Saturday, December 31, 2005

Adding and subtracting

As I write this, the members of the AdAmAn club are making their way up Barr Trail. Their destination: the summit of Pikes Peak. Their mission: To usher in the New Year with what has to be the highest fireworks display in the world. The group is legendary, and deserves the attention it gets each year. But the AdAmAn climbers aren't the only ones with a New Year's Eve mission. Enter SubtractAmAn, a group that has shared the trail with AdAmAn since 1989.
The group was founded by Frank Reetz, a Denver educator, and Dennis Weid, of Canon City to honor friends and pets who had died. The two men came up with the group's name partly as a spoof on AdAmAn, but mostly because they were honoring the dead - those who had been "subtracted from life."
On SubtractAmAn's first New Year's Eve climb, Reetz says there was a little friction between the two groups, but since then, they've learned to get along. Just like the AdAmAn members, this group has had to endure brutal winter weather on their annual climbs, but it looks like this year will be easier. - Deb

Friday, December 30, 2005

Prosperous New Year from all of us in Out There!

Not all hut trips are hard

In the 10th Mountain Hut System, Skinner Hut is known for being the hardest to get to. It's a 10-mile slog up 3,000 feet to a one-room cabin on a remote ridge.
If that's not your cup of cocoa, check out the easiest-to-get-to hut, Shrine Mountain Inn.
It's a two-mile ski on groomed trails to a series of huts with running water, central heat, and a sauna.
For descriptions of everything in between, visit the huts web site

To the top of the peak

Friday and Saturday and Sunday are the last days this winter to ride the Pikes Peak Cog Railway. Even with all the snow, that little red train is going all the way to the top! It's a great way to see the peak in all its winter glory.
Take the late train, and you can catch the Adaman Club setting the New Year's Eve fireworks at the summit.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

In Mirkwood Basin, where the powder lies

So Thursday I drove to Monarch to check out Mirkwood basin for the first time. This is the new mad vertical expert area Monarch added to the north of its existing runs. Just past Salida, as the photog (grapher) and I started to climb the pass, it started dumping. I don't mean, "oh look snowflakes" dumping. I mean jackknifed trucks and spinning Texans on the highway dumping.
We made it to Monarch anyway, but Mirkwood was closed.
"Too much snow," the guys at patrol said. "But it will be sick tomorrow."
That tomorrow is basically now: Friday.
No one is there.
Well, actually, a swarm of Texans are there, but they don't ski Mirkwood. They ski the greens, ya'll.
If you can pull it off, go to Monarch now.
That is all.....


Snow crazy

I love Colorado, especially when it's sunny and warm (and windy) in Colorado Springs, but dumping snow in the mountains. Julian Lamarche, manager of the A51 terrain park at Keystone, says "it's puking snow here. It's crazy."
Carlos Garcia, public relations coordinator at Copper Mountain, reports craziness as well - "we started off with sunshine, then what seemed like 60-mile-an-hour winds, and now it's snowing." Here's what Copper looks like this afternoon. - Deb


I stood on Dercum Mountain at Keystone Resort Wednesday afternoon and wondered if what I was seeing was real: Hundreds of skiers and boarders in various states of falling, turning or colliding literally covered the trail that had become a layer of ice covered by little moguls of kicked-up snow. How could anyone ski or ride through that sea of sweaty humanity? I found myself wishing resorts - not just Keystone but any of the bigger areas in Colorado - could find a way to set limits for capacity. Restaurants, bars and arenas have them because officials know that an overcrowded building is unsafe. What about a mountain trail, especially during a holiday week? I know that resorts count on skier numbers and brag about how many people they can haul uphill per day with their high-speed lifts. But once all those people get off the lift and head downhill, it becomes a scene not unlike that on a crowded I-70 during an ice storm. Am I alone in my frustration over crowds or do you agree? Let me know by commenting here, or e-mail me at - Deb

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The power of wind

I happened upon a new Web site, and a few hours later, I finally pulled myself away. is a well-organized self-adaptive mountaineering site that features hundreds of postings and trip reports from around the world. Check out this one, posted by Scott Patterson about a climb on North Star Mountain (with this photo): "Just below the east summit, a gust of wind picked me up. It didn't push me down; it picked me up-like a toothpick. The gust carried me 25-30 feet up in the air and above the ground, and for a horizontal distance of 50-60 feet before savagely slamming me to the ground. I am not exaggerating at all (I mean I was in the air looking way down at the ground!!) and I can't believe the wind could do this! I weigh 220 lbs. Once I smashed into the ground I saw my left glove (which had idiot strings, but still ripped from my hand) and my left ski pole fly in the air until they disappeared. I had landed on my left side, with my left hand, forearm, and upper leg taking the brunt of the force." Read more on the site. - Deb

Falcons, falcons everywhere

The Gazette reported this morning that the Air Force Academy had lost a prairie falcon (photo of one at right). Well, not lost it exactly. The little winged mascot was out for a flight and just decided not to come back. Falcons will do that, I guess. The academy has been looking for the falcon, but not found him.

