Friday, March 31, 2006

Ready to suffer: the Elk Mountain Traverse Check-in

I arrived in Crested Butte today for the 40-mile Elk Mountain Traverse ski race over the mountains to Aspen. We'll start at midnight so we can pass over some dicey avalanche zones at dawn before the sun loosens the snow. Now, we're packing and waiting.

As you can see, we have a lot of stuff to cram into our packs, but we have no choice; most of the stuff is required by the race organizers. We showed up this morning to have our packs checked by the judges to make sure we had everything from sunglasses to a stove.

There were about 250 other racers with their skis and packs. The scene was about what you would expect, bearded mountain folk with ratty, sun-faded baseball caps and $150 sunglasses -- and a surprising number of blue eyes.

My lovely wife, Amanda, ever the terse observer, said, "What a surprise, a bunch of white people paying to suffer in their free time." I had to agree. Looking around, you could sort of understand how Leif Eriksson got some guys to willingly sail to find the new world in an open boat.

We have 4 1/2 hours until the race starts. Now we just nap and wait and pack and re-pack. The weather looks good. It should be a balmy 19 degrees when we start tonight. Little wind. A slight chance of snow.

I can't help but think dawn will find us in good shape. Though, I have to say, last time I pulled an all-nighter, it was in college and involved beer. We'll see how it goes. The key, as Matt Carpenter would say, is CFM, constant forward motion.
I won't have a chance to post again until after the race. Don't expect it to be coherent.

First to shred

Wondering what the first mass-market snowboards looked like? How they rode? Head to Ski Cooper on Saturday and find out. Cooper's hosting its King of the Mountain competition and exhibition to mark the 25th anniversary of regional snowboard competition.

There'll be slalom and downhill races and a rail jam open to the public. Cooper got 4 inches of snow Thursday and closes Sunday, so there's no putting this one off.

The photo? According to, it's a Bryce Kanights photo, circa 1984, of Tony Guerrero on an old Burton board. Plank.


Should you stay or should you go?

What's a Front Ranger to do when forecasts call for weekend weather great for hiking and biking, yet there's fresh snow and mere days left till most resorts call it quits for the season?

Colorado Ski Country USA, the state's ski resort hub, reports fresh snow across the mountains, from 11 inches at Vail, to 15 inches at Durango, to 24 inches - WOW - at Silverton.

It's a win-win. Whether you stay here or head uphill, do SOMETHING. This isn't the weekend for computing your tax return. Get out there.

And check here Sunday to see how Dave did on his first run at the Elk Mountains Grand Traverse (backcountry skiing 40 miles from Crested Butte to Aspen).

(No, that photo's not from this week; photographer Christian Murdock shot it earlier this season at Steamboat.)

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Robin watch

A Gazette caller was worried. "Where are all the robins this spring?" she asked. "They're gone!"

Well, they aren't gone, except maybe from that caller's backyard. Risë Foster-Bruder, president of the Aiken Andubon Society, assured us that robins haven't vanished. It's just that they have abandoned their popular harbinger-of-spring role for year-round residency. In fact, the last Christmas Bird Count turned up 295 robins, compared to fewer than a dozen the year before.

Foster-Bruder says robins will move around in winter to avoid the nastiest weather, and then return to higher ground.

Green vs. greens

People are taking sides in the recently announced proposal to build a nine-hole golf course in Bear Creek Regional Park. The golf enthusiasts who have approached the county with the proposal believe the land, 50 acres south of the park headquarters and east of 21st Street, is perfect for a gold course. Opponents, including the Trails & Open Space Coalition board of directors, believe it's perfect without a golf course, and that golf courses don't follow the new Parks Master Plan.

Here's the sticking point: The land is not developed now other than hiking trails. Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing depends on your point of view. Many want to preserve it as a little undeveloped jewel in the heart of the city. Others would love to see another golf course, even though the region already has 31 (private and public). But everyone agrees on one point: "It's a beautiful piece of property," said course proponent Judy Bell in an article in The Gazette March 25. (Check out the area south of the community gardens on this map.)

The parks department has scheduled a public meeting at 7 p.m. April 11 at the Bear Creek Nature Center, 245 Bear Creek Road.

Lynx on their way

The Canada lynx population of Colorado will increase by four Saturday. That's the day the Colorado Division of Wildlife will release four lynx from the Yukon Territory and British Columbia. The program to reestablish the lynx in Colorado was started in 1999. Since then, wildlife biologists have released 218 of the big-footed cats in Colorado, mostly north of the town of South Fork and in an area bordered by Leadville, Buena Vista and Vail.
Lynx by the numbers:
4: Number that will get their first glimpse of Colorado Saturday.
14: Number to be released in April.
50: Number of kittens born in 2005.
78: Number of lynx confirmed dead since program began.
105: Number of kittens born since 1999.
140-200: Number of lynx living in Colorado now.
218: Number of lynx released in Colorado since 1999.
The DOW has more information on its Web site:

Start thinking Wolf Creek

The storm front causing high clouds on the Front Range is heading smack dab into Wolf Creek Pass. Wolf Creek ski area got 14 inches of fresh snow in the last 48 hours. It's snowing there now, and more snow is predicted Saturday and Sunday.

Sunday is Wolf Creek's last day, and it also happens to be a "local appreciation day," which means half-price tickets for everyone, no matter where you're from.

If you've been talking about making the 3.5-hour trek down to the Wolf all winter, now is your last and best chance.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The power of trees

This shouldn't come as a surprise to people who love trees: A series of studies at the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, has shown that trees actually enhance our lives. Researchers there look at the impact of the physical environment in the inner city on people.
Their studies showed:
- In an inner-city residence, the greener the neighborhood, the lower the crime rate.
- Girls who can view nature from home score higher on tests requiring self-discipline and concentration.
- Symptoms of children with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) are relieved after contact with nature.
- Inner-city neighborhoods with more trees and grass in common areas are used more by residents, who form relationships made stronger by the greenery.
- Green spaces can help relieve the stress associated with poverty.
- Inner-city families with trees and green spaces close-by have a safer environment than those in barren spaces.
(The Siberian elm pictured here is a Colorado National Champion Tree that grows in Grand Junction.)

