Friday, September 29, 2006

Moose on Rampart

Study this picture carefully - you might meet one of these guys on Rampart Range Road or on your way to Cripple Creek. Credible reports have come in to the Colorado Division of Wildlife that moose have been seen in these two areas. The one off Rampart was reported to be a "huge" bull moose.

Grizzles sighted near Aspen?

As The Gazette reported today - and Deb reported on this blog yesterday - pair of hunters near Independence Pass sighted what they claimed to be a female grizzly bear and two cubs frolicking in a clearing. They watched the family for a few minutes through binoculars Sept. 20, then contacted the DOW.

DOW has found no evidence of grizz in the area. They say their best bet is putting wildlife specialists on the ground to search fresh bear scat for the tell-tale silver tipped grizzly bear hair. To which I say, ewww.

This won't be the first time a grizz spotting turned out to be "just" another bear.

The last big bear sighted in Colorado was killed in 1979 by an outfitter, but rumors of the possibility of these bears living in isolated places, such as the south San Juan Wilderness area, have persisted, giving rise to books such as "Ghost Grizzlies: Does the Great Bear Still Haunt Colorado?"

Place your bets in the comment box below. Are there still Grizz in CO? I say no.

The hot new skis and boards for 07

We'd like to be able to tell you which of the hundreds of skis that come out every year (trust us, since that would mean tons of testing time on the slopes, we'd really like too) but who has the time?

Fortunately does. is the online combination of both SKI and SKIING magazines.(BTW, if you don't know the difference, SKIING tracks slightly younger and more irreverent.) They get experts to take turns on all the hottest new boards so you don't sink $500 into a pair of dogs.

What did they like best this year? Here's the cool part, they have it on a PDF file, so you can print out the best in each category and take it to the ski shop. For the list, click here

Don't know what type of ski to get (bumps, big mountain, etc), the site also has a clickable survey that will tell you what kind of skier you are, and the top five skis for you. To see it, click here .

Boarders, don't sweat your baggy shorts. Transworld Snowboarding has its top picks of the season out too. See them here.

We were disappointed not to see Summit County maker Unity listed. They usually make it into the top ten. But if your favorite board isn't on this list (as mine isn't) don't sweat it. Most manufacturers these days are making killer products. Even if it's not the best of the best, chances are, unless you're really good, you'll be the limiting factor on the mountain, not the board or skis.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Lottery time for rafters

If you're hoping to raft the Colorado through the Grand Canyon, get ready to apply.

The national park begins accepting applications for self-guided permits Sunday.

It's part of a lottery that replaces a 26-year-old wait-list system. We talked about this before on the blog - how the old system sometimes attracted more than 1,000 applications a year, and how a guy recently was convicted of fraud for attempts to gain advantage on the wait-list.

If you want to raft through the Grand Canyon in 2007, here's what you need to do:

++ Apply for a permit, choosing up to five dates for trips next year.
(You only have between Sunday and Oct. 21 to apply.)

++ Pay $25 nonrefundable application fee.

++ Wait for the lottery results (lottery scheduled Oct. 23).

++ Pay deposit of $200 to $400, depending on the number of rafters in a group.

++ Pay permit fees of $100 per participant (deposit goes toward this), with the balance due 90 days before the launch.

For details, visit the park site .

To maximize your chances of getting a launch date, the thinking goes, spread your dates out, and consider going in fall or winter, when fewer people are likely to apply.

There'll be more info about the process and a bit of history about the lottery in Sunday's Travel section.

No Child Left Inside

The superintendent of Yellowstone National Park used that line when talking about the need to get kids outta the house and into nature.

Suzanne Lewis also talked about kids and "nature deficit syndrome."

“When I grew up in suburban Ohio, we played in the woods all day long,” Lewis said. “But today, a lot of kids aren’t comfortable in the outdoors. When you add computers, video games, TV and all those things, we’re absolutely producing a culture of children that don’t identify with the outdoors.”

Why should anyone care whether kids hike, camp, fish, birdwatch? Lewis and others believe a lack of interest in the outdoors among today’s children could spell bad news for national parks and the communities that depend on them. If these kids don't value nature now, who's to say they'll value it when they're adults? And if they don't value nature as adults, will they protect our wildlands or pave them over?

Read below for more on the general topic. Deb posted a notice earlier about the declining number of people camping in our parks. Good for solitude, but worrisome if you're concerned about funding for parks.

Could it be?

(Grizzly in Yellowstone)

It's a common mistake - seeing a black bear in the wilds of Colorado and mistaking it for a grizzly. But since 1979, there has been no evidence of grizzlies in Colorado. Wildlife officials have been all but certain they were gone from the state forever.
But on Sept. 20, two Colorado hunters who have experience with grizzlies and black bears reported watching a female grizzly and two cubs through binoculars and a spotting scope at a distance of about 80 yards for about a minute.
The hunters saw the bears in a clearing in the San Isabel National Forest near Independence Pass, but were unable to find tracks or scat after the bears moved on. Three officers from the Colorado Division of Wildlife searched the area three days later, and found no evidence. The official word: Based on the 1979 event, the DOW cannot discount the possibility of grizzlies existing in Colorado.
On Sept. 23, 1979, an outfitter on an archery elk hunt was attacked by a female grizzly in the San Juan National Forest. He survived, but the grizzly was killed. Prior to that incident, it was commonly believed that grizzlies had been extirpated from Colorado. For more information on grizzly bears, go to

