Thursday, July 31, 2014

Mesa Verde National Park Releases 2014 Fall Backcountry Hike Schedule

Mesa Verde National Park is again offering backcountry experiences this fall. These ranger-guided hikes include a 4-hour hike into Upper Navajo Canyon, and a 4-hour hike on Wetherill Mesa. Basics of each hike are listed below, with detailed information online. Tickets are limited and must be purchased online at or at 1-877-444-6777.

Wetherill Mesa Experience is a 4-mile, 4-hour easy-to-moderate hike which rewards hikers with expansive canyon views, spectacular views of cliff dwellings, and the natural beauty of Wetherill Mesa in the autumn. This is a good introduction to the story of the Ancestral Pueblo people, the environment in which they lived, and the ecology of the pinyon-juniper woodlands. Bring binoculars for cross-canyon views of multiple cliff dwellings. This hike is available from September 2 to October 3 on Tuesday and Friday mornings. Each hike is limited to 14 participants and costs $18.00 per person. Get details online when you purchase your tickets.

Upper Navajo Canyon is a 4-mile, 4-hour round-trip moderate hike along an unpaved, uneven trail that descends 760 feet. Hikers will enjoy the autumn weather and fall color on this historic trail built in the 1930s by one of the government's Depression era organizations, the Public Works Administration. Bring binoculars for cross-canyon views of multiple alcove sites, including Pinkley House and an un-named alcove site. You will experience two different natural communities as you descend from the drier mesa top pinyon-juniper woodlands to the mountain chaparral in the canyon bottom. This hike is available from September 3 to October 5 on Wednesday and Sunday mornings. Each hike is limited to 14 participants, and costs $18.00 per person. Get details online when you purchase your tickets.

Mesa Verde National Park offers a spectacular look into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people who made it their home for over 700 years, from A.D. 600 to A.D. 1300. Today, the park protects almost 5,000 known archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings.

For reservations and more information, visit or call 1-877-444-6777.


U.S. Forest Service to Hold Public Planning Session on Steamboat Area Trails

On Wednesday, Aug. 6, the Hahns Peak/Bears Ears Ranger District (HPBE) is inviting the public to join them for a planning session regarding the multi-use trail system on the Routt National Forest surrounding Steamboat Springs.

HPBE maintains approximately 375 miles of multi-use trails including motorized, non-motorized and wilderness trails, such as the Gilpin Lake Loop, one of my favorite hikes. Various special interest groups have presented the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) with proposals to develop more trails for their use. The most recent request for changes to the area trail system came as a result of Steamboat’s Accommodation Tax Referendum 2A from last November.

So, instead of dealing with each request separately, HPBE would like to look at the larger perspective to determine what approach best fits the Forest Service’s desired forest condition and the public’s needs.

The public planning session, or charrette, will be held at the HPBE District Office at 925 Weiss Drive, beginning at 5 p.m. It is expected to take several hours, as USFS staff will first provide information to paint a detailed picture of the existing situation and then be available to go over area-specific, future options with those in attendance.

“We intend for this charrette to be the start of a very open, public process regarding the future of multi-use trails in the Steamboat area,” said HPBE District Ranger Chad Stewart. “It will bring all stakeholders together at one time to have dialogue on the existing trail network, identify what is missing, and ultimately develop a desired, quality trail system serving the communities. “It’s hoped the charrette will provide a forum for ideas and offer the ability for immediate feedback to our staff on proposals.”

Communities in this case is defined as locations such as Steamboat Springs, North Routt, Hayden and Craig, as well as user groups such as off-highway vehicles, mountain bikes, horseback riding, hiking, etc.

With multiple locations/users affected, it is important to understand that while some groups may want trail opportunities for their specific use, USFS trails are multiple-use trails that are designated as motorized, non-motorized, or for non-mechanized use, as in the case of wilderness trails. Trails can be designed for various uses, but other uses are not precluded. Increasing trail miles is a long-term financial investment for the USFS to consider, so consensus of the group may require concessions by some. Resource issues will also be an integral factor in the future planning of trails.

HPBE is hopeful that the outcome will be a collective vision for the future of trails on the District and the communities served. Once all information is collected and discussed, the USFS will incorporate feedback into a trails master plan, and as funding and priorities allow, complete the necessary environmental analysis.

For more USFS information about this or other recreation topics, call the Hahns Peak-Bears Ears Ranger District at (970) 870-2299, or stop by the District Office in Steamboat Springs between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Lost Hiker Found in Longs Peak and Mount Meeker Area

On Monday morning Rocky Mountain National Park rangers were notified by a family member that Jay Yambert, 56, of Champaign, Illinois, was overdue. Yambert had planned to summit Longs Peak on the east side, via The Loft on Sunday, July 27th. At 4:30 p.m. on Sunday he was in touch with his family and indicated that he would be late getting back to the trailhead. They contacted the park on Monday morning when they didn't hear from him.

