Monday, July 31, 2006

That's a great POGI

(Image from

The Colorado Geologic Survey calls these "POGIs." They're points of geologic interest, and there are plenty of them in the Pikes Peak region. Think Garden of the Gods, the Paint Mines, Cave of the Winds. The CGS has compiled a list of the state's best POGIs in their most recent magazine, "Rock Talk." The list is comprehensive, but it missed a few of our favorite smaller geologic features:
++ Window Rock, a natural arch above Shelf Road south of Cripple Creek (pictured above).
++ Dome Rock, a perfectly named dome between Cripple Creek and Florissant.
++ Balanced Rock, again perfectly named, in Garden of the Gods.
++ The hoodoos that stand sentinal in Palmer Park.

Can you think of any others? Let us know.

Taking on the CT

There's a lot to be said for human interaction. Colorado Springs resident Tim McElderry realized that last summer as he tackled the 500-mile Colorado Trail in a solo trek.

McElderry, 55, had retired that spring, and planned the trip as a post-retirement gift to himself. He set out in August, traveling at a steady pace - his best day was about 19 1/2 hours; other days were more like 11 hours. "My time would vary, depending on the availability of water, where I was going to camp, and the weather conditions above treeline."

It didn't take long for McElderry to recognize his need for human interaction. "I would go about four days, and then, just be kind of done," he says. He wasn't defeated by the physical effort required - he has climbed the 100 tallest peaks in Colorado and earlier this year did a rim-to-rim-to-rim trip in the Grand Canyon.
"I just realized I was having trouble be alone all that time."

So he would hike for a few days, then get a ride home. Later, if the opportunity arose, he would get a ride to where he left the trail and continue on. "Finally, I just realized it wasn't going to happen for me."

This time around, he feels ready. He'll leave Saturday and get a ride to Spring Creek Pass, between Lake City and Creede. He'll travel into the Weniminuche Wilderness Area, over Molas Pass and down to Durango, about 123 miles. Watch for the blog for news on his progress.

World wild web

I was looking at Web sites related to Death Valley for a travel article when it occurred to me how few of our parks have catchy sites. Some of the unofficial sites definitely have more intriguing photos and information and better graphics. Makes me wonder how you'll grab a new generation of parks enthusiasts.

Anyway, I stumbled on this site for Beatty, Nevada, on the edge of the desert. Check it out. Definitely makes me want to drop by sometime.

Friday, July 28, 2006

In memory of a pioneer

As someone who grew up playing in the cool waters of the Pacific and later south Atlantic (way south, tip o' Africa south), I'll toss a figurative lei in the waves for Bill Meistrell, the founder of Body Glove.

Meistrell's synthetic wetsuits transformed surfing and deep sea diving. He died Tuesday, from Parkinson's at home. He was 77.

Meistrell sold his neoprene suits under the name Thermocline until his friend Duke Boyd, founder of the Hang Ten surf brand, urged him to pick a catchier name. It's said the name came from Meistrell's claim his suits "fit like a glove."

Mr. Meistrell, there have been many a morn I thanked you - and thousands of others did, too.

Where there's smoke, there's cigarette butts

We just got this question from a reader about the Pikes Peak Highway: "I was up on the highway yesterday, and was quite disturbed by the number of cigarette butts I picked up, both at Glen Cove and the summit. I also picked up enough litter to fill a kitchen trash bag out the brush just off the Glen Cove parking lot. What is the highway authority's responsibility for this?"

Three answers: First, the city maintains the private toll road up to the summit, so in some regards, any trash left by users is its responsibility. On the other hand, the road passes through the Pike National Forest, so one might be able to argue that dropped butts in the forest are a federal responsibility. But since neither entity really has the manpower to handle annoyances like this, the truth is that it's our responsibility. If we want clean forests, we have to keep them clean, even if we didn't put the trash there.

I don't know why smokers feel they can toss their butts out of their cars, or on sidewalks, or in the woods, but I also think the fruitless effort to convince them not to do it could be better spent picking the butts up. I find it's particularly effective to wordlessly pick up a butt in front of the person who just threw it.

Pikes Peak guided hikes

We just found out, after living here for almost 30 years, that the Pikes Peak Highway folks do interpretive nature walks every Tuesday during summer. Reservations are required. Each week it's a different theme: flowers, birds, tracking bears. To find out more visit

Swimming holes: the few and the proud

OK, Colorado is not like a lot of other states. Not much water. And so topographically slanted that the water rarely gathers in one place. People who move from other states with memories of the old swimmin' hole are often disappointed, but there are a few places worth checking out.

First: Lake Pueblo State Park's Rock Canyon Swim Beach , which boasts a large sandy beach, shaded picnic areas (with grills provided), a locker/shower room, and plenty of room for swimming. plus a five-story water slide, bumper boats, and paddle boats. .Open Memorial Day to Labor Day, 11 AM to 7 PM.
Entrance Fee $1

Don't feel like driving?
Prospect Lake, downtown, has a fairly nice, free swim beach, and now the lake actually has water.
For directions click here.

Finally, if you really want to find a sweet hole, we'll let you in on a secret: The Grotto.
This is a longtime favorite on the hidden back of Pikes Peak. We'll leave directions purposefully vague to protect it from the less ambitious and imaginative skinny dipper, but here goes.
Take highway 50 west of Canon City, then go north on Highway 9. At County Road #11, take a right. Drive for 15 minutes or so until you come over a hill. There is a parking area on the left, with a sign that had the various BLM regulations posted for the area. Good Luck.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Plans for White River National Forest

From the AP:

The White River National Forest, which includes some of the country’s premier ski resorts and eight wilderness areas, released a proposal today to reduce growing conflicts among hunters, off-road drivers, hikers and cyclists.

The long-awaited travel management plan contains four options, ranging from little change to closing some trails and roads to motorized vehicles. Forest managers recommended one that would designate trails for certain uses.

“We’re trying to accommodate all these users and reduce some of the conflicts that are occurring,” said Wendy Haskins, a forest planner and head of the team that wrote the draft environmental impact statement on the travel plan.

The White River Forest covers nearly 2.5 million acres west of Denver and is bisected
by I-70. With about 9.6 million visitors a year, it's the nation’s busiest.

U.S. Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth has said the growing illegal use of off-road vehicles is one of the greatest threats to forest health across the nation. The White River forest has identified about 1,000 miles of unauthorized trails, either old logging roads never designated for recreation or others blazed by recreationists.

Off-road enthusiasts want to keep as many trails open as possible, saying the majority of riders are responsible and as entitled as others to enjoy the forest.

Forest officials will take public comments on the plan over the next 90 days.

Whoa!! Floyd Landis accused of doping!

According to the AP, Tour de France champion Floyd Landis tested positive for high levels of testosterone during the race.

His Swiss-based Phonak team said it was notified by the UCI on Wednesday that Landis' sample showed "an unusual level of testosterone/epitestosterone" when he was tested after stage 17 of the race last Thursday. That was the same day he made his amazing comeback.

Speculation that Landis had tested positive spread earlier Thursday after he failed to show up for a one-day race in Denmark. A day earlier, he missed a scheduled event in the Netherlands.

Landis has been suspended by his team pending the results. If a second sample confirms the initial finding, he will be fired from the team, Phonak said. Landis wrapped up his Tour de France win on Sunday, keeping the title in U.S. hands for the eighth straight year.

News reports this morning quoted team members saying they have no idea where Landis is.

Pikes Peak Marathon an international must do?