Worst gear of the year

Skiing magazine has a really funny feature called "worst gear of the year" that you won't want to miss. Check out the slideshow here. Our favorite of the least favorites: the Ski Thing, a fabric sling that hooks on your ski boot so you can tuck the tails of your skis in it while you walk to the lift. It's sort of like doing a three-legged race with your skis. This could be useful if you don't want people to stop you to ask for directions. With this thing on, no one will think you're from around here.

photo courtesy Skiing

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Colors of the Peak

Gazette photographer Christian Murdock sent me this photo from a trip up Barr Trail earlier this week. The mountain got about 3 feet of snow, he said. The storm late last week took its toll on the aspens mid-mountain. "The leaves are all brown up there," he said. "They're still yellow - and even green - down below, but it's all over up higher in elevation."

Neal and Teresa, Barr Camp's caretakers, told Christian they ran around shaking snow off the trees near camp, trying to prevent branches from snapping. Between the snow and the thaw-turned-ice, it sounds like they had quite a lot of work to do.

Trail conditions up high were pretty slushy, he said. Anyone been up there today? What's it like?

A Carolina state of mind

It's fall, a time when our thoughts turn to...North Carolina. OK, maybe not. But I got an e-mail this morning from "Experience North Carolina," reminding me that their leaf peeping season hasn't even started. The leaves are going fast in Colorado, but I don't think I'm going to be booking a trip to the southeast. Still, the Web site - (click on fall color) is really cool. Check out the interactive forecaster, that lets you drag a leaf across the state to see peak viewing times. (If you feel the need to visit, the N.C. leaves don't start to change until the first week of October, and the show continues through the first week of November.)

Shameless self-promotion with a purpose

Today, The Gazette launched a very cool feature called your hub. You can check it out at
Basically, it's a Web site that allows anyone in the community to write stories and post photos. You can share news we can't get around to telling.

Want to write about wildlife in Cheyenne Canyon? You can. Need to publicize a deteriorating trail and ask for others to help you fix it? This is the place. Want to announce an event to hikers in your zip code? No problem. Have pictures from your epic ski day? Brag away. Let the whole city see them. We'll be on the lookout for your work here, too, and may promote your stories and photos on the Out There blog. Let's get the conversation going.

To see a hub in full swing, visit the Denver site.

We'll have to see how Your Hub develops. I'm sure with 400,000 people in the area we'll have some creative uses. In the mean time, check it out.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

New terrain to explore

Keystone has announced Independence Bowl will open this season. The bowl features 300 acres of expert-only hike-in and snowcat ski/ride terrain east of the summit of Dercum Mountain. The U.S. Forest Service issued the final approval last week for the steep, north-facing terrain.

Keystone will open Nov. 10. For more information about the new cat skiing/riding terrain, events or lodging, go to

Where do climbers scramble on the 'Net?

There's a Web site called that ranks the top 100 climbing sites based on how many times they are referred to on other sites. The top one? I guarantee you've never heard of it. It's, a German site focused on "Aktivreisen, Wanderreisen, Radreisen, Kulturreisen in Spanien" which, and I'm going by phonetics here, I assume is about wandering, biking and enjoying the culture of Spain.

That beat out classic sites, such as, and local favorites like and .

Hmmm, I think someone might be manipulating the rankings.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Camping losing its charm?

It's a good news/bad news kind of thing: There are fewer people camping in the national parks than there were 10 years ago. The good news: Campers who still go can enjoy fewer crowds and a more pristine experience. The bad news: Fewer visitors means less interest and fewer funds for parks.

Park officials say the drop in campers may be due to a slumping economy, higher gas prices, more competition for people's time, and changing demographics.

"The long weekend is replacing the two-week time off," Jim Gramann, a professor at Texas A&M University and a visiting social scientist for the National Park Service, told the AP. "That means fewer overnight stays in the national parks."

Gramann said population changes may also have an impact because of the growth among some groups that are not traditional parkgoers. Census projections show that by 2050, ethnic minority groups will compose more than 47 percent of the U.S. population. And studies show members of those groups traditionally do not spend leisure time in the parks.

The Park Service reported that overnight stays in national parks fell by 13.8 million, or 20 percent, between 1995 and 2005, and have fallen an additional 4.3 percent in the first eight months of this year. The Park Service said tent camping dropped 23 percent, backcountry camping 24 percent and RV camping 31 percent in the10-year period.

Visits to “gem parks” in the intermountain region, which include Rocky Mountain, dipped between 2 percent and 15 percent during that time. “Let’s face it: It’s hard to protect the parks if no one is interested in them,” said Park Service statistician Butch Street.

Like a powder day in January

That's how a friend in Summit County described the scene from Breckenridge yesterday.
"Every run on the mountain has perfect tracks. Some of them are almost skied out."

Amazing. I know it's not that uncommon to get snow in September, but it's been a while since I remember so much so soon.

AFA getting back to normal

After closing its gates following the terrorist attacks of 2001, the Air Force Academy has announced that it will ease restriction on visitors, which opens several prime hiking opportunities that have been off-limits.

