Monday, August 24, 2015

How to Climb (hike) a Mountain

Below is a short video that was featured on Outside Today a few years ago. Although the title of the video was "How to Climb a Mountain", the skills discussed in this video are actually basic mountain climbing skills that most hikers will benefit from, and should have an understanding for safer passage through the mountains. The video features Rainbow Weinstock from the Colorado Mountain School:


Friday, August 21, 2015

Be Part Of History At Rocky Mountain National Park’s Rededication Events

The year-long celebration of Rocky Mountain National Park's 100th Anniversary culminates with rededication events during the first week of September. A celebration is scheduled for September 3rd, at the Holzwarth Historic Site on the west side of the park. The official rededication ceremony will be held on September 4th, at Glacier Basin Campground on the east side of the park.

On Thursday, September 3rd, join the park for music from Peggy Mann and Cowboy Brad Fitch, fun and ice cream from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. as they celebrate the next 100 years of Rocky Mountain National Park. The event will be held at the Holzwarth Historic Site however, to attend this event, visitors must board a shuttle bus from the Grand Lake Elementary School or the Kawuneeche Visitor Center. Buses will begin service at 9 a.m. and will continue through 3 p.m.

On Friday, September 4th, join the park for special speakers, music, family activities and cake from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. as they dedicate Rocky Mountain National Park for the next 100 years. The event will be held in the meadow at the Glacier Basin Campground. The area will open at 9 a.m. for event attendees. Parking is expected to fill up quickly at Glacier Basin Campground. A portion of Rocky Mountain National Park's Park and Ride lot will be reserved for event attendees as well. A shuttle bus will be running from the Estes Park Fairgrounds Park & Ride directly to Glacier Basin Campground beginning at 9 a.m. and will continue through 2:30 p.m.

Space is limited at both venues so please plan ahead, arrive early, carpool or ride a bus. For further information about the events or for general questions about Rocky Mountain National Park, please call the park's Information Office at (970) 586-1206

If you do plan to visit Rocky Mountain during the upcoming rededication ceremonies, or anytime this fall, please note that our hiking website offers a wide variety of accommodation listings for both Estes Park and Grand Lake to help with all your vacation planning.


Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Largest Wildfires in U.S. History

Several major wildfires raging across the west have grabbed headlines around the world in recent weeks. So far this year more than 39,000 wildfires have burned nearly 6.4 million acres in the United States. The number of wildfires this year represents about 80% of the ten-year average. However, the number of current acres burned represents a roughly 38% increase over the ten-year average at this point in the year. At more than 330,000 acres, the largest wildfire currently burning in the U.S. is in central Alaska. There are three other significant wildfires of note, the Soda Fire in Idaho, the Comet-Windy Ridge Fire in Oregon, and the Chelan Complex in Washington, which are currently burning more than 283,000, 103,000, and 69,000 acres, respectively.

As a result, the National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group increased the National Fire Preparedness Level to its highest point last week.

Having looked at the current situation, I wanted to see where these fires stood when compared to the largest wildfires in U.S. history. The following are the top 10 largest wildfires in U.S. history, none of which include any of the fires currently burning:

1) The Great Fire of 1910: 3,000,000 acres - Killed 86 people, including 78 firefighters in Idaho, Montana and Washington. The fire destroyed enough timber to fill a freight train 2,400 miles long.

2) The Great Michigan Fire (1871): 2,500,000 acres - The Great Michigan Fire was a series of simultaneous forest fires that were possibly caused (or at least reinforced) by the same winds that fanned the Great Chicago Fire. Several cities, towns and villages, including Holland, Manistee, and Port Huron suffered serious damage or were lost.

3) Taylor Complex Fire (2004): 1,305,592 acres - The Taylor Complex Fire near Tok, Alaska was the largest wildfire by acreage during the 1997–2007 time period.

4) Peshtigo Fire (1871): 1,200,000 acres - The Peshtigo Fire in Wisconsin killed over 1,700 people and has the distinction of causing the most deaths by fire in United States history.