At 8:45 a.m. on Monday members of the park's Search and Rescue team departed the trailhead and began to retrace what they assumed to be Yambert's intended route. Yambert contacted family members at 11:45 a.m. and indicated that he was uninjured, but due to severe weather and nightfall he was forced to spend an unexpected night on Longs Peak.

Rangers requested assistance for aerial surveillance from the Northern Colorado Helitek helicopter, which assisted on incidents on Friday and Saturday in the park. The helicopter had been grounded due to severe weather and heavy fog, but began an aerial search effort later on Monday afternoon.

Aerial searchers located Yambert below Peacock Pool in the Roaring Fork drainage at roughly 4:00 p.m. Nearby rangers reached Yambert on foot only fifteen minutes later, and provided him with food and water. Yambert declined evacuation by helicopter and medical evaluation, and indicated that he wanted to hike out on his own. Rangers led him back to the trail and gave him directions to the trailhead.

Yambert now believes he may have been on Mount Meeker.


Celebrate World Ranger Day at Rocky Mountain National Park

The staff of Rocky Mountain National Park is inviting the public to celebrate World Ranger Day with them as they recognize world conservation areas, and the professional staff – the Rangers – that form the Thin Green Line around these most valuable resources. The free program will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center auditorium. The international Ranger documentary, The Thin Green Line, highlights Rangers around the world as they face dangers and protect resources in their day to day jobs.

The International Ranger Federation (IRF) was founded to support the work of Rangers as the key protectors of the world's protected areas. At the World Ranger Congress 2006 in Scotland, IRF delegates decided that July 31 of each year, beginning in 2007, would be a day dedicated to world rangers. The first World Ranger Day fell on the 15th anniversary of the founding of IRF on July 31, 1992.

In 1872, Yellowstone National Park in the United States became the world's first federally designated national park. Since then, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, over 100,000 protected areas, representing more than 10% of the earth's landmass, have been established around the world.

The English word "ranger" reflects the guardians of the Royal Forests in 14th century England, protecting the King's lands from poachers. Today, Rangers in protected areas throughout the world continue this role for the public. Rangers are the key force protecting these resources from impairment. They do this through law enforcement, environmental education, community relations, fighting fires, conducting search and rescues, and in many many other ways.

Come show your support for the Rangers of the World at this free program on Thursday, July 31, 7:30 p.m. at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Understanding Colorado's Monsoon Season Weather

Most people who hike in the Rocky Mountains do so in July and August when the temperatures are warmer and the trails are generally snow free. However, this time period also coincides with the "monsoon season," that time of year when tropical moisture combines with lots of sunlight to create almost daily afternoon thunder and lightning storms. Between 2003 and 2012, Colorado was tied for second in the nation in terms of the most lightning deaths - in total and adjusted for population. Just earlier this month two people were killed and 10 others were injured by lightning strikes during a two-day period in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Whether your out for a day hike in Rocky Mountain National Park, or you're seeking to climb one of Colorado's 14ers, you need to be aware of lightning risk, and what you should do if you find yourself in a lightning situation.

The folks over at the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative recently published a short video that explains how the monsoon season creates the notorious afternoon thunderstorms that the Rocky Mountains are famous for. The video is narrated by KDVR/KWGN meteorologist, Chris Tomer, who has climbed all 54 of Colorado's 14ers:

Chris then follows up in a subsequent video with how to stay safe while climbing in monsoon season:


Saturday, July 26, 2014

Man rescued with life-threatening injuries in Rocky Mountain National Park

Yesterday afternoon Rocky Mountain National Park rangers were contacted via cell phone by a 31-year-old man who indicated he had fallen an unknown distance while glissading down Gabletop Mountain, which is above Loomis Lake. He reported numerous injuries.

The US Forest Service Northern Colorado helicopter used earlier in the day for the body recovery from Longs Peak was utilized for aerial reconnaissance. Using cell phone GPS coordinates, rangers were able to determine his general location below Gabletop Mountain and aerial surveillance confirmed his exact location. The photo below shows the spot where the man was initially found:

The climber was located in a remote high alpine environment in a steep cirque above Loomis Lake at approximately 11,300 feet. Loomis Lake is located southwest of Spruce Lake. Before night fall a team of four park rangers were flown to Loomis Lake. Equipment was also flown into the area. Due to the terrain and severe thunderstorms, the man was forced to bivouac overnight in the backcountry.

As rangers worked to reach the man they were able to maintain contact with him via cellphone, and asked if he could work his way down across a rock band and towards a snow field that the rangers were heading towards. Just after midnight rangers finally reached the man.

Rocky Mountain National Park spokeswoman, Kyle Patterson, said that the climber was "ambulatory but had life-threatening injuries".