The Gazette reported today the north and south gates will open to tourists. No date was announced. When the gates open, hikers should have access to Stanley Canyon, West Monumnet Creek Canyon, and Cathedral Rock. All are classic local hikes. We'll have happy trails guides to them in cming weeks in The Gazette's Out There section.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Goodbye, summer

Not to be outdone by the snow action in the high country, Mueller State Park also has a blanket of about four inches of snow. These pictures are from this morning, where the trails were empty except for a flock of turkeys and a lone coyote. Check out this trail in next week's Out There section.

2 feet and rising

No, that's not today's shot. It's a day last season at Breck's Freeway Terrain Park by Aaron Dodds of Vail Resorts.

The storm pounding the high country has dropped more than 2 feet of snow at Vail, Breck and Beaver Creek. Keystone is nearing 1.5 feet, and it's supposed to snow through tomorrow morning.

Anyone already taken a run off the pass? How was it? Send us a photo.

Check out and for photos and video from earlier today.

If you're set on leaf peeping...

Take your mittens. It's snowing right now in Woodland Park and points west and north. But I'm headed to Aspen Central right now - Mueller State Park and the area around Cripple Creek. Watch this blog this weekend for photos of the gold. And think positive - aspen leaves positively glow with a little dusting of snow.

Not ready for snow? Here are other options...

The snow is so deep in the high country that The Gazette had a picture of a snowboarder on the front page this morning. With more bad weather on the way, anyone thinking of climbing a mountain this weekend might want to take a parka and snowshoes. Not ready for winter? There are plenty of often overlooked outdoor destinations that are well below the snow line.
Here are some favorites.

Picketwire Canyon on the Comanche National Grasslands near La Junta is a beautiful sandstone canyon with dinosaur tracks, an old Spanish frontier graveyard, and historic ranches. Right now, the wildflowers should be spectacular. It's a great hike, but since it's on an old ranch road, it's best by mountain bike (don't worry, except for one short part, it's a breeze). For directions, click here.
Another great Front Range destination is Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge just east of Denver. As the name suggests, the place used to be a weapons factory. Then it was left alone for decades. Now it's a major stopover for birds. It will be especially active right now, with the migration season in full swing. For directions, click here. I highly suggest combining a trip here with a meal at one of my favorite Denver eateries, such as My Brother's Bar, Domo, Pho 79, or Saigon Cafe.
Finally, don't forget a few favorite places close to home. How long has it been since you've been to Fountain Creek Nature Center, or taken the bike path around Garden of the Gods. How 'bout some of the classic trails low in Cheyenne Canyon? The tourists are gone, the leaves are changing. Now is the time.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

And the totals are...

Breckenridge, 8 inches at base, 12 inches at top
Vail, 11 inches at top
Beaver Creek, 5 inches at base, 8 inches at top
Keystone, 5 inches
Forecast: More than 8 inches predicted for Friday night into Saturday morning.

The snow is here

Loveland.... Breckenridge...
Any Questions?

Upstart snow park adds even more hits

I just got a note from Echo Mountain Park, the small, terrain park only, "ski area" near Evergreen. The mountain only opened late last winter, and at the time it wasn't done. With a whole summer to work, they've added jumps, rails, new everything. Here's the info:

First, since everyone's been asking... Here's what's new up at Echo for '06-'07 - We've added 40 more features from Planet Snow Tools, 30% more park terrain, 2X more lighted terrain (we're open until 9 pm every day), completed the "garage" (our smaller retail/demo lounge building), pushed some dirt for jumpage, and finally built our outdoor deck with (we humbly believe) the best park view in the country. More to come, including a second tow lift and"Progression Center" for the rookies.
By now, hopefully, you've heard about Echo's partnership with Copper and Winter Park. For those who haven't - Echo Season Pass holders get $10 bucks off the Copper or Winter Park Four-Pass, and Rocky Mountain SuperPass holders get either 15% off the Echo Season Pass (> 40 bucks) or 15% weekday and weeknight tickets at Echo all year long. When buying on our site - enter "Superpass" in the coupon window to get your discount. Our unlimited and weekday season pass, 6-pack and 3-pack are also still on sale at pre-season prices until October 15.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


There are no sanctioning bodies, no official competitions, few online resources, but that didn't stop a Roaring Fork Valley school from starting a program in mountain unicycling (MUni). Two department heads from Colorado Rocky Mountain School in Carbondale started the program. The group is thought to be the only MUni club in Colorado. MUnicyclists meet twice a week to learn skills on the knobby-tired bikes, and hope to test their one-wheeled prowess on a spring trip to Moab.

The race is on

And Loveland has joined in. A storm is supposed to drop up to 10 inches of snow at the ski area tonight, and the snowmaking crew is planning on helping out.

“We finished our summer maintenance on the snow guns and fans and started up the compressor last week,” said Mark Abrahamson, snowmaking and trail maintenance manager. “Since then we’ve been waiting for more consistent temperatures so that we can accumulate as much snow as possible.”

Loveland has a goal - the area has been the first ski area in the country to open for the past six seasons. To check the progress there, go to

The start of the start of ski season

We got a call from Summit County that Arapahoe Basin has started making snow. The cams don't show anything, but there is a lot of terrain off-camera. We've sent off an e-mail to find out for sure.

Free Ride park forming in Red Rock Canyon

An example of North Shore-style trails

Plank by plank, screw by screw, a dedicated group of mountain bikers (organized by local bike group Medicine Wheel) is building a "free ride" mountain bike practice park in Red Rock Canyon Open Space.
There are teeter totters, ramps, bridges, drops -- all kinds of new ways to get a booboo -- and the volunteers are working on putting in a gonzo trail near the practice area.

