Friday, March 30, 2007

Forest rules tossed

Associated Press:

A federal judge today tossed out Bush administration rules that gave national forest managers more discretion to approve logging and other commercial projects without lengthy environmental reviews.

U.S. District Court Judge Phyllis Hamilton ruled that the administration failed to adequately consider the environmental effects the new rules would have and neglected to properly gather public comment on the issue.

Hamilton said in her written ruling that the government “appears to have charted a new path and adopted a new policy approach regarding programmatic changes to environmental regulations.”

She ruled that the government couldn’t institute the new rules until proper environmental reviews were conducted, but declined to specify how the nation’s 155 national forests should be managed until then.

The ruling overturns a key administration environmental rule that governs all 192 million acres of national parks and stops pro-business plans in the parks under way for more than two years.

“I think people who love wildlife and care for our public forest should be elated by this decision,” said Peter Frost, an attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center, one of the environmental groups that brought a pair of lawsuits challenging the new rules.

Forest managers and industry officials have complained that without the new rules they must conduct studies that can up to seven years to complete. The new rules would have allowed for forest plan revisions to be completed in two years to three years, officials said.

I-70 tunnel system partially closed

From the AP:

A nearly mile-long tunnel on heavily traveled I-70 about 8 miles east of Glenwood Springs will be shut down indefinitely because of a growing crack in the ceiling, officials said today.

The eastbound bore of the 4,000-foot-long Hanging Lake Tunnel was expected to close today. The westbound bore will be used to handle traffic in both directions, CDOT spokeswoman Stacey Stegman said.

CDOT expects it to be "a lengthy closure,” Stegman said. CDOT has been monitoring the crack for about a year, and by Friday it had grown to 70 feet long and 2 inches wide, Stegman said.

Worse than the Soup Nazi

A Carbondale man has been arrested for a credit card fraud scheme in which comedian Jerry Seinfeld was among the alleged victims, according to the AP.

Nathanael Rand, 26, was charged with abusing other people’s credit cards and transferring the money to his account, Aspen newspapers reported. Officer Clay Owen said the Aspen Skiing Co. has reimbursed all the victims. An auditor reported the fraud when a client reported an erroneous charge on his credit card.

Rand was a ski lift ticket seller in Snowmass Village and allegedly rang up about $5,000 on bogus charges.

When birds attack

These photos aren't beautiful like the ones of Pale Male & Co. in New York (scroll down for a peek), but they're important to birders.

Last Sunday a webcam trained on a pair of nesting peregrine falcons in Pennsylvania included shots of two males locked in a 20-minute death battle for the nest and female, Dorothy. A young male was trying to take charge from Erie, a male who had helped raise 18 young with Dorothy.

This bird’s eye view, so to speak, of falcon fighting and spouse stealing offers new insight into bird behavior, said Tony Bledsoe, an ornithologist at the University of Pittsburgh.

Photos show the birds tumbling off the 40-foot-high perch. It appears Erie won. He’s a tough old bird, watchers say, and may have passed along those survival skills to his progeny. In 2003, his son, Louie, wrested a nearby falcon nest from its 12-year-old patriarch, Boris. Louie bit his head off. “It’s tough out there,” Bledsoe said.

Top video prize

The new says Matt Keith of the Springs gets a $500 gift certificate for his video, "Trees at Breckenridge" of his girls skiing. You can check it out - and other user submitted vids - at the Web site. MySnow was created by Vail Resorts.

Gear Up

You may not find today's Gear Up item - that sweet little Katadyn water filter - but you can find bargains on other gear at the annual members only garage sale Saturday at REI.

This is "as is" gear - stuff that has been used and returned. Get there at 9 a.m. for the best selection.

Before I set off on my three-year trek around Africa I picked up a pack at an REI. I was all set to buy another bag and a salesguy said, "Wait a day and come back for the sale. There's some great packs we've used as rentals." Saved myself about $100. Nothing to sniff at, as they say. $100 goes a long way in Congo, let me tell you.

