Hiking

Pedal Power Winter Race Series celebrates 20 years with kick-off on Dec. 12

November 18, 2015 — 

Dust off your snowshoes and tune up your fat bike. It’s winter race season.

For the 20th year, Pedal Power bike shop in Avon is hosting a winter race series for snowshoers and fat bikers. The Pedal Power Winter Race Series is a perfect outlet for high-energy endurance racers who just can’t get enough of singletrack in the summer — or just can’t stomach the thought of ski mountaineering.

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Hike Summit County: Red Buffalo Pass

July 4, 2015 — 

Red Buffalo Pass is located west of Silverthorne and east of Vail. The pass is named for the surrounding mountains of Red Peak (13,189 feet) and Buffalo Mountain (12,777 feet). The pass itself is part of a ridge over the amphitheater bowl that lies west of Buffalo Mountain. Buffalo Pass (11,770 feet) is the ridge of the Gore Range that forms South Willow Creek watershed to the east and Gore Creek to the west.

The hike is intermediate in grade and strenuous due to the 5-mile trek from the Buffalo Cabin Trailhead to Red Buffalo Pass, with 2,000 feet of vertical gain. The dense evergreen forest near the trailhead provides opportunities to view wildflowers, including arnica, paintbrush, mountain chimes and columbine. The upper tundra meadows fill with avalanche lilies as soon as the snowfields melt in early summer. In the wetlands, globeflower and marsh marigolds line alpine brooks. The most outstanding scenery is found viewing the back slopes of Buffalo Mountain and sharp ridge of Eccles Pass to the south.

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Colorado Hiking: South Willow Falls

July 11, 2015 — 

South Willow Falls is located in the valley between the steep, rocky slopes of Red Peak (13,189 feet) and Buffalo Mountain (12,777 feet). The pass itself is part of a ridge over the amphitheater bowl that lies west of Buffalo Mountain. South Willow Creek forms from the tributary brooks pouring out of the great bowl of dense evergreen forest west of Buffalo Mountain.

The hike is intermediate in grade, rising and descending a few hundred feet as it follows the base of Buffalo Mountain for 1.5 miles. South Willow Falls is two miles from the Buffalo Cabin Trailhead, with about 500 feet of elevation for a profile ¬—an easy day hike by mountain standards.

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Hike Summit: Argentine Pass Trail near Keystone

September 11, 2015 — 

Dating back to 1869 as a transportation corridor, the Argentine Pass Trail is actually the remnant trace of a wagon toll road from Georgetown to mining camps on the western slope of the Continental Divide.

In 1864, five years before the road was developed, silver deposits were found on the slopes of McClellan Mountain (13,587 feet), found 2 miles north of an area later named Argentine mining district. Argentine Peak (13,738 feet) was named after the Latin word argentum, meaning silver, and the ruins of area mines are plentiful throughout the Peru Creek watershed.

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Hike a classic Summit County trail to Upper Cataract Lake

July 19, 2015 — 

Upper Cataract Lake is located south of Mount Powell (13,534 feet), below the Eagles Nest for which Eaglesnest Wilderness Area is named. It forms a tributary for the stream of Cataract Creek that flows down a series of steep, rocky cliffs to Lower Cataract Lake. The hike requires about six hours of hiking over 10.5 miles of trail, with an elevation gain of 2,000 vertical feet, from 8,600 feet to 10,740 feet.

While the ascent is fairly typical of the steep climbs throughout Summit County, the trail is rough, rocky and eroded across a couple of miles above the softer trail among the aspen meadows at lower elevations. The distance and elevation gain make this a rigorous day hike. Backcountry camping is available at several lakes in the vicinity, including Surprise Lake, Cat Lake, Tipperary Lake and Upper Cataract Lake, as well as Mirror Lake, located a couple of miles west of Upper Cataract Lake.

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Summit County hiker: Aspens and wildflowers on the hike to Surprise Lake

July 25, 2015 — 

Surprise Lake is located north of Dora Mountain (12,119 feet) on a tributary to Otter Creek that flows into Green Mountain Reservoir. A day hike to the lake and back to the trailhead is 6 miles and takes only three to four hours. The elevation profile goes from 8,600 feet at the Cataract Creek crossing near the Surprise Lake Trailhead to 10,040 feet at the lake (1,400 vertical feet) for a typical intermediate hike in Summit County.

An alternative loop hike to Tipperary Lake on the Gore Range Trail, crossing the upper portion of Cataract Creek and descending on the Eaglesmere Trail, involves 9 miles and six hours of hiking. Despite the good quality of the trail and a nearly level plateau once Surprise Lake is gained, only high-endurance hikers should attempt to full loop.

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Webster Pass Road traces the Snake River to its headwaters at Teller Mountain

August 1, 2015 — 

Webster Pass Road ascends to the sources of the Snake River, streams from the slopes of Sullivan Mountain (13,134 feet), Landslide Peak (13,238 feet), Red Cone (12,801 feet), Handcart Peak (12,518 feet) and Teller Mountain (12,602 feet), all found along the Continental Divide.

A loop hike beginning at Webster Pass Road and passing northeast through the Snake River watershed to the ridgeline of Teller Mountain involves an intermediate ascent of 2,300 feet across 4.75 miles, with a total distance of 9 miles and three to four hours of hiking if the loop is completed down Deer Creek Road.

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Hike Summit: The magnificent amphitheater of Mayflower Gulch

August 8, 2015 — 

Nestled in the magnificent amphitheater below the ragged crest of Fletcher Mountain (13,951 feet), the ruins of the failed Boston Mining Company gold digs remain among a meadow of wetland wildflowers. Mayflower Gulch is one of the favorite easy hikes in Summit County. Located on the west side of the Ten Mile Range, convenient access to the Mayflower Gulch Trail makes this a busy trail for summer hiking as well as winter backcountry recreation. The hike involves a gradual ascent of 2 miles from 10,990 feet to 12,000 feet on an old mining road. Providing time for exploration and photographs, the hike can be completed within two hours.

Wildflowers are abundant in the wetlands on the north side of the road, bordering Mayflower Creek. Globeflower, elephant tusk, cinquefoil, lousewort, alpine smelowskia, bistort, paintbrush, chiming bells, columbine, arnica, beardtongue, alpine clover, and mountain goldenrod grow thick in the fertile fields of the valley.

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Hike Summit: Find high-alpine serenity below Red Peak at Willow Lakes

September 11, 2015 — 

The Willow Lakes of the Gore Range are one of my favorite day-hike destinations in the state of Colorado. The lakes are nestled in the North Willow Creek watershed, surrounded by the sharp, ragged ridge of Red Peak (13,189 feet) to the south and Willow Peak (13,333 feet) forming the wall of the bowl to the north.

The hike is beyond intermediate, with an elevation gain of 2,400 feet (9,000 to 11,400 feet) and a strenuous distance of 13 to 18 miles, depending on the access route you choose. The effort is well rewarded, with an abundance of wildflowers and several alpine pools set against a dramatic rock wall backdrop. Give yourself eight hours of daylight to enjoy the hike.

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Hike Summit: Argentine Pass Trail near Keystone

August 30, 2015 — 

Dating back to 1869 as a transportation corridor, the Argentine Pass Trail is actually the remnant trace of a wagon toll road from Georgetown to mining camps on the western slope of the Continental Divide.

In 1864, five years before the road was developed, silver deposits were found on the slopes of McClellan Mountain (13,587 feet), found 2 miles north of an area later named Argentine mining district. Argentine Peak (13,738 feet) was named after the Latin word argentum, meaning silver, and the ruins of area mines are plentiful throughout the Peru Creek watershed.

Learn more »

Hiking Guide: Explosive views on the Lenawee Trail

September 5, 2015 — 

The Lenawee Trail offers a glimpse of fall colors as it ascends through groves of young aspen regenerating in the constant upheaval of avalanche flows down the steep slopes of Lenawee Mountain (13,204 feet). About 1.5 miles up the trail at 11,500 feet of elevation, near tree-line, the Lenawee Trail offers expansive views of the area. From the upper trail, Dillon Reservoir of the Gore Range and the Ten-Mile Range lie in the distance west of the Snake River Valley. The ridgeline of Lenawee Mountain from 12,550 feet to 13,200 feet overlooks Arapahoe Basin Ski Area and Loveland Pass on the Continental Divide.

Immediately west of Lenawee Mountain is the ridge of Porcupine Peak (11,803 feet) that forms the wall of Montezuma Bowl. Grizzly Peak (13,427 feet) forms the north portion of the East Wall beyond the Lenawee Mountain chutes at Arapahoe Basin. Directly north of Lenawee Mountain, Highway 6 ascends on sharp switchbacks to Loveland Pass (11,980 feet). East of Lenawee Mountain, and out-of-sight unless you climb to the summit, are the 14er twins Grays Peak (14,267 feet), the southern mountain, and Torreys Peak (14,270 feet), across the saddle to the north.

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Colorado Wildflower Hiking Guide to Summit County, Colorado

July 11, 2015 — 

Jane Hendrix is a friend of the flowers. Her knowledge of plants in Summit County and beyond is extensive, and her commitment to the well-being of the wildflowers is one of true affection.

