Volunteers reroute Shrine Ridge Trail | SummitDaily.com

Volunteers reroute Shrine Ridge Trail

SUMMIT COUNTY – An estimated 175 volunteers trekked into the backcountry near Vail Pass Saturday to restore and reroute the heavily used Shrine Ridge Trail.

According to Keith Desrosiers of Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado (VOC), crews spent the weekend rerouting the trail so it can handle the heavy use it sees without compromising the health of wetlands and other fragile ecosystems in the area.

The efforts are part of the VOC’s Show Colorado You Love Her campaign, designed to get people outdoors and to educate them on the need to maintain lands that are being loved to death.

Shrine Ridge Trail is a popular trail, but it’s a non-system trail created through use – not design. Hikers trample through a fragile alpine wetland.

Volunteers hauled equipment into the site under blue skies and amid the colors of fall. Views along the road include the Tenmile, Gore, Sawatch and Flat Top mountain ranges and Mount of the Holy Cross, so named because a vivid, white swath of snow stretches over its face, giving the appearance of a giant cross.

Miracle trail

In the late 1920s, thousands of people traveled to Mount of the Holy Cross, lured by the promise of miraculous cures. By 1934, numerous “miraculous cures” were credited to visits to the mountain. A Denver pastor later introduced the idea of “handkerchief healing,” whereby only the handkerchiefs of the ill were needed atop the mountain to pray over.

People altered that practice by immersing the handkerchiefs in the Bowl of Tears, a subalpine lake just below the east face of Mount of the Holy Cross.

The thousands of people who visited the mountain searching for miracle cures created what is now Shrine Ridge Trail.

At nearly 12,000 feet, the road also boasts Engelmann spruce, subalpine fir, aspen and meadows. The forest, Desrosiers said, occupies the highest forested environment in the southern Rocky Mountains and is known for its harsh climate.

Visitors will find shrubs and other plants in the area, including huckleberry, blueberry, pipissewa, wood nymph, curled lousewort and twinflower. Where the sun reaches the forest floor, hikers can find Parry primrose, false hellebore, monkshood, aspen sunflower and trumpet gilia.

The area is also critical habitat for the three-toed woodpecker, gray jays, pine grosbeaks, red crossbills, mountain chickadees, red-breasted nuthatch, red-backed vole, marten and showshoe hares.

Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 228 or jstebbins@summitdaily.com.

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