Saturday, August 30, 2014

How and Why CFI Protects Colorado's Fourteeners

Whether you've hiked a relatively easy 14er such as Quandary Peak or Huron Peak, or even the highest mountain in Colorado, Mt. Elbert, it's likely you've benefited from the volunteer work from the folks at the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative.

Not familiar with this organization? The video below provides a quick overview of the non-profit's work building sustainably located summit trails, closing and restoring unsustainably located user-created trails, and the education of Fourteener hikers. CFI's work helps to protect the rare and fragile alpine tundra ecosystems that draw an estimated half-million people from throughout the world to climb Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks.

For more information on the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative, please click here.


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Who was Grandma Gatewood?

In 1955, after raising 11 children, Emma "Grandma" Gatewood became the first woman to solo thru-hike the Appalachian Trail - at the tender age of 67!  In September of that year, having survived a rattlesnake strike, two hurricanes, and a run-in with gangsters from Harlem, she stood atop Maine’s Mount Katahdin.

Then, in 1960, she hiked it again, becoming the first person to hike the Appalachian Trail twice. And, just to prove those first two weren't a fluke, she hiked it again in 1963 - at the age of 75! After that third adventure Emma became the first person to hike the 2,179-mile trail on three different occasions.

So who exactly was Grandma Gatewood? This short video, a trailer from a documentary film project called "Trail Magic", gives a few insights into Emma Gatewood's life, tribulations & achievements:


Saturday, August 23, 2014

One Man's Perspective on Solitude and Wilderness

Every couple of months 68-year-old Ed Zevely rides into the Colorado high country to camp for weeks at a time, and does it completely alone. Through thunderstorms, open meadows and treacherous passes, he finds his own patch of serenity. Ed provides an interesting perspective, perhaps one that all of us should consider as we go through life.

Open Door to Solitude from Filson on Vimeo.


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Rocky Mountain's 100th Anniversary Approaches: Celebrate With Hikes and Other Events

On September 4, 1915, hundreds of people gathered in Horseshoe Park to celebrate the dedication of America’s newest playground, Rocky Mountain National Park. Signed into law on January 26th of that same year by President Woodrow Wilson, Rocky Mountain National Park would forever protect the incredible resources found within its boundaries so that future generations might also benefit from its beauty and wildness.

As the 100th year anniversary of its creation rapidly approaches, Rocky Mountain National Park will be offering several events in conjunction with park partners and surrounding communities to commemorate this historic event. In order to accommodate the greatest variety of events possible, celebration of the Rocky Mountain National Park 100th Anniversary will begin on September 4, 2014, and will continue through September 4, 2015.

Included on the list of anniversary events are several guided hikes. The Colorado Mountain Club will be offering hikes, climbs, and wildflower walks throughout the anniversary year. The YMCA of the Rockies will also lead hikes throughout the year as well.

Also, on September 5th, the Rocky Mountain Nature Association (now the Rocky Mountain Conservancy) will offer a naturalist-guided hike along the Ute Trail (please call 970-586-3262 for details).

The park itself will be offering a guided hike along the Lily Lake Trail on September 6th. This hike is known as the "Wilderness Act 50th Anniversary Wilderness Walk".

For a complete list of events scheduled for the year-long celebration, please click here. You should note that additional events mat still be added as we approach the anniversary.

Rocky Mountain enthusiasts may also want to note that award-winning author Mary Taylor Young has recently published a new book that celebrates the park's centennial. In addition to telling the story of the park, Rocky Mountain National Park: The First 100 Years is illustrated with more than 250 historical and landscape images. Mary will be giving a presentation on her new book at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center Auditorium on September 27th as part of the Centennial Speaker Series.

If you do plan to visit Rocky Mountain National Park during the centennial celebration, or anytime for that matter, please note that our website offers a wide variety of accommodation listings in both Estes Park and Grand Lake. Also, don't forget to check out our Things To Do page to help with all your trip planning.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Some Flood-damaged areas on Canyon Lakes Ranger District Reopen

Some areas of the Canyon Lakes Ranger District impacted by the September 2013 Flood have re-opened as repairs have been completed.

Storm Mountain and Cedar Park Roads are now open, along with the Crosier Mountain Trail system. These are all located west of Loveland. It is important to note these areas and others damaged by the flood may not be the in the same condition as they were pre-flood. The Storm Mountain roads had to be improved more than they are historically maintained in order to accommodate the heavy equipment needed to make repairs.