I can relate, because I've been looking for a falcon myself. Apparently there is a peregrine falcon living in town that frequents the old Gold Hill smoke stack on the West Side. After three sessions of waiting with binoculars, I still have yet to see it. Has anyone seen a small, blue-gray endangered raptor darting about town?


Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Just in case you ever need it...

Mahsi' choo is how you say "thank you" in Gypsie (i.e. Romani).

Ducking ropes is a FINE pastime

It looks like a series of high-profile rope ducking incidents have gotten the law dogs all fired up.
This is just off the AP wire. -Dave

KEYSTONE, Colo. (AP) — They tell gripping survival stories about pushing themselves to the limit as they spent nights in the cold and snow after getting lost, but Summit County Sheriff John Minor is not impressed with out-of-boundary snow riders.
In the past week he issued citations for Ski Safety Act violations, with $300 fines to two snowboarders who got lost outside Keystone Resort’s boundaries with violating the Ski Safety Act. He wants the fine to be more.
Sam Mason, 20, spent Friday night lost outside Keystone Resorts’ boundary. Minor also issued citations, each which carries a $300 fine, to Mason’s companions who also allegedly ducked the boundary rope at the mountain.
“We have people now going into closed areas that might have gone into a closed area last year and they can’t handle it,” Minorsaid. “The snow is exceptionally deep. ... We heard reports during this rescue that there was 8 feet of snow back there.”
John Ryan, a snowboarder from Erie who spent two nights in November in the Jones Gulch area before rescuers located him, also was fined $300 last week.
The act was passed in 1979 and the fine hasn’t been raised since. Minor said he will lobby to increase the fine to $500.
The current fine “is still a significant amount of money, but this thing doesn’t hurt like it used to, and it needs to hurt again,” Minor said.
Dan Burnett, a search and rescue volunteer for 25 years, said his group would support raising the fine, but he doubts it would keep boundary jumpers from going where they’re not supposed to.
“There’s a developing culture of people that disregard ski area boundaries,” Burnett said. “Its very concerning because truly the safety of the mountain rescue people is jeopardized whenever we have to go into closed areas because they are closed for a reason. ... It’s kind of a human mentality to think, that sign, that rope closure doesn’t apply to me.”

Sock talk

What was in your stocking? Socks, perhaps? An informal survey of local outdoor stores (OK - Mountain Chalet and REI) this morning showed that socks were a popular gift item for Christmas. I'm not surprised. These aren't your Grandpa's socks - they're merino wool or acrylic or high-tech blends. They're anti-fatigue, anti-moisture, anti-friction, anti-odor. Some promise even more benefits. Oxysox, is a brand that claims to help maintain the flow of oxygen to your feet. These socks create a high area of pressure around the feet so blood can flow back to the heart more quickly. Fans of these socks say they feel like wearing an ACE bandage on your feet. - Deb

Back on the Trail

After a few days of candy canes and roast beef and sugar plums and all that other Christmas stuff, I took a long, cleansing run up Longs Ranch Road, across to Barr Trail, and down to Manitou.
I was thrilled! I'd never been on this utilities service road before. It makes a great, although steep, loop that doesn't see much foot traffic, and because it is closed to motor vehicles, sees even less tire traffic.
I recommend it in the next few days as snow continues to melt.

By the way, for more news and pictures of local runs, as well as occasional anti-war ruminations, check out Steve Bremner's blog "talking sense". He took this picture on Longs Ranch Road during a run on Saturday.

What's up with the guy in the shorts? Brrr!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Unsettling snow

It was a sorrowful moment Thursday night when I got a call from The Gazette's night news editor asking for a picture of Patrick Niedringhaus, a high school student who died Thursday in an avalanche near Greys and Torreys peaks. Some of you may have seen his story in The Gazette Friday morning.
When the night editor first called, I couldn't think of why I would have a picture of the guy, then I remembered: He and I had snowshoed up a mountain near Alma with a Colorado Mountain Club Group in April.
I was working on a story about the long, warm days and stable snow conditions of spring that make for idea climbing. He and a friend were just learning the ropes of winter mountaineering. They were excited to find out as much as they could, and peppered me with questions about ice climbing, avalanches, and climbing big mountains.
The two obviously continued pushing into the backcountry, and Patrick was caught.
Neither of them had avalanche beacons, so when Patrick was buried under six feet of snow, he effectively disappeared. No one found him until a trained avalanche dog showed up.

It's easy, easier than most people think, to get buried in a massive avalanche. Traveling in the backcountry without avalanche beacons is foolish, but even more foolish is traveling in a group that includes only young males who are just psyched as can be to be out in the mountains and interested to find out how much they can push themselves. In a case like that, someone with experience is always helpful. If you can't find one, a common avalanche safety nugget, given only half in jest, is to bring a girlfriend.
They're more sensible, have better intuition, and statistically, are more helpful than a beacon.

