Friday, April 28, 2006

Beware the grouse!

This just in from Teresa, one of the caretakers at Barr Camp: Beware the grouchy grouse!

Teresa writes:
Hikers on Barr Trail beware! There appears to be a mated pair of blue grouse nesting just above the Bottomless Pit sign. Reports of people being henpecked on the hike through the area are true, sort of! The male blue grouse has been pecking at hikers' lower legs as they pass through his kingdom. Chivalry is not dead!

As if aggravating hikers is not enough, Mr. Grouse then follows them up the trail for fifteen minutes, making sure they understand his intentions that no one intrude upon his turf! A yellow eyebrow patch identifies the male grouse. Small and not well defined, it puffsup as he attacks. Full-blown attire for warfare is a flared tail featuring grayish white feather tips, and a puffed up neck exposing deep blue neck sacs. There have been no reports of the deep droning sounds the neck sacs help to produce. Not all those chased by Mr. Grouse have seen the neck sacs exposed.

According to the Golden “Birds of North America”, grouse are very capable runners. Perhaps there is a spot for him in the Pikes Peak Ascent, as his training on Barr Trail at over 10,000 feet has to put him ahead of runners from places like Florida!

Not to be Outdone
Mr. Grouse seems to have a young cousin who lives near Barr Camp. The caretakers awoke to a loud noise at sun-up. Upon inspection, they found a male blue grouse in full regalia attacking his reflection in the cabin windows. Two trips around the cabin with stops to body slam the window panes apparently tired him. He decided that sitting on the roof for a few hours was a safe place to rest as he had chased the “other guy in camp” away. Poor bird, the sunlight changed and there were no more reflections to fight off!

It is springtime in the animal world. You never know what you will find!

Fast food, bear-style

This is one of those bear-eats-man's-lunch stories that deserves telling: A 29-year-old man from Farisita was working on a private ranch west of Trinidad on Wednesday when he stopped to use an outhouse. While he was away, a bear climbed into the open windows of his car. The man's lunch was on the front seat, and the bear ate it, then got out of the car.

As the man returned to his car, the bear hit him and knocked him to the ground. The bear ran away but then turned around and came back toward the car. The man, Harold Cerda, says he started his engine so he could roll up his electric windows. "All four windows were down and they go up real slow," he said. "I got them closed just in time."

Cerda took some pictures with his cell phone. He was later treated and released from a Pueblo hospital.

The Colorado Division of Wildlife used the incident to remind residents that bears aren't stopped by the fact that food they want is in a car. If you've ever camped in Yosemite National Park, you've probably seen the video of a black bear systematically tearing apart a car to get to a cooler.

Snow alert

If you're planning a hike or bike ride this weekend, check before you go. It's snowing right now from Cascade west on Highway 24. By 10 this morning, Woodland Park had two inches of heavy, wet stuff.
It's also snowing on Pikes Peak, where the highway is closed at Halfway Picnic Ground. (So skiers hoping to get to Devil's Playground are out of luck, at least today.)

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Wheel fun

If you haven't already dusted off your bike and given it a tune-up (for tips, see Out There of March 31), do so now. Then head out on your favorite trail. The photo is from the recent trip Dave Philipps and photographer Christian Murdock took to Moab. (I'm posting while Dave's out and about - Dena.)

For a local ride, check out this Happy Trails feature from our archives. For more trails, see our Web site and check upcoming issues of Out There, which appears every Friday in The Gazette.

Pine Valley Ranch

Where: Part of the Jefferson County Open Space program, Pine Valley is near the town of Pine off Road 126.

To Get There: Take U.S. Highway 24 west to Woodland Park. Turn right on Colorado Highway 67. At Deckers, curve left on Road 126. Stay on 126 to the town of Pine, then turn left on Crystal Lake Road. Follow signs to Pine Valley Ranch Open Space.

Trip Log: ONE BOOT. Total distance hiked on three trails, about 5 miles: Narrow Gauge Trail, about 2 miles; Pike View Trail, about 1 mile; Buck Gulch, about 2 miles.

The Hike: This is part of Jefferson County Open Space, which means it’s well-marked and well-maintained with a huge parking lot. A total of 820 acres, it’s one of the county’s smaller properties, but hikers can explore about five miles of trails, and bikers can use one of them to hook up to other Forest Service Trails within the nearby Buffalo Creek Mountain Bike Area.We explored three trails within this park.

Narrow Gauge is the easiest, and on dry days would work for wheelchairs or strollers. Its surface is wide, flat and smooth, and it meanders along the shoreline of the North Fork of the South Platte River. Birds are plentiful, and on a sunny Sunday, eight snakes crossed the trail (six garters and two smooth green).