This is good news for anyone who has been dying to ride north shore-style features. For years, groups have been illegally building the wooden features in the national forest and city parks. They get torn down, or are so shoddily built that no one in their right mind would go near them. But now riders have a legal place to play, or at least they will when the work is done.

Want to volunteer? Show up at Red Rock Canyon's main parking lot Thursdays at 6 p.m. The more who help, the sooner it will be done.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

No shoes

It's not the right season to try this yourself, but maybe next summer? We're talking barefoot hiking. Yeah, it's a thing, although it's not as big in places called the Rocky Mountains (emphasis on the word "Rocky") as it is in, say, parts of the less-rocky East Coast.

A guy out there is testing the theory that hiking barefoot is the best way to hike. Ron Zaleski is hiking the Appalachian Trail isans shoes. His goal, he says, is to bring attention to the need for combat veterans to receive counseling.

"In the beginning I thought, 'I gotta do this to show how tough I am. I want to be famous,'" he told the Associated Press. "Now I just want to help these kids."

Zaleski says his aversion to wearing shoes began after he left the Marine Corps in the 1970s. At first, going barefoot was his way to protest the Vietnam War, but he didn't make his stance public for 33 years. No word on the connection between a war protest, military counseling and hiking barefoot.
Check out his Web site at

Chasing crashed planes

On Friday a private plane hit the top of Wilson Peak near Telluride.

The fourteener is so remote, and the crash is so bad, that rescuers still haven't figured out how many bodies are there, and who they are. The local coroner said that in his years of accident response and rescue he has never seen debris fan an area as large as it has in this incident.

Debris may be left on the summit. There are dozens of plane wrecks in Colorado. I can think of two near Colorado Springs (Cheyenne Mountain and Blodgett Peak) and there are probably more.

There is even a Web site dedicated to hiking to some of these remote crashes. It's sort of like geocaching, but with some history mixed in. To check it out visit

Monday, September 18, 2006

The leaf change is on

I had one of those strange high country fall afternoons this weekend: mountain biking near Vail under gorgeous blue skies and golden aspen leaves - on three inches of snow!
It was cold. The water in my CamelBak hose froze. But boy was it beautiful.

There were many aspen up there that had yet to turn, but they're changing fast. Anyone who wants to catch the color better get up there this weekend.

It's good to be the king

Vail can celebrate again. Last year, it suffered in the No. 2 spot in SKI magazine's annual readers poll for best ski resorts in North America. This year, it's made it back to the No. 1 spot.

The resort was honored for being "all things to all people," and was credited for how it uses its natural assets, with four terrain parks, seven bowls and 5,289 acres. Readers rated Vail as No. 1 in 13 of 18 categories, including snow, grooming, terrain variety, lifts, service, weather, on-mountain food, lodging, dining, apres ski, off-hill activities, terrain parks and overall satisfaction.

Hot Chile, Chilly water

Pueblo's Chili and Frijole festival this weekend (Sept 22-24) will offer a new way to cool off after sampling some of the city's delicious roasted green chile. The community is offering free whitewater raft rides through Pueblo's white water park. The park features about six Class III drops, so this isn't just a floating version of a pony ride.

Raft rides are 10 am to 3 pm Saturday and Sunday. The park will also feature boogie board and kayak competitions. For more info, call Edge Ski, Paddle and Pack: 719-583-2021.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Help the migration effort

It's that time of year - migration time. The National Audubon Society says that five billion birds in North America are migrating from their summer breeding grounds in northern areas to their winter homes in the south.
The group says people can help with that monumental task by:
- Turning off interior and exterior lights between midnight and dawn.
- Reduce reflectivity on your windows with light-colored shades, blinds or drapes; place netting or a screen in front of your window, or stick decals on the outside of your windows.
- Place your bird feeders within three feet or more than 30 feet from your windows.
- Keep your cats indoors.
- Don't use pesticides.
- Keep feeders stocked and clean.
For more info, go to (click on the "Keeping Wildlife Safe" link on the left-hand side of the page). (photo from

Did some one say El Nino?

Those two Spanish words are music to the Colorado Skier's ears.
When a mass of warm water, known as El Nino, forms in the southern Pacific, as it has this year, it tends to funnel moisture up towards the Colorado Rockies, making for epic skiing.

This is especially true in the southwest. El Nino doesn't guarantee lots of snow, but it certainly increases the probability. If it does come, it will probably fall mostly on resorts in the southern half of the state (Telluride, Durango Mountain, Wolf Creek, and maybe Monarch). The northern half of the state can be a bit drier. This might not be the year to buy a season pass at Steamboat Springs. But it could be a great year for a field trip to Taos.