I wish all the best to Patrick's family.


Virtual reality

While Deb and Dave hit the real slopes they've left me, their editor, Dena, alone in the newsroom to stare wistfully out the window at the Front Range. Luckily, I found Virtual Breckenridge to keep me busy.
The Breck gang worked with Slingshot Game Technology to create a virtual snowboarding experience. You pick the trails. You pick the weather. Check it out at if you, too, are deskbound today. And send me your best score!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Rumors have been surfacing for a while about the ill health effects of lexan plastic bottles, such as the popular blue-topped Nalgene.
In the past month alone I've heard two people off-handedly remark that the plastic breaks down into toxins.
It sounded like an urban myth, like the old razor in the apple story or the alligators in the sewer.
So I checked into it.
It seems there is some evidence that normal wear and tear can break the plastic down, releasing bisphenol-A (BPA), a chemical that mimics the hormone estrogen that could cause genetic abnormalities in developing fetuses.

An informative piece in Sierra magazine details how Patricia Hunt, a professor and researcher at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, found out about the plastics during an unrelated study. A lab tech at Hunt's lab was cleaning the lexan trays in mouse cages with a harsh detergent. Shortly after, Hunt's lab suddenly noticed an alarming defect in the mice. The defect, called aneuploidy, is an abnormal loss or gain of chromosomes.The lab did tests and traced the defects to the effect of the harsh detergent on the Lexan.

Lexan's maker, Nunc International, has said the plastic is perfectly safe. Obviously, since many people use them and still lead healthy lives, they fall somewhere short of cyanide on the safe/unsafe spectrum.
Still, if you value your alleles (those little pairs of chromosomes that hold all our genetic goodies) it might be a good idea to hand-wash plastic bottles with a mild soap.

Theo Colborn, author of a book about how chemicals affect our genes called Our Stolen Future, said people with developing endocrine systems (i.e. unborn babies and their mothers) should be especially careful.


How's the melt going in your neighborhood?

Things are drip-drip-dripping away out there. I did the Incline yesterday afternoon and it was still pretty icy, but by this weekend, we'll be looking at spring-like conditions all over. If you're not too busy Christmasing or heading to the mountains to ski, I'm thinking the mountain bike trails up in Monument will be good to go.

And I don't want to jinx anything, but I wouldn't be surprised if Clear Creek or the South Platte or Parkdale on the Ark were running by Sunday or Monday -- for you kayakers with ice in your veins.

Filling in

Andy Wineke, the Gazette's TV writer, here. Dave and Deb asked me to fill in today so they could go skiing or something. It's hard being an outdoors writer. Very, very hard.

Today, I'm pondering the mountain forecast. My wife and I are headed to Uncle Bud's for a Christmas hut trip this weekend (you can read more about Colorado's backcountry hut system Dec. 30 when Dave has a story planned. Ask him how he knows to put "hut lock combination" on the "before you leave" list).

Up near Leadville, it will be right around freezing Saturday with a chance of snow showers -- that's a recipe for sticky snow. There is nothing worse than slogging up to a hut with four inches of snow clinging to your skis with every step (ask me how I know). I'd better put another layer of Glop Stop on my skins.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

If it's champagne, it's Steamboat

Another posting from Steamboat Ski Area and another mention of that darned "champagne powder" got me wondering: Why can't Copper Mountain or Breck or Winter Park talk about their recent fluffy snow that way? What, does Steamboat have a lock on the CP description? Well, apparently it does. The folks at Steamboat are so proud of the dry fluff that builds up on their trails that they copyrighted the phrase "Champagne Powder." According to sources, locals backed up their claim for the world's best powder by hiring meteorologists who determined that Champagne Powder has 70 percent less moisture than old average snow. - Deb

Two Elk issues still simmer

The news last week that two hippies in Eugene, Ore., Chelsea Gerlach and William Rodgers, were named as suspects (though not charged with anything) in a federal investigation of the 1998 burning of buildings at Vail prompts us to look back at what the fuss was all about. After all, whoever burned Two Elk Lodge was upset about something.

In this case, it was concerns over the lynx. Vail wanted to (and eventually did) expand south into an area called Blue Sky Basin that was rumored to be one of the last places in the state where wild lynx lived. No one had ever seen this big-footed cousin of the bobcat in the area, but a decade before a trapper had spotted what he thought was a lynx track. The argument was, if you build Blue Sky Basin, it's curtains for the lynx.

Almost 10 years later we know better. Blue Sky Basin hasn't ruined the lynx population's chances.
Starting in 1999, Canadian lynx were released into the San Juans where they appear to be doing quite well. According to the Division of Wildlife, in spring 2005 there were 34 female lynx from the releases that had active radio collars. Twenty-three possible mating pairs were documented during breeding season, with 46 kittens. Numbers are still extremely low, and the division has had problems with poaching, but it seems like lynx can live here and raise young.