5) Silverton Fire (1865): 1,000,000 acres - Oregon's worst recorded fire.

6) Thumb Fire (1881): 1,000,000 acres - Killed more than 200 people in Michigan.

7) Yellowstone (1988): 793,880 acres - The Yellowstone fires of 1988 in Wyoming and Montana were never controlled by firefighters. They only burned out when a snowstorm hit in early September. A whopping 36% of the park was affected by the wildfires.

8) Long Draw Fire and Miller Homestead Fire (2012): 719,694 acres - Oregon's largest fire in the last 150 years.

9) Murphy Complex Fire (2007): 653,100 acres - The fire was a combination of six wildfires caused by lightning in south-central Idaho and north-central Nevada that started on July 16–17, 2007.

10) Siege of 1987 (1987): 650,000 acres - These fires were started by a large lightning storm in late August, burning valuable timber primarily in the Klamath and Stanislaus National Forests in California.


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

My Top 11 Tips For Beginner Cyclists

As you're probably already aware, this blog is primarily focused on hiking. However, when I'm not out on the trail, my favorite form of exercise is cycling. I've been riding on a regular basis (5 or 6 times a week) for almost 30 years. At a family gathering a few weeks ago my brother-in-law announced that he was going to take up cycling. As a result, I was inspired to write this blog and impart some advice to him and anyone else who's thinking about taking up this wonderful sport, or anyone who's recently caught the bug.

To help newbies dive into the sport, the following are my top 11 tips for beginner cyclists:

1) Buy the right bike (Part 1): Before dipping your toes in, the first thing you need to consider is what kind of bike to purchase. The answer to that question will be determined by what kind riding you plan to do: off-road trail riding, dirt/gravel roads, cruising around the neighborhood, or venturing out to do one or two-hour rides on urban and rural roads. Answering that question will determine whether you need to purchase a mountain bike, hybrid, touring or road racing bike. The difference in the latter two will be determined by the amount of riding you plan to do. Although you may never enter a race, a road racing bike will be the preferred choice if you plan to ride several times a week, and especially if you wish to progress by going farther and faster as time goes by.

2) Buy the right bike (Part 2): After determining the style of bike, the next thing you'll have to do is determine the correct bike size. To do this you'll have to measure your inseam, which will determine the correct size as measured by the frame size.

3) Get a proper fit: Once you've purchased your bike it's extremely important to have it properly fitted to your own body measurements. Having a seat set too high or too low is a recipe for knee problems down the road. An incorrect fore-aft seat position could cause back problems. If you purchase the bike from a reputable bike shop they should be able to help you through this process. You can also find out how to do this on your own by clicking here or here.

4) Before hitting the road: After purchasing your bike you're going to need some additional gear before hitting the trail or road. You'll definitely want to purchase a CPSC certified bike helmet, seat fanny pack, water bottle cage(s), an extra inter tube and a flat tire repair kit. Although frame air pumps were quite common several years ago, I much prefer CO2 cartridges for re-filling a fixed flat tire. The cartridges easily fit into your seat fanny pack, and are very easy to use. Other items to strongly consider include: bike gloves, jerseys, cycling shorts, a floor air pump for home (tire tubes tend to lose significant air pressure after a week or two), chain oil (to keep your chain spinning efficiently), and a bike computer. Although it may not be apparent to a beginner, most of these items serve a variety of important functions.

If you do plan to ride frequently I would also strongly recommend purchasing clipless pedals and cycling shoes. Clipless pedals allow you to apply pressure throughout the entire pedal motion, while standard pedals only allow you to apply pressure during the downward stroke. Because of this, clipless pedals are far more efficient and make cycling a lot easier as they allow you to spin, rather than push your pedals.