Buck Gulch is a trail that connects to other trails outside the Open Space boundary. It’s narrower, and favored by the bicyclists who love this park.

Park View is a single-track trail that’s for hikers only. It climbs through thick forest from the shore of picturesque Pine Lake to a rocky outcropping of broad granite boulders perfect for that afternoon nap. This trail is steep, with 300 steps installed on its steeper portions.

Information: This is a great park for non-hikers as well as hikers or bikers, with a stretch of wide, paved trail; handicapped-accessible fishing docks on the lake; bridges that cross the North Fork of the South Platte, and a public observatory that offers regular programs. Jefferson County Open Space, 1-303-271-5925.

Rathing System: A scale of one to four boots. One is easiest, with little elevation gain, and it is at a reasonable altitude. Four is most difficult, with severe elevation gain, difficult terrain or extreme length.
-Deb Acord, The Gazette

Starfish alarm

It's another blow for biodiversity. Hundreds of starfish have been found dead in British Columbia. Scientists believe a nonnative parasite is to blame. Purple sea stars began washing up on the beach last week north of Vancouver.

Why should we care? It's that web of life thing - sea stars eat mussels and barnacles, making more room in intertidal zones for creatures that support other marine and bird life.

Bird brains

If you've ever listened to a crow bark like a dog or sing like a songbird or yell like a woman, you probably weren't suprised to read about a new study that shows that birds have a talent for language, and can be taught to recognize and distinguish grammar.

University of Chicago researchers found that European starlings could be taught to recognise the difference between a regular birdsong sentence and one containing a clause or another sentence. In a study published in the journal Nature, the researchers show how songs that birds have learned to recognize trigger responses both in individual neurons and in populations of neurons in the bird’s brain.

This is serious business for the birds, the researchers said. Daniel Margoliash, professor of organismal biology and anatomy and of psychology, and co-author of the paper, said the ability to match a singer to a song, often down to the level of an individual bird, can mean the difference between "a day spent wrestling through the thicket and one spent enjoying a sun-soaked perch, or the missed chance at mating with the healthiest partner around."

Casinos and canyons

In the why-didn't-we-think-of-that department: A new Las Vegas resort combines all the glitz and glamour of the Strip with....rugged adventures. Red Rock Casino, Resort and Spa is 10 miles from the city near the entrance to Red Rock Canyon, a scenic national conservation area. The resort has the traditional spa where you can be pampered, the traditional over-the-top decor, dining and nightlight, and then it has an Adventure Spa that offers guided horseback riding, hiking, climbing and mountain biking (at Vegas-appropriate prices - a sunset horseback ride is $119). Check out

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Stop to view the flowers

Are you ready for the Tour? That's the Tour de Fleur, a wildflower tour of Colorado State Parks. The Parks Department came up with the catchy name to publicize wild wildflower shows at 21 parks throughout the state.

The Tour features eight wildflowers and bookmarks featuring the flowers at each of the participating parks. Go to, click on Tour de Fleur and print a wildflower map.

So far, we've only seen the pasque flower at higher elevations. Let us know which flowers you've seen in your favorite park or wild area.

Where the deer and the black bears play

Doesn't have quite the same ring when sung to the tune of "Home on the Range," but we've gotten a report of bear tracks at the Paint Mines, a windswept county park of sandstone spires and hoodoos on the eastern plains near Calhan.

A Colorado Division of Wildlife spokesman says he hasn't heard of any bear sightings around Calhan, but it could happen. Bears have occasionally wandered east from the tree-covered foothills - one even made it as far as Limon several years ago. The usual scenario: they are young ones that denned with their mothers for the second winter, but she has kicked them out. Feeling a little lost, they wander eastward.

If you see a track at this park, take a photo and send it to

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

CSI, Mountain Lion

I just got this press release from the Division of Wildlife. All I have to say is, if you can't prove he bit, you must acquit. Too bad the accused has already been executed...


The Colorado Division of Wildlife has received the results of the necropsy on the mountain lion that was killed after the attack on a 7-year-old boy last week. While evidence shortly after the attack indicated this was the lion involved, results from further testing were inconclusive.

A protein test was conducted to look for human blood on the lion. Twenty-one samples were taken from the claws and the mouth area of the lion. However, human blood was not detected in any of the protein tests conducted.