But the story isn't over. As the lynx are expanding their range, so is Vail. The resort plans a private ski area above the town of Minturn, just southwest of the current resort. There will probably be another battle among the forest service, the ski company, and people concerned with leaving some public land for the wildlife.
Both have serious backing. Skiing is one of the main industries in the state, but the inherent value of untouched public land is not lost on most state residents either.
If things get heated again, let's hope those opposed to the expansion leave their matches at home.

By the way, a question for readers: Is it ethical for journalists to refer to the alleged group of saboteurs living in Eugene as a "cell" or does this bias the reader? - Dave

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Owl break

Call it a mid-afternoon curiosity attack, but when I saw a release from Mueller State Park about a nature program called "Owl-Rageous" that promised to answer the question: "Can an owl really turn its head all the way around?", I had to know before I could return to my work. After extensive research, I found out that the great horned owl and most other owls can rotate their heads 270 degrees, not enough for the "all the way around" award, but pretty impressive anyway.
If you want more owl facts, the Mueller program is at 11 a.m. Dec. 28.
By the way, I love watching owls - this tiny flammulated owl was a guest at the Pueblo Raptor Center earlier this fall. - Deb

Ski Alert!!!

No, using three exclamation points is not too brash. The sun may be out here, but it dumped in the mountains last night! Who knew? Above is the view from Two Elk Lodge at Vail as of 8:25 a.m. Snow is expected to continue today. Tomorrow will be partly sunny. Then two more days of snow before the weekend. Here's the current count:
Vail -- 13 inches. (19 in the last 48 hours)
A-Basin -- 14 inches.
Monarch -- 8 inches
Copper Mountain -- 11 inches
Silverton -- 22 inches

The only mountain to not get at least four inches is Wolf Creek, which only has a 29-inch mid-mountain base. Poor Wolf Creek, which is usually the snowiest area of the state, keeps missing the storms. Only 67 inches this year. I've seen it snow almost that much in a weekend there before.

Monday, December 19, 2005

The deer who stole Christmas

Maybe he had always dreamed of being one of the elite (you know, Santa's reindeer). Or maybe he's just clumsy. Whatever the reason, this buck wound up adorned with a strand of lights from Bob and Cheryl Gile's Colorado Springs yard. The family had decorated two small ponderosa pine trees in the front yard, but two days later, noticed a strand of lights was missing. A few days later, this guy showed up, decorated for the holidays. - Deb

Worked up over a woodpecker

A story in The Gazette this morning tells of dozens of birders flocking to wildlife refuges of the Arkansas Delta, armed with cameras and binoculars. They are searching for the ivory-billed woodpecker, a bird that hadn't been seen for 60 years and was thought to be extinct. In 2004, a kayaker and amateur birder happened upon one in the eastern Arkansas swamps; that sighting excited dedicated birders who are determined to see the bird for themselves. We don't know if this red-capped bird has the box-office power of, say, a penguin, but the marketing has already begun. Ducks Unlimited is offering a limited-edition print by Ralph McDonald, the group's International Artist of the Year.

Hiking the Scar

Yes, there is a trail up "The Scar," a.k.a. Queens Canyon Quarry. But, no, it's not open. I asked for information on it a few days ago and found out it is only open a few days a year on official "hike the scar days."
The rest of the time, it's set aside as a big horn sheep preserve.
I can remember in high school in the early 1990s, mowing lawns to make money during the summer, and going to drop off the clippings at the end of the day on the scar. The idea was to use all of the city's clippings to mulch the massive bare rock face so it could eventually come back to life. Even then, the big horns were there. They would come up to our truck as we shoveled the bed clear and nibble the fresh, green clippings.
The sheep are still there, now eating natural grass growing on the mulch. We'll just have to wait a while to see them.


Thoughts on home

Each time I plan an adventure, I'm curiously torn. I'm excited about the trip but I begin to miss my home even before I've left. I'm not alone. World-class adventurer Mark Jenkins, a columnist for Outside magazine , writes about the pull of home in January's issue: "Without my home, a place to leave from and return to, travel would be impossible for me. In the balancing scale of life, home is the antipodal counterweight to travel. It is the hand that holds the kite string - and, should the string snap, the kite will twist and fold and drop from the sky like a buckshot bird." - Deb

Friday, December 16, 2005

Mountain Access 101

A front page story in The Gazette today outlined a statutory end game for the struggle between hikers and private land owners on the state's fourteeners. Apparently, Gov. Owens is going to propose "some legal immunity" against personal injury lawsuits for landowners who grant hikers access across their land. And you can be sure that if it's properly written, it will pass. As one of our city editors said, "this is ma and apple pie stuff. No one can vote against it."

But what exactly is going on? Why are some fourteeners closed and others open? Aren't they all on National Forest land? For a complete examination, check out the story I did this summer on why property owners barred access to the peaks, and why hikers climb anyway.