“When I first started learning the wildflowers, I noticed the big, showy wildflowers, and I didn’t notice the little ones,” she said. “But now, my favorite wildflower is the next one I see.”

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Colorado Hiking: South Willow Falls

July 11, 2015 — 

South Willow Falls is located in the valley between the steep, rocky slopes of Red Peak (13,189 feet) and Buffalo Mountain (12,777 feet). The pass itself is part of a ridge over the amphitheater bowl that lies west of Buffalo Mountain. South Willow Creek forms from the tributary brooks pouring out of the great bowl of dense evergreen forest west of Buffalo Mountain.

The hike is intermediate in grade, rising and descending a few hundred feet as it follows the base of Buffalo Mountain for 1.5 miles. South Willow Falls is two miles from the Buffalo Cabin Trailhead, with about 500 feet of elevation for a profile ¬—an easy day hike by mountain standards.

Learn more »

Summit County, Colorado Blue River Campground Guide

July 10, 2015 — 

Rain, rain, go away — it’s camping season.

Then again, rain in the High Country is a given, just like the occasional snowstorm in late May or long, bone-dry stretches at the start of August. Mother Nature doesn’t follow the rules in the Rocky Mountains, and, more often than not, camping junkies just have to roll with the rainstorms.

But, there are intelligent ways to make the most of a tent-camping trip, even when the weather doesn’t cooperate. Summit County is home to dozens of secluded campsites tucked away in thick forests and on the banks of lush, densely-wooded local waterways, like Tenmile Creek and the Blue River. Very few are large enough for RVs and massive groups, and that’s just fine for quick one- or two-night getaways. The experts with the Dillon Ranger District weigh in on one of their favorites: the Blue River Campground.

Blue River Campground

Found about 6 miles north of Silverthorne on Highway 9, the Blue River Campground is a bona-fide diamond in the rough. It’s relatively small, with just 24 tent sites, but what it lacks in size, it makes up in location and sheer convenience. All but five sites sit within easy walking distance of the Blue River, giving anglers and boaters quick access to the water. The riverside sites are roomy and boast enough space for one or two tents, plus up to two vehicles shorter than 35 feet long.

“In my opinion, it’s our best campground around,” district recreation officer Ken Waugh says. “It’s the location — it’s not too far out of town if you forgot ice or food or anything else. You get a little bit of highway noise, but really not much.”

The campground is found across the highway from Rock Creek Road, a dirt access road that leads to the Rock Creek trailhead about 1 mile from the campground. From there, hikers have a plethora of options in the Eagles Nest Wilderness: Boulder Lake, the Gore Range Trail and several other routes on the northern edge of the Gore. The road can be rough, and Waugh only suggests tempting the drive if you have a high-clearance vehicle.

Like most of Summit County, the campground was hit hard by pine beetles a few years back, and, over the past two years, U.S. Forest Service volunteers have been busy replanting roughly 3,000 seedlings. While the new trees aren’t large enough to provide shade quite yet, the area is still surrounded by full-grown pines and spruce — the perfect barrier against Mother Nature and her temper tantrums.

Made for: Families, anglers, kayakers, hikers

Site amenities: Vault toilets, dumpsters, fire pits and picnic tables. No running water or RV hookups.

Reserve your spot: Sites are available on a first-come, first-serve basis for $14 per night (limit 10 nights). Waugh suggests arriving late Thursday night or early Friday morning. Otherwise, you run the risk of going site-less.

Get there: From the I-70, take the Silverthorne/Dillon exit and head north on Highway 9. Drive about 6 miles and look for the Blue River Campground sign on the right-hand side of the highway. Several campsites are visible from the road.

Camping Colorado With Kids

July 10, 2015 — 

There’s been a lot of chatter about the benefits of unstructured playtime outside for kids, away from screens, homework and school activities. For parents who spend the majority of their time strapped to a chair and a computer during the week, unplugged time is just as essential. A weekend spent camping in the outdoors might be in order. For parents of little ones, the idea might seem daunting. Plenty of local families not only do it but do it well. Three local moms shared their tried-and-true tips for camping with kids.

SIMPLIFY

Rebecca Cohen’s main advice is to keep it simple.

“That goes from the food you bring, to where you camp, to the activities you bring,” said Cohen, who lives in East Vail with her husband and two sons, Harmond, 13, and Warner, 10. “You don’t have to plan for weeks to go camping — look (online) at a state park (visit www.cpw.state.co.us/thingstodo/Pages/camping.aspx) that’s nearby, register and you can literally plan it for that weekend if there’s availability.”

To prepare for a camping trip, consider testing out your gear beforehand, making sure the batteries in the battery-operated lantern and glowsticks (something Cohen definitely recommends bringing along) are still functional and practicing putting up the tent, including how to put on the rainfly.

“I’ve had the experience of putting a new tent together by myself in the dark, which I did do, but it took me a long time,” she said.

Once out there, Cohen, who is the author of “15 Minutes Outside: 365 Ways to Get Out of the House and Connect with Your Kid,” recommends doing a scavenger hunt.

“It’s so easy; you can even make it up on the fly,” she said. “Have them look for three things: a pinecone, a favorite rock and sticks to form a letter. That can even be a separate activity: spelling out words using sticks.”

National park campgrounds often have junior ranger programs to check out.

Other simple pleasures might be “skipping rocks, crossing logs and climbing trees,” she said. “Pack bathing suits, beach towels, water shoes with tread and life vests for the smaller kiddos if you plan to be around water.”

And don’t forget to bring layers.

“Bring non-cotton synthetic layers as you normally would for winter weather since temperatures can drop significantly at night,” she said.

Realistic expectations

Gypsum resident Mandy Ivanov and her husband, Ivo, camp often on the Western Slope and in Utah with their three kids, Kalina, 5, Jordan, 3, and Tenaya, 1. Her advice? Set very low, very realistic expectations.

“Kids want to help with tent set up and fire set up and those little things become the activity,” she said. “The first few times we went we were like, ‘We’ll hike here, we’ll do this.’ Now we plan to go and set up the tent. Keep your expectations realistic; consider how long it takes to make food and where the kids’ energy level will be.”

While Ivanov used to pack a lot of toys for the kids, she’s learned that less is more and usually brings “a couple of good sand toys and a Frisbee.”

Once the kids are out in nature, natural elements like sticks and rocks become the toys.

“We camped in Grand Junction when Kalina was 3 and Jordan was 2 and there was small, pebbled gravel,” she said. “They played in that for three hours straight using sand toys. It was great.”

Start a list

As far as the other items Ivanov brings, she keeps a document on her computer with lists of what to bring based on how many nights they’ll be away from home; she updates it after each trip.

“It makes packing a whole lot easier,” she said. “If we forget something, I make a note of it so we don’t forget it again. It’s really expedited the whole planning process and cuts down on what we forget.”

She brings kid-size camp chairs for sitting around the fire, though her ideal campsites have a picnic table. If there’s not a table, she always packs an old sheet.

“The kids end up eating a lot on the ground, so we’ll take a sheet they can sit on and we can just pick up the mess and tuck it away in a bag to take home,” Ivanov said.

The family sleeps in a large, four-person tent with a separate screened-in, separate “porch” on the front, where gear and shoes can be stored.

She also lets each child pack one stuffed animal and their security blanket.

“We still try to create a bedtime ritual, and I think that helps minimize them getting scared or staying up and acting all crazy,” Ivanov said.

snack happy

When it comes to meals, prep as much as you can at home. Ivanov opts to pack meals that can be prepared quickly and always has lots of snacks, like dried or fresh fruit, on hand.

“If we’re able to have a campfire, I’ll do a foil meal,” she said. “I’ll freeze breakfast sausage links, cube up root vegetables and when we get to the campsite, I’ll throw it together with seasoning and oil and put it on the fire.”

If fires aren’t allowed, she’ll make a stew, soup or a casserole and freeze it before hand so it stays cold in the cooler.

“We’ll put it into a pot on the JetBoil and let it heat that way,” she said. “It’s already cooked and there’s minimal mess.”

Cohen prefers to bring buns and hot dogs, which the boys roast over the fire on long skewers she brings along; her other go-to camping food is something she calls “solar s’mores.”

“I individually wrap s’mores servings in tin foil,” she said. “When you get to the campground, put it on a sunny rock and see how long it takes to melt,” she said. “It’s a little science experiment with a snack associated with it,” said Cohen, who tends to keep all of her food in the car when camping to avoid any issues with animals.

Eagle resident Melanie Grompf said snacks are key when camping with youngsters.

“A hungry child is no fun,” she said. “We make sure we have snacks that are going to last and not go bad in a few days, like crackers and granola bars.”

Dirt don’t hurt

While camping, it’s important to remember that a little dirt won’t kill you, or your kids. Grompf had to “accept the dirt, and just be one with it,” she said. But she brings along a portable bathtub on camping trips — to scrub off the dirt every few days — along with a first aid kit in case of cuts and bruises.

Grompf and her husband, Justin, started camping with their son Ethan, who is now 2, when he was 5 months old. While Ethan sleeps in the tent in between his parents at night, they still bring a portable crib along to use for naps.

“It’d be too hot in the tent,” she said. “We’d bring a fitted sheet to go over the Pack and Play and shade him and hide him from dust.”