Photo of last year's Ascent winner from Colorado Runner

Runner's World magazine ran a long story on the Pike's Peak Marathon this month called Peak Experience that said the race has "evolved from a locals-only contest in 1956 pitting 10 nonsmokers against three smokers into an international gotta-do-it."

The story notes "Registration for the 51st Pikes Peak Marathon, scheduled for Sunday, August 20, filled up in a record 23 hours."
But with so much elevation gain, it's still advantage locals.

Marathon legend Matt Carpenter said the first mile above treeline is where many runners falter.

"This mile alone has crushed the dreams of many runners," Carpenter, who holds the course record of 3:16:39, writes in his official course description ( "From here on up it is about wanting to get to the top. If that means running - awesome. If that means walking - super. If that means crawling - do it. Just keep moving!"

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Autumn Aspen show may fizzle out this year

Drought and disease may make Colorado's annual golden autumn leaf season more brown than usual.
According to a story in the Pueblo Chieftain "the unusual combination of insect damage, age and overgrowth of other trees is contributing to the increased number of dying aspen trees in forests throughout Colorado, including the Pike and San Isabel National forests."

Already this year, Smith said about 10,000 scattered acres of aspen trees have been affected by the caterpillars in the Cuchara area alone.

But what about the area around Pikes Peak. It was definitely dry through June. Since then we've had some nice rainy spells. On a walk in the woods of the Rampart Range a few days ago, the aspen looked healthy and bright.
We'll see how they look come September.

Outdoor school under fire

Who assumes the risk when you join a guided trip into the wild and things go wrong?

We mentioned earlier that a client on a hike in Utah with the Boulder Outdoor Survival School died after a 10-hour hike in the heat. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that Dave Bushow of River Vale, N.J., repeatedly told instructors he was thirsty, but he wasn't given any water.

The school has also been named in a lawsuit by a client who says she was injured during one of the school's courses. Lisa Tabb of New Orleans says she broke her hip, leg and ribs and dislocated her shoulder in a fall during a BOSS course in Utah in May 2005.

In an AP story, Josh Bernstein, president and chief executive officer of the school, defended his company’s safety record and said the school makes clear to participants that its courses involve risk. “We don’t guarantee safety,” he said. "There are inherent risks in the wilderness that are beyond our ability to control."

What do you think? Who takes the responsibility in an outdoor survival school course? Who determines the amount of risk? Who assumes the risk if you're on a guided raft trip or horseback ride?

Is the Web saying "happy trails" to guidebooks?

I've been messing around on
The site is way cool. It has a map of all the fourteeners. Put your cursor over a peak and a photo of the peak pops up. Double click on the peak and a whole page of photos, maps, and descriptions appear: pretty much everything you need to climb the peak. Plus, trip reports posted on the site will tell you what conditions the trails are in.
And the cost for this helpful service? Nothing.
It seems to me the days of spending $25 for a good guidebook are nearing an end, which is bitter sweet for me. I really like the old guidebooks. They're generally written by passionate, interesting dudes. Each one is a snapshot of its era and has its own personal flavor. It will be a shame to lose that.
On the other hand, the writing is more concise and portable in the books, so I don't think they'll disappear tomorrow.

So we're in a golden age now, great guide books and great new internet resources. Pretty good time to be hitting the trail.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Grand Staircase-Escalante decision

One of the largest national monuments will remain a monument.

Monday, a federal appeals court said opponents had no standing to challenge the creation of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. A decade ago, President Clinton shocked and angered Utah politicians by creating the monument, the second largest in the lower 48 states. The monument's creation was especially contentious, because the announcement was kept a secret until just days before it was made. Here's what President Clinton said on the day of the announcement:

On this site, on this remarkable site, God's handiwork is everywhere in the natural beauty of the Escalante Canyons and in the Kaiparowits Plateau, in the rock formations that show layer by layer billions of years of geology, in the fossil record of dinosaurs and other prehistoric life, in the remains of ancient American civilizations like the Anasazi Indians. Though the United States has changed and Utah has grown, prospered and diversified, the land in the Utah monument remains much as it did when Mormon pioneers made their way to the Red Canyons in the high desert in the late 1800s.

Its uniquely American landscape is now one of the most isolated places in the lower 48 states. In protecting it, we live up to our obligation to preserve our natural heritage. We are saying very simply, our parents and grandparents saved the Grand Canyon for us; today, we will save the grand Escalante Canyons and the Kaiparowits Plateaus of Utah for our children."

A speed bump that bites...

The AP reported today that a Boulder triathalete hit a bear while riding her bike during a race. She came around a corner on a paved road and broadsided the black bear. Neither was seriously hurt. The woman went on to finish the race.

This reminds me of when I was snowboarding once and hit a squirrel. I came around the bend, he was running out of the woods, and POP! I looked back to find he had been pushed down into the snow by the board, like something out of a cartoon. Once I slid past, he popped up and ran back to the woods.

Anyone else ever have a non-motorized run-in with an animal? And no, tripping over the cat in the dark doesn't count.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Mountain lion shot in town

Division of Wildlife officials shot and killed a mountain lion in the Ivywild neighborhood Monday. It was the second reported sighting in residential area in the last few days - the other was northeast, by Powers, which surprised neighbors and others. Officials believe the first lion lost its bearings and was wandering yard to yard in an effort to get back out to the Black Forest area.

The mountain lion shot in Ivywild will be tested to see if it was unhealthy in some way. At the least, officials believe it may have been malnourished.

If you see a mountain lion, follow the experts' advice and do not run away. Do not look the cat in the eyes and slowly back away. Call the DOW.


Cycling fans who watched the Tour de France might have wondered: why are Americans so good at that race?
Chris Carmichael, writing on his Tour de France newsletter on, answers that question:

"Americans men are so good at the Tour de France because it’s the first race we learn about when we’re young, and the first race we fantasize about winning. The cycling heroes that teenage boys want to emulate, and the posters that adorn their walls, are of American riders wearing yellow, and they have been for the past twenty years. The Europeans better not expect this cycle to end anytime soon, either. No matter if Landis wins several yellow jerseys or just one, in the years to come there will be another American standing on top of the podium in Paris, and he will say that Floyd Landis was the reason he wanted to race a bicycle."

Carmichael is founder, CEO and president of Carmichael Training Systems and personal coach to seven-time Tour de France Champion Lance Armstrong.

Clove by clove

Back to the mosquito problem... I hadn't thought about them much this year, until I went hiking a couple of weekends ago in the Holy Cross Wilderness. The swarm that greeted me there reminded me of a local outdoors guy who has called a few times over the years. He swears he knows how to keep the mosquitoes off you - by eating garlic.

He's not alone - check out "garlic" and "mosquitoes" on Google, and you'll find tips for spraying yourself and your plants with garlic as a mosquito repellant, as well as popping garlic capsules to ward off the evil pests. No word on whether eating vast quantities of Italian food will help as well, but it wouldn't hurt to try, in the interest of research.

Good for what ales ya...

There's an interesting thread on's discussion forum right now about drinking beer on summits.
Many people crack a celebratory brew, others say "just water, thanks very much."
But it begs the question, what beer is for the outdoors?

A can is helpful for two reasons, it's lightweight, and won't break.
But canned beer can be... uninspiring.
A favorite that keeps popping up again and again in outdoor circles is Dale's Pale Ale, made by Oskar Blues Brewery of Lyons. It's the only microbrew in a can and packs such a strong, hoppy flavor that it takes a minute to realize that, yes, this really IS coming out of a can.

Boaters love it. 10th Mountain Ski Tourers do too.