Or, for a quick primer, let's do the numbers:

Of the 54 official fourteeners in Colorado, six have curtailed public access: Mount Lincoln, Mount Democrat, Mount Bross, Mount Sherman, Mount Wilson and Culebra Peak.

One of them, Culebra, is on an old Spanish land grant. People can currently make reservations to climb it for $300 a person.

One, Sherman, is owned entirely by the Leadville Lead Co. Though it is private property, hikers are welcome.

Three: Mount Lincoln, Mount Democrat, and Mount Bross, are posted "no trespassing," though thousands of people have climbed the mountains since the signs went up and the authorities have made no move to stop them.

And one peak, Wilson, has private mining claims on a few sides, but still has clear routes to the top.

So, despite a lot of talk about six fourteeners being "off limits," all can still be climbed in one way or another.

The big news of this bill, if it passes, will be all the smaller trail access issues in the state that it has the potential to solve. After all, access isn't just a fourteener thing, and private land and in-holdings are more common lower down.
In the Pikes Peak region, we have a number of trails that are, to say the least, problematic. The best example is the Schubarth Trail in Monument. The last mile of this classic mountain bike trail runs past the house of an unsympathetic property owner. Consequently, riders have to take a five-mile detour if they want to ride in the area. Other trails include the Intemann Trail, which still has an unofficial section crossing private land, and the Williams Canyon Trail, which starts on Cave of the Winds property and attracts trespassers by the dozen.
If Owens can solve some of those sticky situations, then I say, give me some ma and apple pie.


Thursday, December 15, 2005

Recon on "the scar"

I've heard Queens Canyon Quarry (also called "The Scar") has a great trail to the top now that it has been reclaimed. I was thinking I'd go check it out in the next few days. Has anyone been there? Can anyone offer some tips on where to find the trail?

the big ticket this weekend

The U.S. Snowboard Championship Grand Prix is finishing up in Breckenridge Friday and Saturday.
All the top riders are there hitting the pipe because this is their last chance to qualify for the Olympics. The action in the pipe is the best you'll see anywhere, and it's free. This would be like if all the best N.B.A. players got together for a dunking contest and just gave away tickets.
It shouldn't be missed.
Then, Saturday night the folks in Breckenridge have set up a "rail jam" under the lights where the pros can strut their stuff without worrying about points, accompanied by the sounds of Digital Underground. (Remember The Humpty Dance?)

We can debate why in the last two or three years ski towns have embraced early 90s rap acts later. For now, just get up there and enjoy yourself. You don't have to be handy on a board to be wowwed by these athletes.


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Something stinks, but it's not the trees

I went to take a walk in the woods at Fox Run Regional Park yesterday. At the trailhead I was greeted by a sign that said "TO PREVENT XMAS THEFT TREES HAVE BEEN TREATED TO SMELL BAD AT ROOM TEMP."

Yeah, right. Not that I want people to steal trees from the county park, but this statement ranks right up there with "SPEED CHECKED BY AIRCRAFT."

A quick search of the Web shows no bad-smelling product to spray on evergreens to prevent theft.

Ironically, the park also desperately needs to be thinned after several decades of fire suppression. Maybe letting a few permitted tree cutters in isn't such a bad idea.


Both big and old, but one is not quite dead

Two items in the Gazette caught my eye this morning: first the news of the possible world-record-sized big horn sheep that just died. Second, a possible suspect in the world-record-cost eco-sabotage case of "who burned down Two Elks Lodge" that I thought was dead.
In 1998, when the lodge burned, a statement about the fire was signed "Earth Liberation Front" or ELF.

What's more surprising, finding a massive big horn living in Pueblo West, or finding an ELF seven years after a crime living in Portland?

I vote for the elf. In the months that followed the fires, I remember rumors in Vail and Boulder of undercover FBI agents everywhere searching for these guys. The usual suspects at the EARTHFIRST! collective in Boulder were questioned, but the trail was cold. A gas can found by a hunter several months later obviously did not help much.

But something new must have popped up because Oregon resident Chelsea Dawn Gerlach was charged with the crime. It will be interesting to see what evidence the Feds have on a case that has been dead for so long.
As for our recently departed big horn. We wish him luck with the Boone and Crockett guys.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Help wanted

If you're the kind of person who just has to be the first to try something new, this is for you: The new Echo Mountain Snowboard and Ski Park has scheduled a job fair Saturday in Evergreen. Echo Mountain is the reincarnation of the old Squaw Pass ski area in Clear Creek County. It's 30 acres of park with hits, rails, pipes and more. Hit the job fair from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Buchanan Recreation Center in Evergreen, 32003 Ellingwood Trail.
Where is Echo Mountain? From Denver, take I-70 west to Evergreen Parkway, then right on Squaw Pass Road. Drive 11 miles. Check out the park online at

A giant falls

He spent his last days alone, and now a bighorn ram that could be among the largest in the world has died. The Colorado Division of Wildlife says the ram, thought to be between 12 and 13 years old, was found dead in late November on property owned by Fort Carson. For years, the ram was seen in a small herd on private property west of Pueblo Reservoir, but the DOW believes the old guy was driven away by younger males. Since August, officials from the base and the DOW have watched over the majestic ram.