“We are still confident that this is the lion that attacked the boy,” said Tyler Baskfield, public information specialist for the DOW. “We know that this lion was tracked from within 30 yards of the attack site, we know that this lion was killed within a half-mile of the attack site nearly 6 hours after the attack took place. We would like to be able to say for certain that we killed the right lion, but unfortunately all we can say is that these protein tests neither confirm, nor disprove that this is the lion that was involved in the attack. The rest of the evidence points to the fact that this is the right lion.”

While DOW officers were on scene about 2 hours after the attack, the lion ran by the officers who were standing near the attack site. A shot was fired by a Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks Ranger. Officers are not sure if the lion was hit. Returning to an attack or kill site is normal behavior for lions.

The highest recorded density of adult mountain lions in a North American study showed between 3.5 and 4.6 lions per 100 square kilometers. So the odds of another lion being this close to the attack site are low even if the lion density in this particular area is high. The trained tracking dogs didn’t indicate any other trails or lion tracks in the area.

The female lion was about 5 years old, weighed 84 pounds and was in excellent body condition. Rabies analyses were negative on the brain of the lion. The lion’s stomach was found to contain the remains of a rabbit estimated to have been ingested five or six hours earlier. It is believed the lion had born kittens in the past, but was not nursing kittens at the time it was killed.

“There are an infinite number of scenarios that could have had a factor in why these results were inconclusive,” said Baskfield. “Typical lion behavior could have destroyed evidence in the six hours before we were able to kill the lion. Lions tend to groom themselves. They will extend their claws while traveling, especially when trying to flee what they perceive as a threat such as the tracking dogs.”

Turkey business

A hunter who thinks another hunter is a deer or an elk? I can see how that could happen. But thinking a hunter is a wild turkey? Not so probable.

Even so, a man hunting turkeys on the Uncompahgre Plateau on April 22 was accidentally shot by another hunter. The man's injuries were minor, but the incident prompted this alert from the Colorado Division of Wildlife: "Know what you're shooting at."

The DOW says turkey hunting is actually riskier than other hunting activities. Hunters dress in camouflage and use calls and decoys that often sound or look like the real thing. In the Western Slope incident, the man who was shot was trying to call in birds. The man who shot him was 50 yards away, and says when he saw movement in the bushes, he thought it was a turkey.

Rolls off the tongue

That's the new name for the Outdoor Life Network. Network president Gavin Harvey explained the change: “Versus is a word that perfectly captures the essence of our brand. It is immediate shorthand for competition and has a range that can suit everything from stick and ball sports, to bull riding, to field sports."

“We felt it was a slam dunk, and sports fans we talked to all agreed.”

The network statement: "Whether it is man versus man, man versus beast or team versus team, the channel will celebrate sports at its best, where athletes and sportsmen compete at their highest levels with the greatest passion.”

Whaling? Still not popular with outdoorsy types.

Outside Magazine shared an in-depth look at the Norwegian whaling industry in May, which is made up of a fleet of small boats with a catch tightly monitored by the government. The take away message from the piece was that the whale population in Norway is healthy and the catch is sustainable, but it's still a bloody business, and the writer said he never wants to see it again.

Outside put a poll on its Web site asking readers, "Should commercial whaling be illegal worldwide?"
I came away from reading the story thinking, in some cases, maybe it's OK, if the fishery is healthy and the take is controlled. Yet 89% of Outside's online respondents said commercial whaling should be illegal in all cases.

I can't help but think most of them didn't read the story (especially since it's not posted for free online). Generally, opinions that include words like "all" and "never" are built on a poor understanding of an issue.
Still, if commercial whaling was allowed, I think I'd skip the whale aisle at the supermarket.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Elk in their sights

The Associated Press reports that Rocky Mountain National Park officials have proposed shooting hundreds of elk to reduce what biologists say has become an unmanageable population.

A draft elk management plan released Monday includes a recommendation to shoot 200 to 700 elk in the first four years - and then 25 to 150 annually for 16 years. The goal is to reduce the number of elk from about 4,000 to between 1,200 and 1,700.

Biologists say elk have overgrazed the park so badly that other animals and plants have been hurt by loss of habitat and food. Park spokeswoman Kyle Patterson said the recommended option includes eventually using wolves to rein in elk.
(Posted by Dena, for Deb and Dave)

Pulling the drapes

This just in: Fish don't care about art.
A biologist for the Colorado Division of Wildlife says that artist Christo's proposed draping of the Arkansas River won't hurt the fish. If anything, the draping project will offer a little protection for the fish, because anglers will have a hard time getting to them. There's another potential problem, though - gawkers who get out of their cars along U.S. Highway 50 could contribute to an ongoing erosion problem on the riverbank.
The Christo project hasn't been approved.