Me? I have to admit, I don't drink and hike, but afterward, I reach for a nice, watery PBR.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Battle over Bigfoot

(photo courtesy of Bigfoot Discovery Museum)

Bigfootophiles are in the middle of a legal battle. To which I say, why can't we all just get along?

Following is an abridged version of the story posted by the San Jose Mercury News:

Bigfoot - that bashful, large lug of a hairy monster - is causing trouble among his believers. Not that he - or she, or whichever - ever did anything to anyone except pose for really fuzzy pictures, leave mammoth footprints in remote areas and never get caught.

C. Thomas Biscardi, a Redwood City, Calif., man who bills himself as a “World Renowned Bigfoot Researcher,” has sued the Great American Bigfoot Research Organization, its president and vice president. The group was established in California last year “to track, study and learn about the Bigfoot creatures that are believed to inhabit North America.”

Biscardi, who’s been in the Bigfoot business for 33 years, says he was supposed to be paid $250,000 to “lend his experience, knowledge and reputation” to conduct “Bigfoot expeditions,” and to provide the group with use of his library - which consists of things such as plaster footprint casts, films, photos and sound recordings.

The group, the lawsuit claims, paid him only $65,000 and won’t give back his stuff. Neither defendant could be reached for comment.

The Mercury News reached Biscardi by cell phone Monday. He was Bigfoot hunting just outside Paris, Texas. He didn’t much want to talk about his lawsuit, which he considers his “private business.”

But he was in a high state of excitement. The crew had a Bigfoot sighting Sunday night. Biscardi said they had found a spot that looks like “Jurassic Park,” and saw — guess who? — yep, Bigfoot. Biscardi said he’s had five “close encounters” with a Bigfoot in his career, but nothing like this.

“I gotta tell you something,” he said, “this is the largest thing I’ve ever seen in my life."

Biscardi said television captured its image and he figures the find will hit the national news this week.

We're waiting

Why some people are mosquito magnets

I'm putting this up mostly for my wife, who gets eaten alive by mosquitoes when I don't get a single bite, even standing right next to her.

It turns out the little buggers are adept at sensing our body chemistry and decide who smells best.

According to an article on,

Genetics account for about 85% of our susceptibility to mosquito bites. Certain elements of our body chemistry, when found in excess on the skin's surface, make mosquitoes swarm closer. People with high concentrations of steroids or cholesterol on their skin surface attract mosquitoes. Mosquitoes also target people who produce excess amounts of certain acids, such as uric acid, according to entomologist John Edman, spokesman for the Entomological Society of America. These substances can trigger the mosquitoes' olfactory sensations, or sense of smell, causing them to launch their "landing" onto unsuspecting victims.

But the process of attraction begins long before the landing. Mosquitoes can smell their dinner from an impressive distance of up to 50 meters. This doesn't bode well for people who emit large quantities of carbon dioxide.

Who are these people? Look around. If you see someone scratching bites, he's probably a candidate.

Kite tubes recalled

After national reports of 39 kite tube accidents — which resulted in a broken neck, punctured lung, cracked ribs, a concussion and chest, back and facial injuries — 19,000 kite tubes (inflatable devices that go airborne when towed by a boat) were recalled by Omaha-based Sportsstuff Inc., maker of the Wego kite tube.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is asking people to stop using kite tubes, which sell for $500 to $600. It’s not clear how many were sold in or to residents of Colorado, but from the photo, I'd say you won't mistake this product for any other.

Travis Kladivo, 19, was 10 to 15 feet above the water when a gust of wind swept beneath his kite tube and lifted it another 10 feet into the air. Then he went one way and the tube went another. The splat of Kladivo crashing against the water June 19 was louder than a rifle shot, his father recalled. It left Kladivo face down in the water with a ruptured aorta and two collapsed lungs.

“You’re flying blind,” Kladivo, who had used the tube many times before, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “There’s no way to control it.”

Bear cam

(photo by Chris Servheen, USFWS)

We know you love animal Web cams as much as we do. So take a minute and check out the cam at McNeil River State Game Sanctuary in Alaska and watch the bears splash in the water, sunbathe on the rocks and catch salmon.

The state allows only about 250 people a year into the sanctuary to view the bears, so this may be your best chance to sneak a peek. The record was 72 bears seen at the spot at one time in 1999.

The camera is hidden in a fake boulder at the falls. Views have been a bit spotty in the last few hours; apparently a bear knocked a transmission tower askew or some such thing.

Lightning strikes

You don't have to be the tallest object in an area or be in the middle of a massive storm to get hit by lightning. Following lightning strikes that injured at least five this week in Colorado and killed a Woodland Park teenager, warnings are worth repeating.

What to do when you can see lightning strikes? Generally, you'll be safe if you get inside a building or enclosed vehicle. Stay away from lone, tall trees and metal objects.

Stay away from ridgelines and get below treeline during storms. If you find yourself stuck above treeline, crouch down with feet together and hug your knees. Place your hands over your ears and don't allow other parts of your body to touch the ground.

Need more info? Scroll down to the photo of a lightning bolt for links to more facts and safety tips.

St. Helens reopens to climbers

Climbing to the crater rim of Mount St. Helens opens today for the first time since it started erupting again in September 2004.

Journalists hiking earlier this week reported rock falls, steam plumes and a massive new lava dome. The mountain remains in an eruption phase, but national forest officials say it is safe to climb. “The eruptions are depleted of gas,” said Tom Pierson of the U.S. Geological Survey. “Like soda sitting out on a hot surface, it has lost its fizz. It doesn’t have enough oomph for an explosion that would be unsafe for climbing.”

Those who climb the 8,365-foot mountain will see a much more active crater than they saw before 2004. Iron chloride seeping from vents has painted swaths of yellow in the crater, according to The News Tribune in Tacoma. Thunderous rock falls can be heard and often seen as the new dome expands at a rate of a cubic yard per second. The new dome is taller and closer to the rim than the old dome.

Officials expect to sell out the 100 climbing permits available each day. Permits are $22 and available online from the Mount St. Helens Institute. Party sizes are limited to 12 climbers.

The climb up the south side of St. Helens is not especially difficult. According to monument workers, nobody has been killed on the mountain since the 1980 eruption.The only fatality came when a dog fell into the crater in 2003.

Entering the crater is prohibited and extremely dangerous. On the most popular route, Monitor Ridge, climbers start at a parking lot/campground called Climbers Bivouac at 3,700 feet and ascend more than 4,600 feet to the crater rim. The trip is about 10 miles round trip and usually takes climbers seven to 12 hours.

In addition to climbing gear, officials recommend a dust mask, goggles and, in the unlikely event of explosive eruption, a climbing helmet.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Return of the brown cloud

I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me late last week, but apparently not. Visible smog is choking cities along the Front Range.

Soaring temps, increasing population and commerce, wildfire smoke and other components are contributing a perfect cauldron for creating ozone, a major component of smog. Activists are sounding the alarm and government officials are keeping watch, the AP reports.

Denver is on a pace to eclipse the ozone-choked summer of 2003, the worst in 20 years, when the state issued 42 ozone alerts warning of unhealthy air. As of Wednesday, this summer has seen 34.

For most people, heavy ozone is only irritating, but for people with respiratory difficulties — such as more than 250,000 Coloradans with asthma — it can lead to intense breathing problems, said Arthur McFarlane, who works with the state health department’s asthma program.