Park Service plan attacked

A coalition of environmental groups is working to silence the Grand Canyon. Rock the Earth is challenging the National Park Service's decision to allow motorized, commercial rafting tours and helicopter sightseeing trips to continue through the park.
The group's press release is on the Rock the Earth Web site. Rock the Earth and its environmental partners note that the presence of motorized boats and helicopters dominates the limited access to the Colorado River. They believe the ruling violates the National Park Service mandate that the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon be maintained as wilderness.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

In search of single track, Moab style

There's a joke people in Moab don't often tell, but people in Colorado do:

Guy goes to Moab to bike, walks into the bike shop and asks, "Where's the best single track in Moab."
The bike shop employee says, "in Fruita."

OK, it's sort of an insider joke (Fruita is an up-and-coming mountain bike destination 100 miles away) - and even then it's not that funny - but it does have a funny truth in it: Moab has almost no single track. Almost all of its famous trails are old jeep roads.

For years, the town has done nothing to change that, but about a month ago, it opened one of the first new single tracks ever in the area, and the first one designed specifically for bikes. The trail is called Baby Steps. We got a hand-drawn map from a local and headed out to check it out this morning.

I can't say enough about how good it is. We had about 8 miles of windy, tight single track mixed with another 10 of fun, incredibly scenic jeep road that had it all: wide open slick rock, fast, rolling hills, steep climbs, and a little bit of us getting lost (the hand-drawn map wasn't that good).

And here's the amazing part: It was the first time all week we were on a trail with no ATVs or dirt bikes. We didn't even see any other bikers. Right now this trail is a locals' secret, but it is worth blabbing about.

If you plan on a trip to Moab this spring, stay tuned to The Gazette's Out There sections (Fridays). I'll throw in all the info for the trail soon.

Because it's dawn

"Because it's there" is the answer British climber George Mallory gave those who wondered why he felt he had to climb the world's highest mountains.

The reason behind a recent North Pole expedition is a little more poetic. South African Mike Horn and Norwegian Borge Ousland reached the North Pole last week. Why the Arctic, in winter? Because they wanted to see the sunrise from the North Pole.

The pair finished in 60 days and 5 hours. On day 59, Horn wrote on his Web site, "The Spring Equinox has arrived and the sun is in the sky 24/24. We didn’t realize that what we were seeing before was actually only the reflection of the sun. It wasn’t the sun at all. Now, after 3 months we are looking at the real sun and it is something different altogether. For the first time yesterday we saw shadows. You think you feel heat in the suns rays but in fact you don’t. It really is the most amazing sight.”

The story of the expedition is one of hardship - polar bear encounters, frostbite from temperatures as low as -40 degrees, and walking 620 miles without dogs to pull their sleds.

At the end, Horn wrote, "It's great to finally be standing on the North Pole. This mystical place is all that it is made out to be. It's incredible out here!!"

Oil and gas lease sale

Mountain bikers and black-footed ferrets won't be
pleased with this news: The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reported today that land on the Grand Junction side of the Bookcliffs will be auctioned in an oil and gas lease sale in May. The 45,721 acres in Mesa County include popular mountain biking trails. In Moffat County, 119,000 acres have been marked for development as well, including part of the Wolf Creek Management Area, where nearly 200 endangered black-footed ferrets have been released since 2001.

Riding Petrified Clouds

Yesterday, photographer Christian Murdock and I rode Moab's famous Slick Rock trail. And this morning, even after a strong coffee, I realize there is no way to describe it that doesn't make me sound like the hack leaflet author whose work covers fliers on the walls of every business in town.

But, hey, really, the only obvious difference between a leaflet writer and a newspaper writer is the quality of paper, so here goes:

Slick rock is a truly unique place. And I don't mean "huh, this is different." I mean "there is nothing like this in the world."

When I was young, I used to look up at the puffy cumulous clouds on summer afternoons and dream about being able to walk along the surface, exploring all the rounded swales and towners. Slick Rock is like one of those clouds petrified. The trail rolls over domes and long sandstone fins, rarely touching dirt.

It hugs cliffs and swings riders out to unexpected views where suddenly, turning a corner, the Colorado River is right there, slinking through a canyon as slow and muddy as the Mississippi.

It's no wonder when Mountain Biking magazine first wrote about this trail (originally built by motorcyclists) in 1986, it put Moab on the map as a mountain biking Mecca.

Yesterday, true to its reputation, the trail had probably 100 riders on it. The parking lot was full. Sometimes on narrow parts of the trail, we had to wait for groups to go by. Not that we weren't happy for the rest. This long, up and down trail could easily handle twice as many riders, and does on peak weekends.

This morning, we're trying something new. The locals just finished building the first new trail in years, a scenic single track called Baby Steps. We're on our way to check it out. Look for the report here this afternoon.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Way to go!

Two local athletes have been nominated for an Everest Award, the outdoor industry's most prestigious honor. Nancy Hobbs and Matt Carpenter have been nominated in the trail runner category. According to the Teva Mountain Games Web site, the awards are "given annually to the top male and female athletes whose skill and innovation has pushed their sport to new heights and redefined the parameters of the achievable. They are pioneers, innovators, leaders, change agents and reflects the soul of the sport."

That pretty much sums up the running careers of Hobbs, a veteran race organizer, runner and writer, and Carpenter, who holds the record for both the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon. The winners will be announced at a ceremony June 3 in Vail.