This morning rangers rescued the man by lowering him 500 feet with ropes, and then assisted him an additional 700 feet down steep mountainous terrain to Loomis Lake. A paramedic on the park's rescue team provided advanced life support throughout the incident. At approximately 8:30 a.m. this morning the climber was flown to Upper Beaver Meadows Road where he was then taken by Flight for Life to St. Anthony's Hospital in Estes Park for further treatment.


Fatality On Longs Peak

Rocky Mountain National Park is reporting that park rangers were contacted by a person climbing the Keyhole Route on Longs Peak yesterday morning, July 25th, notifying them that he and a group he was climbing with saw a body below The Ledges of the Keyhole Route. Rangers reached the body at 10:15 a.m. and confirmed that a male was deceased.

The incident is under investigation, no foul play is suspected. The US Forest Service Northern Colorado helicopter assisted with recovery efforts. His body was flown to the helipad at Upper Beaver Meadows in Rocky Mountain National Park and was transferred to the Boulder County Coroner's Office. The name, age and hometown of the deceased male will be released after identification has been made and next of kin have been notified. No further information is available at this time.

This was second fatality on Longs this year.


Friday, July 25, 2014

Outdoor Recreation Participation Report: Camping and Backpacking Continues to Decline

The Outdoor Foundation is reporting that a record number of Americans participated in at least one outdoor activity in 2013, with nearly 50% of all Americans ages six and older taking part in at least one of the 43 outdoor activities, according to the latest Outdoor Recreation Participation Report. That percentage equates to 142.6 million American outdoor participants. Although the number of participants rose, the percentage of participants fell slightly from 49.4% in 2012 to 49.2% in 2013, due to population increase.

Compared to 2012, participation in outdoor activities increased or remained flat among youth and young adults - signaling a positive trend in America's inactivity crisis. The participation rate among children ages six to 12 rose one percentage point to 64%. Participation among young adults ages 18 to 24 also rose one point to 58%, while hard-to-reach adolescents, ages 13 to 17, remained flat at 60%.

Below are a few stats of interest:

* Participation in day hiking remained relatively flat again for the second year in a row. However, the latest figures don't reflect the strong growth in the outdoor pursuit in recent years. Compared to 2006 (the first year of the study), hiking is up 15.1%. Compared to 2010, participation in hiking has increased by 5.8%.

* Though backpacking has seen an increase in the number of participants over each of the last 2 years, the average number of outings per backpacker has dropped off sharply. As a result, backpacking has dropped out of the top 5 favorite outdoor activities for adults (ages 25+), based on the frequency of activity.

* Camping (within a 1/4 mile of a vehicle or home) continues to decline: down 11% when compared to 2011, and down almost 18% since 2006.

* Participation in adventure racing and triathlons saw the largest increases over the past three years. Adventure racing increased by 28%, while off-road triathlons increased by 25% and road triathlons increased by 10%.

In 2013, the top 5 most popular outdoor activities for adults (ages 25+), based on participation rates were:

1. Running, Jogging and Trail Running - 16.2% of adults
2. Fishing - 14.8% of adults
3. Bicycling (Road, Mountain and BMX) - 13.1% of adults
4. Hiking - 11.4% of adults
5. Camping (Car, Backyard and RV) - 10.6% of adults

The top 5 favorite outdoor activities for adults (ages 25+), based on frequency of activity were:

1. Running, Jogging and Trail Running - 81.4 average outings per runner
2. Bicycling (Road, Mountain and BMX) - 51.7 average outings per cyclist
3. Birdwatching - 37.7 average outings per birdwatcher
4. Wildlife Viewing - 25.2 average outings per viewer
5. Hunting - 24.2 average outings per hunter

The report is based on online and household surveys of more than 19,000 Americans ages six and older, and covers 43 different outdoor activities, making it the largest survey of its kind. To download a complete copy of the 2014 Outdoor Recreation Topline Participation Report, visit The Outdoor Foundation website.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Old Fall River Road to Close to All Uses for Flood Damage Repairs

On Monday, July 28, Old Fall River Road in Rocky Mountain National Park will close to all uses including pedestrians and hikers, as major repair work begins on the road and the Alluvial Fan bridge. Old Fall River Road received significant damages during the September 2013 flood. The road has been closed since last September to vehicles and bicycles, but pedestrians and hikers have been allowed on the road. All other roads in Rocky Mountain National Park are open.

The closure area on Old Fall River Road will extend from the road west of the Lawn Lake Trailhead parking area to the Alpine Visitor Center. This closure includes the Alluvial Fan, and the east and west Alluvial Fan parking areas. The closure extends 200 feet from the center line to both sides of the road corridor. This closure does not include the Fall River waterway and bank. Areas affected by this closure may be adjusted as construction work proceeds.

Old Fall River Road is a historic dirt road built between 1913 and 1920. Due to the winding, narrow nature of the road, the scenic 9.4-mile route is one-way only and normally opens from the fourth of July to early October. It follows the steep slope of Mount Chapin's south face.