Proposed bike trail

Still trying to get a copy of that map - proposed mountain bike trail at Bear Creek Regional Park - switched over so we can post. In the meantime, if you want an e-mail copy, send me a note at and I'll get one over to you.

Is that around here? Nah, it's from a trip last year to Moab. Makes you want to get out ride, though, yep.

Looking for pix?

If you're looking for Dave's fab pix of Grand Gulch, scroll down a bit. He posted them before taking off to compete in the Elk Mountains Grand Traverse. Check 'em out. It's a gorgeous place.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Powder alert!

Many resorts in the central mountains are reporting over a foot of snow in the last 24 hours. This could be your last chance to envoke powder rules and skip work Friday.
This may be a great weekend to hit the mountains (go, Dave and Hunter, on the Grand Traverse!), but if you're hanging around town, grab a Fiver and head to Cheyenne Mountain State Park. There's 20 miles of trail. Here's a look at Sundance, which covers a few. We'll go back soon and share other mini travelogues.

Sorry, no photos of prairie dogs. Next time, I'll take Gaz camera and not just my point-and-shoot. As I noted in our Happy Trails of March 23, the trail is well-marked and there's interpretive stuff that's worth a pause.
You move through the prairie into oak thickets and then under and through these branches. I would have totally dug this as a kid. I was lovin' it even now.

If you go early int he morning you're more likely to see deer or fox or coyote and, in season elk and turkey. But even if you go now in the middle of the day there's plenty to see, such as these homes in a tree trunk.

Don't forget to look up!

And don't forget to look down beside the trail, too. The earliest flowers are just starting to bloom. I can't wait to see what springs up in coming weeks.

There are these great bones - perfect in keeping kids interested in the hike. I'm pretty sure they're near where the Sundance and Zoop Loop trails meet. Way cool.

Another reason to keep your eyes open - and occasionally to look down at the trail!

Check it out, have fun, and give us a shout with your trail reports. Oh, call before you go out there, too, cuz hours are still kinda spotty: 227-5250. To see an online trail map, click here.

Where's Dave?

I'm off Friday to do the Elk Mountains Grand Traverse -- a 40-mile backcountry ski race from Crested Butte to Aspen. Last year my teamate and I did pretty well. We finished in 11 hours, giving us 26th place. This time, we hope to break 9:30 (the course is a little shorter this year because of lack of snow.)
I'll let you know Saturday if I make it.

Grand Gulch extra: tons more photos

Grand Gulch is a backcountry Mesa Verde: a canyon full of cliff dwellings with no roads and no ropes. Its a great place to explore. I spend five days there with a group of students from Fountain Valley School. Here are some highlights from the trip.

Skiing the underground

Did you see this clip on YouTube or a snippet on TV? A guy skied down the escalator of a tube station in London. Our colleague, Paul Asay, is in London this week. No word on whether he took a pair of beater skis with him...

It you're not hooked yet

I urge all armchair wildlife watchers to surf over to to view the gorgeous daily photos by Lincoln Karim of New York City's favorite hawk, a red-tail named Pale Male, and his mate, Lola, who have a nest on a ledge on Park Avenue. Lola is sitting on eggs now. The should hatch by mid to late April. Meanwhile, Karim is covering them like a tabloid paparazzi. Everyday he posts updates and fresh pictures from a nearby balcony.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Beacons may be required

Oregon officials voted today to require mountaineers to carry locator devices when climbing Mount Hood. Three climbers died on the mountain this winter, despite rescue attempts.

Oregon would become the first state to adopt such a requirement if the bill is approved by the Senate and signed by the governor. It would go into effect Jan. 1.

Mountaineering groups said it’s a good idea for climbers to carry electronic locators, but a requirement would infringe on their freedom. They also said requiring the locators could give climbers a false sense of security.

The measure calls for people climbing the 11,239-foot mountain above 10,000 feet to carry a two-way communications device such as a cell phone, satellite phone or radio, and one of the following: a global positioning system receiver, mountain locator unit, personal locator beacon or other comparable technology.