5) Choose safe routes: Once your entire "kit" is ready to go, it's time to hit the road or trail. As a beginner you'll definitely want to ride on bike friendly roads and trails. Fortunately, with the internet, there are many resources for finding safe routes. It's possible your own city or town has published a map on their website showing all the safe routes in town. Google Maps has a function for finding bike-friendly routes. TrailLink and MapMyRide are also great resources. You can also try checking with your local bike club or bike shop for recommendations as well.

6) Hold your head up: To quote the old Argent song, "hold your head up!" While riding it's extremely important to know everything that's going on around you. Don't stare down at your pedals, or your computer. Look ahead to know where traffic is, or where any obstacles might be on the road or trail, such as broken glass, a pothole, gravel (be especially cautious while turning corners), or a tree branch, etc.. Look from side to side to make sure a dog, wild animal, child, or even lawn professionals (for some reason these folks regularly step out onto the road without looking) don't decide to walk in front of your path.

7) Your butt will hurt: Unfortunately your butt will definitely hurt during the first couple of rides. Actually, the same holds true for experienced cyclists after we emerge from a long winter's rest. The best thing to do is to limit your rides to less than 30 minutes on the first couple of rides. You'll also be better off by not riding on consecutive days for the first week or so. Padded cycling shorts will be of help as well. Although you'll feel a little discomfort the first couple times out, don't worry, in no time you'll get used to it and will find that sitting on a bicycle seat is no longer a problem.

8) Never assume a driver can see you: With our epidemic of distracted and inconsiderate motorists texting and yapping on cell phones, you should never assume a driver can see you. Just because you made it to a stop sign first, make sure you make eye contact with a driver before crossing an intersection. Also, just because you don't have to stop at another intersection, don't assume the driver approaching from a perpendicular street is going to stop. Over the years I've seen numerous drivers ignore stop signs right in front of me. Luckily I slowed beforehand to make sure they were going to stop first. Also, don't assume someone crossing your path while turning into or out of a driveway or parking lot can see you. Finally, watch for parked cars. It's possible that someone is in that car and about to open up their door - you don't want to test your ability to strip a door from a car.

9) Hold that line!: As an example, let's say you're riding one foot from the side of the road. You should try to maintain that distance (called "holding your line") as much as possible. Not only will you be more predictable for drivers approaching from behind, but you never know when another cyclist might approach you from behind without saying anything. If you cross paths (touching tires), it's likely one or both of you will go down. If riding in a group this rule is even more important. Obviously there will always be obstacles along the course. In those situations be sure to look quickly behind you to make sure it's alright to alter your line. Also, as a reminder, cyclists are considered to be a vehicle in the eyes of the law, so you must obey all traffic laws.

10) Let the terrain dictate your gears: To be an efficient cyclist you need to maintain a fairly constant pedal speed, as measured in RPMs. This is the number of "Revolutions Per Minute", or complete pedal strokes in a one minute time period. The most efficient pedal speed is in the 90-100 RPM range. Take the time to count your RPMs to get a feel for what 90-100 RPMs feels like. Over time this pedal speed will be instinctive and will come naturally to you. If you're only doing 70 or 80 RPMs it's likely you're in too large of a gear. Over time it will feel like your simply grinding out the miles. Maintaining 90-100 RPMs is the most optimal range, and will allow your legs to feel fresher for longer periods of time, thus allowing you to ride longer and faster. As the terrain changes adjust your gears to maintain that optimal range. Obviously, on steep hills, it will be impossible to maintain that pedal speed. Simply shift down to your lowest gear and try to spin as much as possible.

11) Avoid the death grip: Many new cyclists will hold onto their handlebars as if they were about to fall off a cliff. This is a big mistake, as this only causes tension and will result in a stiff upper back. It's best to relax your upper body and let your legs do all the work. Learn to have a light touch while holding onto the handlebars. Use different parts of the handlebars as well, such as the break hoods, the outside and inside portion of the tops, as well as the drops. Switching around on different areas of the handlebar will allow you to use and rest different muscles in your arms, shoulders and back, thus helping to prevent them from stiffening up. Here's pretty good video that shows how and when to use the different positions.