Favorite quotes from these guys:

From Carpenter's Web site, about when he started running and why: "When I moved to Mississippi I started running because I had nothing else to do. I had always played in the band and it turned out because of a scheduling conflict I had to drop band to take chemistry. Soon after I heard an announcement to try out for cross country. I did because I thought they really meant I would run across the country!"

From Hobbs' bio on the same site, about when she started running: "Sometime in high school because my father started running and I wanted to see how far I could run."

Sure signs of spring skiing

From the eyes of Gazette editor Joanna Bean:

1. The parking lot is full but the slopes are deserted. The patio at the base lodge? It's packed.
2. The lift attendants are crabby. Or giddy.
3. On the drive home you see kayakers pulling out of the river.
4. The sun is still overhead while you're soaking in the creek-side pools at Mt. Princeton - even though you caught the last chair up at Monarch.

Mad about Moab

I'm at the corner of Main and Center Streets in Moab, Utah, watching one car after another cruise past with full racks of bikes, bound for the red desert beyond. It's 60 degrees. The flowers are opening on the cherry trees in town. Spring riding season is in full effect.

This morning, after sleeping out on a gorgeous bluff in the desert where the stars were so bright I had to bury my head in my sleeping bag, photographer Christian Murdock and I rode the 14-mile trail/road to Gemini Bridges, a natural sandstone bridge spanning a dark, echoey canyon.

We weren't there five minutes when about 10 trail bikers pulled up. Then three more. Then four more. Then an old couple with a fancy (but dumb) dog that almost fell in the canyon. Then a mom mountain biked in with her kids. "No, don't throw M&M's down in there" she said. And then the kids did anyway when her back was turned.

This is all just to say that Moab is a wonderful place, but if you take some of the easier, more accessable roads, like the one to Gemini Bridges, you should expect to have some company.

We're here on assignment for two more days. We'd love any hints about what not to miss.
Click below to tell us about your favorite places to ride and eat.

Not lovable Bullwinkle

Warning to moose: The Colorado Division of Wildlife won't tolerate bad behavior. Warning to people: Watch out for moose.
On Sunday, a bull moose attacked and seriously injured an elderly resident of Grand Lake who was walking to church. The moose was shot and killed after the attack. "All indications are that the moose attack was unprovoked," said DOW regional manager Ron Veldade. "The DOW will not tolerate wildlife aggression towards people and in this case we felt fully justified in killing the moose."

Another attack by a moose was reported two weeks ago: A moose knocked a woman to the ground and stepped on her after it was startled by her dog. She wasn't seriously injured.

Moose encounters aren't that rare. I know a wildlife photographer who has spent time in Alaska photographing grizzlies and wolves but who had one of his scariest encounters when a moose charged him. A friend in Winter Park was jogging with her dogs near the river, and was charged by a moose. I've been lucky: Both times I met moose face to face on a trail (in the Grant Tetons and in Rocky Mountain National Park near Grand Lake), I walked away. Luckily, the moose I met were preoccupied, munching on lush green willows.

So, if you meet a moose, what do you do? These tips are from Alaska Fish and Wildlife Protection:
1. Never get between a cow and her calf.
2. Never throw anything at a moose.
3. Keep dogs under control on the trail.
4. Avoid moose that are in a fenced area or place where they might feel cornered.
5. Step behind a tree if a moose charges.
6. If a moose charges, raise your hands over your head and spread out your fingers. Hold your arms still.
7. If a moose attacks, fall to the ground, cover your head and stay still.

Springtime in the Rockies

Coloradans know that it's not really spring until the pasque springs. That's in the pasque flower. Folks at Starsmore Discovery Center in North Cheyenne Canyon park, say it's happened. The delicate-looking lavender flower has been spotted on Upper Meadow Loop.

Friday, March 24, 2006

My little slice of heaven

Here's your bit of trivia for the day. Use it like this to impress your friends at your next party:
Did you know there are 507 million acres of public land overseen by the Department of the Interior (including the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management)?
And follow up with this: That's one out of every five acres nationwide.
And this: That's about 1.7 acres for every person in the United States.
(That's my 1.7 acres, at right - in Rocky Mountain National Park.)

Advertising on public land?

The Forest Service is considering changing the rules for advertising on public land. Right now, almost all advertising is banned, but ski areas (most of which lease land from the Forest Service) have been pushing for rules that let them advertise to skiers and snowboarders on chairlifts. Think placards on lift poles, etc.

People have until Monday to comment on the rule change.

If you want to let the Forest Service know what you think about billboards at ski areas, send a letter to USDA Forest Service, Attn: Carolyn Holbrook, Recreation and Heritage Resources Staff (2340), 1400 Independence Ave. S.W., Stop 1125, Washington, DC 20250-1125. Or send a fax to Holbrook at 1-202-205-1145, or an e-mail to

What's Silverton Mountain Really Like? Take a look:

There's so much talk, and so little actual information about Silverton Mountain for two reasons, I think. First, this epic quiver of steeps and chutes has only allowed 80 skiers a day, so very few people have actually been there. Second, those who have been, can't help but turn it into a fish story, where the runs get steeper every time they tell the tale. So what is it really like? Photographer Christian Murdock and I were there in late January. Have a look at what we saw.

Silverton Mountain opens unguided skiing March 31. Now it's your turn. Have you been to Silverton? What tips do you have for people who might go?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Pay to play?

I know people who live near Mueller State Park who haven't been inside its boundaries since it was opened. The reason: They won't pay to visit a place they used to explore free of charge.

Whether to charge or how much to charge is a dilemma faced by many states. Most states, like Colorado, rely on fees to help pay the bills.

On Monday, officials in Washington took a step in another direction, removing the $5 day-use parking fee from all state parks. They said attendance at many parks dropped dramatically after the fee was imposed. Officials there are optimistic attendance will increase in the 120 state parks now that entry is free again.

