Quandary answers why Breckenridge is “the Kingdom” and what trail markers mean

Carl Scofield / Special to the Daily
Carl Scofield / Special to the Daily |

Why is Breckenridge known as “the Kingdom”?

Such a simple answer: It looks down on everyone around. Kidding, of course! In fact the answer to this question is quite the opposite. You see, Breckenridge came into being as a town in 1859. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to put it on the map … literally. Some United States maps from the time period forgot the poor little hamlet. When this error was discovered in 1936 by local residents, they found cause to rejoice. The 1930s were a difficult time in Summit — the population fell to one of its lowest points in history and people and animals alike were looking for a way to break away from the grind.

Intrepid residents decided the lack of acknowledgment meant Breckenridge was separate from the states, its very own Kingdom. While it’s believed the map that didn’t show Breckenridge is an anomaly, or at least one of a small percentage, the townspeople still party. For decades the people of Breckenridge have used this snub as a jumping off point for the Kingdom Days celebration each June. The celebration focuses on Breckenridge’s mining history with free mine tours, outhouse races and gold panning championships.

Are all of the trails that are open for use in Summit County during the summertime open in the wintertime, too? And what do the colored signs along the trails mean?

Quandary knows that getting out into the woods can do an old goat a lot of good — and it doesn’t matter if there’s snow on the ground or not. All of the trails and wilderness areas you can use during the summertime are open in the wintertime, too, according to a Dillon Ranger District spokeswoman. “The trails are open; it’s more a matter of accessibility” — and the ambitiousness of the skier or snowshoer, she said.

The list of wintertime recreational uses of wilderness areas — like Eagles Nest, near Frisco — is pretty much the same as the summertime list: hunting, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, backpacking, camping, nature study, photography, skiing, climbing, etc. Just remember that, winter and summer, all forms of mechanical transport are prohibited in wilderness areas.

Quandary has been around so long that he doesn’t pay much attention to trail signs. But he understands that for visitors and others new to the county’s trail systems, a reminder that you’re on the right path can do a lot to ease a worried hiker’s mind.

The signs you see on our Forest Service trails here in Summit do several things: identify routes; let you know about distances and destinations; point out safety features, like shelters; provide route reassurance; warn of hazards and restrictions; and provide information about resources.

Trailhead and directional signs are probably the ones you’ll see the most, but other common signs are the so-called route-reassurance markers and difficulty symbols.

Reassurance markers are the blue diamond-shaped signs you see especially on trails designated for cross-country skiing. They’re often mounted on trees near the trail, and they let you know where the trail is. They’re not used in wilderness areas.

The difficulty symbols are green circles (easiest), blue boxes (more difficult) and black diamonds (most difficult) — just like you see at ski areas. They’re usually placed at trailheads, though you’ll see them along a trail if the terrain suddenly changes. “Difficulty levels are based on a national set of characteristics and standards, not on a comparison of trials against one another,” according to the Forest Service.

So while you’re out in the woods, keep an eye out for signs — just try not to leave any sign you were there.

Have a question for Quandary? Email your queries about Summit and the High Country to

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