Hikers’ Blog

John enjoying the panorama of Snowmass Canyon and the Elk Range

It’s always something…parts II, III & MMXIX

Is it me, or do we always seem to suffer some “act of god” that tosses a spanner into the works, where “spanner” is Brit-speak for monkey wrench, and “works”, in this case, is our hiking schedule? Last year it was wildfires, delaying one hike twice and cancelling three others (all of which are back on this year’s schedule, including our next two). This year’s challenges to date have been almost diametrically opposite from our drier-than-normal conditions of last year…deep snow and high water. Though flows have peaked, they are ramping down at an incredibly slow pace. And there’s still lots of snow in portions the high country. Not complaining, mind you…just observing.

But our greatest challenges this year may, in fact, be due to acts of Man (the gender-neutral version…like “one small step for Man”), rather than those of mother nature or deity of your choice. Here’s a short list of the roadblocks (literal and otherwise) on our immediate horizon:

Colorado River bridge at “The Wave” is closed for repaving July 19-20 (I found this out the hard way…on the way to Grand Junction yesterday). Shouldn’t affect our schedule, as long as they finish today as expected. Our next hike in that direction will be July 24 (Blair Mountain).

Two Rivers Road/Midland intersection in Basalt will be closed for repaving beginning Monday July 22. Guess where we’re heading Monday July 22. You’ve got it…Two Rivers Road to Midland. In fact, the next two Monday hikes will be up the Frying Pan River. Detour is possible via Midland Spur.

Sunlight (aka 27th Street) Bridge: The first of two lengthy bridge closures is slated to begin at 7pm on Thursday July 25 and end by 6am on Monday July 29 to enable installation of the pedestrian bridge.  This would affect only those of us who live west of the Roaring Fork. However, if they adhere to the construction schedule and reopen by 6am, it should not impact our July 29 hike. A second closure will occur in “late summer” when the existing bridge will be removed and a new one slides into its place…THIS I’ve got to see. This 84-hour closure should follow the same Thu PM to Mon AM schedule.

Thunderhead Gondola (Steamboat Springs): Closed. It’s being replaced with a new one…of course it is. So, our Long Lake/Mount Werner Loop hike that was intended to finish with a gondola ride down the mountain will not happen as originally planned. Instead, we will hike to Long Lake out and back from Lower Fish Creek Falls parking lot.

And the final “act of Man” (this man) potentially will affect quite a few of our hikes. Whether or not you’re aware of it, Wilderness Areas impose group-size limits, and ours frequently violate them. We try to adhere too the spirit, if not the letter, of the law by breaking our groups into smaller subgroups. But as a backcountry ranger for the Forest Conservancy, it would be hypocritical of me to exceed the limits to which I insist other groups adhere. With the exception of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, all Wilderness Areas in Colorado require group sizes to be no more than 15 people. You may have heard the expression “25 heartbeats” as it relates to group sizes, but that applies to both people and animals (livestock and pets). The Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness has even more stringent limits (10 people). I’ve listed the Wilderness Areas below and our hikes scheduled there through the remainder of the season:

Holy Cross (Tellurium Lake 7/22, Cross Creek 8/5, Ironedge Loop/Mystic Island Lake 8/14

Flat Tops (Blair Mountain 7/24, Devils Causeway, Hooper/Keener Lakes 8/5, 8/9)

Hunter-Frying Pan (South Fork Pass 7/29)

Mount Zirkel (Zirkel Circle 8/6, Three Island Lake 8/8)

Sarvis Creek (Sarvis Creek 8/8)

Maroon Bells-Snowmass (Capitol Lake 8/12, Cathedral Lake/Electric Pass 8/19, Snowmass Lake 8/28)

Mount Massive (North Fork Lake Creek 9/16)

Collegiate Peaks (Mount Yale 9/16)

Sangre de Cristo (Rito Alto Lake 9/19)


For overnight trips, where there more than one hike is scheduled each day, we can disperse our hikers more easily. More arduous hikes, like Snowmass Lake, likely will attract fewer hikers than easier/more popular hikes, like Cathedral Lake.


Miscellaneous musing
We are 11 hike-days into our 2019 season, and I thought I’d take this opportunity to recap the year so far. We have posted the mileage totals through Wednesday, June 12, and a couple of items caught my attention. First, our “wonks” are outdoing themselves this year, with Pat Cima, our cajoler in chief, leading the way with 102.5 miles, barely edging out Donna and Bruce with 102 each.  All three, along with Kathy Kline, are the “sole survivors” (double entendre intended) in the race for the coveted gold star. For those of you unfamiliar with the significance of the gold star, it is awarded each year to anyone who completes every hike (i.e., at least one hike every hike-day), and these four are 11 for 11…or 44 for 44…so far. There have only been roughly a half dozen gold stars awarded in the history of the club (hence the coveting).