Rocky Mountain fever

Maybe it's just a coincidence, but with all the wildlife getting attention in New York City - falcons nesting, coyotes running - it seems like New Yorkers are just a little jealous of what we have in Colorado.
Case in point: Aspen, a new restaurant/club on W. 22nd Street, that city bloggers are touting as the hottest place to be seen. Reports are that Aspen has an over-the-top ski lodge decor, complete with a foggy forest, an aspen grove, and deer heads made of Lucite (it is New York, after all).

Waiting, waiting, waiting

The waiting list for people who want to raft the Colorado River is legendary, with some people waiting as long as 10 years for the chance to put their raft into the water. That could change with a plan just approved that allows more people to float through the Grand Canyon each year, but spreads out the trips over more months and in smaller groups.
The approval of the new plan, announced by the National Park Service, has also been a years-long process itself. Four years ago, a group of scientists, park officials, tour operators, and members of American Indian tribes and the public began studying usage plans:

PHOENIX (AP) — A plan that allows more people to float down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon each year but spreads them out over more months and in smaller groups has been adopted by the National Park Service.
The new Colorado River Management Plan also eliminates the current waiting list for those who want to raft the river in noncommercial boats, replacing it with a lottery system. Many people sat on the waiting list for more than a decade, and the lottery will give them some preference but does not guarantee them a slot.
The plan will shift more travelers into the fall, winter and spring months, while cutting the number of daily summertime launches of both motorized and nonmotorized commercial rafts in the upper Grand Canyon.
The result would be more tourists overall. The lower Colorado River, from Diamond Creek to Lake Mead, will see the number of pontoon boat tours go up, allowing up to 480 passenger per day, up from the current 130 passengers. The plan bans jet boat tours entirely, but commercial operators that use the craft to meet rafts above Lake Mead would still be allowed.

For more info, go to

A new beginning?

It's called delisting, and yesterday, the Wildlife Society endorsed it. A release sent by the National Wildlife Federation announced the organization believes grizzly bears in the Yellowstone ecosystem should be removed from the threatened and endangered species list:

Missoula, MT (March 22) – The nation’s largest organization of professional wildlife scientists has endorsed the removal of grizzly bears in the Yellowstone ecosystem from the nation’s list of threatened and endangered species. The Wildlife Society, comprised of nearly 7,000 individuals nationally, is joined by its Montana, Idaho and Wyoming chapters in supporting the delisting of Yellowstone’s grizzly bears.
The Wildlife Society’s position statement calls the grizzly recovery effort “a model for how cooperative efforts by state and federal resource management agencies can lead to the recovery of a listed species.” The Wildlife Society statement is particularly important in contrast to a recent letter signed by some scientists who oppose delisting.
In November, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared Yellowstone grizzly bears recovered and proposed plans to remove the bears from the Endangered Species Act’s list of threatened and endangered species. The Wildlife Society has chosen to endorse delisting because it found that population abundance, distribution, and mortality targets established in the Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan have not only been met, but “far exceeded targets in the recovery plan.”
According to the Wildlife Society:
- From an abundance standpoint, the goal of observing at least 15 different females with newborn cubs per year (based on a six-year running average) across a standardized counting area consisting of the recovery zone and a ten-mile perimeter was met every year since 1986. Extrapolating from the number of females with newborn cubs observed during 2004, the total population was estimated to be 588 bears using the methods of Keating et al. (2003). This estimate is greater than twice the population of 250 bears calculated at the time of listing in 1975.
- The annual distribution target (i.e., at least 16 out of 18 of the recovery zone's Bear Management Units must be occupied by observed females with offspring over a six-year running sum) was exceeded every year since 1998. During three of these years (2000-2002), females with offspring were observed in all 18 Units.
- Mortality of females aged two years of age or older, from all causes including estimates of unreported mortality, has been below the current threshold of no more than 9%.
“Grizzly recovery efforts have been under way for more than 20 years,” says Tom France, Director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Northern Rockies Natural Resource Center here. “Leading bear scientists helped develop a bear recovery plan with specific recovery goals. These recovery goals have undergone extensive public review, and have been ratified by the courts.”
The Wildlife Society statement notes, “the current level of recovery in Yellowstone was achieved through the active collaboration of state and federal resource management agencies. The continuation of this fruitful collaboration may be jeopardized if unattainable recovery targets are substituted for realistic and pragmatic ones.”
“We have been involved with grizzly recovery every step of the way, including development of quantifiable recovery goals,” says France. “Over the last two decades we have leaned hard on both federal and state agencies to ensure these goals were met. Now we feel a deal is a deal. It would be wrong for us to try to raise the recovery bar now that goals have been met and exceeded.”

Snow-free hiking for this weekend.

It's warming up fast and this weekend is supposed to be a beautiful, but that doesn't mean the trails are dry. Even though the snow is almost gone in town, the foothills got much more moisture from the last storm and have managed to hold onto the ice because it's been so cold.
If you want to get out and enjoy a sunny afternoon this weekend, take these trails instead:

Aiken Canyon -- An awesome four-mile loop through a nature preserve southwest of town.

The Paint Mines -- Not truly a hike, but a neat place to go mess around near Calhan.

Tunnel Drive -- An old railroad grade (pictured above) running from Canon City into the Royal Gorge.

Or, how 'bout taking a spin on Colorado Springs sprawling network of urban bike trails?

At peace on the nest

Pale Male, the red-tailed hawk that lives on a ledge above Fifth Avenue in Manhattan with his mate, Lola, continues to hunt pigeons and rats in Central Park to bring back to the nest, where Lola patiently sits on the couple's eggs. Yesterday, some stunning photos were posted on of Lola on the nest and Pale Male bringing home dinner.
The photographer writes that he is amazed at the peace Lola seems to exude, even with all the madness of the city blaring around her.
It's amazing these birds are back. Just last year, the rich residents who own their apartment ledge removed their nest. It was only after editorials in the New York Times and days of protests in front of the building that the birds were allowed to stay.
The hawks mated in early March, which means their eggs could hatch near the end of April. Keep watching.