The Forest continues to focus on many flood recovery efforts; however, additional rains this summer have delayed some repair work. Crews are actively working on additional road and trail repairs. As these repairs are completed more areas are anticipated to open before the field season is halted by snow.

For additional information about flood closures and recovery efforts, check the FS website.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Tonahutu Fire is 100% Contained

Rocky Mountain National Park announced this afternoon that the Tonahutu Fire is now one hundred percent contained. Due to more accurate mapping, the new acreage for the fire is 1.6 acres. Crews are currently mopping up any remaining hot spots. Some resources will be released by the end of today. Minor trail closures on the west side of the park related to this fire may be modified by Friday.

No further information will be released today.


Update On Tonahutu Fire

Late yesterday, weather conditions (calm winds and higher humidity) assisted firefighters in their efforts on the Tonahutu Fire in Rocky Mountain National Park. The fire is estimated to be 7 acres.

This morning twenty-five firefighters, including personnel from Rocky Mountain National Park, Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest and Grand Lake Fire Protection District are fighting the fire. Two Type 2 crews are traveling to the park.

Yesterday, six firefighters, from the three agencies listed above, were part of the initial attack. They were assisted by a Type III helicopter that dropped water on the fire. The fire is located roughly 1 mile north of Grand Lake. There are some area closures on the west side of the park including the lower Tonahutu Trail from the junction of Green Mountain south to the trailhead and the spur trail from the Kawuneeche Visitor Center.

The fire is believed to be lightning caused.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Small Fire On West Side Of Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park announced earlier today that there is a small fire, approximately 5 acres in size, on the west side of the park. The Tonahutu Fire is located roughly 1 mile north of Grand Lake. There are six firefighters including personnel from Rocky Mountain National Park, Arapaho National Forest and Grand Lake Fire Protection District who have been part of the initial attack plus a Type III helicopter is on scene. Two Type 2 crews and a ten person fire module have been ordered.

There are some area closures on the west side of the park including the lower Tonahutu Trail from the junction of Green Mountain south to the trailhead and the spur trail from the Kawuneeche Visitor Center.

The fire is believed to be lightning caused.


Rocky Mountain National Park considers permanently closing the Crater Trail

Due to excessive erosion and damage to sensitive natural and cultural resources, the Crater Trail, a short trail located on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park, will remain closed to use for the remainder of this year. The Crater Trail is a one-mile long, dead end trail that is normally open to visitor use after mid-August each year following the bighorn sheep lambing season. The trail leads to the top of the Continental Divide and provides an overview of "The Crater" located on the west side of Specimen Mountain.

Park staff are considering closing the Crater Trail permanently. The trail was never designed and constructed.Instead, it evolved from an informal footpath. Unfortunately, the trail is not sustainable in its current location and is subject to significant erosion which is damaging sensitive cultural and natural resources, including alpine tundra. Improving the trail in its current location is not desirable because the cost of long term maintenance would be excessive. The trail leads directly to the Specimen Mountain Research Natural Area (RNA). There are three RNAs in the park. These specially designated areas are an integral part of the park's designation as an International Biosphere Reserve. RNAs contain prime examples of natural resources and processes that have value for baseline and long-term studies for scientific and educational purposes. Providing direct access runs counter to the purposes for which the Specimen Mountain RNA was established.

While park staff considered relocating the Crater Trail to a more sustainable location, doing so would adversely impact natural and cultural resources, and would have run counter to the purposes for the Specimen Mountain RNA. The Mount Ida Trail, located across the valley from the Crater Trail, offers a similar visitor experience without the impacts and encumbrances of the Crater Trail.

Park staff welcome comments on the proposal to permanently close the Crater Trail. Please provide your written comments no later than September 30, 2014. The preferred method for providing comments is to use the National Park Service Planning, Environment and Public Comment (PEPC) website. From the home page click on the "Crater Trail Project."

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


Make Plans Now for a Great Fall Hiking Trip to Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park is a great place to visit anytime of the year, but during the fall it's an especially wonderful time. In addition to weather that is usually spectacular, and with fewer crowds, hikers will have many options for viewing beautiful autumn colors, such as cottonwood trees, but especially those of quaking aspens.