A definite "ouch"

Here's that front page from May of '05 (scroll down to Tuesday's posts to see a close-up photo). There were some awesome photos, taken by one of our interns. The rookery is definitely worth a stop if you're near downtown.

A long flight - and boy, are my arms tired

Another strange but true animal story, from the AP:

A threatened eagle native to coastal Europe and northern Asia has made a surprise appearance on Kauai.

“This is history in the making,” said Brenda Zaun, a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who confirmed sightings of the white-tailed eagle.

While the visit is rare, it isn’t unheard of to see the species outside of its range covering Norway, Iceland, Poland and Greece, as well as Siberia and northern Asia. One was spotted in Alaska in 2006 and another eagle lived on Kauai for 17 years.

The massive bird can grow to a wing span of 8 feet and dines primarily on fish and seabirds, such as albatross and ducks.

Velvet raises money, too

Remember Velvet, the black Lab credited with saving that group of climbers on Mount Hood in Oregon? A few of us debated the whole issue of canines on climbing trips...

Anyway, recognizing the public loved the story of Velvet the climbers are "using" her to draw people to a benefit, with money going to rescue groups. Fittingly, the shindig will be held at the Lucky Lab Beer Hall.

See video of Velvet here.

A light at the end of the tunnel?

It's not your imagination. Ski traffic is getting worse. The Denver Post reported Monday that an additional 152,129 cars passed through the Eisenhower Tunnel from November through February compared with the same period a year earlier. And the highway has been closed more often than in previous years. I-70 between Denver and Vail has shut down 69 times since October because of weather and accidents. A Department of Transportation study estimated that Colorado's mountain communities lose up to $800,000 an hour when I-70 closes at peak times.
This is usually just a Denver problem. Us Colorado Springers (Springians?) can take the back way to Summit County. Even so, you can help but look at the smog and the traffic delay signs and the dozens of serious accidents and think, "It's time for a train."
Colorado voters already voted down a 2001 ballot initiative that would have built a $50 million monorail test track. But according to
Westword, the sate has plans to ask the voters (again) to fund a train on I-70.
The state is planning to conduct a rail feasibility study for both the I-25 corridor and the I-70 mountain corridor as a first step toward asking voters in 2008 to approve a statewide passenger rail system.
It just seems to make sense. Ski tourists that fly into DIA and can just hop on the train and zoom all the way to Vail. Front Rangers can park and ride instead of sitting in traffic or worrying about slick roads.
Mountain locals could make that inevitable trip to Denver without worrying about parking downtown.
The 2008 measure would also add trains to the I-25 corridor.
We'll see if enough people have sat in traffic over the last six years to approve a train plan.


You may have missed this in today's Gazette - the capture (in a pond "raid"!! of a nearly 2-pound, 15-inch-long cane toad in Australia. Holy cannoli! That's a load of a toad.

We love weird animal stories, but perhaps the best part of the story is revelation of the group Frogwatch, dedicated to wiping out the hoppers. Said its coordinator, Graeme Sawyer, "The biggest toads are usually females but this one was a rampant male ... I would hate to meet his big sister."

See video of the monster here. (Photo courtesy Reuters.)

Aussies imported cane toads from South America in the '30s to try to control beetles on sugar cane plantations. Oops!

I have to say, those toads are huge - as many things are in the tropical areas of Australia. My first night in north Queensland I saw cockroaches as big as my palm, those enormous toads and fruit bats with 3-foot-plus wingspans. I was terrified when I heard my first domesticated cat meow - expecting a puma-size tabby to walk around the corner.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Google earth updates Cheyenne Canyon/Mt. Rosa

Let it snow! Google Earth has recently added updated satelite images of a swath of land from Almagre Mountain on the north to Beaver Creek Wilderness Study Area on the south. It appears the photos are from this winter, because the area is full of snow in northern shadows.
Now if Google Earth would just reshoot Pikes Peak, so the summit isn't covered by a cloud.

