Friday, June 29, 2007

More storm chasers

Local residents Mel Riley (top photo) and Connie Carpenter sent these photos in after our wild weather this week. They were posted on the staff photographers' blog, and I thought I'd share them here, too.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Top of Cheyenne mountain: lots of cool stuff

The Broadmoor's Cheyenne Mountain Lodge (pictured below in 1954) is on private land, so you can't visit it. And it was demolished in the 1970s, so there is only a foundation left. (Too bad, it's a great Mission Revival-style lodge. It reminds me of the main building at the zoo.) But there's plenty of other stuff to see on the mountain.
Like this old pump, along the McNeil Trail, which was used to pump water from a spring to the lodge. If you see this pump when looking for the Swisher trail, you've gone too far.
The Swisher trail climbs up, up, up until it finally empties into this gorgeous meadow. Doesn't look like you'd think Cheyenne Mountain would look, does it?
More aspen meadow, on the way to the old Swisher homestead.
Not much is left of the homestead cabin, but you will find this old wood stove on the edge of the meadow.

Grab Toto and get to the cellar!

Dani sent this in. A dramatic shot of Wednesday afternoon's storm, taken from Golden Bell Camp in Divide. Holy mackerel.

Dirty snow melts faster

According to the AP, a new study by Colorado scientists shows that dust stirred up by farming, grazing, mining and recreation in the Four Corners area blew onto the San Juan Mountains and caused the snow to melt 30 days earlier this spring.
Over the last few years, a few storms have brought a thin layer of red snow to the Rockies and front range. I can remember a storm of an inch or two leaving my car covered in a film of red dust after the snow melted.
Apparently, the dark-colored fine sand catches heat from the sun and melts the snow much faster.
Scientists say the dust is caused by farming and grazing in the southwest. Nodoubt part of it, but the Southwest seems to produce plenty of fine red dust without our help. It could be that this has been going on at some level for thousands or millions of years.

Angry clouds above GM Falls

Out There friend Zen sent this photo last night (didn't see it till now, my Internet connect was down), taken as he was driving west on Hwy 24 around Green Mountain Falls. (Seems he and Dave were passing each other on the highway.)

Zen is a trained weather spotter. He says the cloud formation above the yellow & black arrow looked "awfully suspicious," but "could have just been what they call "scud" - but there seemed to be a lot of rotation too."
There was still a lot of hail in my yard when I got home to Manitou about 7:45. Until last night I thought I could get by another year before painting the house. Now, I'm not so sure! The garden looks beat up, but it'll survive.
On another note: Do you see the orangutan in the clouds?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Tornado up the pass?

Dave just called as he was driving down 24 from Woodland Park. He says he was looking at a funnel cloud over Chipita Park and saw another up around Divide. And it was hailing like a sonofagun. Anyone taking photos?

I saw a funnel could forming over Cedar Heights a few summers ago, but it never touched down. I never thought I'd see that sort of storm over the mountains, but old-timers say a tornado has touched down in Manitou. Wild.

Look for updates on And send your pix! or

What's in bloom

The barrage of wild flowers continues. On a hike up Chyenne Mountain Monday we saw several. Also, Tuesday in Stratton open space I saw more sego lillies than I've ever seen. Stunning.

Wild Iris
Yellow Pea
Blue Columbine

Spotted Coralroot (a tiny type of orchid)

Wild geranium
Sego lily

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Off-roading outdoorsfolks

(Photo of an Outlander from -- not a trail at Bonny Lake)

As officials contemplate closing some areas of the state to off-roaders one area has been set aside. This, from state parks:

OHV area open at Bonny Lake State Park

IDALIA, Colo. — Bonny Lake State Park has opened an area for off- highway vehicle (OHV) use for 4-wheelers, 3-wheelers and dirt bikes. The area is in the northeast section of the park, adjacent to the North Cove campground in the dry lake bottom of North Cove.

There's about 150 acres with natural jumps and ridges. A half-mile trail has been established to improve shore-fishing access to the north end of the Bonny Lake Dam.

The new OHV area will be open daily from 8 a.m. to sundown until Oct. 31. All OHVs must have a current and valid OHV registration, which is available at the Bonny Lake Park Office. You can't ride into the park, though, you have to haul in.

And all riders must wear helmets and eye protection.