And speaking of critters in Manhattan. More news of the coyote captured in Central Park yesterday. Given the name Hal, after the Hallett sanctuary in the park where he was first spotted, he isn't the first coyote to turn up in the park. In 1999 a coyote named Otis showed up. He now resides in the Queens Zoo.
City wildlife officials speculate that coyotes live full-time in the Bronx, just northeast of Manhattan, and Coyotes may actually have dens in Manhattan. For more photos of Hal, click here

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Bright lights, big city

How did a coyote get to New York City's Central Park Wednesday? An AP story has officials saying "the animal may have wandered into the city from suburban Westchester County, or perhaps crossed the Hudson River from New Jersey via a bridge, a railroad trestle or a passing truck."
We like the passing truck theory, in which the coyote (wily, of course) stows away in a truck, in hopes of making it to the big city.
The coyote, nicknamed Hal, was captured close to 79th Street and Central Park West, after he was shot with a tranquilizer gun. He will be taken to a wildlife center outside the city.

You've never tracked moose like this...

Web-savvy wildlife watchers can track the movements of two female Shiras moose captured in Utah and released on the Grand Mesa in January.
The girls are fitted with special telemetry collars that send a GPS signal to satellites. The data is sent back to computers on Earth to allow biologists – and anyone who has Internet access – to track the moose.
To see the tracking information, go to the DOW Web site.
Speaking of online wildlife, the owls at the owl cam are still there and - surprise - they are alseep right now.

Now we're talking

You've just finished a rigorous workout and you reach for a sports drink. You know, the kind that comes in red or blue or green and says it replenishes all the fluids and some important nutritients that left your body while you sweated and strained. A physiologist at Indiana University Bloomington believes you should rethink that sports drink choice. His suggestion: chocolate milk.

Joel Stager, a professor of kinesiology, has found that drinking chocolate milk is the best way to recover after a workout. It has a high carbohydrate and protein content and replaces fluids lost as sweat. Stager first tested his chocolate milk theory on swimmers, and the promising results led him to conduct a study with cyclists in a more controlled environment. He said chocoloate milk is most beneficial to such athletes as swimmers, long-distance runners and cyclists. Wonder if you could substitute a hot-fudge sundae?

Cheap skiing at Wolf Creek

If you read my breakdown on the cheapest spring skiing and saw the mention of Wolf Creek's Local Appreciation Day where you can ski for $23, ignore the date.
The real date for the last locals day is March 29. And the Wolf has lots of snow, so it might be worth checking out.

Who's reading this blog?

We have a tool here in the newsroom that lets us see how many users view this site, when, for how long and, most interesting to me, where they navigate from to get to our page.
Most of our visitors come from, or our excellent Out There Web page,
But some people end up here after searching on Google for phrases like "skier, tree" or "Iditarod, Colorado."

The most recent search was "Fourteeners, Jesus."
I'm thinking this guy was a local.

To see the Google results of this search, click here.

A tour of the burrow from the BLM

The Bureau of Land Management has started a cool occasional online series called "Road Trips."
The monthly e-mails highlight a program or region of the state that the BLM works with. And it's not the typical "been there, done that" stuff you find in most fliers.
This month, the road trip gives a detailed tour of the Black-Footed Ferret reintroduction program in northwestern Colorado. To see it, click here . Generally, the tour is pretty good. It tells readers the history of how the ferrets grew from a wild population of just 18 in 1985 to a meticulously managed population of about 1,000 today.
It does leave out that Colorado's population has had almost no success in reaching the goal of a reproducing wild population, but it does give readers links to some good ferret-centered nonprofits that offer more info.
You can see the latest road trip at

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

An ode to winter

It's spring, and the snow is leaving the foothills. Soon, it will be gone from the mountains. As a fond farewell to a memorable winter, I offer up this excerpt from one of naturalist and Rocky Mountain National Park advocate Enos Mills' essays called "In a Mountain Blizzard". In this essay, Mills, who frequently sought out the barren summits of peaks along the Continental Divide, tells about a battle he and his dog Scotch waged to survive a blizzard:
"At last I realized that I must stop and spend the night in a snow-drift. Quickly kicking and trampling a trench in a loose drift, I placed my elk-skin sleeping-bag therein, thrust Scotch into the bag, and then squeezed into it myself. I was almost congealed with cold. My first thought after warming up was to wonder why I had not earlier remembered the bag. Two in a bag would guarantee warmth, and with warmth a snow-drift on the crest of the continent would not be a bad place in which to lodge for the night."

Back to the beginning

Here's a trivia question for you: Which Colorado ski area hosted the first snowboard competition?
(Bonus question: What year was it?)
If you remember the contest at Ski Cooper, you're right. If you remember the year, you're really good. If you were there, you're old!
In 1981, Cooper opened its slopes to a strange and virtually unknown competitive sport - snowboarding. To commemorate the silver anniversary, Cooper is hosting "Return to King of the Mountain," a celebration of the sport that transformed ski resorts. The event will feature legendary snowboard pioneers competing on antique equipment furnished by Burton, Sims and Winterstick. There's also a rail jam open to the public, and live music. Check it out April 1 (closing day) at Cooper.

Hot Wheels

I just paid a visit to USA Cycling and got a chance to see what the U.S. team mountain bikers are riding in 2006, and it's hot.
They're on the Specialized S-Works bike: a carbon frame, disc brakes, top-of-the-line components and the most awesome rear suspension I've ever tried. The new Brain shock automatically adjusts the suspension from firmly efficient in smooth terrain to fully active in the rough stuff. Most of the time, it feels like it's a hard tail, but get into the rocks, and it immediately softens up. Very, very cool. And light, and responsive -- a race horse.
I was lusting after it. I was even thinking of turning in my old Univega.
Then I saw the MSRP: $7,800.
Wow. Too close to how much I paid for my car.
Can anyone recommend a good, all around bike that is a good value?