For sale: scenic parcel of land

Great views, easy to get to. Ski resort living on...well...a ski resort.
With 470 acres of skiable terrain and 2,081 acres on Forest Service land.

Sunlight Mountain Resort is for sale. The resort, 12 miles south of Glenwood Springs, has caught the attention of several potential buyers, but so far, none has committed.
The asking price: $50 million. (That's just $1 million each for 50 of your closest friends.)


And then there were four...

The chutes on Silverton's scary Billboard Peak were closed all winter, but they're open now.
The number of open ski areas in Colorado has been shrinking as if they were finalists on "American Idol." Every week there are fewer and fewer. Breckenridge finished Sunday with its classic local events, the Imperial Challenge and the Bump Buffet.

Now only four areas remain open: A Basin, which often lasts until June (though rarely 'til July, as everyone claims); Silverton, which should have the lift up until mid-May; Loveland, which will be open until May 7; and surprise member of the longevity team Echo Mountain Park, which is open at least through the end of April and maybe longer.

This is also peak season for the state's big mountain backcountry skiers. The snow is stable, after a good winter, there's a ton of it, and the temps have warmed. In fact, Pikes Peak's own big mountain route, the Y couloir, is setting up now. Click here to see it up close.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Celebrate Earth

Tomorrow is Earth Day. Plant a tree, pick up litter in your corner of the world, or check out one of these celebrations around town:
** The Earth Day is Every Day Celebration with programs, crafts, a seed sale, storytelling, face painting and more, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the Fountain Creek Nature Center, 320 Peppergrass Lane, Fountain, $3, reservations required; 520-6745.

** Earth Day Expo and Film Festival, or 1-7 p.m. Saturday at Palmer High School, 301 N. Nevada Ave., free; 471-0910, ext. 102.

** There’s also Earth Day and Arbor Day at Rock Ledge Ranch and the Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center. An Arbor Day ceremony is at 9 a.m. Saturday, with living-history demonstrations and more 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the ranch, at the entrance to Garden of the Gods off 30th Street, and the center at 1805 N. 30th St. Free; 578-6777.

Unrest on the Intemann Trail

The Intemann Trail in Manitou is one of the most-loved trails in the region. It's also easy to reach, so perhaps vandals who are too lazy to hike further into the mountains just concentrate their efforts there.

Over winter, all but one of the Red Mountain Spur Trail signs (off the Intemann) were stolen, as well as signs at the Iron Spring Trail, including the hand-made wood "Paul Intemann Memorial Nature Trail" sign and a map sign near the spring.

Other Intemann Trail news: According to the trail committee newsletter, hikers have been trespassing on landowner Steve Beisel's land, and an altercation between a hiker and Beisel ended in the landowner being charged with assault. If you hike the Intemann, be sure and follow the map signs - south of the Beisel property, the trail ends at Manitou Mesa Overlook, and north of it, the trail ends at the Crystal Valley Cemetery.

Davenport aces what may be the toughest 14er ski!

Chris Davenport, the Aspen skier who is trying to ski all of Colorado's fourteeners in one calendar year, did Capitol Peak yesterday. It's the toughest peak to climb in summer, by the standard route, and seems absolutely brutal in winter. There are no shortage of cliffs on the route that could spell adios if you made a wrong turn. Now it's done.
Here's another view of it:

Here's what Lou Dawson posted on his blog,, this morning:
Both men described being "shattered" by a day of skiing bony no-fall terrain above 500 foot cliffs. The route was first spotted several years ago by Pete Sowar of Crested Butte, who's authored such new-wave lines as the South Face of Castle Peak. Pete has been up there a few times to try and piece it together, but never quite got it. Dav and Neal put it together, and from Neal's description (he called on the phone a short time ago) the descent sounded incredibly marginal. Basically, the route starts from the summit and follows my 1988 line a short distance down to the upper east face. Instead of skiing to the Knife Ridge as I did, it continues down steeper and more rocky terrain, eventually requiring a short section on foot (about 70 feet) to reach snow on the south east face, which is then descended to the Pierre Lakes bowl

Wow. We'll definitely try to tag along with this guy when he skis Pikes Peak.

Big winters linger

This just in: If you head to Idaho to bike or paddle, don't forget your skis

SUN VALLEY, Idaho (AP) — Idaho’s wet winter has made for one of the best ski seasons on record for the Sun Valley Resort. The resort still had more than 100 inches of snow in early April, typically the downward slope of the skiing season.

