond.

International Migratory Bird Day is celebrated each spring across the United States and Canada. This special event recognizes the movement of nearly 350 species of birds from their wintering grounds in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean to nesting habitats in North America. This year marks the 22nd anniversary of IMDB with the theme, "Why Birds Matter: The Benefits of Birds to Humans and Nature," sharing the many ways in which birds matter to the earth, to ecosystems, and to us!

Some bird species provide practical solutions to problems, such as the need for insect and rodent control. Others disperse seeds, helping to revegetate disturbed areas. Others are pollinators, ensuring that we are graced with flowering plants, trees, and shrubs. Beyond the utilitarian, birds are inspirations for the arts. Celebrate birds with Rocky and discover why they matter!

If you do plan to visit Rocky Mountain National Park during International Migratory Bird Day, or anytime this year, please note that our hiking website offers a wide variety of accommodation listings in both Estes Park and Grand Lake. Also, don't forget to check out our other Things To Do page to also help with your trip planning.


Monday, June 2, 2014

Keep your cool during summer hiking

Summer hiking season is already upon us. Anyone who has ever been to Rocky Mountain National Park during the summer knows how hot it can get in the Central Rockies. With that in mind, I’d like to offer a few tips for beating the heat during the summer months.

Before we dive into anything else, I would like to emphasize that the most important thing about hiking during the summer is staying properly hydrated. Hiking in hot, dry weather depletes your body of liquids. To replace lost fluids and electrolytes you need to drink frequently. If you wait until you feel thirsty, you’ll more than likely already be dehydrated. The more dehydrated you become, the less efficient your body is at cooling itself down, thus making your body become less efficient at walking.

Make sure you take plenty of water or some type of sports drink with you on any hike. Sports drinks are excellent sources of liquids because they replace both fluids and electrolytes. Good old Gatorade gets the job done for me.

You can sweat anywhere from 1/2 to 1 quart of fluid for every hour you walk in the heat. This fluid/electrolyte loss can exceed 3 quarts per hour if you hike uphill in direct sunlight and during the hottest time of the day.

When it's really hot, my wife and I will fill a couple of water bottles about half-way and stick them in the freezer the night before. Then, just before leaving for our hike the next day, we'll top-off the bottles with cold water. This way we'll have cool water to drink for a much longer time on the trail. Please note that you don't want to put a full bottle of water in the freezer as it will crack the plastic.

If you’re thinking about drinking water from the backcountry, know that it must be treated for Giardia lamblia, a parasite that can cause an intestinal infection with a variety of symptoms. To avoid this infection, boil water for at least one minute or use a filter capable of removing particles as small as 1 micron.

To help offset the effects of fatigue, bring a lunch and/or snack with you. Food is your body's primary source for fuel and salts (electrolytes) while hiking. Try eating a salty snack every time you take a drink.

Finally, stay away from sodas and alcohol as they will only promote dehydration.

Besides staying properly hydrated, there are a few other things you can do to help avoid over-heating while out on the trail.

For one, go slowly and rest often. Also, try hiking in the early morning as this is coolest part of the day.

Summer also provides a great opportunity to explore trails at the higher elevations in the park where it’s naturally cooler. Keep in mind, however, that the summer season usually brings thunderstorms to the Rocky Mountains. Never ascend above tree line when there’s lightning in the vicinity. If you’re already above tree line when a thunderstorm approaches you’ll want to descend immediately.

Wear moisture-wicking clothing made of polypropylene or polyester to carry sweat and moisture away from your body. Moisture-wicking material keeps you dryer, cooler and more comfortable than a sweat-soaked cotton shirt. It’s also a good idea to wear light colored clothing because it tends to reflect heat away from your body.

Wearing a hat - a baseball hat, or, preferably, a wide-brimmed hat - will help protect your face and neck from the sun. Don’t forget sunscreen either. Sun-burned skin makes you feel hotter.

Finally, you should be aware of heat related health issues on the trail. As part of your first aid training you should know the signs for heat exhaustion, heatstroke and even hyponatremia; and know what to do if someone in your party has any of these signs.

* For additional safety tips, please click here.

* To make sure you have all the essentials before heading out on the trail, please review our hiking checklist.