What are these guys learning at CU?

The Rocky Mountain News had a story today detailing how four guys from CU got lost while snowshoeing on Mt. Princeton.

These guys did just about everything wrong: They wore all cotton in a wet snowstorm; they left the trail to find a "short cut" down; they split up.

They were rescued at about 11 p.m. after calling search and rescue on a cell phone.

The rescuers said the hikers were aloof and expressed little gratitude. But the father of one young man later said the hikers would say thank you and send a hefty donation to search and rescue.

Anyone looking for basic advice before heading into the backcountry could do well reading a Gazette article with Colorado Mountain Club trip leader Bill Houghton. In short, be prepared.

And should you need help, always thank your rescuer.

Coalition Building

The head of the Nature Conservancy in Colorado, Charles Bedford, had an op-ed piece (posted below) in The Gazette today lauding a new $7 million buffer zone around Ft. Carson. Turns out, what's good for artillery ranges is good for Bambi lovers too.

The problem for the fort was this: The exurbs of Pueblo West were creeping in on the southern flank. Battalions of doublewides, each on about five acres (none with any water), had taken a position on the eastern front. I was doing trail work with a young captain one day last summer and he was grousing about the doublewide residents complaining every time the practices at Ft. Carson's gunnery range got too spirited. According to him, people even had their windows blown out.
What could Ft. Carson do? It's not going to stop lobbing shells, so it started buying people out to create a strip of undeveloped land around its proving grounds.

It turns out this strip is critical for the Nature Conservancy's master plan to maintain an undeveloped corridor on the rapidly urbanizing (or at least suburbanizing) Front Range. The group already owns the 41,000-acre Bohart Ranch southeast of Colorado Springs, which links up with two other conservation-minded ranches to the west, Chico Basin Ranch and T-Cross Ranch. These lands connect with Ft. Carson. On the west side of the post, the Nature Conservancy owns the 1,600-acre Aiken Preserve. The preserve connects to the Pike National Forest.
Together, these properties form a strand of undeveloped land stretching from the low cholla cactus flats to the icy alpine summits, creating a corridor in which animals can travel relatively freely.

So, everybody wins. Well, everybody except the people who didn't want to move out of the buffer zone.

The thing about this that I think people often overlook is that in this military town, the military bases act like open space buffers already. What would Colorado Springs look like without Ft. Carson and the Air Force Academy acting like bookends? It's not a pretty picture.

The guest commentary by Charles Bedford:
Fort Carson buffer zone a Boon to region
The Army’s recent allocation of an
additional $7 million to conserve buffer zone lands around Fort Carson will
protect not only our country’s military preparedness, but also our state’s natural heritage. The leadership and vision exhibited by U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard, Rep. Joel Hefley and the Army have begun a stream of financial and community support to an effort that ultimately will safeguard the open space and beauty of this region. Rapid urban development and loss of natural areas around military bases across the country pose a growing challenge to both military training needs and the conservation of significant wildlife habitat. As housing and other human development creep closer to military base borders, restrictions are often imposed on military activities, which can undercut the realism and effectiveness of training. This rapid development also poses an obvious threat to the relatively undeveloped lands surrounding Fort Carson, including land that is critical for four rare plant species that are found nowhere else in the world. In addition, species of concern such as the
mountain plover rely on the area for habitat. Mexican spotted owls, ferruginous hawks and herds of elk and pronghorn also depend on these lands. Fort Carson is in the bullseye of development pressures. In the last decade, the population of Colorado Springs has grown 30 percent,
topping a half-million and making Forbes Magazine’s list of “Steroid Cities.” As Colorado Springs continues to invest in its growth, we must also invest in preserving the open spaces and diverse wildlife that make Colorado such wonderful place to live. Under the Department of Defense
buffer program, the military, state and local governments, conservation groups, and landowners are all working together to protect training, quality of life, traditional lifestyles and natural resources. Activities involving private land are undertaken with the full endorsement of willing landowners.
In these days of fiscal constraints and increasing conflicts over land use, a policy that accomplishes multiple public benefits with one action and that is based on cooperation and collaboration rather than conflict deserves everyone’s support — and certainly has ours. While Allard’s and Hefley’s leadership has allowed us to make great progress, there is more work to be done. Only about half of the land in the buffer zone around Fort Carson is now protected under this voluntary collaborative partnership. We’re at the 50-yard line with a long way to go. But with the leadership of our legislators and the Army, and the support of willing landowners seeking to preserve their way of life and of the local community, we know we can go the distance. Building on this momentum, The Nature Conservancy of Colorado has launched the Peak-to-Prairie Project in partnership with Colorado Open Lands and the local ranching community to protect a landscape stretching east from Cheyenne Mountain to the Chico Basin and Bohart ranches, knitting together a series of protected lands and preserving open spaces between Colorado Springs and Pueblo. Neighboring ranchers are a critical part of the buffer effort. The shortgrass prairie ecosystem needs large, unbroken landscapes to thrive, and ranches provide some of the best remaining large
examples of this system. Sustaining wildlife and our agricultural heritage go hand-in-hand. Ranchers, military staff, public agencies and local people are coming together in an unprecedented way to make this a very exciting, crucial time for the region. What we do today will determine what this
landscape will be 10 years from now. Here, now, there is the chance to protect huge parcels of land owned by just a few people. In a very real sense, the team effort will define the future of this community. It’s no wonder Fort Carson is becoming a model throughout the country for how to use buffer zones to enhance wildlife and quality of life while preserving traditional lifestyles and military needs. The Nature Conservancy stands with so many others in the Colorado community to say thank you to Allard and Hefley and to the Army leadership at Fort Carson and in the Pentagon for their stamina and wisdom in protecting the community values embodied in this special place. Bedford is state director of The Nature Conservancy of Colorado former director of the
Colorado State Land Board.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Psst. Fence. Pass it on

You love 'em or you hate 'em. We're talking prairie dogs. North of here, in the Boulder/Broomfield counties area, folks just can't agree about the little critters. So they're compromising by putting up a fence, according to an Associated Press story that moved this weekend. The 2,400-foot fence is supposed to keep the 'dogs on the Boulder side, where they are protected, and keep them away from the Broomfield side, where they are despised. Volunteers erected the fence out of chicken wire and pegs that they hope will keep the prairie dogs on the side where they are welcomed. Will it work? Boulder County wildlife biologist Mark Brennan explains that prairie dogs will walk until they reach a vertical barrier and then try to dig under it. A two-foot apron of wire is designed to stop them, but Brennan says the persistent animals will eventually find a way over, around or under the fence.