Repair work from flood damages has been completed in many areas of the park. Work is ongoing on some backcountry bridges and trails. For more detailed information and updates about flood impacts in Rocky Mountain National Park please visit the park's website or call the park's Information Office at (970) 586-1206.


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Road Improvements to Close Byers Peak Trailhead This Week

The U.S. Forest Service’s Sulphur Ranger District is planning improvements to the popular Byers Peak Trailhead. Located in the Fraser Experimental Forest, this trailhead accesses a 4-mile long bike/hike to the summit of Byers Peak.

In recent years, the trailhead parking area has deteriorated. Beginning this week, Forest Service crews will replace a damaged culvert just below the parking area and address potholes. As a result, the trailhead will be closed July 23rd through July 25rd.

Hikers wishing to climb Byers Peak during that time may access it from the Lake Evelyn Trailhead. As Crooked Creek Road (FSR 139) may also be closed to through traffic on and off this week, plan on accessing the west trailhead from Parshall.

Similar bike/hike/summit opportunities are available in the Fraser Experimental Forest to St. Louis Peak and Mt. Nystrom, however both roads have experienced significant damage between the parking area and the hiking portion of the trail. Be prepared to carry bikes across major washouts in the road.

In previous years, Fool Creek and St. Louis Creek roads opened once or twice a year to allow vehicular access to the hiking portion of the trailhead. Because there is no parking or turnaround below the washouts, gates will not open to motor vehicle access in 2014. Mangers of the Fraser Experimental Forest and Sulphur Ranger District are discussing options for addressing maintenance issues on these roads into the future.

For the latest information on the status and condition of Sulphur Ranger District roads, call 970-887-4100


Monday, July 21, 2014

Man convicted of operating illegal hiking guide service in Grand Canyon

Brazen? Or just brazenly stupid?

The NPS Morning Report is reporting that on October 19, 2013, rangers in the backcountry of Grand Canyon National Park became suspicious of the large number of hikers attempting to hike from the North Rim to the South Rim in a single day (known as a “Rim to Rim” hike). The hikers claimed to be hiking only with a small number of friends and not as part of a large group, but many appeared to be avoiding contact with rangers and they all described similar travel arrangements.

Subsequent investigations revealed that Scott Beck of Phoenix, Arizona, had chartered five buses to transport nearly 300 people to Grand Canyon National Park to hike across the canyon. Beck advertised the hike as the “23rd Annual” trip of a similar nature and charged each participant a set fee. Investigations also revealed that he had specifically instructed each hiker, both verbally and in a written itinerary, to tell rangers that they were “not with a group of 300,” that they were with a small group and had been transported by car or van.

The large number of hikers in the canyon that day caused impacts to vegetation and created long lines at the Phantom Ranch canteen and restroom facilities. The Phantom wastewater treatment operator reported that the sewage treatment plant was operating at capacity. Rangers took complaints from hikers who complained about congestion on the trails. Several minor medicals and search and rescue operations were also attributed to Beck’s group.

During interviews, Beck claimed that his trip was “organized” but not commercial, and that he had not profited. In January 2013, rangers served a search warrant on an online event registration website that Beck had used to solicit trip participants and collect fees. The evidence gathered from the search warrant was used to develop probable cause to charge Beck with engaging in an illegal business operation (36 CFR 5.3) and making false statements (18 USC 1001(a)(2)). Rangers estimated that Beck’s gross income for this event was over $47,000, and he profited by approximately $9,500.

On June 10th, Beck was convicted on one count of engaging in business operations without obtaining a permit in violation of 36 CFR 5.3. Pursuant to a plea agreement, he was sentenced to a year of probation, during which time he is banned from Grand Canyon National Park and from conducting or advertising for any tours or guided trips on national park or national forest lands. He was also fined $500 and ordered to serve 50 hours of community service.

Beck has since formally notified all trip participants that he will no longer be conducting his annual trip, and has pledged to donate $2,000 to Grand Canyon National Park.

The investigation was led by rangers and conducted with the assistance of Investigative Services Branch special agents.


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Input Provided On Guided Climbing Commercial Services Strategy In RMNP

On Tuesday evening, July 15, 2014, Rocky Mountain National Park staff met with the commercial guided climbing community and interested stakeholders at the American Mountaineering Center in Golden, CO. The park is currently undergoing a review and analysis of contracting practices and policies regarding commercial guided climbing at the park. This summer, an updated commercial services strategy for guided climbing is being developed and this meeting was part of an effort to incorporate stakeholder input.

The meeting helped staff better understand the demand for commercial guided climbing services at the park and find opportunities to meet the needs of visitors and the guided climbing community.

Those who were unable to attend the meeting, but would like to provide input for the future of commercial guided climbing services in Rocky Mountain National Park, you should use the park's online public comment form. The form will be open for comments until Monday, July 28, 2014 at 11:59 PM MDT.

For additional information you should contact the park's Information Office at (970) 586-1206.