In my view these are the top things you need to know to get started in the sport of cycling. There are many other tips and techniques to make cycling safe and fun, but are beyond the scope of this article. Reading online articles, books and magazines will be of help, but experience will be your best guide. I also recommend taking beginner type rides with your local bike club. More often that not you'll be able to find someone who is more than willing to teach you the ropes.


Saturday, August 15, 2015

Celebrate the 99th Birthday of the National Park Service: All National Parks Will Offer Free Admission on August 25

The National Park Service is turning 99 years old on August 25, 2015, and everyone is getting a present, free admission! Visit a park in your neighborhood or plan a trip to one of the 408 National Park Service sites across the country to join the party! To inspire visitors, the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation, the official charity of America’s national parks, have created a birthday list of 99 Ways to Find Your Park.

“The National Park Service’s 99th birthday is an opportunity to reflect on and celebrate the role of national parks in the American story,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “And it’s also a time to look ahead to our centennial year, and the next 100 years. These national treasures belong to all of us, and we want everyone – especially the next generation of park visitors, supporters and advocates – to discover and connect with their national parks.”

In preparation for the centennial celebration next year, the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation are partnering to help audiences nationwide Find Your Park. To encourage visitors to discover everything a park experience can be, the list of 99 Ways to Find Your Park includes a wide range of activities: from urban hikes and taking a sunrise selfie, to earning a Junior Ranger Badge and writing poetry. Visitors are encouraged to share their park experiences with friends and family by using #FindYourPark on social media.

On August 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed legislation to create the National Park Service, which preserves and protects 408 sites throughout the country. Each one, whether it’s a national park, a historic site or a national seashore, was established by a president or Congress to protect, preserve and share its national significance for future generations. Some parks commemorate notable people and achievements; others conserve magnificent landscapes and natural wonders; and all provide a place to have fun and learn.

The National Park Service waived all of its entrance fees on nine days in 2015. The remaining entrance fee free days are August 25 for the National Park Service’s birthday, September 26 for National Public Lands Day, and November 11 in honor of Veterans Day. The entrance fee waiver does not cover amenity or user fees for activities such as camping, boat launches, transportation, or special tours.

To find a national park near you, and to learn more about the Find Your Park campaign, visit

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


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Lake Isabelle in Indian Peaks Wilderness Drained for Dam Construction

Lake Isabelle has been drained in preparation for repair work on the reservoir’s drainage and flow control system. The work will repair a partial collapse of the water tunnel that was discovered in 2013. The project is expected to begin mid-August.

Located in Indian Peaks Wilderness Area west of Brainard Lake Recreation Area, the reservoir is operated by Lefthand Ditch Company, which has a long-standing easement to the reservoir that predates the 1978 Indian Peaks Wilderness designation.

To complete this project, crews must use motorized equipment and haul supplies by helicopter, which may be visible and audible to visitors in the wilderness and recreation areas. The parking area at Lefthand Park Reservoir will used as a staging area and will be closed during helicopter activities. Flight days are weather dependent and advance notice may not be possible. Equipment use will occur as needed during work days which will include weekends. The more days the crew can work uninterrupted, the shorter the project duration. Work is expected to continue through September.

A U.S. Forest Service permit was necessary to implement the necessary repairs, and the permit outlines mitigation measures negotiated to reduce impacts to area resources and visitors.


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Centennial Science Behind The Scenery Programs Continue At Rocky Mountain National Park

Numerous scientists will be presenting as part of the Centennial Science Behind The Scenery Programs at Rocky Mountain National Park. This series of programs highlights scientific activity and learning in the park. Each week a different scientist conducting research in the park will share their experiences and discoveries. The programs will be held on Thursday evenings at 7:30 p.m. at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center and are free and open to the public.