Here's another reason to hurry your team of sled dogs along in the Iditarod - if you're slow, you might miss the banquet. The 2006 Finishers Banquet took place Sunday night in Nome, Alaska, where awards were handed out. Sixty-five mushers attended, but five others hadn't finished the race yet. (Note to Colorado musher-watchers: Bill Pinkham of Glenwood Springs came in 40th; Buena Vista's Lachlan Clarke finished 63rd of 83 teams.

Natural vs. Synthetic clothing

14er Skier Lou Dawson had an interesting post this weekend about the benefits of wool versus synthetic layers.
His take: both are good, but when it comes to a light, next-to-skin fabric, the new, soft wools win. They're warmer when they're wet, and can still stop the stink almost as much as an anti-microbial synthetic shirt.

A growing number of outdoor companies are going back to wool and wool blends, including, of course, Smart Wool, Ibex, Ice Breaker and Ortovox.

In the snow, a sign of spring

I was on a backcountry ski in Summit County Saturday when this current storm-system first moved in. A friend and I had skied to the top of 11,400-foot Georgia Pass. Just as we reached the top, the front of the storm hit. And even though it was snowing, we heard a sure sign of spring in the form of thunder grumbling up in the clouds. We didn't see any lightning. But the thunder cracked and echoed off the hills. It sounded like summer.
It won't be long now until all the snow, even in the high country, has melted away.

A big storm that was supposed to drop up to a foot of snow on Colorado Springs wasn't all it was cracked up to be. The north end of town and Woodland Park got about four inches, but the center of town got just enough to make it icy for the morning drive.
Yesterday afternoon, I was out walking with my wife in the sunshine, and she said, "You know, I hope it does snow really, really hard. I love those big storms."
And the snow swept in hard a few minutes later, but only lasted for about a half hour. Just enough to water my flowers... and freeze them.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Space odyssey

Sure, there's new snow in the mountains. But that's not what I've been watching this morning. I'm checking out my favorite peak in a faraway place - Mars. The Gazette reported Sunday morning that Google has introduced its Mars mapping tool. The interactive site allows users to check out the red planet in three formats - color-coded by altitude, in black and white photos, and on an infrared map that shows temperature variations. So instead of watching our own mountains, check out Hecates Tholus, a bumpy little volcano that is about 18 kilometers high.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Division of Wildlife turns attention to gas drilling

With gas drilling popping up across Colorado on places such as the Roan Plateau (left) at a never-before-seen rate, the state Division of Wildlife has added a special liaison to deal with wildlife related energy issues.

Here's the press release:

In the face of increasing energy development in Colorado, the Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) has hired an Energy Liaison to assist in outreach efforts with the energy industry and federal and state regulators.

Kim Kaal, a certified professional geologist, was hired to fill the energy liaison position and began work on Mar. 1. Kaal has served as an environmental consultant to the energy industry and was environmental coordinator for EnCana in western Colorado.

"Working for years in the energy industry, I've seen how balance can be achieved between energy development and wildlife," said Kaal. "This position gives me the opportunity to work with industry and provide methods and concepts that can be used to minimize impacts."

Kaal is stationed in the DOW Northwest Region office in Grand Junction. "Energy development in northwest Colorado is occurring in the same areas that are home to the largest migratory mule deer and elk herds in the nation," said Ron Velarde, northwest regional manager for the DOW. Velarde oversees wildlife efforts in nine counties, including Garfield County which leads the state in operating drill rigs and number of permits issued for new wells. The challenge of mitigating the impacts of energy development is not just limited to one area, which is why the energy liaison will serve as a statewide authority on the energy industry.

There has been increased natural gas exploration across western Colorado, including the HD Mountains of southwestern Colorado. Beyond the natural gas boom the state is experiencing, Kaal will assist DOW staff with preparing comments regarding efforts to mine Colorado's low-sulfur coal deposits, potential oil shale development, oil wells along the Front Range, increased emphasis on wind and alternative energy, and interest in the state's uranium deposits. "Having someone with Kim's expertise and knowledge of geology is critical for the DOW," said Velarde. "We have a great deal of biological knowledge, but industry speaks a different language. Kim gives us someone who can translate our message to industry and bring industry discussions back to our level. It's not an easy job, but it's an essential job."

The DOW has no authority over energy extraction but serves in an advisory capacity for many land use agencies and regulatory bodies. The DOW is statutorily mandated to protect and enhance Colorado's wildlife resource.

Skiing this weekend? Here's the conditions

Fortunately, this is the only green you'll see this weekend. The resorts still have great coverage. No grass sticking through in this state. Summit and Eagle counties both had more than a foot of new snow this week and cold temperatures have kept it in great conditions. All the ski areas are calling for a little snow this weekend, but not enough to make driving hairy.
The bottom line: You won't find epic powder but get out early and enjoy prime corduroy.

Spring Break breakdown

If you haven't noticed the huge number of white license plates heading up Highway 24, spring break is in full effect at the ski resorts.
That means long, sunny days, corn snow, and lots of free entertainment on the mountains.