Keep your skis crossed.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Remembering a walking man

I met Jim Sankey six years ago this month. A tall, lanky man, he was finishing a goal that he had set for himself -- to "walk around the world." OK, Sankey didn't walk the entire globe, but between 1973 and 2000, he walked 24,902 miles, which is the circumference of the earth. He walked because he loved the outdoors, and was especially drawn to Colorado's mountains. Sankey died this week. I'll be thinking of him when I hike this weekend.
Here's the story that ran in the Gazette (Sept. 5, 2000) after Sankey completed his walk:

He can't stand still/ Springs man walks equivalent of around the world
Deb Acord; The Gazette
Now that Jim Sankey has finished his "walk around the world," you'd think he'd take a break. But what has he been doing on this long weekend? Walking, of course. Sankey, a retired Marine, World War II veteran and Bible college instructor, didn't literally walk around the world. But he did really walk 24,902 miles, the earth's circumference. He started keeping track in 1973, and figures he made the final stride one day last week. How did he do it? One mile at a time, he says. Born in Pennsylvania 76 years ago, Sankey has always walked a lot. When he was a boy, walking was his only mode of transportation. In the military, it was part of his training. When he began working at Nazarene Bible College, it offered him a time and place for contemplation. "I think I'm addicted to walking," he says. "When I began keeping track of my mileage, I needed some goals. I decided to see if I could walk across the United States. I did that one or two times. Then I began logging miles in Colorado and hit the 5,000-mile mark." As he strolled, mile after mile, Sankey realized he needed a more ambitious walking goal. He looked up the circumference of the earth in an encyclopedia, learned it was 24,902 miles and decided that was it. Sankey has divided his walks among the sidewalks of his neighborhood in Cimarron Hills and trails on the mountains and foothills throughout Colorado. He has climbed Pikes Peak along the Barr Trail 15 times and has climbed 12 of the state's fourteeners. He has hiked every trail in Mueller State Park three or four times. He wedges in little walks where other people wouldn't - while he waits for his car to be repaired, when he's early for appointments. He keeps track of his mileage with maps, trail guides and trail markers. And if he ever doubts his mileage, he goes a little farther, just so he doesn't overstate his accomplishments. His favorite 14,000-foot peak, he says, is Mount Massive near Leadville. His favorite place to hike in the Pikes Peak Region is Mueller. But Sankey says the location is secondary to the actual experience of walking. With walking stick in hand - maybe the one he brought back from Germany's Black Forest - and wearing his sturdy Timberland shoes and his favorite camouflage hat, he walks. His pace is brisk, his attitude purposeful. "I like all the parts of walking," he says. "The physical part of it; the places it takes you; the way you can think while you're out there." Sankey and his wife, Carra, have kept a meticulous log of his mileage for nearly 20 years. It shows a steady increase in mileage as Sankey retired and found himself with more free time. By the early '90s, he was walking more than 1,100 miles a year, and in 1997, he hit his personal best with 1,422.5. Then, in 1999, he had triple bypass surgery. It slowed him down a bit - he walked only 1,091 miles. But now, he's back to his old routine, one his wife knows well. "He just loves to walk," she says. "He walks morning, noon and night. "It's OK with me. It makes him happy."

A continuing mystery

Most people have forgotten the story of Michelle Vanek, who disappeared while climbing Holy Cross last year at this time.
But on an active discussion thread is still mulling over many possibilities, including murder and deciept.
No trace of her was ever found. No backpack, no scrap of clothing, nothing.

Here are some of the details, posted on by a member:

1. Her party, led by an experienced hiker, started hiking the Halo Ridge trail thinking they were on the standard trail. This was a big blunder. It is clearly stated that you take the Half Moon trail for the standard route and the Fall Creek trail for the Halo ridge route. The Halo Ridge route is 3 miles longer and is much less travelled. Seems like a big mistake to take the wrong trailhead.

2. He states he forgot his water purifier and a sandwich and discovered this later during the hike. I am not sure what good the water purifier was going to do him on this hike anyway. Was he planning on heading down to the Bowl of Tears to fill up? They both had no water left well before the summit. That was another big blunder.

3. Was she told to stay put or traverse to the standard trail? From what I read, she was too tired to summit. So, she is sitting at the base of the last part of the hike to the summit on the Halo Ridge side. I read that he told her to stay put, he would summit, and then be right back down to meet her and then they would descend. Other stories I read said he told her to traverse the base and meet up with the standard trail and he would meet her there as he came down from the summit. He said that would save them 45 minutes. If she was that tired, it seems strange he would tell her to traverse to the standard trail alone.

So, here are my questions: It seems highly unlikely to me that a mountain lion or bear snatched her. If so, they would have found something. It just seems so bizarre that 400 or so seachers could find no trace of her.
I know things can happen up there and that Holy Cross has more than its share of missing hikers each year but... this case just has me wondering what happened.

So, what do others think? Read it here.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Hint of fall

The calls have started coming in to us at the Gazette: When, exactly, are the aspen going to change? While we don't claim to have any insider information on fall, we do have a resource that can help us find the gold. In the interest of informed leaf-peeping, we're going to share it with you. It's the Colorado State Parks Web site, which offers a fall update on leaf changing at all its parks. Go to
for the latest information. Best bets right now? Eldorado Canyon and Roxborough state parks and the area around Cripple Creek. For more photos of colors from years past, check out, where Steve Garufi posts his favorite shots (including this one from Teller County).

And the winner is...

BreckConnect. That's the winning name submitted for the new eight-person gondola that will connect the town of Breckenridge with the ski resort's Peaks 7 and 8. The resort sponsored a naming contest for the gondola and received more than 250 entries.
The BreckConnect will start at the Breckenridge Transportation Center, in the parking lot right off Main Street, and have terminals at both Peak 7 and Peak 8. It will also have a mid-station at Shock Hill.
Here's some gondola trivia from the ski resort:
+ Ten-minute ride time from Transit Center to the Peak 8 terminal
+ Two mid-stations at Shock Hill and Peak 7 base area
+ 7,592 feet long
+ 396.1 foot vertical rise
+ 28 towers
+ Capacity of 3,000 per hour
+ 121 cabins

Hit the trails

New to the area? New to mountain biking?