The rock climbing show

Interesting tidbit compiled by volunteers at The Pioneers Museum from old Gazettes appeared in the Gazette Monday: 50 years ago today Fort Carson stopped giving public rock climbing demonstrations. Carson is where the 10th Mountain Division was stationed for several years, and where much of the army's alpine techniques were developed. They used to climb extensively on the crumbly rock in North Cheyenne Canyon. Today, climbers on certain routes can still tie into huge eye-bolts presumably set by Uncle Sam. At the Parking area for Middle Columbine Trail, hikers can also scramble up to see "The Amphitheater," an outdoor classroom with what where once rows of benches facing a cliff. I assume this is where the demonstrations were. I've seen old photos of the mountain troops setting up ziplines across the canyon. Anyone know more about the history of those early climbing days? Perhaps we should hold a seance to contact Robert Ormes.

Monday, June 25, 2007

The eagle has landed

In what is likely to be hailed as one of the greatest conservation success stories of the last 50 years, sources have told the Audubon Society that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is poised to finalize the delisting of the bald eagle from ‘threatened’ status under the Endangered Species Act.

After having gone nearly extinct in the lower 48 after hunting and widespread use of DDT, populations have risen in EVERY state.

The bear came over the mountain

Teresa and Neal Taylor, the Barr Camp caretakers wrote Sunday to say "Barr Camp was “Bear” Camp for a while today. With hundreds of hikers on Barr Trail on any given day, a bear is a rare sight. There is the occasional early morning sighting on the lower section near Manitou Springs. Here at the camp we have had one visit per year in the last two years. Today we had a reminder that we are indeed in bear country and people should not be complacent with food storage. A large cinnamon colored black bear dined for about an hour at a camp site about 100 yards from Barr Camp. The host that offered up his food could only watch and wait along with the rest of us, for no noise makers, yelling, or whistling was going to detract this bruin from his lunch. When he was finished he ambled off into the forest."
Trail users and hikers should be aware of this recent sighting in the area of Barr Camp. If you are camping in the area please take precautions with your food storage and cleanup.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Get out and go, Girls!

The Outdoor Industry Foundation released its "The Next Generation of Outdoor Participants Report – 2007" yesterday.

I only see one thing shocking in the overview: Activity among girls 6-17 dropped sharply.

That's the time to get kids out trying sports and finding activities they love and will continue with throughout their lives. Parents, we really need to do a better job!

The report is based on a survey of more than 60,000 Americans ages 6 and older.

Other findings:

• Participation by all ages has been steady over time in the five “gateway” outdoor activities that attract the most participants: Bicycling (any type), Camping (backyard, car or RV), Fishing (any type), Hiking (day), Running/ jogging/ trail running

• As we get older we participate in fewer outdoor activities and for less time.

• Although the vast majority of Americans of all ages are trying outdoor activities, only 26% of participants engaged in one of 35 select outdoor activities two times a week or more over the last year.

• Boys' activity remains steady until they're 17-18, at which time their activity drops.

• Skateboarders age 6-24 are more than twice as likely to bicycle (any type) than those of the same age who do not skateboard. (If they're like me at that age, at the very least they have to ride to get to the skatepark!)

To see the entire report, check the group's Web site.
Today in Out There we ran a story about a new zipline park near Salida. Zipping is a perfect tourist sport: fast, fun and easy. No wonder ziplines are propagating in tourist areas around the world.
Here's a tour of them. Click each location for video.

Whistler, BC, the longest in North America

Thursday, June 21, 2007

100 miles of fun

I guess it depends on your definition of fun...

Racers are prepping for this weekend's 100-mile Western States Endurance Run, which begins at Squaw Valley, Calif. (6,200 feet) , and climbs 2,550 vertical feet in the first 4.5 miles up Emigrant Pass (8,750 feet).

From there runners follow trails used by the gold and silver miners of the 1850s and climb another 15,540 feet and descend 22,970 feet before reaching Auburn, Calif.

The race starts at 5 a.m. Saturday and runners have till 11 a.m. Sunday to officially finish.

Check out race the Web site to learn more about the event, follow this year's race, do a GoogleEarth flyover of the course, or volunteer to help or run next year. Lots of runners look for pacers, which might be a good way to get a feel for the race before running it.

4 1/2 months til ski season!

As it approaches an estimated 90 degrees today, Breckenridge shares this news:

Breck will open for the 2007-08 season on Nov. 9 -- with terrain and lifts open on Peak 9.