Q. How many sunflower seeds can a red fox eat?
A. As many as he wants.
I thought the fox was a carnivore, but after watching one devour the fallen contents of a bird feeder in my yard this morning, I learned something: if he's hungry, this particular fox isn't picky. I have to wonder, though, if he would prefer the plump little finches and chickadees that hang around the feeder instead of the crunchy seeds they eat. According to the Colorado Division of Wildlife, ( foxes mostly eat rodents, rabbits and birds. This photo comes from Wild Forever, ( a local wildlife foundation that cares for sick, orphaned and injured wildlife in the Pikes Peak region. - Deb

A snow brainer

Snow is predicted for the mountains again today - with 2 inches by dark, then 2 to 7 more inches tonight. This winter is turning out to be the perfect time to brush up on your snow crystals. We suggest, a Web site created by a Caltec physics professor. Study his site and you'll soon be able to identify a sectored plate from a stellar dendrite.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Thoughts on trees

Every time I see a car with a Christmas tree lashed to its top, I think of Enos Mills. A naturalist who is considered "The Father of Rocky Mountain National Park," Mills loved trees and wrote about them often.
From one of his collections of essays:
"I never see a little tree bursting from the earth, peeping confidently up among the withered leaves, without wondering how long it will live or what trials or triumphs it will have. I always hope that it will find life worth living, and that it will live long to better and to beautify the earth. I hope it will love the blue sky and the white clouds passing by. I trust it will welcome all seasons and ever join merrily in the music, the motion, and the movement of the elemental dance with the winds. I hope it will live with rapture in the flower-opening days of spring and also enjoy the quiet summer rain. I hope it will be a home for the birds and hear their low, sweet mating-songs. I trust that when comes the golden peace of autumn days, it will be ready with fruited boughs for the life to come. I never fail to hope that if this tree is cut down, it may be used for a flagpole to keep our glorious banner in the blue above, or that it may be built into a cottage where love will abide; or if it must be burnt, that it will blaze on the hearthstone in a home where children play in the firelight on the floor." - Deb

Light hiking

I don't know about you, but most of my hikes don't involve Christmas lights. If you do find yourself in a holiday mood and a hiking mood at the same time, take a walk up Mount Cutler. The small but impressive peak in North Cheyenne Canon is hikeable year-round, and this time of year, offers a great view of the lights that decorate Seven Falls. Start at dusk and don't forget a flashlight. Watch for the trailhead on your left after you enter the park. - Deb

Friday, December 09, 2005

Meet and greet

Shameless promotion: There's a holiday book signing event at REI Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. starring photographer Todd Caudle and authors Nancy Hobbs, Craig P. Kennedy, Andrea C. Jehn Stop by for what promises to be fascinating conversation about hiking, climbing, trail running, mountain biking and winter recreation. - Deb

A good gift and a good read...

Anyone who got their hands on Ellen Meloy's original, insightful book, "Anthropology of Turquoise," should find their way to her latest, and final book, "Eating Stone," which recounts four years the Utah author spent following the rare desert bighorn.
Meloy died in late 2004, but not before establishing herself as one of the freshest voices in Western nature writing.
"Eating Stone" has gotten rave reviews. It would make a nice package beneath the tree. Buy it now, and you'll have time to read it before giving it away. - Dave

Big ticket or big savings? It depends how you buy.

The Gazette and many other news outlets ran a story yesterday about how Vail had raised its ticket price to $81 a day, making it the most expensive resort in North America. Vail smugly says it charges that much because it can -- it's the best.
Sounds ridiculous right? Who can afford that much cash and also be foolish enough to pay full price? Well, not many.
Vail estimates only 15% of skiers pay full ticket window price.
The rest either get "ski and stay" deals that can knock a daily price down below $50 or get in on early season four-pack and season pass deals that can knock it down to $30 or less.
Smart Front Rangers tend to snap up these last two items. How can you pass up a season pass for $350 or less? Just use it 12 times and you're skiing at about $30 a day! Ski 100 days (ah, to dream) and you're skiing for less than the price of a grande mocha. But can you get in that many days?
There's the rub: The average season pass holder in Colorado, according to Vail, only skis seven days. That works out to $50 a day. Big savings over the $81 price at the ticket window, but not nearly as good a deal as a four-pack.
I'm on my sixth day so far this year. I'm aiming for 40. That will get my daily price down to about $9 a day. Not bad for skiing at the most expensive resort in North America.