This spring the Grompfs spent three days camping in Moab and then continued on to Sedona, Arizona, where they camped with friends. They were the only ones with a child.

“It was the longest (camping) trip yet,” Grompf said.

Ethan slept better than on past trips, likely because he played so much during the day. But there were challenges that come with any toddler, including some screaming fits common for 2-year-olds. “It’s one thing to be at home if he’s loud and obnoxious, but it’s hard to be in view of everyone all the time,” Grompf said.

But mostly Ethan “had a ton of fun running around, playing and enjoying the outdoors,” she said.

Mission accomplished.

Camping in Summit is best when you bring a chef, Boy Scout, gear junkie and jester

July 1, 2015 — 

There are many ways to camp. There’s car camping, which does not necessarily entail camping in a car, as the name suggests. There is backpacking, which can take place over one night or extend for several days. There is close-to-home camping and travel-to-a-destination camping. However, though there are many different types of camping, there is one element that is crucial for a successful trip: your camping companions.

These are the folks who will not only make sure that you eat, but that you also eat really well. It’s the person who not only knows where to hike, but where to find the most beautiful, unpopulated trails or campsites — and, the individual who may have no other discernible talent other than doing silly things and bringing the beverages. To ensure a most successful camping experience, be sure that the following cadre of companions accompany you on your journey: the campfire gourmand, the Boy/Girl Scout, the good-time Charlie, the gear junkie and the llama whisperer.

1. The Campfire Gourmand

Man cannot live on bread alone, and plain old hot dogs won’t cut it, either. For a tasty and fulfilling camping experience, there must be a campfire gourmand in your group. This is the person who says, when asked about dinner plans, “Oh, I was planning on flank steak with chimichurri, grilled asparagus and couscous.”

Don’t know what chimichurri is? Don’t worry — your campfire gourmand is more than happy to explain.

Those who are culinary inclined seem to effortlessly produce great meals, using tips and tricks that mere mortals may not realize. Planning and prep is extremely important. Cutting up vegetables before you leave the house is easier than doing it at the campsite. Flank steak is great for a backpacking trip if you cut it and marinate at home and then freeze it, then it will thaw out on your hike.

For those who are a little less comfortable in the kitchen, a helpful resource for elevating camping cuisine is Pinterest.

“For me, cooking in general is not something that I’m a master at,” said Kelly Allen, who lives in West Vail and works at Christy Sports. “Pinterest has become that easy tool to find recipes. There are a lot of really clever ideas on there to make it simple.”

2. The Boy/Girl Scout

When you’re exploring the wilderness — or car camping in a posh spot complete with showers — you need someone who practices the Boy and Girl Scout motto, which is “Be prepared.”

“My emergency kit has duct tape, those flexible rubber ski straps and baling wire,” said Cedar Davidson, who works at Alpine Quest Sports in Edwards. “Also, 50 feet of parachute cord. You can help rig a tarp, tie down a tent or repair a backpack strap. It’s high-strength cordage, so it’s versatile: You can replace a shoelace if it breaks, repair part of a tent fly or make a drying line for wet clothes. It’s always nice to have little bits of string.”

He also recommends carrying dental floss and a sewing needle.

“Floss is stronger than any commercially-available sewing thread,” he explained. “You can repair a tent, a backpack or a piece of clothing, and it’s high-strength and waterproof. It doesn’t weaken when it gets wet.”

Having someone in the group who is prepared for the small mishaps that inevitably come up is crucial. After all, there’s nothing worse than sleeping in a drippy tent that could have been easily repaired with a bit of floss and a needle.

No camping trip is complete without a fire. While there are many schools of thought on how to start the perfect fire — the most important part is the end product: a cheerful fire on which to cook your meals, warm your hands and break out into a round of “Kumbaya.” Allen had a fail-proof tip for this necessary demonstration of mild pyromania.

“Take cardboard toilet paper rolls and fill them with cotton balls or dryer lint,” she explained. “Then cover them in Vaseline and they make awesome fire starters. It’s really easy and it makes you feel like a champ, even if you’re not an outdoor expert at all.”

The other important element of camping is your location. Many people who fall into the Boy/Girl Scout category are wizards about finding the prettiest overlook or the most deserted trail. However, if you’re venturing into unknown territory, then call your local U.S. Forest Service, and pick their brains about recreational campsites as well as off-road spots that are still allowed. They’ve got the tools to make your camping experience a bit easier, and they’re happy to help.

3. The Good-Time Charlie

Just as there must be someone who ensures that the group makes it safely home, there will always be someone who keeps everyone on their toes. This is the person who brings a bottle of Everclear to perform fireballs at 2 a.m. This is the person who, while attempting to catch a cutthroat with their bare hands, falls into the lake and spends the rest of the night in an assortment of borrowed clothing because they didn’t pack any spare clothes. This is the person who regales the crew with stories of his last camping trip, when he woke up to find a snake cuddled up next to his sleeping bag because he forgot to zip the tent up completely.

This person will also provide the impetus for entertaining the group, especially if the weather turns foul, and everyone is huddled under a tarp to escape the monsoon. In this situation, Charlie will pull out a deck of cards for drinking Uno or perhaps Bananagrams — a good backcountry game, according to Davidson.

4. The Gear Junkie

There are necessities for living: food, water and shelter top that list. But, many things fall into the category of “unnecessary but totally awesome” and that’s where the gear junkie comes in.

No, it’s not necessary to have gourmet coffee for your morning pick-me-up, but it sure is nice for one of your camping companions to pull out an Aeropress and ask, “Would you like an Americano?”

Some of these items might actually save your life, like waterproof speakers and an iPod, according to Davidson.

“I once spent 36 days on a glacier in Alaska,” Davidson said. “(The speakers and iPod) maintained our sanity during a 12-day storm when we couldn’t leave the tent.”

Your gear junkie friend could also be the one that provides a better night sleep, like packing an air mattress and Egyptian cotton sheets or a camping hammock for those long lazy afternoons after you set up camp.

There are all sorts of items that are being made for camping, from tent chandeliers (these actually exist) to a backcountry carbonator like the one from Pat’s Backcountry Beverages (available at Alpine Quest). The size of a Nalgene, this device carbonates just about any beverage, including beer.

“It’s a cool gift item,” Davidson said. “You can buy the beer kit at the store and make your own backcountry beer. You can also make soda to make mixed beverages or just plain soda.”

Continuing under the category of unnecessary but totally awesome, enter the llama whisperer.

5. The Llama Whisperer

While car camping means that you can pack up the trunk with everything that you might need and pull right up to the site, backpacking trips take more consideration as to how much gear weighs and what you really want to carry on the trail.

Traveling with llamas can allow you to hike farther because you’re not as loaded up with heavy gear, said Karen Peck, a manager at Paragon Guides in Edwards. You still carry your daypack, but the larger items, like tents or cook stoves, can be carried by a llama — they can carry anywhere from 60 to 80 pounds, depending on the llama.

Paragon Guides offers several options for llama trekking and is the only outfitter offering this service in Eagle and Summit counties. If you know what you’re doing, where you’re going, can function in backcountry and have all of the gear and just want llamas to carry it, then a llama lease is the best bet.

This requires going through some training, which includes learning how to function around them, how to care for them and how to manage different scenarios.

After this four-hour course and a $150 fee, then you’re certified with Paragon Guides and can take a llama on your next camping trip.

Hiking with llamas is a unique experience because these Andean ungulates are quite unlike your human companions.

“Llamas will walk at a calm pace, will hum in your ear as you’re walking and have amazing eyesight,” Peck said. “You’ll notice that they’ll hum and their head will turn — if you look that way, you’ll see something that you may not have known about — a fox darting into the trees or a baby elk in a meadow.”

If taking a llama on your own sounds daunting and you want to leave the planning to someone else, Paragon Guides can take care of that as well.

“It is really nice to go with a guide service because we have all these little tricks,” Peck said. “We’ve been doing this for more than 30 years, and we’ve got this planned out.”

Because the llamas can take some of the extra weight, Paragon is able to bring along some extra amenities, like a covering for the eating area or additional food and beverages.

If you want to check out the llamas ahead of time, then head up to FAC on Vail Mountain on July 10. Paragon will be there with the llamas and will be doing short hikes to the backcountry center.

Happy Trails to You

Camping is a great way to spend a night or a weekend just enjoying nature and making memories with family or friends. Having these types of camping companions with you can make the experience more streamlined, but perhaps the most important thing is finding people who are looking for a similar experience.

So, find your group, and collect your perfect combination of friends. And, if you’re missing one of these camping companions, then these tips and tricks can help you be that person. Next thing you know, you’ll be starting the fire or leading the llama on the next trip.

Mohawk Lakes Hiking Trail outside of Breckenridge, CO

June 28, 2015 — 

Lower Mohawk Lake is located in the Spruce Creek Trailhead south of Breckenridge. The lake is nestled in a deep amphitheater formed by Pacific Peak, 13,950 feet, and Mount Helen, 13,165 feet, in the Ten Mile Range. The hike is an intermediate ascent of 1,400 vertical feet, with a total distance of 6.6 miles from the Spruce Creek Trailhead. The elevation of Spruce Creek Trailhead is 10,400 feet, a thousand feet below tree line, while Mohawk Lakes are surrounded by rocky tundra and krumholz. The Mohawk Lakes Trail provides access to an area with dramatic waterfalls, rich fields of wildflowers, and relics of the mining era.