“It’s one of the best in the 40 years we’ve kept records,”said Jack Sibbach, marketing director for the resort. The snow depth on the top of Bald Mountain on April 3 was at 107 inches. Snow depth at its maximum this year was 282 inches before higher temperatures started compressing the snow. The resort plans to remain open until June.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Barr Trail woes

As Earth Day approaches, it's time to think about how to be more conscientious about our favorite places... like the Barr Trail. A group of dedicated people has spent years fixing the lower section of the trail from the old Incline turn-off to the bottom. Some of the hardest work: installing fences to prevent trail-users from cutting switchbacks and causing erosion.

Gail Allen, who started the informal group she called the "Trail Dogs," says runners, mostly, have been ignoring the switchbacks recently, perhaps in their haste to get back to their car after a workout. New social trails have emerged through the trees the group planted.

If you're a switchback cutter, you know who you are. If you aren't, Allen thanks you. And she wants both of you to help when she sets work-days this summer to fix this section of trail again. Watch this blog and Out There for dates to volunteer.

Davenport continues 14er ski quest with mad-steep drop on Pyramid

Chirs Davenport, an Aspen skier who is trying to be the first person to ski all of Colorado's Fourteeners in one winter (Lou Dawson was the first to do it, period, but it took him several years), just ripped down Pyramid Peak.

This is an insanely steep, rocky peak. It scared me scrambling up in the summer. I can't imagine dropping it in the winter. For Davenport's trip log of the descent, click here.

Singed farm could use a little help

I just got an e-mail saying the wildfire the tore through the Fountain area early this week burned part of Venetucci Farm. Michael Hannigan, the director of the nonprofit that oversees the farm said:

"For awhile, it seemed content to burn the narrow strip between the highway and the creek, but the roaring wind had other ideas. The fire seemed to search the riverbank looking for a weak spot to cross, and then leaped the creek to feed on the dry grasses of our Farm.

As we watched the 30-foot flames race across our south pasture followed by towering flame whorls rising a hundred feet into the air, the whitetail deer and the wild turkeys fled to safer ground.

Luckily, we'd done about half of our early spring plowing in the lower fields, creating a fire-break that essentially saved Venetucci Farm from potentially disastrous fire damage. While our south pasture is completely charred, the rest of the Farm is safe and sound.

Now the hard work addition to getting ready to plant pumpkins for kids, put in cover crops to rebuild the soil, and also sow the sweet corn that made Venetucci Farm famous, we need to reseed and replant our meadow to keep the soil from eroding and blowing away. If you can spare some time and energy, we could use your help."

For anyone who has yet to volunteer on the farm, it's a lot of fun. You feel good after a day in the dirt, and Tim, who runs the place, is a great guy. Last year he taught me how to drive an old tractor. If you'd like to help out,
at Venetucci Farm, contact Michael Hannigan or Mary Klever at (719) 389-2151 or

Hello? Still tons of snow in the high country.

There is absolutely no reason to put away the skis.
This is the last weekend for many of the big resorts. Arapahoe Basin, Silverton, and Loveland will still be open for at least a few weeks.
And don't forget Echo Mountain Park, the little ski area with the big hits. On April 29th, as a way of saying thanks for support in its opening season, Echo is throwing a big party dubbed - "Last Park Standing" - Boarders can shred for only $20 all day while listening to live music and seeing pros square off for prizes.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The E List

I guess if you've climbed the tallest mountain in the world, you want your name on the list, and you don't want the word "disputed" following it. The Associated Press reports today that a car-dealership owner from Alberta, Canada, has filed a lawsuit to remove a footnote that questions his ascent of Mount Everest.

Byron Smith climbed Mount Everest in May 2000, but says he doesn't have any photographic evidence of himself reaching the top. So the Golden-based American Alpine Club has listed his name with the dreaded disclaimer after it.

The Canadian's claim to have summited is disputed by some who question the speed with which he says he ascended and descended a difficult segment, and details of his group's final push. Smith sys the list has defamed him, and even more troubling, has cost him car sales.

Hawklets a long shot for New York Couple

I've periodically been passing along news of Pale Male, a red-tailed hawk that lives on the ledge of a posh building on Central Park East in New York City. His latest brood was supposed to hatch in the middle of last week. It's now five days late.

The New York Post reports that the hatch is now a long shot.
"The 38- to 40-day incubation period has passed, with no signs of success. Today is day 46," the paper reported.