Friday, July 18, 2014

Altocumulus Lenticularus

A couple of weeks ago Kathy and I took a hike up to Deer Mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park. As we got near the top I noticed an odd and fairly uncommon cloud in the sky. We stayed at the summit for roughly an hour, and all the while the cloud basically remained in the same general location, while seemingly holding the same general shape throughout much of that time period:

Since Kathy used to work for a local TV station, she sent a couple of photos to a friend of hers who used to be the Chief Meteorologist at the station, and asked him what we were seeing that day. Since Tom has recently started his own local weather blog, he published his reply to Kathy's questions on a recent post:
These are some of my favorites from when I was in grad school in Colorado. You only see them in mountainous areas. These are officially called altocumulus lenticularus. (higher altitude versions are called cirrocumulus lenticularus) More common names are “lens clouds” or “cap clouds.” Another common description is “standing wave clouds.” The “lens” or “cap” feature is very clear on these photos. The best example is the left side of the lower picture. Three good ones are on the top picture…one just to the left of the tall center tree…on the left edge of the photo and a small one of the right edge. The cause of these clouds is the barrier of the mountains. On days when the upper level winds are generally from the west AND there is just a little moisture on the air west of the Rockies (a pretty common experience, the air approaching the mountains between roughly 10,000 and 15,000 feet is forced to rise to get over the top of the mountain range which in Colorado is about 13,000 to 15,000 feet. This forced rising/cooling of the air condenses moisture only at the very top of the ridges, then fades away quickly as the air descends east of the mountain crest. This little bit of cloud formation gives the “lens” and/or “cap” nature of the clouds. The standing wave cloud gets its name from the observation that the clouds do not move. You can watch them for hours and they still look the same. In reality, the cloud is changing rapidly – constant supply of the rising and keeps building the cloud from the west while the sinking motions to the east evaporate parts of cloud trying to move off the mountain tops. So, the clouds “appear” to stand still.

On days when the conditions are almost perfect, in addition to the clouds standing on the mountain peaks, you may see as many 1-4 additional lines of “cap” clouds standing east of the hills out on to the plains. That’s even more spectacular!
Here's one more photo that I took right before we headed back down the mountain:


Monday, July 14, 2014

Learning the Rest Step

The "Rest Step" is a technique used by mountaineers to slow their cadence, rest their muscles, and preserve their energy while hiking on steep terrain at high altitudes. Essentially, the “rest step” takes pressure and strain off your muscles and transfers it to your bone structure.

Although it’s mainly useful on snow, or on climbs at elevation where endurance is important, it can be employed on any trail with steep slopes. It’s worked quite well for me on many trails in the Rocky Mountains and Glacier National Park in recent years.

The tool is most effective on slopes that gain - say - more than 800 feet per mile.

Here’s how it works:

As you step forward on a climb, lock your rear knee and keep all of your weight on that rear leg. As you’re swinging your other leg forward, relax the muscles in that leg. Once your forward foot comes to rest on the ground, keep it relaxed so that there’s no weight on it. You can stop in that position for as long as you need to. When you're ready to take the next step, shift your weight to the front foot, step forward with the other and lock the rear knee again, and repeat the entire process.

The locked rear knee provides support for your weight without requiring help from the leg muscle. That means your leg, hip, and back muscles get a rest, if only for a short moment. Stay paused in that position for however long it takes to avoid running out of breath.

A mountain climber in the Himalayas may stay motionless between steps for 10 seconds or more. At lower altitudes, you might only need a half-second pause. The key is to get into a steady rhythm of doing the same thing for each step you take. You can adjust the cadence and the length of your stride according to the steepness of the terrain.

Continuous movement is a great strain on your muscles. Moreover, stopping and starting, slowing down and speeding up, wastes energy. The key to preserving your energy for the long haul is to be the tortoise, rather than the hare.

You can quickly get an idea of how this works by practicing on your steps at home. The benefits are especially clear if you can try it after a long hike, run or bike ride when your leg muscles are already tired. Go up the steps as you normally do and you’ll probably feel a little bit of a burn in your quadriceps. Now, try the rest step and notice how the burn is substantially reduced.


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Second Lightning Fatality In Two Days At Rocky Mountain National Park

At approximately 3:50 p.m. yesterday, July 12th, park rangers were notified of a lightning strike that occurred near Rainbow Curve in Rocky Mountain National Park. Rainbow Curve is located at 10,829 feet along Trail Ridge Road. Rangers responded to four injured people. Four were taken to Estes Park Medical Center via ambulance, one man succumbed to his injuries.

On Friday, July 11th, at approximately 1:20 p.m., park staff were notified of a lighting strike that occurred on the Ute Crossing Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park. This trailhead is located on Trail Ridge Road at roughly 11,400 feet, between Rainbow Curve and Forest Canyon Overlook.