Head to REI tomorrow nght for a free mountain biking class. Riders will help you figure out what to wear, what to take and where to ride.

Get over there - 1376 E. Woodmen Road, by 7 p.m. No, you don't have to register, just show up. Questions? Call 260-1455.

Just need some trail ideas? Check out Out There archives at

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

A potentially prickly encounter

I get a thrill when I'm hiking and see a deer, so you can imagine how stoked I was to see this sticky friend alongside the Cheeseman Ranch Trail in Mueller State Park over the weekend. I'd never seen a porcupine in the wild.

There was that moment when I thought, "How close can I get to this little guy and not be within quill range?" As you can see, I didn't push my luck!

The aspens are just beginning to turn. If you're a leaf peeper, plan on heading up to the area in the next couple of weeks. It'll be a beaut.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Flowers of Florissant

I've been mourning the end of summer, but I cheered up a little after a Sunday morning hike at the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. Rangers say this is one of the best and latest wildflower seasons there in recent history. On Sunday, the birds were singing, the squirrels chirping, and the sun shone brightly on these flowers.

Local snow news

It's a sure sign of the end of a Colorado summer - snow on the peak. Pikes Peak, that is. The rangers at the highway report this morning there are about 4 inches of snow on the summit. The highway is open to Devil's Playground, and earlier this morning, was only open 11 1/2 miles.

Snow turns back classic mountain run

For the first time in 23 years, the Imogene Pass Run didn't go over Imogene Pass because of snow.

In the annual run, about 1,100 people normally run 17 miles from Ouray to Telluride over a 13,100-foot pass. This year, however, race support crews couldn't reach the top of the course because snow and ice had coated everything above about 12,000 feet. Instead, the directors routed the runners (who come from all over the four-corners states for what is said to be one of the most scenic races in the state) on a 15-mile loop that ended back in Ouray.

The runners weren't the only ones who had their plans cut short by nasty weather this weekend. The dicussion boards on is full of climbers turned back by snow.

The snow isn't supposed to stick around. Even up high. Drier weather is expected tomorrow.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Setting up a tent, badda-boom, badda-bing. Or not.

Jeff Thomas, editor of The Gazette, camps more than just about any of us here in the newsroom. And he usually leads a troop of Boy Scouts at the same time. He sends the following:

Do I suffer from tent ineptitude? Or are the camping gods toying with me?

For more than two camping seasons I'd been having the darnedest time getting the last of the poles into the final corner grommet of my MSR Ventana, a two-person, 4 lb. 14 oz. tent.

I could get one pole -- either one -- connected just fine. But that second pole, I pulled and pulled and stretched and bent it so hard it nearly buckled as I bowed it -- really bowed it -- to get the end into the requisite hole. I was putting the silver pole into the correct sleeve, and the black pole into the correct sleeve. I actually read, then followed, the setup instructions -- a tough moment for any guy, and the reason why I know there is no particular sequence of assembly required.

I made triple-dog sure there were no kinks in the sleeves or unused slack somewhere. Still, it was always a muscle-quivering, teeth-clenching death match to close that last inch of gap between the pole tip and the grommet.

This week I took the tent back to REI to get the poles shortened. Just a half-inch or so off each, I said.

A friendly voice from REI called me a couple hours later: Uh, you sure you want to shorten these poles? They fit perfectly.

I went in. He showed me. Sure enough, he put the tent up in a flash.

Gimme that, I said. I took the tent down, then set it up myself, badda-boom, badda-bing. No sweat.

What gives? Am I tent challenged? Or is this one of those "joys of camping" I've heard so much about?

Anyone else have tent ineptitude? Phantom stoves? A headlamp that only goes out when you need it?

No snow yet

There is talk that this chilly wet weekend could dump the first significant snow on the Rockies (sort of a bummer if you have a 17-mile high-altitude run from Ouray to Telluride planned, as several hundred people do, including me). So far, according to a series of Web cams, there is no snow. Just rain, and fog.

A few years ago, in 2002, I worked with a very clever reporter who noticed that every time it rained in Colorado, it being a dry state, people would respond "well, we need it."

The reporter posed the question, "In this drought-stricken state, how many days of rain do we have to have before people stop saying 'we need it.'?"

I think we're getting close.

New for the winter

Colorado Ski resorts are whipping out new terrain and lifts for the 2006-2007 season.
Starting closest to home, Breckenridge is adding a gondola connecting the town to the base of Peak 8. It's slated to be done right around Christmas. Combined with the new Skiway from Peak 8 down to town, it means no more shuttle bus rides with the driver blasting Bob Marley. (We'll miss that.)

A-Basin just got the nod from the Forest Service to build a lift in Montezuma Bowl, on its south side. The lift will mean over 300 acres of intermediate and expert terrain. While it probably will be open next winter, at the latest, skiers can test out the area this winter (they just have to be willing to walk back up or hitchhike out from the Montezuma road at the bottom).

Beaver Creek just announced it will open Stone Creek Chutes, a candelabra of short, steep, gladed, backcountry-like runs inbounds. It's the latest step in the in-bounds backcountry trend that has introduced areas like Vail's Blue Sky Basin and Monarch's Mirkwood Basin.