Roughly 60% of Rocky Mountain National Park is covered by forest, and most of that area falls below 11,000 - 11,500 feet in elevation. Above that range is alpine tundra, where no trees grow. It's in these subalpine and montane zones below 11,000 feet that park visitors and hikers will have the opportunity to view fall aspens. Aspens first begin changing their colors in the subalpine zone (9,000-11,000 feet) in early September. Progressively, color changes reach the montane zone (5,600-9,500 feet) by mid-month. The peak of the "gold rush" in Rocky Mountain National Park is usually around late September.

There are many great hikes that offer opportunities for checking out aspens in all their shimmering golden yellow and orange glory. Here are just a few suggestions:

East Side Hikes:

Alberta Falls, Bear Lake Loop, Bierstadt Lake, Cub Lake, Fern Falls, Fern Lake, Finch Lake, Gem Lake, Lumpy Ridge Loop, as well as the The Keyhole on Longs Peak.

West Side Hikes:

Adams Falls, the Green Mountain Loop, Lake Verna, Lone Pine Lake and Spirit Lake.

And, just in case you needed another reason, the fall is the only time to see the elk rut when bull male elk strut around the meadows and let out high-pitched squeals, known as a "bugle". This elk bugling season runs from roughly mid-September through mid-October. The meadows in the Kawuneeche Valley and in Moraine Park are both outstanding places to witness one of natures most awesome shows.

If you do plan on visiting Rocky Mountain this fall, please note that our website offers a wide variety of accommodation listings for both Estes Park and Grand Lake to help with all your vacation planning.


Friday, August 8, 2014

Columbine Lake Trail to close for improvements

The popular U.S. Forest Service trail to Columbine Lake, which is accessed from the Junco Lake Trailhead in the Arapaho National Recreation Area, will be closed to all use August 13-16 while a group of more than 30 volunteers from Grand County Wilderness Group, Headwaters Trails Alliance and Rocky Mountain Youth Corps work with U.S. Forest Service crews to reroute the trail onto a more sustainable path. Portions of the 1.3-mile trail cross wet meadows and climb eroding slopes, causing extensive resource damage as hikers attempt to avoid soggy and muddy areas. Sections of the trail will be improved from the trail’s junction with the Caribou Pass Trail all the way to Columbine Lake. The entire trail is in the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area.

This project is part of the Grand County Wilderness Group and Sulphur Ranger District celebration of the 50th anniversary of Wilderness. The National Forest Foundation’s Ski Conservation Fund, which is paid for by an optional lodging tax at Winter Park Resort, helped fund this project. Through that program, Headwaters Trails Alliance secured a $13,000 grant to bring the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps to the area for two weeks this summer to help complete several trails projects, including this one.

If the reroute work is not complete by August 16, the trail may close again temporarily for a portion of the following week. If you have any questions about this project or need suggestions on where else to hike, contact Sulphur Ranger District visitor information at 970-887-4100.


Happy Birthday Smokey Bear!

Tomorrow marks the 70th birthday of one of the most recognizable characters in American history. On August 9, 1944, the Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention Campaign published the very first Smokey Bear poster (photo below).

The Ad campaign came about as a result of World War II. Thinking that wildfires could be used as a weapon, the Japanese military in 1942 began making attempts at starting wildfires along the coastal forests of southwest Oregon. Between November of 1944 and April of 1945 the Japanese began a campaign of launching more than 9000 "fusen bakudan", or fire balloons, into the jet stream. The balloons were equipped with a 15 kilogram antipersonnel bomb and two incendiary devices, which were designed to explode upon impact. It's estimated that 300 to 1000 of the balloons made it to the United States, including as far inland as Iowa and Michigan.

Fortunately the strategy had very little impact, though six people were tragically killed. On May 5, 1945, a teacher and her school children were on an outing near Lakeview, Oregon when they found one of the balloons in the woods. While dragging it out of the forest the bomb exploded and killed the teacher, Elsie Mitchell, as well as five of the children, all between the ages of 11 and 13.

Though not successful in starting any major wildfires, the potential for mass destruction was still present. Since most able-bodied men were serving in the military at that time, none could be spared to help fight forest fires. The goal of the Smokey Bear Ad campaign was to educate the public about the danger of forest fires in the hope that local communities would prevent them from being started. Although the message has changed, that campaign continues to this day.

According to a 2009 report by the Ad Council, Smokey Bear and his message are recognized by 95% of adults and 77% of children.

To help celebrate his 70th birthday, here's a video montage of Smokey Bear Ads throughout the years:


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Lost Hikers Found in Good Condition

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park rangers worked quickly the afternoon of Tuesday, August 5th, to search the area of the Warner Route for a father and two boys from New Mexico who were reported missing by family members.