Eight people were affected by the lightning strike on Friday with a variety of injuries. All of the people were hiking and were returning to the trailhead when lightning struck the area, roughly 500 yards from the trailhead. One woman died from her injuries. An air ambulance was able to land between cycles of severe weather but the woman died on scene. She has been identified as Rebecca R. Teilhet, 42, from Yellow Springs, Ohio. She was hiking with her husband and a friend. Her husband and friend were taken by ambulance to Estes Park Medical Center.

The other five victims were part of a local hiking group and transported themselves to the Estes Park Medical Center.

The Larimer County Coroner's office will determine the cause of death. The last lightning fatality that occurred in Rocky Mountain National Park was in 2000, when a technical climber was struck on the Diamond on Longs Peak. Hiking at altitude while a storm is approaching is no joke. Lightning tips can be found here, and on the NOAA website.


Saturday, July 12, 2014

7 Injured, 1 Person Killed by Lightning Strike in Rocky Mountain National Park

At approximately 1:20 p.m. yesterday afternoon, park staff were notified of a lighting strike that occurred on the Ute Crossing Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park. This area is located off of Trail Ridge Road between Rainbow Curve and Forest Canyon Overlook.

Eight people were affected by the lightning strike with a variety of injuries. One woman died from her injuries. Of the remaining seven, two were transported by ambulance and five transported themselves to the Estes Park Medical Center.

In a statement released on its website, the park said that there would be no further information that will be released today.


Friday, July 11, 2014

Two Rescues Conducted In Black Canyon of the Gunnison

According to the NPS Morning Report, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park rangers and Black Canyon Volunteer Search and Rescue Team members responded to two separate incidents over the Fourth of July weekend.

On Thursday, July 3rd, a 35-year-old Minnesota man who was backpacking with a friend on the South Rim’s Warner Route stepped off a 16-inch rock and broke his lower leg. The pair attempted to splint the lower leg with a trekking pole and a fishing rod, but the steep, loose terrain of Black Canyon made self-rescue impossible.

Rangers and a paramedic spent the night in the canyon with the pair and the SAR team and park personnel conducted a scree evacuation the following morning. The man was transported by ambulance to Montrose Memorial Hospital later that morning.

On Saturday, July 5th, a visitor at South Rim’s Chasm View overlook reported hearing a whistle and cries for help. Rangers on the South Rim were able to spot an individual toward the bottom of the North Rim’s S.O.B. Gully.

A climbing ranger hiked down to the 28-year-old hiker, who had fallen approximately 10 feet and suffered a compound leg fracture. Rangers and a paramedic spent the night with him to provide care, while a scree evacuation was staged for first light the following morning.

Black Canyon Volunteer Search and Rescue, park personnel, Western State Colorado University Search and Rescue, and West Elk Search and Rescue used 11 main and belay line stations of approximately 130 vertical feet each to raise the man a total of 1400 vertical feet. He was then transported via Tri State Care Flight to St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction.

All the inner canyon routes in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park are infamous for loose rock, steep drop-offs and abundant poison ivy.


Lend a Hand to Colorado’s Lakes and Lands

The northeast region of Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW) is pleased to offer three events to encourage visitors to help and appreciate our precious lakes and lands on Saturday, July 19:

Big Thompson Wildlife Area Lend A Hand Day

Big Thompson State Wildlife Area, fondly know as Big T, has been significantly damaged from the historic flood of 2013. CPW is seeking volunteers to help remove fence, clean up debris, and help scatter seed and plant willows to help restore some of the damage. Volunteers are encouraged to car pool as parking is limited. Amenities will be primitive.

Volunteer Project Time: 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. (Lunch provided at noon) Sign up: If you are interested in getting involved or volunteering for this event, please contact Vicki Leigh at or at 303-291-7299. 100 volunteers max.

Boyd Lake State Park first annual Lake Appreciation Event

Held in honor of National Lake Appreciation month, Boyd Lake State Park’s event will provide public awareness on water as a vital resource that sustains life and provides drinking water, irrigation, energy, recreational use, habitat for wildlife and much more.

A lineup of community partners will be participating in Lake Appreciation day to provide the public a fun filled day at the lake. JAX, Mountain Rentals and WhatSUP Paddleboards will be out on the water demonstrating the use of water sport crafts such as kayaks, canoes and stand up paddleboards. Colorado Boating Safety and the US Coast Guard Auxiliary will be supplying the public with boating awareness and safety tips to ensure that water recreational activities are both safe and fun. Search and rescue is an important life-saving role and the Loveland Dive Team and Search and Rescue Dogs of Colorado (SARDOC) will be in attendance to showcase their water rescuing skills. In addition, there will also be other outdoor recreational activities including an archery demonstration conducted by volunteers of Pheasants Forever, and a youth fishing clinic run by volunteers of Loveland Fishing Club and Colorado Parks & Wildlife. To finish out the day’s activities, the Northern Colorado Astronomical Society will set up telescopes and share details of the night sky. If you are interested in giving back to the community to show your appreciation of our freshwater ecosystem there will be some volunteer opportunities to take part in.