Monarch redid its base lodge this summer to add more room and more dining areas.

Winter Park Resort has added a chairlift granting access to 690 acres of intermediate/advanced and advanced skiing and riding to the back side of Parsenn Bowl. The 7 new gladed runs open up powder stashes that only the locals used to know about.

Wolf Creek Ski Area has replaced 34-year-old Dickey double chairlift with a quad chair that will double uphill capacity. Go enjoy it before the planned Wolf Creek Village is built.

Aspen Highlands continues to expand its Deep Temerity bowl - acres of advanced and expert terrain that opened for the 2005-2006 season along with the Deep Temerity triple chair, which rises 1,700 vertical feet in 7.3 minutes. New terrain will be added for the 2006-2007 season with a total buildout of 270 acres of new terrain in years to come. This is some of the toughest skiing in Colorado.

The bottom line: Even if you've been skiing here for years, there is plenty more to keep you occupied as soon as the snow starts flying.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Some lost climber stories turn out... be really bizarre.

The climber reported missing last week in Eldorado Canyon is believed to have staged his disappearance with his friend who reported the accident. Lanch Hering, 21, returned from Iraq in July and was due back at Camp Pendleton, Calif., this month. His friend, Steve Powers of Boulder reported that Hering fell and hit his head, and that he left him to go for help. When he returned, Hering was gone.

For nearly a week, 100 people searched for Hering. Powers was arrested yesterday for investigation of a misdemeanor charge of false reporting. Authorities believe Hering didn't want to return to military duty. He hasn't been found.

Worms on a planet

OK, so it doesn't have the cachet of "Snakes on a Plane," but these aren't just any worms. They are three feet long, pinkish in color, smell like a lily and spit in their defense.

Conservationists in Washington are asking the government to protect the Giant Palouse Earthworm under the Endangered Species Act. Long thought to be extinct, the worm was rediscovered in the past year in the Palouse region along the Washington-Idaho border. “This worm is the stuff that legends and fairy tales are made of,” said worm supporter Steve Paulson. “What kid wouldn’t want to play with a 3 foot-long, lily smelling, soft pink worm that spits?”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hasn't seen the petition supporting the protection of the worm, said agency spokesman Tom Buckley, but he says the discovery of the worm could be a "bonanza" for fishermen.

Do you use trekking poles?

In a poll (a pole poll?) on today, 70% of hikers said yes. Poles save the knees and back and add steadiness in uncertain terrain, supporters say.

The other 30% say they don't need them, so don't see the point in the expense or added weight. Looking at the people posting on the forum, it seems to follow an age divide. Young folks go without, older ones like a little extra support.

So what are the best poles? Posters seem to prefer Leki. They're light, collapsable, and many even have shock absorbers.

Do you use poles? If so, what kind?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

More Ascent fun

I didn't run the Pikes Peak Ascent this year. Didn't get the training done ahead of time. But I got up early and cheered friends and others from the start of the trail at the top of Ruxton. If you didn't run or cheer people on this year, check out this audio-slideshow put together by some of our co-workers here at The Gazette.

Hikers will be on the trail this Saturday raising money to help folks with brain injuries during the Pikes Peak Challenge. If you want to learn more, check out the group's site.

If you have your own tales of the mountain to share, e-mail us or comment below.

News for hunters

Four greater sage grouse have died from West Nile virus in northwest Colorado. What does that mean, other than the fact that grouse are susceptible to the virus?

It means something to hunters, say researchers at the Colorado Division of Wildlife. The blue grouse (pictured here) season is under way and a greater sag grouse season begins Saturday in some parts of the state. There is no evidence that people can become infected from the virus by eating infected meat, but grouse hunters and others are at risk if they are bitten by mosquitoes in areas with West Nile activity.

DOW researchers found the grouse in the Danforth Hills, Cold Springs Mountain, and Axial Basin areas of Moffat County.

The march of the millers

Colorado Springs loves to hate miller moths. Every few years, when the fluttering migration that passes through in late May is particularly hearty, the town unites in a collective gripe about how the little moths are gumming up their windows and attacking TV screens.
I've never joined the city-wide harrumph. I actually like the little guys. They don't bite. They don't sting. They don't eat clothing. If you're going to have a plague of something, I figure it might as well be millers.

Now, here's the cool part. After the swarm comes through in May, the moths disperse to the mountains, where they live their wild moth life, fluttering through the dark, getting attacked by owls and spiders and all that lurks in the night. And at the end of summer, the ones that survive -- and there aren't many -- pass back through the city on their way to lay eggs on the prairie.

Or so I had heard, but I'd never seen one. Then, yesterday, I was sitting on my front porch when a miller flew right into my head. It bumped around a bit, then landed on my window sill. Its wings were as tattered as an alley cat's ears. It looked like it could barely fly. But here it was, back from the mountains, and not far from its birthplace on the eastern plains.

Even if you don't like millers, you have to admire this moth's moxie.

Sprucing up our wild rivers

The annual Great Colorado Rivers Cleanup is coming up Saturday, September 16.
Hundreds of volunteers across the state will patrol local rivers to pick up trash. Surprisingly, there is no volunteer action set for Colorado Springs' dear Fountain Creek, which certainly has no shortage of trash, but volunteers can head to Elevenmile Canyon with the Cheyenne Mountain Chapter of Trout Unlimited.
To sign up, contact: Sam Humpert, 719-268-1762.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Last hike of summer or first hike of fall?