Allow at least five hours to explore the area and plan to descend in early afternoon to avoid the frequent thunderstorms that tend to form over the mountains later in the day. Carry two bottles of water to remain hydrated during the hike or pack a water filter to take water from the stream. Be prepared to find a crowd of hikers on this popular trail, accompanied by many free-roaming hunting dogs.

From the Wheeler Trail junction, the hike to tiny Mayflower Lake is only a mile, with the spectacular spray of Lower Mayflower Falls located near the trail switchbacks a half-mile farther at 11,100 feet. Above the switchbacks are a miner’s cabin and the remains of an ore cart tram wheelhouse.

The Pike’s Peak Gold Rush of 1858 brought miners to placer gold in the plains waterways surrounding Denver. However, miners quickly discovered that larger concentrations of precious minerals could be found in the streams of the Central Mountains. The first settlements in the Blue River Valley formed to exploit gold deposits in the Breckenridge area. Within a decade, placer gold recovery declined and hard rock silver mining became more important to the economy of the area.

Silver rose in value due to federal legislation that authorized the United States government to purchase and coin silver under the Bland-Allison Act of 1878. With the increase in the value of ores, mining operations expanded. Federal government purchases of silver nearly doubled under the mandates of the 1890 Sherman Silver Purchase Act. However, the repeal of the Act caused the collapse of the silver market in 1893, leaving many mining camps in ruins.

On the western shore of Lower Mohawk Lake, at 11,860 feet, the walls of one mining cabin remain. A trail leading from the southern shore of Lower Mohawk Lake leads to the larger Mohawk Lake, 300 feet higher in the gulch.

As you wander among the wetlands, look for alpine wildflower species. You may find artic gentian, inverted bells of white with blue stripes along the sides of its petals. In boggy areas, look for the red elephant figwort, white bog orchid, king’s crown, and queen’s crown. On drier slopes beside the trail, rosy paintbrush and columbine clusters may greet you. Among the rocks, look for alpine forget-me-not, sky pilot, and moss campion. Descend slowly from the lakes and absorb all of the beauty, from gigantic rocky ridges to the tiny blossoms of tundra flowers.

How to Get There

From Frisco, drive south for 10 miles to the Peak 8 gondola in Breckenridge. Continue for another 3 miles south to Spruce Creek Road, across the highway from the pond called Goose Pasture Tarn. Turn right and ascend west 1.8 miles to Spruce Creek Trailhead. Since the road above the trailhead is not well maintained for low-clearance vehicles, park here. Either continue driving up the road if you have a high-clearance vehicle or hike west for 1.3 miles to the junction with the Wheeler Trail. Hike 0.5 miles down the Wheeler Trail to a large beaver pond where the trail meets the Spruce Creek trail. Turn west on the Spruce Creek Trail to its terminus, then cross the road to find the trail to Mohawk Lakes.

Kim Fenske has written extensively on hiking trails throughout Colorado. His writing includes Greatest Hikes in Central Colorado: Summit and Eagle Counties; and Hiking Colorado: Holy Cross Wilderness, available from Amazon Kindle Books.

Artist Nathan Downey combines art with his passion for climbing 14ers

October 18, 2013 — 

A native of Evergreen, Nathan Downey grew up climbing mountains. His father got him started, and he’s been at it ever since.

It’s no surprise, then, that he’s caught what he calls “the 14ers achievement syndrome,” a desire that drives him and hundreds of other climbers to seek out the state’s tallest mountains (those with an elevation of at least 14,000 feet) and match his wits and will against their steep summits.

Like most who have taken on the task of tackling the 14ers, Downey wanted to display something to show himself and others his achievements. He did some searching but couldn’t find anything he liked. So, he decided to design something on his own.

Downey is an artist, both by trade and by nature. His “day job” is acting as the artistic director for Integer Group advertising agency, and during his off time he takes on a variety of artistic projects, from art displays to collaborations with various organizations, including nonprofits. So a mountain-climbing artistic project was right up his alley.

“Honestly, it came out of my own need,” he said. “I wanted it for myself. I had a blank spot on my wall.”

After plenty of thought and planning, Downey designed a chart, detailing the outline of each of Colorado’s 58 peaks taller than 14,000 feet. It didn’t take long before he realized this was something that other people might want, as well. He collaborated with friend and fellow climber JB Leach, who also does screen printing, and the two created 200 limited-edition 14er charts.

Each chart is 40 inches by 15.5 inches and features all of the mountains, which range they’re in, their topographic profile and peak height. The chart also comes with a stamp that reads “Summited” and an inkpad. Upon returning from each 14er, climbers can put a stamp under the corresponding peak on the chart, making the display a living and continually updated document of their climbing achievements.

“Essentially, it’s a wall chart that helps you keep track all of your climbs in a way that is aesthetically pleasing, and it captures the details of each mountain,” Downey said. The idea is that it will be not only a conversation piece but a monument to the climb itself, as people can point out difficult or memorable aspects of their climb on the topographic outline. “It’s a relatable silhouette,” he said. “Each peak has a story, too. Each climb is pretty unique.”

Downey estimated it took him about a year and a half to fully conceptualize and finalize the project’s launch, which took place in July. He’s sold a lot of the charts already, he said, but there are still a few waiting to be claimed by ambitious climbers.

So far, Downey has stamped 26 of the 14ers on his own chart, and he plans to get to them all, eventually. His latest conquest was Wetterhorn Peak in the San Juan range.

“Wetterhorn was awesome,” he said. “That was a good way to end the season. I’m pretty happy with that.”

Women's running apparel roundup: multiple outfits for multi-leg races

September 27, 2013 — 
Running 198 miles through the wilderness at high elevation, in unpredictable weather, through the darkness, surviving on little to no sleep ... shockingly sounds rather appealing to some adventurists.

For those seeking a new way to achieve the “runner’s high” these races are just the ticket. Multi-leg relay races are another subset of the running craze. The increased participation in the sport of running has gone past marathons and ultras and into “fun-runs,” mud-runs, obstacle courses and multi-leg or even multi-day races. These races push your comfort zone and challenge you both physically and mentally. Prepping for an intense multi-leg race can be an invigorating and exciting journey. Increasing your mileage, adding hill climbs, training at elevation and adjusting your caloric intake accordingly are all part of the process.

So when it comes to the list of things you need to keep track of on race day, apparel should be the least of your worries. We’ve compiled three complete outfits to take you through your multi-leg race journey. These trail-tested items will carry you through sun, rain, cold and darkness, all while looking stylishly swift.

For a midday leg with the intense mountain sun glaring down, we’ve created an outfit to keep you cool and collected during your race.

1 — Ambit2 (HR) by SUUNTO

Maintaining your pace during a distance race is critical. While the excitement of race day can get your adrenaline pumping, resist the urge to race out of the gate by keeping an accurate eye on your pace and heart rate. The Ambit2 with the integrated Heart Rate system by Suunto makes it easy with a large pace display, lap comparisons by each kilometer/mile and scrollable options to view distance, speed, elapsed time, elevation, heart rate and calories burned. While you’re not out crushing it in a town race, the GPS-based watch offers an impressive bevy of other functions for outdoor adventurist. Barometric pressure anyone?

www.suunto.com/en-US/target="_blank">www.suunto.com/en-US/

2 — Corsa Skort by ISIS

Slip into any piece by ISIS and you can instantly tell that it was designed by women, for women. Flattering cuts, styles, patterns and colors, backed by high performance materials, are what their pieces are known for. The Corsa Skort is no exception. The nylon and spandex short & skirt combination with stretch waistband is comfortable and chic, with a gusset crotch for movability. This will quickly become your go-to piece, having you feeling feminine yet fearless as you fly down the trails.

www.isisforwomen.comtarget="_blank">www.isisforwomen.com

3 — Unisex Ventilator Compression Support Calf Sleeves by CW-X

Compression garments are all the rage, and with good reason. Why wait to sooth your legs until after the race, when you can begin the recovery process before you even begin? The Unisex Ventilator Compression Support Calf Sleeves by CW-X are engineered to provide muscle and joint support. The increase in blood circulation results in better endurance, less fatigue and faster recovery. The sleeve design allows you to pair them with your favorite running sock.

http://cw-x.comtarget="_blank">http://cw-x.com

4 — Women’s Running Ultra Light No Show by Point6

Many a toenail was lost before the discovery of Point6 wool socks. The moisture wicking properties of wool prevent dampness from developing, keeping your toes dry and happy. The Running Ultra Light No Show by Point 6 is crafted of tightly knit merino wool, an antimicrobial, natural fiber that helps regulate your body temperature. The soft and snug fit stays put, alleviating blisters or hotspots, while the low cut ankle allows it to pair perfectly with any running shoe. After your run, slip on a pair of the Point6 Compression Ultra Lite OTC socks to aid in recovery. The “Over the Calf” high rise sock, created with merino wool infused with Celliant fibers, aids in fatigue, reduces soreness and increases blood flow. Your legs will thank you.