All activities are free and open to the public, but a daily or annual vehicle State Park pass is required. For more information regarding the details of Lake Appreciation Day and future events call (970) 669-1739 ext. 19 or check the park's website.

Cherry Creek State Park Lake Appreciation Day

Join Cherry Creek State Park for a day of fun in the sun! Sign-up for one of a number of cool volunteer projects from 8 a.m. to 11:30 (lunch will be provided), then stay for an afternoon of excitement! Projects will include a shoreline clean-up and the removal of harmful weeds at Cherry Creek. Volunteer help will protect native plants, fish, birds, and other wildlife at this much-loved Park.

Starting at noon and continuing until 3 p.m., there will be pontoon rides, educational programs and a prize-raffle for all ages (fishing poles, life jackets, miscellaneous prize baskets, and more!).

Volunteers should dress appropriately for the morning volunteer activities: closed-toed shoes, gloves, work clothes; bring sun block, bug spray, and a water bottle. Please call Tia Miller at 303 690-1166 X6566 for questions and to sign up your group or individual.


Thursday, July 10, 2014 Adds 13 New Hikes to Website continues to expand! My wife and I just returned from another hiking trip to Rocky Mountain National Park, and as a result, have added 13 new hikes to our website. Hopefully you'll find that this expansion will make your hike and trip planning a little easier. During our week-and-a-half trip we visited several RMNP favorites, such as Deer Mountain and Gem Lake. We also visited a few "off the beaten path" destinations as well, such as Thunder Lake and Pear Lake in the Wild Basin area.

Here's a rundown on what's been added to our site:

Alpine Ridge Trail: A great way to get a taste of the high mountain tundra during your visit to the Alpine Visitor Center.

Bierstadt Lake: We've hiked to this wonderful lake from other trailheads, but this was our first time from the Bear Lake Trailhead.

Cascade Falls: One of the most voluminous waterfalls you'll find in Rocky Mountain National Park!

Deer Mountain: The first time we did this hike it was rainy and foggy, so we didn't get to truly appreciate the awesome views from much of this trail.

Estes Cone (via Lily Lake) / Estes Cone (via Longs Peak): This was one tough hike - but well worth it. The views are outstanding - especially of Longs Peak!

Eugenia Mine: A look at a time in Rocky before it became a national park.

Finch Lake: A relatively easy hike into the heart of Wild Basin.

Gem Lake: I knew about the lake, but the awesome views along the way truly makes this a "gem" of a hike.

Lily Mountain: As great as Estes Cone was, I think I liked Lily Mountain even more. The views were as good, if not better, but the hike itself was a little easier.

Lumpy Ridge Loop: Wow! The views of and from the MacGregor Ranch were simply outstanding. Do this one in the early morning!

Pear Lake: Beautiful lake hike. Lots of wildlife on this one as well, including a couple of moose near the trailhead.

Thunder Lake: This is another beautiful lake tucked into the heart of Wild Basin. We ran into quite a bit of snow near the top, which made travel a little challenging at times.

Please feel free to let me know your thoughts on these new hikes. Feedback - good or constructive - is always welcome! 


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Volunteers Needed for Flood-Damaged Forest Trails near Glen Haven

As part of the flood recovery process, the Poudre Wilderness Volunteers (PWV) are continuing to help the Forest Service by coordinating volunteer trail work. The next scheduled trail restoration workday open to the public is July 19 and 20 on the North Fork Trail near Glen Haven.

Major work is required on this trail, with bridges and portions of the trail washed away. Some analysis will be needed before some segments of the trail can be fully repaired. The North Fork Trail will remain closed even after this volunteer trail work.

Volunteers of all skill levels can participate, but must be at least 18 years old or 16 years old if accompanied by a parent. Work includes moving rocks and downed trees, reestablishing the trail and helping with drainage issues. Those wanting to volunteer can sign up here. Details will be provided when volunteers sign up. Volunteers need to wear long sleeved shirts and pants (no shorts) and work boots. Be sure to bring water and snacks. Hard hats, gloves and tools will be provided. Volunteers will also receive lunch and a t-shirt.

PWV is the key contact for the Canyon Lakes Ranger District for public work days. PWV works closely with the Forest Service and are trained by the forest in trail restoration. The outpouring of support for recovery work has been greatly appreciated; however, this work has to be carefully coordinated. There are many crews helping the Forest repair and recover from the September 2013 floods and this work must be organized, prioritized, and meet the various requirements of the U.S. Forest Service. All work done on National Forest System lands must be approved by the forest before occurring.

PWV six workdays on the Lion Gulch and North Fork trails have resulted in 1,300 feet of trail repair and 1,500 feet of trail construction, as well as other needed work. More volunteer trail work days could be planned in the future for this and other trails. For additional work about flood recovery efforts or future events on the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and Pawnee National Grassland, check the USFS website.