The cloud finally moved

For lovers of Google Earth (and who couldn't love such an awesome and free program), it's been frustrating to see the summit of Pikes Peak covered by a cloud for well over a year. Now the cloud has moved You can finally get a clear view.
Also: a note on Barr Trail conditions. You'll hit the first snow patch not far after bottomless pit, but won't hit anything big until the last mile. People report a slushy trail has been made through the biggest snowfields. And it's melting quick.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Reeling in the roads

The Gazette had a story today about a new management plan for the BLM land east of Salida. The plan calls for an end to "open travel." That means jeeps, ATVs and mountain bikes can no longer go where ever they please. They now have to stick to designated routes. It's a sign of the times. Where once there wasn't enough use to justify regulation, now recreation of all kinds has exploded. If we want to preserve our public lands, we all need to tread lightly and abide by some new rules. Or cut the population back to 1950 levels.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

It's fun but dangerous

As thrilling as kayaking and rafting can be, you have to remember you're in the wild.

A woman from Omaha on a commercial rafting trip with her husband and 3 kids died over the weekend on the Arkansas. She drowned. The raft flipped in rough water. Raquel Stiles was the only one who didn't make it to shore. Someone in a nearby raft pulled her from the river and performed CPR but could not revive her.

Just something you have to remember.

Race Across America

Monday at about this time local cyclist Rob Lucas - Ultra Rob - e-mailed to say that unless something went wrong Jure Robic would win his 3rd RAAM. He had about 110 miles to go and his nearest competitor was about 100 miles behind.

And so he did, cycling from Oceanside, CA, to Atlantic City, NJ, 8 days, 19 hours and 33 minutes.

My quads ache just thinking about it. And my backside. And my back. And my shoulders. And...

Bears and campsites don't mix

You've probably heard the awful news about the 11-year-old boy who was dragged from his tent and killed by a black bear over the weekend in Utah.
It's a bit drier there than here right now, but the Division of Wildlife warns we all should take precautions when visiting bear country.

And we're in bear country. (DOW photo of a bear with Tom Beck.)

"Bears are built to eat and their sense of smell is incredible," said the DOW's Mark Caddy. "They can smell food from miles away and they'll travel to find it."

Follow these tips from the DOW to preserve yourself and the bears:
++ Keep a clean site and clean up thoroughly after every meal
++ After grilling meat allow the fire to continue until the scraps and grease are burned completely off the grill.
++ When you are not eating or preparing a meal, store food inside locked vehicles, in a bear-proof container away from your camp site, or hang your food high between two trees.
++ Do not eat in your tent or keep food in your tent.
++ Store scraps and garbage in a secure container or vehicle.

If you see a bear in a campground, call the local DOW office as soon as possible.

If you come in close contact with a bear:
++ Talk to it firmly and make yourself look as large as possible.
++ Back away slowly, don't run.

More blooming beauties

Out There friend Rhonda Van Pelt was working on a trail in Aiken Canyon on Saturday. She says there's an amazing display of wildflowers, and she sent these pix.

This looks like a mountain bluebell in my book. It's pretty and fairylike, regardless. No, says OT friend Zen, they're "Leather Flower in the genus Clematis L. which are in the buttercup family."

The paintbrush is really vibrant set against these tiny violet blooms. Rhonda says when she was a kid they called them wild snapdragons. Our friend Zen says: "Based on the leaf structure, the one labeled snapdragon looks an American Vetch sometimes called a Climbing Vetch. Vetches are in the pea family and there are tons of variations making it very difficult to get an exact identification."

Aiken Canyon can use some more friends like Rhonda. Workdays are the third Saturdays of the month. Rhonda says the gang meets at the visitors center between 8 and 8:30 a.m. and heads out with tools (furnished) about 9 a.m. They get back about noon and enjoy a potluck lunch with plenty of beverages (adult and otherwise).

Forgot to label the prickly poppy. Purdy.

How to find Aiken Canyon: From Interstate 25, take exit 135 (Academy Boulevard) to get to Highway 115. Go south 11.5 miles to Turkey Canyon Ranch Road (0.1 mile south of milepost 32, across the highway from the sign for the Turkey Canyon Recreation Area). Turn right (west) and drive 200 yards to the preserve parking area on the right, and watch for the Nature Conservancy sign

Wooing USA cycling

There is an interesting story in the Gazette today about how a moribund rustbelt town in Pennsylvania, so impoverished that it had to close its hospital and lay off its police force this year, plans to try to build an indoor velodrome to woo USA cycling away from Colorado Springs as part of a $125 million redevelopment project. Wikipedia calls the town of Brownsville "the ultimate depiction of how the decline of industry and the rise of suburbanization has destroyed the small American downtown." It's almost totally abandoned.
A spokesman from USA cycling said the chance of moving is "very, very slim."
Poor Brownsville, PA. It should set its sights on something lower. Like anything. How 'bout a Starbucks?