This Thursday, August 13, join Dr. Tom Hobbs as he presents How many elk should there be?A history of the concept of carrying capacity in Rocky Mountain National Park. The elk population in Rocky is enjoyed by park visitors from all over the world. Deciding how to best manage that population has formed a central challenge for the park since its creation. Dr. Hobbs has worked on population and community ecology of large herbivores for the last three decades. He has been at Colorado State since 2001 and before that he served for 20 years as a research scientist for the Colorado Division of Wildlife and will trace the history of elk management as it has been influenced by changing ideas about ecological feedbacks between large herbivores and plant communities.

Next Thursday, August 20, join Ellen Wohl as she presents The Importance of Beaver Dams and Wet Meadows. Beavers were historically widespread and abundant throughout North America. Beaver dams helped to create extensive floodplain wetlands known as beaver meadows. Within Rocky Mountain National Park, the most extensive beaver meadows were located just upstream from glacial terminal moraines in places such as Moraine Park and Wild Basin. Many of the beaver meadows within the national park have become drier grassland environments. The remaining functioning beaver meadows provide important insights into how river valleys across the national park and throughout North America once functioned. This talk will review these insights and explain the importance of protecting and restoring beaver colonies. Dr. Wohl has been on the geosciences faculty at Colorado State University since 1989.

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


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

“Preponderance of Evidence: The Intersection of Geology, NAGPRA, and Kennewick Man"

Next Thursday, August 13th, at the Far View Lodge in Mesa Verde National Park, Dr. Lillian Wakeley will present a thought-provoking talk about the 1996 discovery of the remains of 9,000 year old Kennewick Man and the resulting legal battles fought under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. The program begins at 7:00 p.m. and is free to the public.

The Kennewick Man remains were claimed by several Native American tribes under NAGPRA, but legal actions intensified as questions arose about whether a preponderance of evidence identified the remains as Native American under the law and whether or not NAGPRA applied. Plans for a detailed site study to help determine the environment, cultural affiliation, and burial status, were abandoned when the site was covered under tons of rock and soil.

Lillian Wakeley is a consulting geologist with world-wide research experience in near-surface soil properties, desert and river geomorphology, specialty geo-materials, interpreting paleo-environments, and science for the public. She holds an M.S. in Geology from Utah State University and a D.Ed. from Penn State. She recently retired after 27 years as an engineering and environmental geologist for the Army Corps of Engineers. Lillian led the geologic study of the Kennewick Man discovery site and currently serves as a volunteer geologic consultant to Mesa Verde National Park and various Bureau of Land Management sites.

The Four Corners Lecture Series is sponsored by Anasazi Heritage Center; Aramark Parks and Destinations; Bureau of Land Management; Cortez Cultural Center; Crow Canyon Archaeological Center; Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum; Fort Lewis College Office of the President, Dept. of Anthropology and Center of Southwest Studies; Hisatsinom Chapter Colorado Archaeological Society; KSJD Dryland Community Radio; Mesa Verde Foundation; Mesa Verde Museum Association; and Mesa Verde National Park.

For a list of other programs in the series, click here.


Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy Launches Video Series Aimed at Educating Hikers

Volunteers and staff at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) have created a series of entertaining and informative videos that will teach visitors how to reduce their imprint on the Appalachian Trail (A.T.). The videos, titled “Don’t Be That Guy – Appalachian Trail - Leave No Trace,” were released this past weekend.

Filmed by professional videographer and former thru-hiker Tara Roberts with support from the U.S. Forest Service, the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, the ATC’s Tennessee License Plate Fund, and the ATC volunteers, the series illustrates the proper practices for hiking and camping that minimize impacts on the A.T.

“‘Leave No Trace’ is a great program that encourages everyone to minimize their impacts on the outdoors. These methods are needed on the Appalachian Trail, especially due to its popularity,” said Tom Banks, video producer and director. “There’s a lot of good information available from the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics teaching the principles, and what these videos add is information that applies specifically to the Appalachian Trail. We illustrate the techniques in a direct, but entertaining, way.”