www.point6.comtarget="_blank">www.point6.com

5 - Women’s Coolest Cool Short Sleeve Top by Columbia

The intense midday sun in the mountains has become more bearable thanks to the Omni-Freeze Zero technology by Columbia. The sweat-activated cooling system in the Coolest Cool Short Sleeve top will keep you cooler than your competitors. While the Omni-Wick technology will keep you dry, pulling sweat away from your body, the Omni-Shade technology will keep you blocked from the Sun’s harmful rays. This triple action will keep you cool, dry and protected. You’ll coast stylishly down the trail, and have your fellow racers wondering what your secret is.

www.columbia.comtarget="_blank">www.columbia.com

6 — Bondi Speed by Hoka One One

While the minimal movement has saturated the market, Hoka One One makes a push in the opposite direction. The first to pioneer the maximalist concept, the shoes are designed for runners of all levels. The oversized shoes are surprisingly light, bouncy and nimble. Within the first few steps of wearing the Bondi Speed, you’ll be a believer. The cushioned midsoles deliver an almost trampoline-like effect. The large outsole footprint offers stability on trail or pavement, while minimizing impact, perfect for those with knee issues. Rather than hitting the pavement, you’ll feel as though you’re effortlessly running on vibrantly colored clouds. The fast-entry lacing system will get you out the door and onto the trial quicker than ever.

http://hokaoneone-na.comtarget="_blank">http://hokaoneone-na.com

7 — Jurek Endure by Ultimate Direction

Personally designed by Scott Jurek, the Jurek Collection by Ultimate Direction provides runners with four hydration system options. The Jurek Endure is the perfect hydration belt for a mid-distance run. The belt comes with two ten-ounce bottles, for even weight distribution, keeping the belt from bouncing around. The construction of the bottle holsters is stiff enough to easily slide the bottles in and out, while still resting comfortably against your back. The front pocket allows for easy access to goos or gels, and the expandable back pocket can stash arm warmers or gloves. The waist belt is adjustable and comes with race bib clips. Stylish, compact and efficient, the Jurek Endure is ready to endure any leg of the race.

www.ultimatedirection.com

For" target="_blank">target="_blank">www.ultimatedirection.com

For dusk or dawn runs, you need options that allow you to adapt to the change in temperature or weather. Our second outfit will carry you through a low-light leg in prepared style.

1 - Active Extreme Concept Piece LS Women’s by Craft

When it comes to movability, Craft pieces are hard to beat. The Active Extreme Concept Piece Long Sleeve is not only flattering and stylish, but allows for unconstricted arm swing thanks to their Moving Wing technology. The bodymapped design created with elastic fabrics is snug in all the right places, and moves with your body. The thin, jersey fabric keeps you feeling dry and fresh, and will quickly become one of your favorite pieces. Soft, lightweight and vibrantly hued, this piece will whisk you to the finish line.

http://shop.craftsports.us/target="_blank">http://shop.craftsports.us/

2 - Women’s APEX LITE Jacket by The North Face

With vastly varied weather conditions, racers in the Rocky Mountains need to be prepared for an unexpected afternoon thunderstorm or temperature drop. The APEX Lite jacket by North Face is an ideal piece to stash in your pack. Wind and water resistant, this light layer provides just enough protection from the elements without hindering your stride. The new FlashDry fabric offers superior breathability and shortened drying time. The fit is flattering and feminine, and the reflective detailing keeps you visible as the sun begins to set.

http://www.thenorthface.comtarget="_blank">http://www.thenorthface.com

3 - Women’s TT Sock by Zoot Sports

Before you can race to the finish line, racing to get you gear on just got a little easier, thanks to the unique double tab construction of the Women’s TT Sock by Zoot Sports. The easy to grab design allows for quick changes between race legs, while also providing Achilles protection. The breathable, thin, moisture wicking construction keeps feet blister free, and the built in arch support helps to reduce fatigue by promoting blood flow out of the foot.

http://zootsports.comtarget="_blank">http://zootsports.com

4 - AIR 2.0 LADY Tight 3/4 by Gore Running Apparel

When you look good, you feel good. Gore Running Apparel fully understands and embraces this philosophy. With a full rainbow of color options available for the AIR 2.0 LADY Tight, you’ll have a hard time choosing just one. But the colors aren’t the most sumptuous aspect...the stretchability, wearability, fit and feel of the fabric is soft and subtle. Engineered specifically for running, the cooling and venting design crafted from microfiber fabric aids in temperature regulation and breathability. The flat-lock seam detailing works with your figure to contour and flatter your backside, finished with subtle reflective touches on the hem.

http://www.goreapparel.comtarget="_blank">http://www.goreapparel.com

5 - Wink Hydration Pack by Ultimate Direction

Staying hydrated during any race is important. Staying hydrated in a multi-leg or mulit-day race is crucial. The Wink Hydration Pack by Ultimate Direction offers an impressive 70oz / 2L reservoir, conveniently accessed by the HyperFlow bite valve. The visually appealing women specific pack was designed for the smaller torso of a female. Petite in size, not on features, 100% BPA free pack has easily accessible shoulder strap pockets, and plenty of room for your bars, phone and rain jacket in the main storage pocket. The ventilation provided by the 3D AirMesh back panel and shoulder straps keeps you cool and comfortable during your entire run.

http://www.ultimatedirection.com/target="_blank">http://www.ultimatedirection.com/

6 - XR Mission W by Salomon

Theses stunners will have you sprinting towards the finish line in style and comfort. The Ortholite dual density footbed creates a cushioned landing and heel support. Conquer various terrain on these light yet stable trail runners. The XR Mission W precisely contours to various foot shapes thanks to Salomon’s Asymmetrical Sensiflex technology. The one-pull lacing system will have you reaching for these breathable beauties on race day and everyday.

http://www.salomon.comtarget="_blank">http://www.salomon.com

Running through darkness is a wild and invigorating experience. Having your outfit dialed in will allow you to freely frolic with confidence and courage.

1 - LiteBelt 100 by GoMotion

Evening runs can be exciting and a bit scary. Actually being able to see the route will allow you to charge the trail with confidence. Illuminate the path with the LiteBelt100 by GoMotion. The bright light beams from your midsection, rather than your head, keeping the light more stable and less jarring. The 100 lumen light is powered by three AA batteries, with an adjustable beam angle and flood to spotlight beam option, while two flashing tail lights keep you visible and safe
from the rear. The breathable padded belt offers two storage pockets, with reflective touches to keep you safe and comfortable during the nighttime leg of your race.

http://gomotiongear.comtarget="_blank">http://gomotiongear.com

2 - QuickDraw Plus by Nathan

For a short leg in your race, a handheld water bottle can allow you to carry just the right amount of water without weighing you down. This QuickDraw Plus by Nahan can carry 22 oz of liquid in the easy to squeeze TruFlex bottle. The hand strap is fully adjustable and allows for grip free running, while the storage pocket expands to allow room for your phone, gels and blocks. With 6 colors to choose from, you can be as bright or demure as you desire.

http://www.nathansports.comtarget="_blank">http://www.nathansports.com

3 - Lillehammer Leggings by Tasc Performance

Slipping into these leggings, you may momentarily think that you accidentally put your pajamas back on. The soft and luxurious bamboo fabric feels incredibly smooth and silky against your skin. It’s hard to believe that such a supple and comfortable piece could deliver such high performance. The Lillehammer Leggings by Tasc is crafted of their performance jersey fabric, the moisture wicking, anti-odor, breathable creation comprised of bamboo fabric that receives BamCo finishing process. The thick waist band is figure flattering, and stays put during your entire run, although you’ll probably end up wearing these as often as you can justify.

http://www.tascperformance.comtarget="_blank">http://www.tascperformance.com

4 - Impact Thermal 1/2 Zip by New Balance

The Impact Thermal 1/2 Zip by New Balance combines two of our favorite things; coffee and thumbholes. The NB Heat technology uses eco-friendly coffee grinds to deliver a fabric that increases the surface temperature of the skin by approximately two degrees. This thermal warmth paired with built-in thumb holes will keep you cozy and comfortable on-and-off the trail. This crisp, bright and flattering piece is perfect as a second layer, the long zipper allowing for easy temperature regulation.

http://www.newbalance.comtarget="_blank">http://www.newbalance.com

5 - Lesko Shimmel Tank by Oiselle

While the Lesko Shimmel tank by Oiselle isn’t guaranteed to make you run faster, it sure will make you look cuter. The stylish, fashion-forward piece could easily be mistaken for a lifestyle piece, but the top is ready and willing to get sweaty. The micropoly material keeps you feeling fresh and odor-free. The built in shelf bra has high compression that offers full support, yet remains breathable and cool. Speaking of cool, for those whose passion for running is shared by their significant other, Oiselle offers custom designed bridal running gowns, so you can run your way down the runway.

http://www.oiselle.comtarget="_blank">http://www.oiselle.com

6 - Women’s PHD Run Light Micro by Smartwool

Wool that’s smartly and responsibly crafted into quality garments is what SmartWool has been creating for seventeen years. The Women’s PDH Run Light Micro sock is a perfect example. The sock is lightly cushioned for a comfortable ride, with Realiwool technology employed in the high-density impact zones. The sock stays in place, thanks to the 4-Degree Elite Fit System, ensuring a blister free race. The moisture managing properties of the merino wool along with the mapped ventilation system keeps your feet dry and happy.

http://www.smartwool.comtarget="_blank">http://www.smartwool.com

7 - Women’s PureCadence 2 by Brooks

Forgetting that you’re even wearing shoes might be the best compliment one could give to a running shoe. The PureCadence2 by Brooks achieves just that. The lean and light construction hugs your foot and offers unparalleled flexibility. The responsive midsole molds to each runners size and stride. The lower offset encourages proper form for those with back issues, while the split toe box allows the big toe to function independently, aiding in balance. The Nav Band that wraps over the instep provides a snug fit, not to mention looking darn snappy. These appealing and attractive road shoes might quickly become your everyday, allday shoes.

http://www.brooksrunning.comtarget="_blank">http://www.brooksrunning.com

Multi-leg relay running: More women's running gear for fall

October 4, 2013 —  Editor’s note: These are the second and third parts to a three-part story about women’s running apparel for the fall. To read the first part, which ran in the Summit Daily on Sept. 28, visit www.summitdaily.com. target="_blank">www.summitdaily.com.