The boys, aged 12 and 14, became separated from their father during a short hike. He returned to the parking lot to tell his wife and daughter that the boys were missing and then went back into the canyon to look for them. When he did not promptly return, family members reported their missing parties and a hasty search was started. After several hours of searching along the upper parts of the route and canyon rim, and with approaching darkness, two park rangers carrying overnight gear and extra food and water, hiked to the bottom of the route. The man and two boys were located around midnight at the Gunnison River. They were hungry and thirsty, but otherwise in good condition. They hiked out with park rangers on Wednesday morning.

Acting Superintendent Christine Landrum said, "I am very proud of our park rangers and of the outstanding cooperative effort involved in finding these hikers. They have proven once again that visitor and employee safety is of ultimate importance."

Hikers are reminded to be prepared for a longer hike than planned. Carry water, food, and extra clothing even if you are just going out for a short stroll. Groups should stay together and be sure to get a backcountry or wilderness use permit.


Wilderness And Rocky Mountain National Park: The First 100 Years

Get a sneak peek of the park's upcoming 2015 centennial with Rocky Mountain National Park: The First 100 Years by award-winning author Mary Taylor Young. Ms. Young will be speaking at 8:30 p.m., Monday, August 11th, in the Moraine Park Campground Amphitheater.

Witness the rise, fall, and rise of mountains. Meet ancient people who built rock game drives. Discover explorers lured by the mountains' call, and adventurers consumed with conquering Longs Peak's soaring summit. Meet engineers sculpting Trail Ridge Road and Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) crews building trails, intrepid rangers rescuing lost hikers and researchers preserving the fragile tundra. Learn how the park's elk were nearly wiped out, than restored to become one of America's premier wildlife sights. Relive the visits of millions of Americans who flocked to this beloved national park through the 20th century, forming lifelong connections to this special place. Discover how a changing climate may alter Rocky in its next 100 years. Experience all of this while celebrating the role of Wilderness in the park and what it means to all of us.

Award-winning writer and naturalist Mary Taylor Young has been writing about the landscape and heritage of Colorado and the American West for more than 25 years. Mary's 15 books include Land of Grass and Sky: A Naturalist's Prairie Journey and The Colorado Wildlife Viewing Guide. Many readers know her "Words On Birds" column, which ran in the Rocky Mountain News for 16 years. Her most recent book, Rocky Mountain National Park: The First 100 Years, highlights the park's centennial history.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Rocky Mountain to Celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the 1914 Arapaho Pack Trip

The Northern Arapaho Tribe and Rocky Mountain National Park invite you to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the historic 1914 Arapaho Pack Trip to Estes Park, Rocky Mountain National Park and Grand Lake, with a series of special events this Saturday, August 9th.

From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, August 9th, Arapaho vendors will be featured in Bond Park, which is located in Estes Park. From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. a series of programs and dance presentations will be held. For more details regarding the event, please click here.

Additional celebration events will be held in Rocky Mountain National Park during the day and evening of August 9th. Artist work from the Wind River Reservation will be on display in the lower lobby of the Fall River Visitor Center. Featured artist, photographer Sara Wiles, work will be highlighted. Sara has spent many years photographing and recording Arapaho people and events on the reservation. She will be available to answer questions about her artwork from 2:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. At 7:30 p.m. at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center auditorium, join Arapaho Merle Hass and Alonso Moss for a special Saturday evening program about the Arapaho language followed by a showing of the Chiefs Documentary. All programs are free and open to the public.

In 1914, the Colorado Mountain Club, hoping to persuade Congress to support the establishment of a national park in the Estes Valley and Grand Lake area, arranged for Arapaho elders from the Wind River Reservation to provide Arapaho names for local landmarks. Colorado Mountain Club members, Harriet Vaille and Edna Hendrie, organized the project. They went to the reservation to interview Arapaho and coordinate travel arrangements to Estes Park. Harriet Vaille selected her younger cousin, Oliver Toll, to act as the ethnographer for the trip. Oliver Toll, along with local guide Shep Husted, began the two week pack trip on July 16, 1914, along with three members of the Arapaho tribe: Tom Crispin, Gun Griswold and Sherman Sage. Traveling throughout the Estes Valley, nearby mountains and Grand Lake, Oliver Toll carefully recorded their journey along with stories and names the Arapaho provided. Besides naming several of the area's peaks, the Arapaho met many residents including Peter Hondius, Enos Mills and "Squeaky Bob" Wheeler. Oliver Toll organized his notes and produced a small book titled Arapaho Names and Trails which continues to be sold in park bookstores.