The series features a clip on each of the seven principles of Leave No Trace, which include plan ahead and prepare, travel and camp on durable surfaces, dispose of waste properly, leave what you find, minimize campfire impacts, respect wildlife, and be considerate of other visitors. Additional videos, to be released later in the month, will also include engaging elements like interviews with recent hikers and actors in the series as well as a lighthearted bloopers and outtakes reel. “We have to be vigilant. Our duty is to take care of the Appalachian Trail,” explained Sarah Jones Decker, a creative consultant, actor in the videos, and former A.T. thru-hiker. “As the Trail becomes more popular, we need to make sure that we are working diligently to spread the ‘leave no trace’ message."

The video series is one way the ATC is preparing for a surge in Trail use following the release of the film A Walk in the Woods, a comedy adventure starring Robert Redford and Nick Nolte as old friends who make the improbable decision to hike the 2,190-mile Trail. The film will be released September 2 by Broad Green Pictures. The ATC acted as a consulting organization during production and assisted with the film’s environmental messaging.

“Effort will be necessary to keep the Appalachian Trail in its natural state, especially given the increased attention that the Trail is receiving,” said Javier Folgar, the ATC’s director of Marketing and Communications. “Whether you are new to hiking or are an experienced 2,000-miler on the Appalachian Trail, everyone can benefit from watching these videos as a reminder of how to reduce impact.”

Here's an intro from the video series that explains "the Story Behind the Videos":

And here's a short clip of the "bloopers and outtakes" from the series:

To view the entire “Don’t Be That Guy – Appalachian Trail | Leave No Trace” video series, click here.

For more information about Leave No Trace and the A.T., visit


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Public Meeting Scheduled on Multiuse Trail Plan in Rocky Mountain

Rocky Mountain National Park has released an Environmental Assessment (EA) for a proposed Multiuse Trail that would roughly parallel the road network on the east side of the park. The purpose of this proposed trail system is to connect with planned multiuse trails in the Estes Valley and enhance multimodal connections to existing visitor use areas in the park and provide connections to the seasonal shuttle system within and outside of the park. Self-propelled transportation may include bicycling, walking, running, use of baby strollers, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing.

The EA presents three alternatives: a no-action alternative (Alternative A) and two action alternatives (Alternatives B and C). The action alternatives propose the development of new multiuse trails, connecting to existing points of interest throughout the project corridor, including shuttle bus stops, visitor facilities, campgrounds, and overlooks. Alternative B is 15.3 miles in length and predominantly follows the road corridors of U.S. 34, U.S. 36, and Bear Lake Road. Alternative C is the proposed roadside and overland trail, 14.2 miles in length, and would generally follow the same road corridors as Alternative B with sections of overland trail near Horseshoe Park and Beaver Meadows.

A preferred alternative has not been identified in the EA. The park will identify a preferred alternative after considering comments submitted during the public comment period. The final decision could include building none (the no-action alternative), some, or the entire proposed multiuse trail, and may be a combination of alternatives B and C. If the decision is made to build the multiuse trail, it will likely be many years before it becomes a reality as no funding has been identified at this time to construct it.

A public meeting will be held on Thursday, August 20, between 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at the Estes Park Museum located at 200 Fourth Street in Estes Park. Information will be provided about the EA and park staff and the park's consultant will be available to answer questions. The park will provide a short overview of the project beginning at 6:15 p.m. However, the public may drop in at any time during the meeting to learn more about the project. A copy of the Multiuse Trail Plan/Environmental Assessment EA is available on-line at the NPS Planning, Environment, and Public Comment (PEPC) website.

The park is inviting written public comments regarding the Multiuse Trail Plan EA and the proposed alternatives. Written comments can be given to park staff at the meeting on August 20, by mail to Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park, CO 80517, or online at the website listed above. Comments are requested by September 10, 2015.