What can you do to help?
Combine errands
Avoid spilling gas at the pump
Fill your tank after dusk, when vapors have less time to cook into ozone
Trade your old gas-powered mower for a newer model

Listen to Mom - and the Scouts

OK, we're not your mom, but it's worth repeating this advice from experienced moms, hikers/climbers and Scouts:

Let someone know where you're going.
Be prepared.
Don't leave a hiking companion behind.

The search near Silverton for a missing Utah hiker is in its fourth day. Brent Higgins, 29, of Salt Lake City left his wife, Shannon, and their son at a camp site near Lake Molas on Saturday morning for a 5-mile, overnight hike. Three peaks along the route near Vestal Lake, are above 13,000 feet. Although searchers know what area to look in, it doesn't appear they have a route map.

In a separate incident, rescue teams Wednesday recovered the body of Lakewood doctor Peter Spatt near the summit of 13,933-foot Mount Hope. The Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office said Spatt was hiking with friends Tuesday when bad weather prompted his two companions to turn around. Spatt pressed on and he didn’t return, his friends notified authorities.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Take enough water - and then some

Wire services report three hikers died this week as temperatures soared and personal water supplies were low. Sure, water is extra weight, but it's a requirement for life, so don't skimp. Carry more than enough.

Dave Buschow, 29, died Monday near Boulder, Utah, on the second day of a 28-day survival course offered by the Boulder Outdoor Survival School, Garfield County spokeswoman Becki Bronson said. He was with 11 other clients and three staffers. Temps were in the low 90s.

"All day Monday they were hiking in the heat with very little food or water,” Bronson said. “He (Bushchow) was complaining about lack of water and cramping and still given very little water, and it was still hot.” Students are intentionally given little food or water to simulate hardship conditions in the course, Bronson said. School reps did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

On Sunday, Elisa D. Santry, 16, died during a three-week Outward Bound Wilderness course near Canyonlands National Park. The temp was about 110, said San Juan County Sheriff Mike Lacy. The girl was with five other teens when she lagged behind, officials said. She was later found in a small side canyon.

In southwestern South Dakota, a woman hiking on a short but steep Badlands trail died Sunday, when the temperature was well over 100 degrees. Other hikers found the body of Joan Kovach, 52. Her water bottles were empty, an official said.

TIP NO. 2 -- As we've mentioned before on this blog, don't hike alone and don't leave a hiking companion alone. If a hiking buddy is lagging behind, there's probably a reason - and it's not one a hiker can rationally figure out alone.

Ken Lay wanted ashes scattered in Rockies

According to the Houston Chronicle, Enron executive Ken Lay, who died recently in Colorado after a heart attack, will be cremated and have his ashes buried in Aspen.

Lay was an avid skier and said Aspen was his favorite place in the world. He had to sell his properties there to help pay his legal bills, but he apparently wants his ashes to rest there for eternity.

If judges in the afterlife treat him anything like the judges in his fraud case, I would imagine his soul will be resting somewhere a little warmer.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The people you meet

Hike virtually any section of the Colorado Trail or the Continental Divide Trail and you'll come upon somebody with a story. These trails that stretch across the state tend to attract people with a cause, people on a mission, people out to heal or mend.

Saturday, on a section of trail shared by the CT and the CDT near Leadville, I met a guy who possibly might fit all categories. His name: not important, he said. His mission: to photograph every 20 feet of the Colorado Trail. His method: walking briskly, carrying only a day pack and a small camera, stopping every few seconds to shoot seemingly random shots. His message: Watch for me when I'm done with this project. Then you'll know.
We're waiting.

(The anonymous photographer on a mission stops for a few seconds to talk with Colorado Trail managing director Bill Manning.)

Another reason to live in Colorado:

Your morning drive includes scenes like this.

(Taken just after sunrise Saturday in South Park )

When lightning strikes

(photo of lightning strike near Boulder by Commander John Bortniak, NOAA Corps, retired)

Four hikers were struck by lightning as they huddled beneath a tree during a thunderstorm Monday, including a 16-year-old who was resuscitated twice by CPR.

For tips on what to do when lightning is anywhere near you - within a few miles - check out the Colorado Lightning Resource Page by the National Weather Service or the Colorado Division of Emergency Management site.

Carbondale Fire Chief Ron Leach said the 16-year-old was suffering from numbness and tingling and was transported to a hospital in Glenwood Springs. A 22-year-old woman suffered burns on both legs, while the strike left another man’s face bloodied and another person with minor injuries, The Aspen Times reported. Reports said the four were in the Silver Creek area of Lead King Basin, about 4 miles north of Marble.

l'Alpe d'Huez ride today!

Think of l'Alpe d'Huez like the Tour de France's version of The Incline: a road through the Alps that climbs over 3,500 vertical feet through 21 switchbacks and can either demolish riders or propel them to victory.

This is the one day of the Tour de France I never miss: exciting, gut-wrenching, and guaranteed to bring out the best quirky phrases of federating cycling commentator Phil "Two titans dancing on the pedals" Liggett.

I'm willing to even stick my neck out and say this spot was host to one of the greatest moments in sports of all time, a moment cycling fans simply know as "The Look."

Here's a breakdown of it from USA TODAY:

It came in the 10th stage of the 2001 Tour, with Lance Armstrong and German rider Jan
Ullrich battling in the Alps in the first mountain stage.

Knowing that the other teams closely monitored the Tour TV coverage for race intelligence, Armstrong pretended to be suffering early in the 120-mile stage. He stayed close to the lead pack as it rode the first two peaks, but he showed a pained look on his face.

Ullrich's team pushed the pace to wear out the seemingly forlorn Texan drafting on their wheels, saving his energy.

Their worst fears were soon realized when Armstrong teammate Jose Luis Rubiera pulled to the front and promptly accelerated, taking Ullrich, Armstrong and Andrei Kivilev with him.And then came The Look.

As the road began a steep rise toward the 21 switchback turns on the monstrous ascent of L'Alpe
d'Huez, the rivals were no more than a half-wheel apart after two earlier climbs and hours in the saddle. Suddenly, Armstrong accelerated, opening a gap of about 10 yards.

Out of the saddle, his toes pointed down as he danced on the pedals, Armstrong suddenly slowed and looked over his left shoulder, his eyes fixed on Ullrich's face for four or five seconds, seemingly challenging his chief rival to match the bold move. The German rider's eyes were shielded by sunglasses, but everything else about his expression showed despair. He jerked at his radio earpiece and grimaced as Armstrong lit the afterburners, roaring alone toward the peak.

Eight miles later, Armstrong had gained two huge minutes on the 1997 champion, sealing his third Tour victory before the three-week race was half over.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Trail fee: $100. Freedom of the hills: priceless

It had to happen sooner or later.
The standard route up Wilson Peak, a fourteener near Telluride, crosses private land.
Property owners decided last year that they no longer wanted people crossing the property.
Now they appear to have changed their minds. Climbers can log on to and sign a liability waiver to legally enter the popular Silver Pick trail to the top of the peak.
Just one catch, they also have to pay $100 each via Paypal.

Sounds like most people are, instead, taking the longer, free route to the top via Navajo Basin.

Hardrock 100

(photo of previous Hardrock courtesy of

Karl Meltzer won the Hardrock 100 on Saturday - and waited hours for the nearest competitor to cross the finish line.
From The Durango Herald:

SILVERTON -- Karl Meltzer had just run 100 miles and was into his third beer and lounging on a couch while he waited to see the second-place finisher kiss the rock marking the end of the Hardrock 100 ultramarathon.

Three and a half hours after Meltzer finished, someone finally caught up.

Meltzer, 38, extended his domination of the Hardrock 100 on Saturday, winning the 100-mile foot race for a record fourth time. He now owns the four fastest times in the race’s 13-year history.