Colin Fletcher dies

Colin Fletcher, author of "The Complete Walker" and "The Man Who Walked Through Time" and the person many consider to be the father of modern backpacking, died June 12 of natural causes at the Community Hospital of Monterrey Peninsula, Calif. He was 85.
Read the New York Times obit HERE.
Many a Baby Boomer learned backpacking philosophy from his books. I (not a Baby Boomer) read The Man Who Walked Through Time, about his traverse of the Grand Canyon, several times.
To call him the father of modern backpacking, though, it too dated. His school of backpacking, which involves a pile of equipment, is quickly giving way to the ultra-light school or "carry less, enjoy more."
Either way, he was an excellent, entertaining author and a man who loved the wilderness.
Happy trails.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Most popular trail

Limited access and the fact there's no meandering probably make the incline seem more popular than it is. Still, this is Ruxton Ave. on Sunday morning just before 8.

These cars don't belong to cog railway patrons nor Ruxton residents nor folks waiting for the dinner show at the Iron Springs Chateau. These cars ferried people to the incline and Barr Trail.

That's a LOT of people. And dogs.

Did anyone find a place that wasn't packed over the weekend? I'd say summer, which officially arrives Thursday, is here.

And raccoons can climb

There I was, out in the garden, laying more mulch and pulling weeds in the last minutes of daylight when I felt the stare from the raspberry bushes.

A large raccoon sauntered out. Then 3 babes. My son and I talked watched them awhile then went into the house for a camera.

Later they reappeared out from underneath the next-door neighbor's deck - Mama and 5 babes - climbing the apricot tree and ...

learning to climb stairs the hard way. Typical kids.

I've asked them kindly to not dig up the grass and flowers. We'll see.

Bats can swim... a little

Add little brown bat rescue to the list of weekend activities. I was sitting on a gravel bank along the Arkansas River just below the Pueblo dam. My wife and a summer intern and I may or may not have been drinking Coors Light. When suddenly, my wife saw a bat pass by doing a pathetic doggy paddle. Our theory was that he swooped too low while hunting and hit the deck. Bats can't take off from the ground, and they certainly can't take off from the water, so this guy was totally up the creek. My wife waded in, scooped him up on her hat, then we walked over to a nearby tree, put the hat next to a limb, and watched the little guy crawl right up.

P.S. Look at this guy's climbing hooks. Watching a bat climb is fairly impressive.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Animals on the loose

Watch for news of zebras on the loose in the Springs. Huh?

Yep, the circus is in town.

Good thing it was zebras and not lions or tigers - oh my!

Save $ on a raft trip

For an e-mail discount from Whitewater Encounter, click here.

For a whole list of other Salida/Buena Vista area raft discounts, click here.

Just don't try to save money on renting a wet suit. Do it. Even if it's hot out, the water is cold. You'll enjoy it more if you're in a squishy, warm wetsuit.

The hermit has landed

Running up Barr Trail yesterday evening, I heard one of my favorite high mountain summer songs -- the lilting Auria of the hermit thrush. This little brown, spotted bird isn't much to look at, and (as name implies) isn't seen much anyway. It prefers deep forest cover, rarely venturing out into the light, except during migration.
I once held one of these little guys in my hand at a banding station at Chico Basin Ranch. It was so light and delicate, and it's heart was beating so fast. It was hard to believe this little guy could produce such a deep, slow, mournful descending song.

For me, its a song that conjures up walks alone through the deep woods in summer. And of course, a favorite Robert Frost poem.

Come In

As I came to the edge of the woods,
Thrush music -- hark!
Now if it was dusk outside,
Inside it was dark.

Too dark in the woods for a bird
By sleight of wing
To better its perch for the night,
Though it still could sing.

The last of the light of the sun
That had died in the west
Still lived for one song more
In a thrush's breast.

Far in the pillared dark
Thrush music went --
Almost like a call to come in
To the dark and lament.

But no, I was out for stars;
I would not come in. I
meant not even if asked;
And I hadn't been.