Never, ever, ever pay retail

I keep meaning to pass along a tip: has a cool clearing house called Here's how it works. The site sells one piece of gear at a time. Right now it's a Keen hiking shoe. When it's gone, something else is put up. The deals range from really good to screaming hot. I got a slick pair of Spy goggles for $30 (Thanks for getting those, sugar.) You can get backpacks, ski jackets, ice axes -- all for deep discounts. Here's the thing. You never know what's going to be on sale, and it can disappear quick so, as the sight says, "Act fast, 'cause once it's gone you're SOL..."

The herons have returned

Don't worry, this photo is from a few years ago. Today the hawks and herons nesting in trees along Fountain Creek at Rocky Top Resources on E. Las Vegas St. have an uneasy truce. The herons returned a few weeks ago. They are now busy building nests and performing their elegant courting dance.
People are welcome to go watch. Just check in at the office, and bring a good pair of binoculars.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Purgatory all-season pass on sale

It's not a place for Front Range day trippers, but if you're headed to school out that way...

Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort put its All-Season Pass on sale. It's $529 (savings of about $300) - kids $229 (as low as $119 when purchased with an adult pass). Weekday and Flex Passes also are on sale.

The All-Season Pass offers unlimited skiing and snowboarding and use of the Alpine Slide, mountain biking, hiking, 3 days at Taos and Crested Butte, 10 days at Kirkwood Mountain in California, 2 extra lift tickets for use before Dec. 25, mountain shop discounts, and discounted lift tickets for friends and family.

The resort is working with Silverton Mountain to sweeten the deal with 2 days of unguided skiing and snowboarding.

The sale runs through Sunday.

Ski season extended

Aspen Highlands’ season has been extended for a week. Instead of closing Sunday the mountain will close April 8. Highland Bowl has a base of more than 6 feet, said Aspen Skiing Co. officials.

All related mountain facilities and services will continue to operate, and parking at Aspen Highlands is free April 2-6.

Reached on the Loge Peak chair today, senior vice president - mountain division David Perry said, “The rumors of the death of winter have been greatly exaggerated. There are six inches of new snow on the ground today, six feet in the bowl and more snow on the way this week. Don’t break out the bikes and golf clubs just yet.”

Buttermilk will close Sunday, with a Family Fun Day starting at 10 a.m. There will be an on Mountain Duck Hunt (Scavenger Hunt). Find the rubber duckies and take them to the Buttermilk ticket office to redeem for prizes. Snowmass and Aspen Mountain will close April 15.

a howling success

(Bad, bad headline, I know.)

Got a call today from the folks up at the Colorado Wolf & Wildlife Center near Divide. The center has been certified by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. It's the only rescue/rehab center in the state to be certified. Dave is talking to Darlene and Co. today, getting word on what this means. Bottom line, from Darlene said earlier, they'll be able to help with any Rocky Mountain wolf re-entry efforts and to rehab / work with endangered species.

Look for Dave's story in Tuesday's Gazette.

Getting down is never as easy as getting up

The Gazette reported today that two 19-year old men fell 15 to 20 feet while climbing Keyhole Rock in Garden of the Gods Sunday. They had no permit or climbing gear.
Just a reminder that as the temperature goes up, the yahoos come out. And while they are pretty good at getting themselves up to dicey places, they usually need some help getting down. A non-climber climber died near the spot doing the same thing last March. Perhaps people should practice gettin' down with this, before they climb.

It's time to ski Pikes Peak

The weather is warm, the snow is stable, it's time for a field trip to ski the north side of Pikes Peak.
I do it every once and a while. I'm not a regular, but every time I go I have so much fun I vow I should do it more often. There's a map below to get newbies started. To read the full story on what it's like to ski the peak, click here. I feel I need to say, even though there is a road, this is real backcountry skiing. Conditions are unpredictable. People have died doing these chutes. Only expert skiers should attempt the upper chutes. It's a good idea to wait for them to soften up. (An 11 a.m. ski would probably be soft enough.) Go, have fun. Send us pictures.