“This is kind of my baby,” he said.

Beginning in Silverton at 6 a.m. Friday, Meltzer and 130 other extreme athletes ran to Telluride, Ouray and Lake City before circling back to Silverton. Through a hot day, a cold night and a beautiful sunrise, Meltzer ran despite the back pain, leg pain and foot pain that comes with running 100 miles. Water and power gels were his primary nourishment.

The Hardrock 100, as Meltzer said, “is the hardest 100 in the world.” The race is for people who think of a 26.2-mile marathon as a nice jaunt or for whom the sunrise is “a nice boost,” as another runner put it after running all night.

The course through the San Juan Mountains hits its highest point at Handies Peak, elevation 14,048 feet, and never dips below 7,700 feet elevation.

Finishing second was Joseph Shults of Ophir. A physician’s assistant from Steamboat Springs, Betsy Kalmeyer, came in third.

Kalmeyer set the women’s course record in 2001 with a time of 29 hours, 58 minutes. This year’s race took her nearly 32 hours.

Meltzer finished in 27 hours, seven minutes, the second-best time the course has ever seen, behind his 2001 mark of 26 hours, 39 minutes.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Mr. Ranger, Sir...

From The Associated Press -- Wildlife agents are looking for a bear who injured a camper on the Grand Mesa near Powderhorn Resort

''It wasn't that the bear attacked her,'' said Randy Hampton, spokesman for the Colorado Division of Wildlife. ''The bear came into her tent, and when she surprised him, he took a swipe at her.''

The woman, whose name was not released, yelled at the bear and it fled Saturday morning. Hampton said the woman required 12 stitches to her right thigh at St. Mary's Hospital. If caught, the bear will be killed.

''Bears that show aggression toward people are put down. That's the policy of the Division of Wildlife,'' Hampton said.

(From: The Daily Sentinel)

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Skateboarding is NOT a crime

My mom is visiting, so I had to beg out of driving to Denver to see even a sliver of the Dew Action Sports tour stop. She says spent enough time hanging out at skateparks and motocross tracks when my brother, sister and I were kids.

So I said "heck yeah," when this teenager I know, Eli Epstein, said he'd send a report from Pepsi Center. Eli's an eighth-grader at Manitou Springs Middle School. I didn't have to worry he'd blow me off, either - he's the son of Gazette A&E Editor Warren Epstein, and Warren wouldn't do us wrong.

Here's Eli's report from Denver:

"I'm sitting in the bleachers of the Pepsi Center watching 8-year-old kids fly high over my head on their skateboards. These kids are skating on a vert ramp that seems about 20 times their size.

Skateboarding has come so far in the past few years. This Dew Action Sports Tour is like a giant carnival of everything related to skating, BMX, FMX and being a teenager. You walk through this "festival village" outside the Pepsi Center and you run into tons of people eager to give you as much free stuff from their companies as possible. They were handing out Dew samples, batteries, skate DVDs and had a bunch of sweepstakes to win boards, bikes and trips to L.A.

The competition really heats up when we step into the bleachers. Eleven-year-old Nyjah Huston is beating some of the most famous skateboard legends, like Eric Koston. Every trick he does, he gives it his all and makes it perfectly clean. When he flip tricks up and grinds down the hubba, his dreadlocks flying behind him, he really gets the crowds' hearts pumping.

With the wonderful 30 Seconds to Mars concert at the end Friday, the Dew Action Sports Tour stop, which continues until Sunday, is really great.

My friends and I who skate seem to spend a lot of time getting kicked out of all the great local skate spots. Maybe this kind of event will show adults that skateboarding isn't a crime. It's a real sport, just like any other."

Well said, Eli. Keep skating (just don't grind on the railing down to my backyard). And keep an eye on Nyjah. Who knows what he'll do when he turns 12.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Wolf Creek road gets OK

From The Associated Press:

The Forest Service again endorsed road construction at the Wolf Creek ski area today, rejecting appeals by both sides in a heated debate over a massive development planned at the rustic Colorado resort.

The agency had earlier approved construction of two short roads for access to the proposed Village at Wolf Creek.

Three separate appeals by opponents said the Forest Service underestimated the impact of the project on the area and said the agency was improperly influenced by the development team working for Texas billionaire Billy Joe “Red” McCombs, a co-founder of Clear Channel Communications.

The developers, meanwhile, said the decision unfairly requires them to build a 750-foot road at cost of about $12 million, when a shorter extension of an existing road would be cheaper and have less environmental impact.

The things they carry... on fourteeners

A note I just got from a reader...

I enjoyed your article on Fourteeners but you failed to list an important item in your packing list. People should take ski goggles. A group of us hiked Mt. Massive in mid-September and as we climbed the wind started to blow hard and further up it started to snow "snow pellets." Before the hike my friend told me not to forget my goggles and I didn't. If I didn't have my ski goggles I would have had to return to the base. -- Jim Kennedy

Thanks Jim, can I use the lab goggles I still have from 8th-grade chemistry?

Free Continental Divide, llamas not included

In 1978, Congress officially created the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail also known as the “King of Trails” -- a 3,100-mile backcountry path along the spine of the continent from Canada to Mexico.

Almost 30 years later, only approximately 70% of the trail exists, and many of those miles are in desperate need of repair.

So what do you do? Wait for Congress to fund a federal trail-building earmark? Yeah, right. The trail was built almost entirely by volunteers, and that's how it is going to be finished.

But that kind of work is not the order of this weekend's Continental Divide TrailFest in Buena Vista. This weekend is all about enjoying the trail.

The Continental Divide Trail Alliance has organized a massive, free festival with guided hikes will get people out to trails.

Sign up ends today. Click here to sign up!

Need help deciding whether to go, click here and feast your eyes on the available hikes.

Have you hugged a trail today?

TrailFest 2006 is tomorrow, and groups of hikers will spread across the mountains from a base camp in Buena Vista.

If you want to participate, don't delay. Most of the trips are full, but the deadline to get in on the action is 11 a.m. TODAY, according to the TrailFest site,

You can still hike, even if not on an organized trip, and chow down on pancakes, check out gear from outdoor suppliers and kick back to live music. TrailFest celebrates the Continental Divide Trail. Pancakes start flipping onto plates and groups hit the trails at 7 a.m., so tonight is not the time for a pub crawl.

Need info now? Call 1-888-909-CDTA (2382) or email

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Wolf Creek news expected

(Photo of Wolf Creek lodge by RH Pitcher)

From The Associated Press:

Regional Forester Rick Cables (U.S. Forest Service) will announce Friday whether he will reverse or modify a decision allowing new roads at Wolf Creek ski area. The proposed roads are a key step in plans for a massive development there.

In April, the agency approved the construction of two short roads in the Rio Grande National Forest for access to the proposed Village at Wolf Creek, which eventually could include 222,100 square feet of commercial space and housing for up to 10,500

Both sides in the long-running battle appealed. Three separate appeals by opponents said the Forest Service greatly underestimated the impact of the project when it approved the roads and said the agency was improperly influenced by the developer.

The developers said the decision unfairly requires them to build a 750-foot road at cost of about $12 million, when a shorter extension of an existing road would be cheaper and have less environmental impact.

Opponents fear the development will hurt the environment and overtax schools and other services in tiny Mineral County, home to fewer than 1,000 full-time residents. Supporters say it will bring much-needed jobs and tax revenue to an economically depressed part of the state.

Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., has asked the Agriculture Department, which oversees the Forest Service, to determine whether politics were behind the approval of the roads.