Meanwhile, several birds watched by webcams set up by Excel Energy have babes in the nest. Most exciting is the bald eagle near Platteville, Colo., that has two eaglets in the nest.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

View from abroad

I met up with Dennis Jump today. He's a climber and caver from the Midlands in England, who was visiting with a climbing friend, Stewart Green, here. Dennis got a chance to explore Breezeway, a part of the Williams Canyon cave system that includes Cave of the Winds and that's not open to the public. His assessment of the cave: "Amazing."

Jump explores caves often in Europe, but he says he's never seen anything so clean, so undamaged, as he saw here. "And they warned me about the mud," he said. "You don't know mud. WE know mud."

My colleague Dave Philipps wrote a story about his Breezeway experience in Out There (Oct. 21, 2005).

Getting in shape isn't what it used to be...

I laughed out loud when I read this little tidbit from 100 years ago in The Gazette ("Back Pages" are published every day inside the Life section):

"Professor Lew Rabshaw, the noted athletic trainer of Chicago, has taken charge of the Electro-Thermatorium at 124 1/2 South Tejon Street. In connection with the bathes, he will teach scientific boxing, wrestling and other sports."

Needless to say, 124 1/2 S. Tejon is no longer an Electro-Thermatorium, but it begs the question, "What is an Electro-Thermatorium?" I'm guessing it has something to do with hot baths, but is it a good idea to have anything "electro" near the steaming water? I suppose it says something that the place is no longer in business.

Monday, April 17, 2006

News of an old trickster with a few new tricks

At a time when most of the natural world is on the run, it's always intriguing to read about those characters who seem to figure out how to live just fine in the land of cars and cable TV. So it's nice to see a long article in the Washington Post about coyotes infiltrating the posh suburbs, and how the homeowners respond. In Native American lore, the smaller cousin of the wolf 's cunning is only matched by his foolishness. Wile E. Coyote is a perfect example: He builds these ingenious contraptions, yet he's unable to catch the road runner. But in the Post article, you get the idea that maybe society is the coyote here, building all these ingenious ways to stop a simple animal, and failing every time.

The long commute

It's always seemed like a dream job - working for Vail Resorts. After all, how many people can manage to ski on their lunch break? Well, that little perk will go away when Vail Resorts moves its headquarters and 100 employees to Denver. The company will set up shop in Broomfield, about 15 miles from Denver. Now employees will get to experience the joys of I-70 gridlock just like the rest of us.

New trail!

Any time we see a sign that indicates "trail construction," we're curious. One of the most recent projects will help fill in a missing link in the 5,000-mile American Discovery Trail. Work is progressing on phase 2 of the Ute Pass Trail, which will connect Green Mountain Falls and Crystola (on the eastbound side of Highway 24). That is part of the 40-mile Ute Pass Trail that someday will connect Manitou Springs with Cripple Creek and hook into the American Discovery Trail. The new section should be open by June.

The future of the forest...

The Gazette had a story Sunday about the future management of the Pike National Forest. The current plan hasn't been changed since 1984. Needless to say, a lot of other factors have. First, there are almost twice as many people living in the area. Motorized and non-motorized recreation are also booming.

The new plan (scheduled to be finished by 2009) will focus on striking a balance between recreation and conservation. By the tone of the article, it seems like the biggest sticking point will be between pro- and anti-OHV factions over how much of the forest is open to nobby-tired machines.

Why don't we start it here.
Leave a comment making your case for more or less access.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Get to the garden

Looking for a way to spend a spring day outside and give back to this awesome place we live in? Rocky Mountain Field Institute is holding its first in a series of trail workdays running weekends through June 18. You can help patch up some of the old social trails wandering through Garden of the Gods.

The first volunteer day is tomorrow. To reserve a spot, contact Liz Nichol, 471-7736 or

Howling success

It's a case of somebody who knows somebody who knows SOMEBODY. The Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center near Florissant made a big score for its fundraiser. Jack Hanna, wildlife conservationist, educator and TV personality, will be the featured speaker at the center's big event May 20 at The Broadmoor.

A person on a tour of the center had connections to Hanna, and helped arrange the event that will feature live and silent auctions, a dinner and program by Hanna and some animal friends.

The new facility will be off Twin Rock Road near Divide. Fans will be pleased with the new location. Instead of watching the wolves on a hillside, you'll be able to view them in a forest habitat.

Get ready to explore

Cheyenne Mountain State Park has been a work in progress for a long time. Now, excited members of the park's Friends group are saying the park will open this fall. For most of its construction phase, there was no main entrance. Now, there's a road to the park, directly across from Fort Carson's main gate.

The park isn't open to the public yet, but the Friends have several hikes and activities planned there for those who can't wait to get in. These photos were taken last summer and fall in the park, which is home to wild turkeys, bears, mountain lions, deer, lizards, rattlesnakes and prairie dogs.