Thursday, December 08, 2005

Now you can see how you broke your collar bone

Strap this little digital movie camera to your bike, your head, your kayak, your skis, your dog. "Both shock- and splash-resistant!" Take your home ski movies to the next level. Now when you drop off that "cliff," your friends can see that it really did "look way bigger from the top."
Not bad for 120 bucks.
I'm waiting for the model with a microphone so I can hear what weird noises I make when I'm dropping off a cliff or going through a rock garden on my bike.

Geared up

What are the requirements for being a gearhead? You'll know after reading about Out There's "Greatest Gearheads" Friday in The Gazette. The winner of the contest is 16-year-old Chris Mellott, who makes up for a lack of funds with ingenuity.

No whining

We're all complaining about sub-zero temperatures, but a couple who has the right to complain is doing just fine. Neal and Teresa Taylor, caretakers at Barr Camp on Pikes Peak, have been stoking the fire in their historic cabin since the temperatures plummeted. Neal reports that the temperatures at the camp, which sits in the forest at 10,200 feet, have been similar to those in town - a high of 5 degrees on Wednesday and an overnight low of -14. Neal says Barr Trail has a new layer of snow with no footprints - the camp didn't have any visitors Wednesday.
- Deb

A road on hold...

This morning's Gazette had the latest on the Upper Gold Camp Road shuffle. A few months ago, the Forest Service said it would open the road if it found the money. No one would say how easy that money would be to find. Then, yesterday, the Forest Service said it would still open the road, but first it had to let the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service make sure the action would not damage local woodland creatures in any serious way. The study is expected to take a few months, and officials say they don't expect it to change the road's status.
Meanwhile, another steep, dirt road in the Pike National Forest, The Pikes Peak Highway, is being paved by court order because it has been shown to hurt local woodland creatures, notably the endangered cutthroat trout.

Interesting paradox.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

A cold and dubious honor

Every year the AdAmAn club adds another man to their club. Hence the name.
Then they make the new recruit break trail through the snow on their New Year's Eve climb of Pikes Peak.
Surprisingly, they still manage to find an eager inductee each fall.
This year, it's the Rev. David L. Hunting, 53, of Manitou Springs.
Weather permitting, the club’s members and guests will greet the New Year at midnight, December 31st, with a spectacular fireworks display at the 14,110-foot summit. They've climbed the mountain almost every New Year's Eve since the founding "Frozen Five" members, including Fred Barr, started the tradition in 1922.
The Rev. Hunting is an ordained clergyman at the Historic Community Congregational Church of Manitou Springs, United Church of Christ, and has climbed with the AdAmAn Club as a guest for nine years. He has extensive mountaineering experience and has climbed Pikes Peak more than 20 times.

Come let's go
snow viewing
'till we're buried


I just thought such an austere winter day called for an austere old poem. If this one by the old Japanese Taoist doesn't do it for you, then how about one from the somewhat young Californian Taoist, Gary Snyder:


in the blue night frost haze,

the sky glows with the moon

pine tree tops

bend snow-blue,

fade into sky, frost, starlight.

the creak of boots.

rabbit tracks, deer tracks,

what do we know.


Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Run, then hibernate!

You raise them up and then you let them go. That's what the Colorado Division of Wildlife did for two bear cubs last week. The cubs were captured last summer north of Pagosa Springs when their mother was killed by a campground operator after she repeatedly foraged in dumpsters and campsites. Her cubs were only 10 pounds when they were captured and taken to the Frisco Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. When they were released in a wilderness area north of Pagosa, they each weighed more than 100 pounds. These siblings had developed a taste for garbage when they were with their mother, but DOW officials hope that they'll forget during their hibernation and emerge as good, law-abiding bears. - Deb

Forget the snow for a moment or two

A major storm is supposed to level us this afternoon, so in the interest of staying calm, I suggest a visit to the warm, green forests of Barro Colorado. No, this spot isn't actually in Colorado. Barro Colorado is the largest forested island in the Panama Canal waterway, and is part of Barro Colorado Nature Monument where there is a renowned biological research station.
Here's what you do: Get the snow shovel out and locate your warmest gloves. then sit down by your computer, take a deep breath and say "ahh."
To see more images of this lush place, go to
- Deb

Monday, December 05, 2005

Nothing but Blue Sky

It's official. There is so much early season snow in the mountains that even old-timers are amazed. A friend was at Breckenridge Friday, and said a resort employee told her he hadn't seen this much snow this early in 35 years. We don't know if it really has been that long, but we do know that even the most grizzled skiers and riders are impressed. The numbers tell the tale: Vail and Winter Park have had more than four feet of snow in the past week.
There's so much snow at Vail that officials are opening Blue Sky Basin Friday. - Deb

But can you frame it?