Running 198 miles through the wilderness at high elevation, in unpredictable weather, through the darkness, surviving on little to no sleep ... shockingly sounds rather appealing to some adventurists. For those seeking a new way to achieve the “runner’s high,” these races are just the ticket. Multi-leg relay races are another subset of the running craze. These races push your comfort zone and challenge you both physically and mentally.

So when it comes to the list of things you need to keep track of on race day, apparel should be the least of your worries. We’ve compiled three complete outfits to take you through your multi-leg race journey. These trail tested and approved items will carry you through sun, rain, cold and darkness, all while looking stylishly swift.

Stage 2: Dusk and dawn

For dusk or dawn runs, you need options that allow you to adapt to the changes in temperature or weather. Our second outfit will carry you through a low-light leg in prepared style.

1. Active Extreme Concept Piece LS Women’s by Craft — When it comes to mobility, Craft pieces are hard to beat. The Active Extreme Concept Piece Long Sleeve is not only flattering and stylish but allows for unconstricted arm swing, thanks to their Moving Wing technology. The body-mapped design created with elastic fabrics is snug in all the right places and moves with your body. The thin, jersey fabric keeps you feeling dry and fresh and will quickly become one of your favorite pieces. Soft, lightweight and vibrantly hued, this piece will whisk you to the finish line. (http://shop.craftsports.us)

2. Women’s Apex Lite Jacket by The North Face — With vastly varied weather conditions, racers in the Rocky Mountains need to be prepared for an unexpected afternoon thunderstorm or temperature drop. The Apex Lite jacket by The North Face is an ideal piece to stash in your pack. Wind and water resistant, this light layer provides just enough protection from the elements without hindering your stride. The new FlashDry fabric offers superior breathability and shortened drying time. The fit is flattering and feminine, and the reflective detailing keeps you visible as the sun begins to set. (www.thenorthface.com)

3. Women’s TT Sock by Zoot Sports — Before you can race to the finish line, racing to get your gear on just got a little easier, thanks to the unique double tab construction of the Women’s TT Sock by Zoot Sports. The easy-to-grab design allows for quick changes between race legs, while also providing Achilles protection. The breathable, thin, moisture-wicking construction keeps feet blister free, and the built in arch support helps to reduce fatigue by promoting blood flow out of the foot. (http://zootsports.com)

4. AIR 2.0 Lady Tight 3/4 by Gore Running Apparel — When you look good, you feel good. Gore Running Apparel fully understands and embraces this philosophy. With a full rainbow of color options available for the AIR 2.0 Lady Tight, you’ll have a hard time choosing just one. But the colors aren’t the most sumptuous aspect — the stretchability, wearability, fit and feel of the fabric is soft and subtle. Engineered specifically for running, the cooling and venting design crafted from microfiber fabric aids in temperature regulation and breathability. The flat-lock seam detailing works with your figure to contour and flatter your backside, finished with subtle reflective touches on the hem. (www.goreapparel.com)

5. Wink Hydration Pack by Ultimate Direction — Staying hydrated during any race is important. Staying hydrated in a multi-leg or multi-day race is crucial. The Wink Hydration Pack by Ultimate Direction offers an impressive 70-ounce (2 liter) reservoir, conveniently accessed by the HyperFlow bite valve. The visually appealing, women-specific pack was designed for the smaller torso of a female. Petite in size, not in features, the 100 percent BPA-free pack has easily accessible shoulder strap pockets and plenty of room for your energy bars, phone and rain jacket in the main storage pocket. The ventilation provided by the 3D AirMesh back panel and shoulder straps keeps you cool and comfortable during your entire run. (www.ultimatedirection.com)

6. XR Mission W by Salomon — These stunners will have you sprinting toward the finish line in style and comfort. The Ortholite dual density foot bed creates a cushioned landing and heel support. Conquer various terrain on these light yet stable trail runners. The XR Mission W precisely contours to various foot shapes thanks to Salomon’s Asymmetrical Sensiflex technology. The one-pull lacing system will have you reaching for these breathable beauties on race day and every day. (www.salomon.com)

Stage 3: Through the darkness

Running through darkness is a wild and invigorating experience. Having your outfit dialed in will allow you to freely frolic with confidence and courage.

1. LiteBelt 100 by GoMotion — Evening runs can be exciting and a bit scary. Actually being able to see the route will allow you to charge the trail with confidence. Illuminate the path with the LiteBelt100 by GoMotion. The bright light beams from your midsection, rather than your head, keeping the light more stable and less jarring. The 100-lumen light is powered by three AA batteries, with an adjustable beam angle and flood to spotlight beam option, while two flashing tail lights keep you visible and safe from the rear. The breathable padded belt offers two storage pockets, with reflective touches to keep you safe and comfortable during the nighttime leg of your race. (http://gomotiongear.com)

2. QuickDraw Plus by Nathan — For a short leg in your race, a handheld water bottle can allow you to carry just the right amount of water without weighing you down. This QuickDraw Plus by Nahan can carry 22 ounces of liquid in the easy-to-squeeze TruFlex bottle. The hand strap is fully adjustable and allows for grip-free running, while the storage pocket expands to allow room for your phone, gels and blocks. With six colors to choose from, you can be as bright or demure as you desire. (www.nathansports.com)

3. Lillehammer Leggings by Tasc Performance — Slipping into these leggings, you may momentarily think that you accidentally put your pajamas back on. The soft and luxurious bamboo fabric feels incredibly smooth and silky against your skin. It’s hard to believe that such a supple and comfortable piece could deliver such high performance. The Lillehammer Leggings by Tasc are crafted of the company’s performance jersey fabric, a moisture wicking, anti-odor, breathable creation composed of bamboo fabric that receives a BamCo finishing process. The thick waistband is figure flattering and stays put during your entire run, although you’ll probably end up wearing these as often as you can justify. (www.tascperformance.com)

4. Impact Thermal 1/2 Zip by New Balance — The Impact Thermal 1/2 Zip by New Balance combines two of our favorite things: coffee and thumbholes. The NB Heat technology uses eco-friendly coffee grinds to deliver a fabric that increases the surface temperature of the skin by approximately two degrees. This thermal warmth paired with built-in thumb holes will keep you cozy and comfortable on and off the trail. This crisp, bright and flattering piece is perfect as a second layer, the long zipper allowing for easy temperature regulation. (www.newbalance.com)

5. Lesko Shimmel Tank by Oiselle — While the Lesko Shimmel tank by Oiselle isn’t guaranteed to make you run faster, it sure will make you look cuter. The stylish, fashion-forward piece could easily be mistaken for a lifestyle piece, but the top is ready and willing to get sweaty. The micropoly material keeps you feeling fresh and odor-free. The built-in shelf bra has high compression that offers full support, yet remains breathable and cool. Speaking of cool, for those whose passion for running is shared by their significant other, Oiselle offers custom-designed bridal running gowns, so you can run your way down the aisle. (www.oiselle.com)

6. Women’s PHD Run Light Micro by Smartwool — Wool that’s smartly and responsibly crafted into quality garments is what SmartWool has been creating for 17 years. The Women’s PDH Run Light Micro sock is a perfect example. The sock is lightly cushioned for a comfortable ride, with Realiwool technology employed in the high-density impact zones. The sock stays in place, thanks to the 4-Degree Elite Fit System, ensuring a blister-free race. The moisture-managing properties of the merino wool, along with the mapped ventilation system, keep your feet dry and happy. (www.smartwool.com)

7. Women’s PureCadence 2 by Brooks — Forgetting that you’re even wearing shoes might be the best compliment one could give to a running shoe. The PureCadence2 by Brooks achieves just that. The lean and light construction hugs your foot and offers unparalleled flexibility. The responsive midsole molds to each runner’s size and stride. The lower offset encourages proper form for those with back issues, while the split toe box allows the big toe to function independently, aiding in balance. The Nav Band that wraps over the instep provides a snug fit, not to mention looking darn snappy. These appealing and attractive road shoes might quickly become your everyday, all-day shoes. (www.brooksrunning.com)

Summit County trail and leash etiquette for dogs and hikers

August 30, 2013 — 

As the sunny summer weather continues, the more people will be out and about, taking advantage of Summit County’s miles and miles of trails, especially during the long Labor Day weekend. For many, spending time outdoors involves spending time with pets, taking them out of the backyard and out on those same trails.