Here's a run down:

Vail has Skiing magazine's top-rated spring break party with its "Spring back to Vail" featuring huge free concerts (last year was Snoop Dog, this year's headliner hasn't been announced), an expanded amount of open terrain and the World Pond Skimming Championships. Check for details.

Breckenridge has the Spring Massive, with slopestyle and rail jam competitions for jibbers, and Breckenridge Bites, a townwide festival (April 1 -23) that allows diners to sample a three-course meal at participating restaurants for $15-$25. The season ends with two local traditions: the Imperial Challenge, a bike, hike and ski race up and down Peak 8, and the Bump Buffet, a telemark bump contest with lots of attitude and canned beer.

Copper Mountain has live music every weekend in April for its Sunsation fest, including everyone from reggae party standard Toots and the Maytals to Malian fusion rocker Toubab Krewe.

Winter Park's Spring Blast (March 25-26) will feature free music by Velvet Love Box, a rail jam, and free clinics on bump and tele skiing.

Echo Mountain Park has night skiing for $10!

And of course, no special events needed, the Arapahoe Basin beach scene is in effect.

Don't forget your sunscreen.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Incline times: what means what?

Let me just throw this out there, with the understanding that the Manitou Incline lies partially on private land, and hiking it is trespassing:

How do your tresspassing times compare with others?
This is just a rough list. Please comment below and we'll adjust it:

If you can do it in...

One hour, you're slow, but deserve respect for doing it at all.

50 minutes, you probably didn't stop to rest, even though you wanted to. Good job.

40 minutes, you move slow and steady. You're probably an incline regular.

30 minutes, you probably run races on the weekend for fun.

25 minutes, you probably come close to winning races on the weekend for fun, and pass everyone else on the incline.

20 minutes, you are one of the elite athletes in the city.

18 minutes, you are Matt Carpenter (when he still did the Incline) i.e., you are the fastest hill climber in the state, if not the whole country.

Motorcycle diaries

Mike Jacobs just finished a motorcycle trip from his home in Black Forest to Tierra del Fuego on the southern tip of Argentina. Now he's riding back.
He's keeping a great
online journal.

Some of the choice entries I found in a quick glance include this one:

Ride from Popayan to Ipicles, Colombia

Welcome to Switzerland without the snow. My partner Luis agreed the country side and the views were Switzerland. Only the buildings were Latin America.

Most of the towns were picturesque with different color row houses and shacks.

Interesting sights and events were
1. Beautiful waterfalls;
2. Riding the mountain ridge line and overlooking two deep valleys by just turning my head 180 degrees,
3. Seeing bicyclists hitching rides up the hills by hanging on the tailgates
4. Rivers far below in the valley.
5. Meeting an Italian bicyclist riding from Mexico to Peru. At the time he was repairing his inner tube.
6. Washing the bike for about on hour.
7. Finding an altitude of almost 11,000 feet where it was 62’F.
8. Changing temperature from 100° F to 53° F in Ipicles.
9. Challenging the army on a bridge! The army has soldiers stationed at most bridges in Colombia. On a very long bridge I stopped in the middle to take a photo. The soldiers at both ends started waving at me and were coming at me. I took my photo, and started rolling again and showed the camera as I blew past the guard. He waved back.

From Popayan to Ipicles, Colombia was another fabulous ride through the mountains. The road was mostly maintained but had about 100 miles of needed repair.

I bottomed out the kickstand once. Also was very careful on the mud covered spots in the road.

Guards about every twenty or more miles.

We bargained the Hotel Mayasquer ‘down from $20 pp to $ 10 pp. This hotel is 300 feet from the Ecuador border and we walked it. It is a Travelodge and we were the only guests. They locked up our bikes in a garage attached to the hotel so we could walk to them inside. Address Avenida Paramedical Km 3 Via Rumichoca,phone 7734062,

Luis found out he needs a visa to get into Ecuador. Tomorrow will find out his entry.

Note 1. Technical
Popayan has two Kawasaki dealers. I know this because stopped I stopped at the first and Asked for a speedometer cable. They called the second one and within minutes I had a replacement delivered to me. Cost $ 8. Try that in the U.S.

Note 2. Army guards and police.

I drive by all checkpoints at about 60 mph while also passing cars and trucks who slow down for them. So far all I get is a wave, thumbs up, or a whiplash head turn.

This has been my practice in all countries.

So far, no high speed chases or gunfire.

There are no speed limits for motorcycles. They figure most bikes can’t speed.

Also motorcycles do not pay tolls in Colombia. There is a special 2-foot-wide bypass with ropes at both ends.

Miles: 215
Food $1, gas $6, lodging $10

By the way, I don't have any pictures of Jacobs on his motorcycle, (the one above is an actor portraying Che Guevara) But you can see pictures of Jacobs here.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Over 1,151 miles later, Iditarod is over

Well, at least it's over for the winner, Jeff King.
Local musher Lachlan Clark, who lived for several years in Colorado Springs and now lives near Buena Vista, is in 52nd place and still has 200 miles to go, according to the Iditarod Web site.

Old skiers usually have beards

Women live longer, but men ski longer. At least, that's what studies suggest.
According to a story in the Vail Daily "Research by the National Ski Areas Association shows that women make up a declining percentage of skiers as the population ages beyond 40. At age 40, women make up just under 50 percent of skiers. At 47, women make up 40 percent of skiers and snowboarders, and by 67, just over 30 percent of skiers and snowboarders are women."

Why? The study cites possible answers, such as that women like to ski in groups, and as fewer and fewer are able to ski, they discourage women still in skiing shape. I'm sure there are a number of other factors.
I will say, though, that I know at least four women over 60 who are better skiers than I am. And I'm happy they still hit the slopes, because they're usually willing to give me some pointers.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

What choo talkin 'bout

The storm has cleared in the San Juans, the sun is out, and Wolf Creek has reported 104 inches, which is exactly two Gary Colemans stacked on top of each other.