Incoming Biz Editor Joanna Bean (in her final days as deputy features editor) took advantage of the long weekend by hitting the trails with her daughters. She shares this observation we can all relate to. Even if you don't have kids you are one or remember what it was like to be one.

While hiking with my two daughters, ages 11 and 7, this weekend in Taylor Canyon outside Gunnison, I was reminded how different hiking can be for them (kids) and for us (adults).

For me, hiking is often about the five senses (hearing the leaves rustle, smelling the earth, seeing the wildflowers, etc.)

For them, hiking is about:
1. counting down the tenths of a mile on the GPS unit until you hit the goal mom set at the car.
2. perfecting your aim with your CamelBak by squirting it at rocks, trees and your little sister.
3. squishing trailside berries between your fingers until the goo inside runs down your hand.
4. calculating just how deep your boots can get in a stream crossing before your feet get wet.

We logged a few miles on the Summerville Trail, a good choice if you're hiking with the young set (and also if you're not!). The aspen are just beginning to turn, and other fall foliage had turned to shades of brilliant red and yellow. To get to the trailhead, head north on Highway 135 out of Gunnison to Almont, then right on Taylor River Road for about 10 miles. You also can access the trail by heading west out of Buena Vista over Cottonwood Pass (open until winter) toward Taylor Reservoir. Pass the reservoir and head into the canyon. Trailhead is well-marked, on the left.

New terrain at Beaver Creek

Beaver Creek resort is known for a lot of things: super high-end lodging, $20 parking, and its awesome downhill race course, Birds of Prey, among them. But it was never known for backcountry-style steeps.

That changes this year, at least a little. An area called Stone Creek Chutes that locals have been illegally poaching for years is finally in-bounds.

The 180 acres of new terrain feature short, steep gladed runs ranging from 400 to 600 vertical feet in length with pitches up to 45 degrees.

I ran into a group of BC ski patrollers this week and asked them if the chutes were any good. The consensus was "totally, dude."

Stone Creek Chutes is east of Rose Bowl and offers spectacular views of the Gore Mountain Range. The area can be reached from the Cinch Express Lift (#8).

Monday, September 04, 2006

Laboring on Labor Day

OK... so it's not really work, but it was a great day to get out and work on your paddling skills. This photo was taken this morning at Manitou Lake north of Woodland Park. The sun glistened on the water, the fish jumped and the pine siskins sang.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Did you know...

...that bears hissed? The AP reported this morning that a woman walked into her kitchen in Vail on Thursday and came upon a bear and her cub. The bear hissed at her and swatted her, and she scared it off by yelling and clapping her hands.

Turns out that bears moan, squeal, growl, pop their teeth and hiss when they feel threatened. The bear and her cub are thought to be the same ones that entered another home and ate food off the kitchen counter.
(photo from Defenders of Wildlife)

Prairie Falcon Parkway vs. prairie falcons

It's ironic, isn't it?? The newly proposed toll road that would stretch north to south on the eastern plains to take some of the traffic off I-25 is called the Prairie Falcon Parkway Express. But birders aren't impressed. Gary Lefko, an ardent birder and creator of the Great Pikes Peak Bird Trail, says in an e-mail: "if this ever happens, great birding could be impacted at Barr Lake, the Arapahoe County reservoirs, Chico Basin and/or Bohart of Pueblo's Arkansas River corridor, Ramah Reservoir, CPER, and 'parts in between.'"

For more information on the birding trail and Lefko's visition, go to To look at the map of the proposed road, go to

Ski gear time....

I know, the leaves haven't even turned, but this weekend is the time to start thinking about ski deals. Now is when a loft of ski shops sell off last year's stock and rental gear. You'll often pay half as much as you would at retail. So if you really need something, don't wait.

Here's what's going on...

Ski Rex kicks off at 9 a.m. Saturday and runs through Monday, 2454 Montebello Square Drive, Colorado Springs

Sniagrab starts at 8 a.m. Saturday and runs through the three-day weekend at two Gart Sports locations: 1409 N. Academy Blvd. and 7730 N. Academy Blvd., Colorado Springs

The gang over at Mountain Chalet, 226 N. Tejon St., say the downtown shop's current sale includes snow gear, so don't leave the local guys off your shopping list.

There's an annual sale going on at our REI, 1376 E. Woodmen Road, but it began days ago, so some prime gear may already be gone.

It's probably well picked-over (it started Aug. 25), but the ski and snowboard clearance sale continues through Monday at the Denver REI, 1416 Platte St. The gear swap is 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 10. If you're selling old gear, cost is $10 a table (call 1-303-756-3100 by Thursday). If you're buying, take cash.

Does a bear poop in the woods?

Yup. And a bear poops on my front walk, too. Just a reminder to all to watch your trash cans. And, in my case, to remind everyone on the house to watch what they put inside the trash - and what they leave to put out until the morning of trash day. We haven't seen a bear in the yard, just off Manitou Avenue in downtown M.S., since a week after we moved in two summers ago. But there's no doubt one is cruising the 'hood.

Bears are beefing up for winter, so they're eating just about anything they can get their paws on. It's up to us to help them out by NOT leaving food around. Cuz if they're caught breaking in, they'll be relocated or killed (if they just can't keep away from our easy pickins'), and we don't want that. For more info on living with wildlife, check out the DOW site,