Changes at Dinosaur

One of the most unusual visitor centers in the state has been closed indefinitely.

The Dinosaur National Monument Visitor Center that encloses an active fossil quarry has been deemed unsafe. The center, that surrounds a cliff embedded with dinosaurs, has been repaired repeatedly since it was built on clay in 1957. The center was a big draw for the national monument, offering a place where visitors could watch paleontologists work.

Local officials are worried the closure will affect tourism in the area. The massive park offers hiking, rafting and camping, but the center is its biggest draw.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

1,000 km with 7 pounds of gear.

We blogged on the guys who were trying to do a 1,000 km unsupported traverse of the Arctic in Alaska when they started. They finished July 4. Here's their wrap up. It's worth reading, and checking out their site, if for no other reason than to appreciate how light they went. If you don't include the weight of food and water, they carried less than 7 pounds per person. Wow. I carry more than that on a day hike.

Bozeman, Mont. (July 7, 2006) - On July 4, a team of long distance trekkers completed the first and longest ever unsupported trekking traverse of America's most remote, roadless, uninhabited wilderness, a distance of 1000 km (600 mi) across Alaska's western Arctic region from the Chukchi Sea to the Alaskan Pipeline.

En route, in addition to completing America's longest wilderness traverse, the party became the first to visit the most remote location in the U.S. by fair means - carrying all of their gear, food, and supplies for the entirety of the trek in their backpacks and traveling entirely on foot.

"We crested the final hill, and there it was: the remotest place in America, situated in the mouth of a shallow draw, with a gravel band above, and a cluster of pretty mountains behind it, and a hundred-foot cliff bank below it. It was a beautiful scene." -- Expedition Member Roman Dial, from America's Remotest Spot on June 25, 2006

Their route traversed the most remote (westernmost) region of Alaska's Brooks Range, starting at the Chukchi Sea near the Native village of Kivalina and ending at the Alaskan Oil Pipeline Highway ("Haul Road") near Wiseman. This region is notable for two key characteristics: it is the largest contiguous roadless, uninhabited, and unprotected wilderness in America, and it contains America's remotest spot (defined by its distance from the nearest roads or habitations) in an area that is more than 15 times the area of the remotest spot in the contiguous U.S., which lies SE of Yellowstone National Park.

They faced tremendous challenges, including trekking up to 40 miles per day in the Alaskan bush and tundra, crossing the Brooks Range, swimming rivers swollen with snowmelt, standing down threatening grizzly bears, managing foot injuries, and trekking quickly to the end in the face of rapidly dwindling food supplies.

Early in the expedition, expedition member Ryan Jordan badly sprained an ankle, requiring the party to adjust their already precarious schedule, travel off their maps, and navigate to a safe location for a bush pilot to land. In another incident, they surprised a grizzly bear protecting a moose kill. On another day, they swam across one of the largest rivers in the Arctic. A few days later, they crossed the crest of the Brooks Range in a storm that threatened them with hypothermia.

The party completed the route in ultralight style, using fragile and lightweight gear considered absurdly inadequate by mainstream outdoor industry manufacturers. They slept under tarps made with the lightest racing sailcloth materials available, carried
backpacks that weighed only 24 ounces but carried 55-60 lbs (mostly food), and cooked over bush fires. They wore trail running shoes and carried no extra footwear. They traveled at night, and slept during the day - minimizing the amount of insulating gear they had to carry. The weight of their trekking gear, not including food and water, was less than 7 pounds per person.

During the expedition, readers of the live satellite dispatches sent by the team to their web site,, expressed controversial opionions about the team's style and strategy, from their choice not to take guns for bear protection, to their use of a satellite phone to ensure safety in an emergency, to their use of running shoes as a means to trek through the Alaskan bush.

Expedition member Ryan Jordan, publisher of Backpacking Light Magazine and the web site, says: "This expedition was ambitious. There was never a guaranteed outcome of success, even towards the end. It was a serious test of ultralight trekking technique and gear, athleticism, and sheer power of will. On a personal level, it was the most engaging strategy I've ever used to enjoy a wilderness traverse."

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

More on Pueblo

The most dedicated paddler in our newsroom, Andy Wineke, the TV Talk columnist, just sent me this pic from when he bagged work early yesterday and hit the Pueblo Park. Pretty Sweet.

Pueblo still running big

As I reported in The Gazette today, the Pueblo Whitewater Park is experiencing its biggest flows ever. Yesterday, locals weren't sure how long the high water, which has conjured up some huge waves, would last.

Checking the real time USGS gauge this morning, it's still gushing at 4,500 cfs, more than 10 times the flow it had just a few days ago.

When the water first crested, local paddlers told me they often had to dodge trash and large branches floating down the river, but now that the water has been up for a while, the creek is clear, and paddlers on are singing the praises of the waters at flood stage.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Surprise Gold Camp Road decision

The debate over Gold Camp Road has gone on for years. Today, the years of discussions, public forums and Forest Service review effectively came to an end. A Forest Service review officer reversed a decision last year to allow the section of road between High Drive and Old Stage Road to reopen. There'll be no driving on that section of the road.

Pike National Forest supervisor Bob Leaverton had decided last year that the road could be reopened if private funding was raised. About $750,000 was needed to repair a collapsed tunnel on the road, that is a popular hiking, biking and motorcycling trail. For a previous story about the road, check out

Walking for a cause

Debbie Schachner had thought about walking the American Discovery Trail ever since she read an article about it in Backpacker magazine. But the O'Fallon, Ill., resident wanted to do it when she had a reason. She went to Kenya, where she worked as a teacher. When she returned, she says, "I had a reason."

Schachner decided she should build a library in Kenya, so she set out to hike the ADT, collecting donations from individuals and groups along the way.
She's in Colorado this week - she leaves from Mueller State Park Tuesday morning, bound for Canon City and then Pueblo. She decided to hike the trail from west to east, the opposite of most ADT hikers.

She says her time on the trail has "shown me the goodness of people." Her worst experience: in Utah, when she walked two days in the wrong direction and fell in a stream and got stuck in quicksand. Her best experience: "The number of good and kind people I've met."
For more on Debbie, her cause and her walk, go to

Aspens in trouble?

It's nearly impossible to imagine Colorado without its signature aspen trees. But stands of aspens are dying out throughout the state, and foresters are alarmed.

The most recent die-off: in the Dolores Ranger District's Turkey Knolls near Mancos. “I think we’re going to see huge changes in 30 to 40 years,” said Phil Kemp, forester with the Dolores Public Lands Center, in an AP story:

Kemp first noticed the change in aspen stands two to three years ago, but the first official report of dying aspens in Southwest Colorado came when the U.S. Forest Service’s forest health management group did an aerial survey of the area, marking the changes in aspen stands.

Dying aspens have been recorded in other states as well, but there is no apparent pattern, said Wayne Shepperd, research forester with the Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Stationin Fort Collins. “It seems to be occurring at different places and to various degrees,” he said. “We have lots of questions, but no answers. We haven’t seen anything like this in Colorado before."

Kemp and the team of researchers have not been able to determine why the aspen stands are dying or why the mortality may be occurring at this point, but they suspect repeated years of drought, as well as insects and disease, may play a role. Without the needed moisture, aspens are weaker and less resistant to insects and disease.

This is from a story by Gazette writer Bill McKeown in March 2006:

Colorado’s shimmering stands of aspen trees, as potent a symbol of this state as its soaring peaks, are in danger of disappearing.