State Wildlife Areas now charge a fee

Don't look for a booth where you pay your entrance fee, but if you go on State Wildlife land, you need to have a "habitat stamp" affixed to your hunting or fishing license. What if you are a bird watcher, or flower sniffer, or some other kind of deviant that doesn't have a fishing license? You'll have to get one. They are sold where hunting and fishing gear is sold (Wal-Mart among many other places) or online, by clicking here.

A fishing license is $26. That seems pretty steep for getting into local wildlife areas, but it does come with the added bonus of "search and rescue insurance." Each license gives the same protection as a COSAR (Colorado Search and Rescue) Card, so if you get lost while at the wildlife area, searchers won't charge you for your rescue.

Not such a bad deal.

Looking for a direct link to the cave audio slideshow?

Just click here.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Glaciers hanging in there

Earlier this week, we learned that global climate changes could have devastating effects on the ski industry in the next hundred years. That was a frightening prediction.

Now for something more comforting: Rocky Mountain National Park's four glaciers (including Taylor, in the above photo) haven't shrunk much since the 1930s. Recent studies showed that the Arapaho and Arikee glaciers in Indian Peaks Wilderness south of the park have lost more than 60 feet of ice thickness since 1960, mostly due to the warming climate and extended season of melting. But the glaciers in the park have been much more stable, probably because of a combination of plenty of shade, snow that blows in from the west side of the Continental Divide, and steady cold temperatures.

Wonder if glacier skiing will be popular in 3006.


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

I did not know that!

Two more totally unrelated but fascinating animal stories:

- In Alaska, seal researchers are using Labrador retrievers to find seal breathing holes in the Arctic. The seals were eluding researchers by digging out caves underneath the snow. That form of stealth camping didn't fool the Labs, who search, nose to the snow, for the holes and then alert researchers by stopping their search and digging. The scientists insert a net into the holes, trap the seals, tag them, and release them.

- In Montana and Wyoming, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management is proposing using a birth control vaccine to limit the population growth of wild horses. The agency is worried about the effects of a growing population of horses at the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range.

Grouse rebounds

This is good news for a species that a decade ago looked like it might vanish: The Gunnison sage grouse population has remained stable or increased over several years. It's so stable that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today it had decided not to list the bird on the endangered species list.
There was opposition - environmental groups had petitioned to have the bird listed as threatened or endangered. But Fish and Wildlife says there are an estimated 4,500 to 5,000 birds in southwest Colorado and near the Colorado-Utah border last year; up from 3,000 in 2004. The bird's numbers have been dwindling since the 1950s because of a loss of its favorite habitat - sagebrush.

Quail Lake refills!

In 2004, the Colorado Springs Utilities, which had been supplying Quail Lake with water for decades, decided it was too wasteful to fill the lake with potable water and turned off the spigot. Slowly, the lake began to dry up. But this summer, according to local activist Bill Beaudin, the utility worked out a deal with nearby computer chip maker Atmel to conserve water in the chip-making process and contribute the savings to the lake. It must have worked because now the lake is full.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Bear season

I was just wondering about this earlier today as I refilled my bird feeder on my backyard deck: When will the bears come back?

I just got an answer from Michael Seraphin, information officer for the Colorado Division of Wildlife: The bears ARE back. The DOW has gotten a couple of calls already about the famished creatures.

So I guess it's time to take down the bird feeder unless I want bears feasting mere inches from my back door.

Other tips for co-existing with bears:
** Don't feed them (keep your pet's food inside).
** Don't tempt them with garbage - don't put your cans on the curb the night before. And if you store your cans in the garage, keep your garage door closed. (I learned this the hard way, after finding a cinnamon-colored bear in our gararge one night, munching on the remnants of a Pop Tart.)
** Hang bird feeders or hummingbird feeders from a tree, not from your deck or porch, and bring the feeders indoors at night.

Climate change may change skiing

Colorado College's State of the Rockies report this year suggests that global climate change will take a big bite out of the skiing industry in the next hundred years. It's sort of a no-brainer. We've watched Glacier National Park's namesake glaciers retreat. Colorado's few glaciers are just dirty snow patches. Skiing may be next.

A story in the Aspen Times stated, "If the predicted consequences for global warming are accurate, the bookends for skiing will move in, making the season shorter. Snowmaking will become more necessary and also more expensive. And there will be fewer powder days and more rain days, even in the Rocky Mountains."