Now we know why a one-day lift ticket at Aspen costs $78. It’s not only a lift ticket; it’s also a work of art.“Ski Madonna” a painting by Japanese artist Yutaka Sone, decorates day tickets at the ski area. The artwork is a collaboration between the Aspen Art Museum and Aspen Skiing Co. Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson, director and chief curator of the Aspen Art Museum, explained the idea in an article in the Aspen Times. “It’s part of a philosophy I have about art,” she said. “I like to put it in unexpected places so people look at the world in a different way.” - Deb

He's big, but can he block?

Question: If the Broncos lose, do all the snowmen melt? Not if the Kaspari family has anything to do with it. This Pueblo West family put all their efforts and, as you can see in the photo, most of the snow into their yard to make this puffy snowman who is a huge Bronco fan.
Family members are Mark and Rebecca with Noah and Megan.

Take a trip to China

The wait is over for the opening of one of the state's backcountry bowls. China Bowl opened Sunday at Vail. The expert terrain can be reached via the Sourdough Lift (chair 14) and the Sun Up Lift (chair 17). For more info, go to

Friday, December 02, 2005

Oops, we goofed.

A note in today's Out There about the Trails and Open Space Coalition's caroling hike should have said it is open to members only - and there are limited spaces available. Sorry to leave the rest of you out in the cold. But there's no monopoly on outdoor caroling, so gather up some friends and make your own invite-only event.

Size doesn't matter

Ski Cooper might be the littlest ski area in Colorado (except for Howelsen Hill, and that's mostly for jumping anyway), but it's still one of my favorites. Cooper tried to open Thanksgiving week, but the weather didn't cooperate, so it closed. The area doesn't make snow, so it's at the mercy of Mother Nature. Well, the old broad came through yesterday and Cooper opens today with 11 inches of new snow and a respectable mid-mountain base of 38 inches. Cooper is open this weekend and next, then opens for the season Dec. 16. Check out
- Deb

Bad for the World Cup, good for you.

It's snowing in the mountains. And it just keeps snowing. There hasn't been one big news-grabbing dump, but Summit, Vail, and Grand Counties have gotten six-inch servings of the white stuff every day this week. It's dumping there now, and the forecast calls for more through the night.
They've had so much snow and poor visibility that some practices at the World Cup races in Beaver Creek were cancelled, and race times have been slow, but a friend who ski patrols called last night to say "you gotta get up here, this is the best early season I've seen in years."

The best way to get a quick rundown on snow conditions is The site gives you reported snow depth at all the state's resorts. Just remember, they only update once or twice a day, so while it keeps snowing, those numbers are growing! Get going!


Thursday, December 01, 2005

The next local wilderness area

Some of you may have read in this week's Gazette about the Brown's Canyon Wilderness area taking another step forward in becoming official wilderness area. For those of you who have never been there, like me, Brown's Canyon is an accordion of dry rocky valleys running up from the Arkansas River between Buena Vista and Salida to the top of the Park Range.
It's been on the wilderness study list for years, meaning it fits the definition of a statutory wilderness by having greater than 5,000 acres, but has lacked the congressional oomph to get to the next level until now.

But what about the rest of our region? Is there more wilderness that could qualify as "Wilderness" and is only waiting for the right PR director?


All along the Arkansas Valley from Salida down there is a string of suitable places including the rough, steep washes of Grape Creek west of Canon City, MacIntyre Hills just to the north, and Badger Creek just northeast of Salida.

More important to folks in Colorado Springs is Beaver Creek, a vast jumble of hills and canyons and cliffs that drain the south side of Pikes Peak. For those of you who have never been to Beaver Creek, which I would imagine is most of you since the trails are few and rarely mentioned, make a plan to visit. It is one of the most beautifully rugged and surprising places in the area. Steep, impossibly dry hills hide deep mossy pools along strong flowing creeks. High ridges hide mountain lions, bears, deer, and maybe a bighorn sheep or two.

Beaver Creek is still a long way from becoming a state-recognized Wilderness because it has no organized group advocating for it like the folks in Salida pushed for Brown's Canyon, but it may have the best shot, judging on its own geographic merit, for becoming the area's next wilderness. When that will happen is another question.

Ski like a movie star

Here's your chance to mingle with the really cool know, the ones who work on the Warren Miller crew. The film company has dispatched its top cinematographer to Steamboat ( this week to capture the early season big powder (we're talking four feet) action for next year's film. Skiers Max Mancini, Arnie Backstrom and Dave Babic are in Steamboat for the week. They'll all pretty much look like this.
- Deb

Wish you were there

From my desk in the Gazette's newsroom, I can gaze out at Rampart Range. Looking north and west, I have witnessed some gorgeous sunsets and can watch the weather as it moves over the mountains. Some aren't so lucky - even at the newspaper, there are many who work in cubicles with no windows, no view, no sunsets. Now, you can have that view in a virtual way, courtesy of Colorado Nature Photographers. A regional group of, it is a cooperative effort of amateur and professional shooters.
Check out their work at - it includes stunners like this pic taken in Garden of the Gods by James Chinnick. - Deb