That’s the sobering conclusion of the Colorado State Forest Service’s recently released annual report on the health of the state’s forests. Colorado’s 4 million acres of aspens are reaching the end of their natural life cycle of about 120 years. But foresters already have seen troubling signs the trees may not regenerate themselves through their extensive system of roots and suckers, the author of the report, Jen Chase, said last week.

All over Colorado, aspens are being choked off by an invasion of conifers, a generic name for the cone-bearing evergreens that dominate the state’s forests. ... This cycle of birth, death and rebirth of aspens has occurred every century or so since the deciduous trees first sprouted in the moist glacial soils of the last Ice Age. But the coming cycle of dieoff lacks a crucial component of rebirth: fire. New life in the forests, experts say, requires the kind of fires that Coloradans have done their darnedest to prevent for a century. ...

Because fire has been suppressed for more than a century, vast swatches are now covered in tall, weedy conifers whose shade is blocking new aspens. ... Foresters ... say Colorado will inevitably lose some of its 4 million acres of aspens permanently. ... (and) favor prescribed burns of conifers to reduce fire danger, create clearings for aspens and create forests that contain trees of different ages. ... On a small scale, aspen stands can be rejuvenated by using machinery to slice through the extensive root system, spurring the production of new suckers. ... Whatever strategies are used, it will take many years, many dollars, a lot of hard work and the understanding of residents and environmentalists, the foresters say.

Summer luge

Some people just don't know how to have fun.

Homeowners near the Haymeadow ski run at Beaver Creek are fighting Vail Resorts' plans to install an alpine slide.

What's an alpine slide? It;s a sort of luge track you run on wheeled sleds when there's no snow.

Owners of expensive homes near Haymeadow say the track would change the character of the area.

“It’s not what people here want. I’d say at least 90 percent of the resort property owners are against it,” said Bernie Scharf,” president of the McCoy Peak Condominium Association and spokesman for several other associations in the Haymeadow area.

Vail Resorts has put off the project until least Jan. 31 while it looks at alternative sites, an official said.

Pike week begins

Today is the first day of what the Colorado Springs City Council has officially dubbed Pike Week in honor of the area's first Western explorer and first publicly confounded mountain climber.

The week is marked by a series of activities, including the displaying of items from a 1906 time capsule hidden under a Zeb Pike memorial downtown, and the display of some of his 200-year-old papers and journals he carried on his expedition.
For more info, click here.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Missing hiker found

Rescuers found a 57-year-old man who had been missing since Monday. The message to share: Kerry Garcia of Albuquerque was prepared with emergency gear and had left map coordinates of where he was preparing to go.

Garcia was suffering from exposure, sunburn and dehydration when he was found Thursday in a remote area in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, according to the AP. He was last seen Monday morning at the Avalanche Creek campground, sheriff's officials said.

Garcia, who was searching for hunting spots for a future trip, got stuck in the cliffs above a tributary of Avalanche Creek, where he could neither climb or go back down the way he came.

Again, the message to take home: He had emergency gear and searchers knew where to look for him because he'd shared that information.

Family in the forest

Some 15,000 members of the Rainbow Family who spent up to a week camping in the woods near Steamboat Springs left a big imprint on the land, the Forest Service said today.

Aerial photographs show the campers carved 40-50 miles of trails in the woods and a nearby meadow in Routt National Forest, said Forest Service spokeswoman Denise Ottaviano, noting that any gathering that size will have consequences.

Rainbow Family representatives said members will stay behind after the bulk of the group leaves to tend to the forest and minimize the group's impact on wildlands and wildlife. Forest officials are expected to oversee the work.

Officials estimate about 7,500 Rainbow Family members remain at the site.

Can you light a campfire?

If you're headed out camping this weekend, make sure you check for fire restrictions.

Some Colorado counties are easing fire restrictions, with federal officials lifting their ban on 3 million acres of land across southern Colorado, including the
Pike-San Isabel National Forest.

But Arapahoe and Summit counties kept limits in place. Officials say they’re worried about future dry spells.

“We have a checklist to determine if we meet the criteria for lifting the restrictions,” U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Barb Timock said. Restrictions could be reimposed if the weather dries out.

Park County lifted all restrictions, while Jefferson and Douglas counties, eased theirs.

Wet weather is expected to continue through next week, National Weather Service meteorologist Jim Kalina said, but summer monsoon season often is followed by dry spells.

Statewide fire restrictions:

A closer look at Blodgett Peak Open Space

Here's a bird's eye view of Blodgett Peak Open Space, courtesy of GoogleEarth. Click the picture for a larger image.

Not a good week for teens in the mountains

This weekend, we ran a story about two teenage boys from Texas getting hit by lightning while climbing the Spanish Peaks. Yesterday, two Boulder boys had to be rescued after they decided to slide down Arapaho Glacier in the Indian Peaks. One broke his leg. Another hit his head severely. Apparently the trip down the snow field was faster than they planned.

What a beautiful thing to have such a big, wild, dangerous place as the Rockies to be young in.

This week's happy trail: Blodgett Peak Open Space

Ahhh... beautiful Blodgett. We'll have more photos of the hiking here as soon as Deb Acord rolls into the newsroom (hey, give her a break, it's Friday). Until then, thanks to for this photo.
If you didn't see Out There, read today's Happy Trails description.

When you ski off a cliff, who do you sue?

photo from
The AP reported today the case against Vail Resorts brought by a family of a man who died of head injuries while skiing at Breckenridge will go to the court of appeals.

(NO, that is not a photo of the incident; just a cool, obviously off-trail ski photo.)

At issue is whether the area where he was skiing was actually skiable, or whether his death was due to negligence in design and maintenance of its area, and of failing to mark a cliff.

Basically, the family is suing because the run was too hard.

Normally, as I understand it, the Colorado Skier Protection Act (created to protect ski areas, not skiers) absolves the resort from any liability for skier injury unless it was caused by a man-made object.

For example. If a ski patroller had parked a snow mobile in the middle of the slope, and a skier ran into it, the skier could probably recover damages. But if the skier hits a tree, he's out of luck.

In this case, the skier apparently was skiing off the trail when he hit something (sorry can't find info about exactly where he was) and the family's lawyer is arguing that since he was off the trail, the Colorado Skier Protection Act doesn't apply.

Should be interesting.
Let's hope this doesn't affect whether we're allowed to ski off-trail in the future. That's where the good snow is.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Storm's a comin'

It was, indeed, the calm before the storm... The scene from my Manitou Springs balcony, looking west, before the last deluge.

Send your storm photos to, and we'll share them here.

Bear vs. woman

Fortunately, momma bear was being protective and not predatory...

From the AP

A Hawaii woman was being treated in a Seattle hospital today after she was mauled by a brown bear in Southeast Alaska.

Ann Scheller, 57, suffered head, neck and leg wounds in the attack Sunday in Berg Bay, about 20 miles east of Wrangell. Scheller said she was briefly separated from two hikers on a trail when she got between the female bear and its cubs. The bears left the area after the mauling.

“I was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Scheller said in a telephone interview with the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. “She sent out the warnings and I was just trying to move on.”

Scheller, an emergency room nurse, told the newspaper she was discovered by her friends about an hour after the attack. She was in satisfactory condition, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Did you hear the one about...