Of course there is no way to know how global climate change will effect the region. It may be slightly warmer, but much wetter or drier. Everyone agrees, at least, that we won't see the end of skiing in the state in our lifetimes.

The case is more dire in the Alps, where a recent report predicted that only 44 percent of Europe's ski areas would be viable in a warming climate.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Fourteener debate: Should climbers go, anyway?

The Gazette reported today that private land owners on four fourteeners (Lincoln, Bross, Democrat and Cameron) won't allow access to the peaks even though new legislation gives them immunity from lawsuits filed by injured hikers.

The land owners now say they won't allow hikers until clearly marked trails are built. The area already has trails that are easy to follow, I think. It's almost impossible to get lost unless the whole area is socked in with clouds - or you're trying to make your own trail to the summit.

This makes us wonder, what gives? Why push for something you don't need when the legislature just gave you what you wanted? In the end, it doesn't really matter, as I reported a few months ago, the land owners don't intend to enforce the no-tresspassing edict, and a steady stream of climbers visit the peaks year round despite their closed status.

Is it right to trespass on these peaks while this trail issue is being worked out? Do the landowners have a legitimate complaint? What do you think?

Sun and snow

Gazette photographer Christian Murdock took this picture at Copper over the weekend. Murdock is a dedicated boarder, and he tried not to gloat about the perfect conditions (but we get the idea...we really missed out)

And then there were 12...

Above, a shot from the parking lot at Arapahoe Basin, which is apparently in full spring beach mode.

If you still want to ski this season, better not hang out in the hot tub too long. Yesterday was the last day of operation for several ski areas in the state, but 12 are still open and if you don't mind spring conditions, there is a ton of snow. After next weekend, all but a few diehard hills will shut down the lifts.

Then only Arapahoe Basin, Loveland, Silverton and Echo Mountain Park will be open. They plan to keep things going as long as they can - maybe May, maybe June. On rare years, A Basin keeps rolling all the way to July.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Don't shoot, it might be Charlie

We know who's king of the jungle, but who's king of the mountainous desert? Depends.

Environmentalists are protesting plans to kill 10 or more mountain lions on the Arizona side of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area to prevent them from preying on desert bighorn sheep, according to the Associated Press.

The plan calls for catching and killing mountain lions until a recent spate of sheep kills is reduced, said Jim deVos, research branch chief for the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

“Not every lion is killing sheep,” said deVos, who said a start date had not been set for the program. “We’re trying to focus on known kills and trying to remove that lion that is killing sheep.”

Daniel Patterson, desert ecologist with the Center for Biological Diversity in Tucson, Ariz., called the culling plan a mistake. “Lions are scarce. ... We don’t need single-species management, we need ecosystem management.”

At least seven bighorn have been killed by mountain lions this year in an area near Hoover Dam where deVos said about 1,000 bighorn sheep remain. The area sheep population serves as a source for the reintroduction of bighorn sheep throughout the region, including Colorado, Utah and Texas.

Who's Charlie? Check out the DVD and you'll see.

New technology for avalanche rescues

Rescuers in Utah believe a new technology could revolutionize the way avalanche victims are saved.

The Associated Press released a story about a long-range avalanche transceiver system that can work from a helicopter for quick, safe rescues. A team at Wasatch Backcountry Rescue in Utah bought the system that allows them to hover over an avalanche slide and pinpoint the location of buried skiers who are wearing avalanche beacons.

There's one problem - the weather. A demonstration planned yesterday in the Wasatch mountains was cancelled because the helicopter was grounded.

One ski hazard we don't have

In one of the most bizarre ski accidents in a long time, three Mammoth ski patrol members died by gas spewing from a volcanic vent at the California resort.

The trio was fencing off the vent, and when two fell into it the other man tried to rescue them. The accident happened Thursday morning on the mountain that is a dormant volcano. The vent on Christmas Bowl run is a well-known natural hazard, according to an Associated Press story, and it's known as the "stink hole" because of its rotten-egg smell.

The vent is always surrounded by a plastic net fence, but recent snowstorms had buried the fence. The patrollers were trying to reset the fence when the accident occurred.

Ski or ride this weekend, your choice

Colorado Springs's trails are almost completely clear of snow and ice. A Gazette photographer rode the Buckhorn/Captain Jack's loop in Cheyenne Canon on his bike yesterday and said the whole thing is clear. It will be in the 60s and sunny this weekend, perfect for riding. Meanwhile, the mountains are getting a hefty dose of snow. Copper reports 8 inches. Breck reports five. Monarch reports 11. It's one of those rare weekends when whatever you decide to do, you can't go wrong.