Dogs are great hiking companions and inarguably part of any Summit County outdoor occasion. Visitors, too, love to bring their pups along and give them a taste of mountain living. While it’s perfectly acceptable to bring a four-legged companion along on an outdoor occasion, it’s also important to remember that there are rules in place to ensure the safety everyone involved — people, pets and wildlife.

Leashing your pet

A leash is the easiest and most effective way to control a dog. Dogs are welcome in all Summit County downtowns, as long as they are on a leash which is being controlled by their owner. Dragging leashes won’t do it, said Frisco service officer Seth Blackmer, the leash must be under the owner’s control.

In addition to downtown streets, leashes on dogs are a must in any alleyways, town parks, cemeteries, marinas, etc. This includes the Frisco Adventure Day Park, Frisbee golf course and the peninsula.

Dogs found at large will be brought to the Summit County Animal Shelter in Frisco. Pick-up requires proof of license, proof of vaccinations including rabies shots, as well as payment of a fine.

Designated wilderness areas also require dogs to be leashed at all times. There are two such areas in Summit County — the Eagle’s Nest wilderness area and the Ptarmigan Peak wilderness area, both north of Interstate 70.

“The one thing we try to emphasize in the wilderness is the safety of the dog and the safety of other people,” said Ken Waugh, staff officer at the Dillon Ranger District.

Dogs caught off leash in the wilderness areas will incur a $125 fine for their owners.

Other wilderness dangers

The law is also in place to protect the wildlife in the area, added Cindy Ebbert, wilderness, trails, dispersed recreation manager for the Dillon Ranger District.

“Within our wilderness area, that’s our highest level of protection for Forest Service lands, so we’re also trying to protect the wildlife in there,” she said. “We really don’t want dogs chasing other animals within a wilderness area.”

Owners won’t want their dogs chasing wild animals either. Clashes with wildlife such as porcupines, moose, skunks and bears can leave dogs in bad shape, possibly even requiring medical attention.

Waugh also emphasized the importance of caution in wilderness areas due to the hunting season opening Sept. 1. The first group of hunters are archers, but caution is still of utmost importance, from now until the season ends in November. He recommends that owners tie a brightly colored kerchief on their dog’s collar, or take other actions to distinguish them as a domesticated pet and not a wild animal.

Within sight and voice control

Outside of town limits and the two designated wilderness areas, leashes on trails are not required. What is required is that dogs remain within voice command distance of owners. It’s best that dogs also remain in sight.

“You have to be able to see your dog in order to control it,” Waugh said.

While dogs may wander up and down the trail in these areas, common courtesy dictates that dogs should be by their owners’ sides when passing other people.

“The ideal situation is you’re out for a walk with your dog, … and (when) you see the people coming up the trail, you call the dog and you have the dog heel next to you,” Waugh said. “The dog is under control at that point until you pass those people and let the dog go out again. The main issue is safety, because a lot of people are fearful of dogs and people are out with their kids and don’t want them encountering (strange dogs).”

Dog owners should take particular care when encountering equestrians on the trail, as dogs may cause the horses to be skittish, which can endanger not only the rider but people on foot nearby as well.

“It’s just common sense. If you see horses, absolutely get your dog to your side and hold onto them,” Ebbert said. “Step off the trail and let the horses pass. That can create a safety issue for the people on the hose if a dog comes up and nips at a horse on a narrow trail.”

Just because leashes aren’t required doesn’t mean the idea shouldn’t be considered. A younger or newly trained dog that may not quickly or dependably respond to voice commands should be leashed no matter where they are. Visitors should also understand that a dog that is well-behaved in the city may not be as obedient on the trail.

“We love our pets and we like to think that they’re different and they’re going to obey us, but on the trails there are all kinds of random things that can happen that are different from a dog’s habit or their comfort (zone),” said Bob Cook, executive director of the Friends of the Dillon Ranger District. “Things jump out, there are other dogs that they have some kind of a reaction to, that’s different because it’s not the same kind of relationships or patterns that they’re used to on their home walk. All those things, I think, are just (part of) being a good neighbor as well as being a good caretaker of your pet.”

Pick it up

Another important aspect of trail etiquette is cleaning up after the animals. With such a high volume of people using the trail system, animal droppings can quickly become a problem if not dealt with. Many trail heads have bag dispensers, although hikers are encouraged to bring their own in case a dispenser is empty. Once it’s bagged, it also has to be thrown away, which may necessitate taking the bag back into the car, not leaving it at the trailhead.

“It’s your responsibility to take it to a trash can somewhere,” Waugh said.

Rain means mushroom season is on

August 2, 2013 — 

The rainy season is upon us at last. Skies open on a near daily basis, drenching anyone caught out in a cloudburst, followed by the reward of steamy rainbows fronting the sunlight that inevitably streams through. It’s a happy time of year for mushrooms, which flush into variously colored and shaped fruiting bodies from sometimes miles-long mycelium when the earth is warm and wet. Likewise, it’s a magical time for mushroom hunters, who will range long and far, through storm and mud, in search of so many surprises.

There are the slippery, gelatinous brown-capped Suillus with their soft, yellow, pore-sponge undersides; peach-colored, blue-staining Lactarius deliciosus; Morchella, the elusive black High Country morel; chanterelles of the genus Cantharellus; puffballs of the generas Calvatia and Lycoperdon and, of course, Boletus edulis, or porcini, the king of kings, with its firm, wine-red cap, bulbous legs and white fish-net stockings. All of these mushrooms are edible, each prepared in its own way.

Of course, there are also outright poisonous ones, such as the psychoactive Amanita muscaria with its bright red cap and white spots, the false morel Gyromitra and a host of LBM’s (little brown mushrooms) you don’t want to mess with. Some can kill you; others take out your liver — so eating a wild mushroom is never a decision to take lightly.

Leccinum warning

There are also mushrooms whose edibility is subject to debate, such as those in the genus Leccinum. Commonly called scaber-stalks for the brown hashmarks on their stems, or aspen boletes when they occur under aspens, these sponge-pored boletes have cap colors ranging from yellow-orange to red-orange. Some occur in a mycorrhizal relationship with aspens, some with conifers, and some are found in mixed forest zones. Although Leccinums are widely eaten in Europe and have long been considered choice edibles, the Rocky Mountain Poison Center receives occasional reports of severe gastric problems, some requiring hospitalization, from eating moderate amounts of aspen-associated “orange caps,” as Vera Stucky Evenson writes in “Mushrooms of Colorado and the Southern Rocky Mountains.”

“Some people get very sick. They don’t damage your liver, but they can make you vomit and vomit for hours,” said Evenson, who curates the Sam Mitchel Herbarium of Fungi at the Denver Botanic Gardens. She told of a family that vomited all night after eating aspen-associated Leccinums. “We recommend you don’t eat the ones that grow under aspen, just under conifers — and you have to look all around to make sure there aren’t aspens nearby,” since the trees’ root system can be extensive.

That said, there are people who continue to eat Leccinums without incident, so ultimately, it’s up to you whether you want to play vomit roulette.

Fortunately, just witnessing the beauty and diversity of mushrooms in the Rocky Mountain region is an end in itself; so new mushroom hunters needn’t feel pressured to consume any off the bat. It takes time to learn enough to make positive identifications with what wild food foraging expert Samuel Thayer calls “contradictory confidence” — so confident that you will fight a person on the point. And that has to happen before taking the risk of eating a wild mushroom.

Those just starting out or seeking answers can join the Colorado Mycological Society (www.cmsweb.org), which offers regional mushroom forays, a cook-and-taste event in October and an upcoming Mushroom Fair at the Denver Botanic Gardens on Aug. 11 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., which is free with paid admission.

“The mushroom club is fun,” Evenson said. “Bring your mushrooms in and have them identified.”

In the field

Before heading out into the national forest, local mushroom hunters should know that a free personal-use permit is required. These can be obtained from the Dillon Ranger District. If you are visiting another region or state, check with the regional forest service office to find out if there are any regulations.

To collect specimens for study, pluck the whole mushroom and put each species in a separate paper bag or layer of paper in a basket. If you are collecting for the kitchen and know the mushroom you’re after, a knife works for cleaning off dirty parts in the field. (I always like to cover my tracks after that so as not to leave a mess, tossing some dirt over a cut stalk or tucking the detritus in the underbrush where the animals can make fast work of it.) A cloth or brush is good to clean off excess dirt, and a basket or pillowcase works for carrying the mushrooms. Or ask around. There are plenty of local folks — both homegrown and from Eastern Europe — who can break down the tricks of the trade for you if you are fortunate enough to win them over.

Don’t be lulled into thinking mushroom hunting is like shopping at the grocery store, for besides dirt there are also worms to contend with. Try to go for fresh, firm specimens. They’ll be worm-free, if you’re lucky, or at least host to small settlements, rather than entire civilizations, that you can cut around with a knife back in the kitchen. If the mushroom is so full of worm masses or activity that the flesh is yellow or brown, or if a piece is extra wormy, it’s best to discard it. But a few worm pioneers can be driven off with slicing and drying, or cooked right into a meal for an added protein punch.