Friday, July 4, 2014

Two Lightning Caused Fires Contained In Rocky Mountain National Park

Lightning in Rocky Mountain National Park yesterday afternoon caused two separate small fires: one on Eagle Cliff, and one on Beaver Mountain. Both fires have been contained due to available resources and immediate response by firefighters.

Available resources, location of the fire, and vegetation conditions make the difference in the ability of fire managers to suppress fires quickly. The U.S. Forest Service Northern Colorado helicopter that supported the Spruce Fire was just flying out of the park after completing their last sling load mission bringing supplies out, when firefighters at Upper Beaver Meadows reported smoke and trees burning on Beaver Mountain. Shortly thereafter smoke was spotted on Eagle Cliff.

Rocky Mountain National Park's engine plus two squads of firefighters quickly responded. The Alpine Hotshots, who are based at Rocky and were just returning from an assignment at Grand Canyon National Park, also sent a squad to each fire. Fire managers were able to use water bucket drops from the helicopter with critical ground crews to contain both fires quickly. Vegetation conditions were dry enough to allow for a relatively rapid initial establishment of the lighting-caused fires but wet enough to slow its spread.

The fire on Eagle Cliff was very small with one single tree burning and some ground fire. The fire on Beaver Mountain was contained at roughly 1/4 acre and was actively burning in pine needle litter and downed logs. Both locations were in steep terrain and firefighters reached both areas in less than an hour.

Estes Valley Fire Protection District provided critical support during the early development of these two fires, as contingency, should another fire be discovered or structures threatened. It is unusual to have two simultaneous lightning-caused fires at Rocky Mountain National Park. Fortunately resources were immediately available to respond.


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Details Released On Rescue Above Sky Pond In Rocky Mountain National Park

On Saturday, June 28th, Paul Lambert, 21, from Eagle River, Alaska, climbed Andrews Glacier in Rocky Mountain National Park. As he was traversing around a knife's edge between Powell Peak and Thatchtop, Lambert slipped approximately 5 feet, then tumbled and slid an additional 5 feet injuring his arm. He found himself in a location where he was cliffed out; unable to move up or down. Lambert activated a personal locator beacon (PLB) at 7:45 p.m. Lambert stayed overnight at this location above Sky Pond, at roughly 12,000 feet in elevation in a steep area with scree and loose rock. He had extra clothing and an emergency blanket in addition to other gear.

Initially, the PLB showed several possible locations. At 7:15 a.m. on Sunday, June 29, rangers were able to speak with Lambert and had him call 911 from his cell phone to enable the GPS on his phone to narrow down his location, which was on the east side of the Continental Divide above Sky Pond.

A hasty team of search and rescue members left the Glacier Gorge Trailhead early Sunday morning. One team member was flown to the top of Thatchtop. Members reached Lambert at approximately 12:15. His condition was assessed and rescue members began rigging a technical lower through a steep section. They began to descend at approximately 4:00 p.m. When they reached Sky Pond, at approximately 7:15 p.m. conditions were not conducive for helicopter operations.

Rescue team members and Lambert walked out the remaining five miles, reaching the Glacier Gorge Trailhead at 9:45 p.m. He was taken by a family member to seek further medical assistance. Over 40 personnel were involved. Rocky Mountain National Park's Search and Rescue Team members were assisted by Rocky Mountain Rescue, Larimer County Search and Rescue and Northern Colorado Helitack.


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Spruce Fire in Rocky Mountain National Park Fully Contained

As of Tuesday, July 1st, fire crews have made great progress and have fully contained the Spruce Fire in Rocky Mountain National Park.

The fire is located roughly 1500 feet northwest of Fern Lake, between Spruce Lake and Fern Lake. Located roughly 4 miles from the Fern Lake Trailhead, the fire is burning in a rugged, forested area that has not burned in over 250 years, so there are heavy fuels. Numerous beetle-killed trees has added to the hazards for firefighters.

Firefighters focused their efforts on putting out numerous spot fires that occurred from high winds on Monday. Crews packed hoses into the backcountry. The helicopter flew multiple slingloads bringing in portable pumps and more hose for firefighters to set up a large hoselay system. This system allowed firefighters to effectively use water to extinguish the fire.

Twenty-eight firefighters stayed overnight near the Spruce Fire. Tuesday's weather was favorable with higher humidity and less wind. The fire was contained at roughly 1 acre. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Crews will continue mop up efforts today further reducing the heat in the area of the fire. Most crew members will hike out by the end of the day. Fire managers will keep a small crew of firefighters overnight to further monitor the area for potential spot fires that might have gone undetected.

Currently, access to the area is closed to hikers past The Pool on the Fern Lake Trail and the section of trail from Lake Helene to Fern Lake from the Bear Lake area. The Fern Lake Road is closed to vehicles. Additionally, Upper Beaver Meadows Road is closed due to helicopter operations. These closures are expected to be lifted tomorrow.