Secondly, despite what you may…or may not…have heard, everyone who hiked on Monday, June 10, received mileage credit, regardless of which route they took. As it turns out, the southern segment of the RR grade is a beautiful hike, partially wooded with magnificent views of Sopris. And there were no closures, save for one gate, which was neither locked nor posted private property. Those of you who missed it, missed out. And for those who insisted that it was part of the Spring Gulch Nordic Ski Area, NOT the RR grade, I have some news for you: you were half right.  While it is part of the ski area (Finlandia, apparently), it also is the RR grade. So, next time, listen to your leader. He (or she) might actually know something that you don’t (chances are highly likely that he/she does). If you think you can do a better job, I invite you to try…seriously please sign up to lead a hike or two, so you too can be second-guessed by the nattering nabobs of negativism (look at me… quoting Spiro Agnew).

And speaking of signing up to lead, there is a vacancy on our schedule, because Bruce and Donna are conflicted out: Fourmile Park/Road Gulch on July 15. Actually, there are quite a few vacancies beginning with the Steamboat trip in August. So, here’s a golden opportunity for you Monday morning quarterbacks to get off your couches and onto the field of play. No experience necessary…much like the aforementioned Monday AM QB. Chips, dips and pizza rolls optional.

Now I’d like to switch hats, metaphorically speaking, from that of scolding parent to one of “my-kid’s-an-honor-student” (and yours isn’t…neener, neener) parent. A few weeks back we hiked Bellyache Ridge, a multiple-use trail complex outside Eagle. Ordinarily, we wouldn’t have much competition for such a trail on a weekday.  But when I scheduled it, I didn’t appreciate that it fell on Memorial Day. So, we had to share the trail with a “few” mountain bikers. Most of them were courteous, but there were a few downhill bombers with little regard for other trail users. You may have seen one of these signs at other multiple-use trailheads, where hikers are required to yield to horses, and bikers are supposed to yield to both horses and hikers. Well, I follow the same rule here as I do when crossing a busy street. I don’t step off a curb at a crosswalk and assume that the vehicle barreling down the road is going to stop. Regardless of what the law says regarding pedestrians having the right-of-way in crosswalks, in a contest between a 165-pound man (moi) and a 2-ton SUV, always bet on the SUV.  The same holds true for bikes. In a collision, a hiker will suffer far greater damage than the bike rider, especially when the biker is 20, and the hiker is 70. Another reason…other than personal safety…to yield to bikers is that it’s the courteous thing to do, whether they are careening downhill or grinding slowly up a steep one. You bike riders know what I’m talking about. If a rider has to slow down or stop to avoid you while climbing a steep grade, he or she may not be able to start again, especially on a rocky single-track trail. I think we all acquitted ourselves admirably in that regard. And to John Burg’s credit, he had us walk against the flow of biker traffic, so we could better anticipate when we needed to step off the trail to let bikers pass.



Upcoming overnight trips
In August (5-9 to be exact), we’re heading to Steamboat Springs…our first visit there since 2010. I planned that trip, and I’m afraid I was a bit of an overachiever on that one, as my performance is largely responsible for my current situation…cat herder in chief for life. You know what they say, “Don’t be irreplaceable in your current job, or you can never be promoted.” But the only step-up from this job would be a step-down.

I shouldn’t have to “sell” Steamboat Springs…it should speak for itself. It’s not just famous for its Champagne Powder ™ (yes, it’s trademarked). There are wonderful trails in the (Mount) Zirkel Wilderness, not the least of which is the “Zirkel Circle”, an 11-mile loop we hiked back in 2010…before I knew it was called the Zirkel Circle. It’s habitat to a rare population of white monkshood and one of the best hikes in Colorado…certainly worth doing again. We’ll also revisit Fish Creek Falls (Lower and Upper), with an option to loop back to Steamboat via Mount Werner and the Thunderhead Gondola.

But first we’ll be taking a stroll across the Devils Causeway on our way to Steamboat. Acrophobes may choose to view it from the security of its eastern approach. It was on last year’s schedule as a day hike, but I opted to postpone it one year to avoid the 200-mile round-trip drive. It’s only a short detour en route to Steamboat. There are several hikes there, so we will revisit it on our way home. Day hikers will take a different hike on Monday (August 5), Cross Creek, off the Tigiwon Road south of Minturn. Last time we hiked it, several of you commented that we should do this one more often…so we are. For details on Steamboat lodging options, check out the “2019 Overnight Trips” file. You remember how to use these bold blue hypertext links, don’t you?

Our final overnighter of the year, Salida (pronounced Sal-EYE-duh by Coloradoans), will be September 16-20. It should be a good trip, with lots of new terrain to visit. For you peak baggers, there are 4-5 possible 14ers to climb in the area, including Shavano/Tabeguache, Antero, Yale & Princeton. You may choose to spent Sunday night (9/15) in Buena Vista (pronounced B-you-nuh Vista aka B-you-nee by Coloradoans…don’t get me started), so you can get an early departure on one of the Collegiate Peaks on Monday. But I have my eyes on an area in the Sangre de Cristos, Rito Alto, that’s intrigued me for many years…before I moved to Colorado, in fact. For those of us who don’t plan to bag a 14er on Monday, we’ll be hiking the North Fork of Lake Creek (just east of Independence Pass). This will also serve as a day hike for those of you who won’t be joining us in Salida.

The rest of 2019 Hiking Schedule can be found by clicking the link to the left or by visiting the Hikers’ Corner page on this website. In addition, you can find the Explanatory Notes, and Hiking Protocols in the same location.