Since 1998, the Arapaho have been on several sponsored trips to Rocky Mountain National Park participating in educational programing. Students, teachers and elders from the Wind River Reservation and Arapaho High School have learned about plants, wildlife and their cultural heritage including the 1914 pack trip route of their ancestors. Participants have included several direct decedents from the pack trip including Sherman Sage's great-grandson.

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


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

2014 Yucca House Tour Tickets Now Available

Mesa Verde National Park is offering 2 ranger-guided tours of Yucca House National Monument in September. Tickets for these special hikes are limited and must be purchased online at

Yucca House is a large, unexcavated pueblo which was probably built around AD 1200. Tours are scheduled on Wednesday, September 10th, and Friday, September 19th. This easy to moderate 1-hour, 1/2-mile walk is along a mostly level, unpaved path. Tickets cost $5 per person, and group size is limited. For reservations or more information, visit or call 1-877-444-6777.

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. 550 to A.D. 1300. Today, the park protects almost 5,000 known archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings.


Saturday, August 2, 2014

Dinosaur National Monument Reminds Visitors to be Lion Aware

Staff at Dinosaur National Monument are reminding visitors that they are visiting mountain lion country when traveling in the monument, especially in the backcountry and along the river canyons.

On Tuesday, July 22nd, fresh evidence of an animal killed by a mountain lion was found in the Echo Park area. Signs of the kill included paw prints, blood, fur, and drag marks from the mountain lion moving an animal from a meadow south of a restroom, across a road, and into the brush along the Green River. A 72-hour closure was placed on the area immediately around the kill site to minimize disturbance of the mountain lion as it feeds. Prior to this event, a visitor on a rafting trip on the Green River noticed a mountain lion watching him from a ledge above the Rippling Brook campsite.

Visitors are reminded that although mountain lions, also known as cougars, are rare to see, all of Dinosaur National Monument is suitable habitat. Visitors should take appropriate precautions when recreating within the monument. According to Wayne Prokopetz, Chief of Resource Management, "As the higher elevation areas in the monument dry out, deer and elk will move to the river corridors to find better forage. Mountain lions will follow these animals since they are the lions preferred food source.""Due to the increase in sightings, we are stepping up our mountain lion safety education program," stated Chief Ranger Lee Buschkowsky. Hikers, boaters, and campers are encouraged to be alert for their presence and report mountain lion sightings as soon as possible at a visitor center or ranger station. Visitors should remember the following safety tips:

To prevent an encounter:

• Don't hike or jog alone
• Keep children within sight and close to you
• Avoid dead animals
• Keep a clean camp
• Leave pets at home
• Be alert to your surroundings
• Use a walking stick

If you meet a mountain lion:

• Don't run, as this may trigger a cougar's attack instinct
• Stand and face it
• Pick up children
• Appear large, wave arms or jacket over your head
• Do not approach, back away slowly
• Keep eye contact

If you encounter a mountain lion and it acts aggressive:

• Do not turn your back or take your eyes off it
• Remain standing
• Throw things
• Shout loudly
• Fight back aggressively

In addition to mountain lions,other wildlife, such as deer, elk, black bear, and bighorn sheep, are prevalent in the monument. Please be alert for animals crossing the roads – particularly at dawn and dusk. Never approach or feed any animals in the monument.

For more information on Dinosaur National Monument, please call  (435) 781-7700.


Friday, August 1, 2014

Volunteer Needed on Flood-damaged Forest Trails in August

As part of the flood recovery process, the Poudre Wilderness Volunteers (PWV) continue to help the Forest Service by coordinating volunteer trail work. The next scheduled trail restoration workdays open to the public are Aug. 9, 10, 23 and 24 on the North Fork Trail near Glen Haven. Additional volunteer workdays are expected in September.

Major work is required on this trail, with bridges and portions of the trail washed away. 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 is completed.

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 online. 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.

At the last volunteer day, approximately 50 people worked to restore portions of this trail. Those volunteering came out for different reasons, but one couple came because they had had their first date on this trail. Another came to continue learning about trail restoration from those with more experience. Every volunteer worked hard.

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 eight workdays on the Lion Gulch and North Fork trails have resulted in over 1,300 feet of trail repair and 2,500 feet of trail construction, as well as other needed work.