(Finishing the Leadville race)
...the guy who has pledged to run 50 marathons in 50 days?
Samuel Thompson, 25, of Mississippi, is running to raise awareness of the Gulf Coast's recovery from Hurricane Katrina. Thompson started his epic run at a marathon in Leadville on July 1, followed by races in Casper, Wyo., Bozeman, Mont., Sauvie Island., Ore., and Salt Lake City.
Tomorrow, he's in Reno, Nev., and plans to wrap up Aug. 19 in Bay St. Louis, Miss., where he has been doing volunteer work at a Katrina recovery center. If a state doesn't have a planned marathon, Thompson will do a marathon-length run there anyway. He has a good chance of reaching his goal. He has run 40 marathons since he was 18, and two years ago, he ran the length of the Appalachian Trail.
Check out his blog at

Cautionary tale

(It's important that everyone on a group trip know of any one person's allergies and what to do in case of emergency. Thanks, Morgan, for sharing your story.)

The list of things that cause 10-year-old Morgan Smith of Colorado Springs to have an allergic reaction is a long one: peanuts, soybeans, peas, eggs, cats, dogs. But until a recent camping trip, Morgan's list didn't include trout. Here's his story of a scary night in the woods that turned out all right.

A Story of Anaphylactic Shock
Two hundred miles from home and while camping at 10,000 feet in the Rocky Mountains I wasn’t supposed to be allergic to fish. But now I think I am after that night camping in the Uncompahgre National Forest.

We had caught 3 wild trout earlier that day down at Lake San Crystobal and had a lot of fun. My dad cleaned the fish while there so we only had to cook them when we got back to camp. When we did get back to camp, we decided to sauté them in butter and lemon juice after we steamed them. My dad let me and my sister, Michaela, sample the seasoning so we knew that we liked it. That was about 20 minutes before I even ate. My dad also cooked some shell pasta that evening also with the trout.

Dad handed me a large piece of trout and a bowl of shells, both of which had the seasoning on them. “Try a piece of fish. Is it good?” my dad asked. I tried a piece. “This is great Dad! Thanks for cooking this.” I replied.

We had started a fire right as we got back from the fishing. Only a few minutes after I had taken a bite, my gums started to itch some. I started to space out and stare into the coals of the fire. “Morgan, what’s wrong? Talk to us, come on talk to us.” My dad said, awakening me back to earth.

“Ev-Everything’s all right except my gums itch.” I stuttered back.“Get the Benadryl, Michaela!” my dad shouted. Michaela raced into the tent. “Where’s the Epi kit?” my sister asked. “It’s on my mattress!” I yelled back. My gums started to itch a lot more. My sister raced back out and gave my dad a Benadryl. He gave it to me. About a minute later, my gums didn’t itch as much. I had a few more shells, but no more trout. My chest started to hurt a little. I couldn’t breathe as well. I started to space off again and again, staring at the coals.

“Morgan, talk to us! What’s wrong? Morgan!” my dad said. “My chest hurts a little. I’m having a little trouble breathing. Grab the Epi Pen!” I said yelling at the end of my sentence. Michaela grabbed the Epi Pen out of my epi-kit. She gave it to dad and dad sat right next to me. He gave me some breathing exercises. On my last exercise, my breathing started to be really shallow. I couldn’t breathe a lot.

“Dad, give me the Epi Pen!” I croaked. Dad jammed it into my left thigh, and counted to ten. Dang! Dang this hurts! I thought. He let it out. “Michaela, put out the fire, we’re leaving.” Michaela put out the fire.

I know what you’re thinking as you read this. Didn’t you call 911 right after you inject it? We couldn’t. We were at 10,000 feet in elevation with trees surrounding us, so Dad had no cell service. We climbed into the car. I burped. “I feel like I’m going to throw up, Dad.” Dad opened the door, and I climbed out. I threw up. I knew this would happen, because whenever you body rejects something it doesn’t like, you throw it back up. After about half a minute, we climbed back into the car. My dad gave me a bag, in case if I had to throw up anymore.

We were almost at the very top of a rock 4WD trail, but my dad went over the rocks. He flashed his lights and honked his horn.Cars got out of his way.Michaela, in the back seat, kept talking to me about things. My legs we very jittery from all the adrenaline put into me from the Epi Pen. We saw red lights ahead on a type of fire truck. My dad stopped. So did the man in the truck with the flashing lights. My dad backed up. He said, “I have a son in anaphylactic shock, and I need to get him to the ER right now!” “Where is he?” the man asked.“In the back seat with me,” Dad replied. “Can you radio into the ER in Lake City to tell them we’re coming?” “Sure.”“Thanks a lot!” my Dad replied, and drove off down the road.

We came to where the gravel road met the pavement. A police car pulled out behind us. My dad rolled down his window. He waved them by. The police car came up next to us and one of the police men yelled, “Follow us!” My dad nodded back. The police car zoomed down the road toward Lake City, the nearest town. We were going about 65 mph on the road. The police car pulled over in a little circle, where an ambulance was waiting. We all opened our doors at once. I was helped out.

I limped along, because my left thigh was sore from the injection of the Epi Pen. The paramedic asked questions, and my sister answered them. He had his cut kit out ready to perform a tracheotomy on me, but I didn’t need that. My breathing was fine. He closed the doors, and the ambulance took off, my dad in his car, and the police car lights and sirens following me in the ambulance. The paramedic asked me many questions to keep me from spacing off. We got to the medical center. The doctor and nurse helped me in to the emergency room, and took my heart rate, blood pressure, and my pulse oximetry. My legs were starting to calm down. They gave me some water to drink and asked some questions like: how old are you, when did you use the Epi Pen, what medications do you take, and how do you think this happened? I answered all of them.

My dad called Mom who was back at home, and Mom was scared. I started to feel better. I got up, and went into the lobby for a little while and watched some TV. They wanted to keep me for a little while, so they could watch how I was doing. We bought another Epi Pen, and they prescribed me Prednisone. We left the medical center about 2 ½ hours later. I was very tired. We went back to camp, and I went to bed. My dad stayed up until 3:00 a.m., just to make sure I wasn’t having another shock or reaction.

I’ve been fine ever since, and we stayed up camping for another 2 days. During this incident, I was very scared of what would happen to me. I didn’t believe that the Epi Pen would really work, but it definitely did! If this were to ever happen again, I’d know what it would feel like. I wouldn’t be scared to have a shot because not being able to breathe hurts a lot more. Now I know not to eat fish, and especially trout. Even one bite can do a lot of things to your life.

Beware the gathering clouds

Bart Phillips of Monument sent us this photo of an awesome storm cell that blew into Palmer Lake around 9 p.m. on July 4. He was standing on Highway 105 looking north. Bart says the Palmer Lake fireworks show was started 30 minutes early (at 9) to prevent a rain-out. What a backdrop!

Thanks, Bart.

Anyone else have a great shot to share? If not, keep your cameras handy. Looks like Mother Nature has more in store for us. Send your photos to

Send me your storm photos

Flash flood warnings, rain that just goes on and on, creeks jumping their banks. I'm sure with all this water people have good flood photos from last night. E-mail them to me ( and we'll run a greatest hits blog.

A lighter side of fourteeners, figuratively, clearly not literally

This is pretty funny. In a post on, this guy has pictures of himself tossing a large rock off of 14,001-foot Sunlight Peak, relegating it to the status of "thirteener." Now, in a new post another climber has taken a large rock and lugged it back up to restore the mountain's "dignity."
And of course, this got other climbers on the thread talking about whether they could move a bunch of rocks on some high thirteeners, to make them fourteeners.
Not sure the USGS would go for that.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Little Bear death confirmed

Mathew Zimmer, 38, of Wichita, Kansas, was climbing with two friends when he fell about 350 feet to his death on Little Bear Peak on Sunday, according to the coroner's office in Alamosa. His route basically went up the steep face in the middle of the above photo