Those with the fortitude to brave gray skies, sudden downpours, wiggling worms and the wee hours of dawn are rewarded with one of the earth’s most treasured prizes — edible, organic mushrooms growing wild and free.

Erica Marciniec has been hunting and eating local mushrooms for four years. For more of her stories on fungi and edible wild plants, visit www.wildfoodgirl.com.

Backcountry sleepover: Hike or bike to a Summit Hut this summer

July 27, 2013 — 

When your hiking or mountain biking destination is a hut, the adventure is definitely not just about the journey. Summer is a great time to experience the more remote areas of the mountains, and the Summit Huts Association — a nonprofit organization based in Breckenridge — can make your backcountry accommodations a little more rustic.

“We would really like to introduce more people to the experience of the huts in the summertime,” said Mike Zobbe, executive director of the Summit Huts Association. “Many of the summer hut guests don’t think of the summer hut experience as a backpacking experience. But it is similar, and you can travel quite a bit lighter.”

Huts are equipped with general amenities, so you don’t have to pack everything in yourself. In the huts you’ll find a wood-burning stove for heat, solar-powered lights, indoor composting toilets, twin beds and pillows and a fully equipped kitchen with propane cook tops. These huts do not have double beds, ovens or refrigerators. Individuals or groups can reserve spaces; the huts are booked to capacity and may be occupied by more than one group.

The Summit Huts Association manages four huts in Summit County, all under special use permits with the Forest Service. However, only two of huts are available for use during the summer. Janet and Francie’s cabins are open from July though September, and each retreat offers its own alpine experience.

Janet’s Cabin

The original Summit Hut was built in 1990. It sits at an elevation of 11,610 feet, in the area between Copper Mountain and Vail Pass. Access the trailhead at Copper Mountain, where it will eventually enter the roadless area of Guller Gulch and gradually climb 5.5 miles to Janet’s Cabin.

“To reach Janet’s Cabin, you have to hike in on the Colorado Trail, which makes it very unique,” Zobbe said. “Janet’s certainly has a very remote feeling, and it’s more of a backpacking experience — it really feels like you are a lot further back there than if you had driven.”

Guests pack in food, clothing layers and a sleeping bag. In the summer, water is available from a nearby source (snow is boiled for water in the winter). The cabin has a wood-burning sauna — a backcountry luxury after a hike in to the hut. Bring friends or hit it solo; Janet’s Cabin sleeps as many as 14 people in the summer with upstairs bunk-style rooms.

Francie’s Cabin

Francie’s was the second hut built by the Summit Huts Association and is located approximately four miles south of Breckenridge, in the Crystal Lakes drainage, at an elevation of 11,264 feet. There are a number of ways to access Francie’s Cabin in the summer — the three different routes range from 1.8 miles to 4.5 miles in length.

“Francie’s is in an amazingly beautiful alpine environment, and it has access to nearby fishing at Crystal Lake, as well as big, beautiful meadows,” Zobbe said. “A lot of people go up and go hiking or ‘peak bagging’ in the area. It’s also more accessible than most because it’s a shorter walk in.”

The Summit Huts Association encourages visitors to access the hut under their own power and to carry their own gear, although some motorized vehicles can make most of the trek — if all the routes are open. Zobbe said a four-wheel-drive road will get hearty vehicles to a gate 200 yards from the house, but vehicles are required to be left a quarter-mile below the hut in designated parking. He said vehicles can also drive on a not-as-rocky way on Spruce Creek road and can arrive within a mile of the hut.

Francie’s sleeps 20 people in the summer, divided among six bedrooms. The cabin also offers a wood-burning sauna for post-peaking, and water is available from a nearby creek (drinkable once boiled or treated).

Summer in Summit

Zobbe said summer hut trips are completely different from winter trips and are generally much more accessible.

“Summer is more friendly as far as temperatures, and you don’t have to think about winter gear,” Zobbe said. “Most people have basic hiking gear, so really anyone can take advantage of the simplified experience.”

Visitors should take note of summer weather conditions, however, and plan for early afternoon arrivals to minimize your chances with encountering lighting, dropping temperatures, rain, hail and snow. Hikers and mountain bikers should always bring extra clothing layers and adequate amounts of food and water.

He said the wildlife and wildflower viewing opportunities are plentiful this time of year and that the Summit Huts Association encourages everyone to make their backcountry experience as “off-the-grid” as possible.

“In the summer, people do like to use vehicle support, so they will bring more stuff and more food with them,” Zobbe said. “So even though we try to encourage people to treat it as more of a backpacking experience, a lot of people do use vehicles.”

Note that there is no motorized access to Janet’s Cabin (hiking or biking only), and vehicles approaching Francie’s Cabin must park a substantial distance away from the building in designated parking areas. Roads can become inaccessible from rain erosion; so do not count on a vehicle to execute your chosen itinerary.

Re-vamped, expanded and in full color

November 15, 2013 — 

When Mary Ellen Gilliland arrived in Summit County 43 years ago, it was quite a different place than it is today. It was “before there was I-70 or a stoplight or a grocery store or anything,” she said. “It was wonderful, so much open space and so much untouched beauty.”

While a lot may have changed since then, the beauty of the area has not, and it continues to draw visitors from all over the world. It’s no wonder, then, that Gilliland’s “The Summit Hiker,” a guidebook for trails and fishing spots, consistently ranks as the best-selling book in the county.

Gilliland published the first edition of the book in 1980. Since then, she has done various revisions and extensions. This year, it has improved even more.

“This book is more than a revision — it’s a complete re-vamping,” Gilliland said.

In addition to adding some new trails and removing some that were no longer relevant, the book has been completely re-done with new photos and maps, all of which appear in full color. She also spent her winter interviewing local fishermen, learning tips and favorite fishing spots, and included all that information in a new section for anglers.

Changing and updating her book is important, Gilliland said.

“Guidebooks need to be updated. … Even into the backcountry, it’s amazing,” she said. “Trailheads have moved, trails have been rerouted, a landmark that you might mention, say a cabin, maybe it got struck by lightning and burned, … so you have to do that.”

Gilliland strives to provide the most accurate and up-to-date information for her readers. She has hiked every single trail in the book multiple times, a fact which can be verified by the detailed and familiar tone of each description.

“I’m very familiar with the trails,” she said. “If I close my eyes, I can kind of follow along.”

Hiking runs in the blood for Gilliland, a native of Minnesota. She remembers trips to her family’s lake cabin and time spent exploring the wilderness.

“Tromping through the woods was something that I grew up with and being on the lake and all of that, the outdoors, from when I was tiny,” she said. “The outdoors was huge with our family. I have been a hiker since I was a little girl.”

Gilliland met her husband Larry, a Colorado native, while living in New York City. She followed him back to the mountains and fell in love with the scenery. After discovering the trails and opportunities for hiking all around, she decided to share her knowledge with others by writing a book.

“When I first wrote ‘The Summit Hiker,’ people couldn’t find the trails,” she said. “People in neighborhoods knew where the local trails were, but people didn’t know where the trails were and spent half a day looking for a trailhead. The basic idea was to help people find the trail and find their way.”

In addition to detailed descriptions about the hiking trails, Gilliland’s book also offers an insight into the history of the area. Stories of mining camps, gold rushes and local characters accompany each chapter. As the author of 16 books, many of which delve deeply into the history of Summit County, Gilliland knows what she’s talking about.

“I’ve been researching the history for years and, before they all died, I talked to the old-timers and interviewed them, not just for an hour but days with them,” she said. “Over the years, I have absorbed and researched almost continuously.”

Knowing the history of the places they’re hiking through helps people form an understanding of what they see. When stumbling across a gathering of abandoned cabins, for example, hikers might wonder, “Where did they come from? Who lived here? What happened here? You see these cabins, and it’s just puzzlement,” Gilliland said.

If hikers have her book, they can then answer those questions.

Gilliland said she’s looking forward to her book signing, which allows her the opportunity to connect with her readers and other hikers.

“I get to know my readers and their take on certain things,” she said, which includes both compliment and criticism. “They’ll say, ‘You know, I dispute this mileage,’ or something like that. I write that all down and take it into consideration.”

Later, she’ll take those notes with her along the trail to re-evaluate. Most often, she said, she receives compliments and stories of great experiences within the mountains.

“They’ve used ‘The Summit Hiker’ as a way to discover the splendid beauty of the area, and they focus that gratitude on me,” she said. “It’s not me — I didn’t make what’s out there — but they share the joy that they’ve had and I just feed off of that. People just love getting out and discovering these trails, and they need something to guide them and are so full of happiness from having had these wonderful experiences.”

Gilliland added that she’s been amazed at the success of “The Summit Hiker” and also “The Vail Hiker,” her guidebook on trails in the Vail area. She’s enjoyed combining her love of hiking with her love of history.

“The reason that I write hiking guidebooks and the reason I’m outside in Summit County all the time is because this is such a rare and special place of unusual beauty, and to be able to discover that myself and to help other people discover it has been a source of great satisfaction for me.”

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