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Travel: Scouting Colorado’s San Juans

Adventurer Kim Fenske is back on the road, exploring the San Juans

Grand Mesa Colorado sunset

Sunset from Grand Mesa.

Story and photos by Kim Fenske

Among the rugged southwestern mountains of Colorado lie three Fourteeners: El Diente, 14,159 feet; Mount Wilson, 14,246 feet; and Wilson Peak, 14,017 feet. Since I had never visited this section of Colorado, I prepared a trip into the area with a plan to hike to Navajo Lake at the base of these three magnificent peaks. The three peaks are situated near Telluride in the Lizard Head Wilderness Area of the San Juan Mountains.

The drive from Copper Mountain is about three hundred miles, so I decided to break up the trip by heading west toward Grand Junction, then turning south to camp on the Grand Mesa.  Several campgrounds lie among the small lakes trapped in the highlands of Grand Mesa National Forest on State Highway 65 north of Delta. Continue reading

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Moose encounters near Aspen prompt warnings

‘If things continue this way at Maroon Bells, it’s not if someone will be injured, but when’

Colorado moose

A moose cow and calves grazing near Berthoud Pass, Colorado. Bob Berwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Colorado’s growing moose population is causing a safety issue in the popular Maroon Bells area, near Aspen, according to state wildlife officials, who say people are getting to close to the animals along the Crater Lake Trail. Forest Service rangers temporarily closed the trail, but said that risky behavior continues, despite numerous posted signs warning of the potential danger. Continue reading

Colorado biologists tackle Lake Granby kokanee salmon decline

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Kokanee salmon caught at Green Mountain Reservoir, Summit County, Colorado. bberwyn photo.

Public meetings on Lake Granby fishery set for early spring

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists say they’re considering changes to fishing regulations in Lake Granby to try and recover the population of kokanee salmon in the popular lake.

The number of salmon eggs collected by biologists in Lake Granby has dropped from 4 million in 2006 down to just 350,000 this year, not enough to maintain the existing population, let alone stock any other Colorado lakes with kokanee.

Kokanee are land-locked Pacific sockeye salmon found in several high-elevation reservoirs in Colorado. The fish feed primarily on zooplankton. But a booming population of mysis shrimp and predation by lake trout are probably the main factors in the Lake Granby kokanee decline. Continue reading

Travel: Hiking Colorado’s Notch Mountain

Exlporing the Colorado high country with Kim Fenske

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Whitney Peak and the Fall Creek Pass south of Notch Mountain.

Editor’s note: I’m glad to announce the return of Kim Fenske’s series on hiking Colorado’s high country. Kim also has some new e-books for sale at Amazon: Greatest Hikes in Central Colorado: Summit and Eagle Counties, and Hiking Colorado: Holy Cross Wilderness.

Story and photos by Kim Fenske

Hiking Notch Mountain Colorado

Author Kim Fenske along the Notch Mountain trail.

Notch Mountain, 13,237 feet, is the traditional pilgrimage site for those who want a close-up view of the snow-gilded cross on the eastern face Mount of the Holy Cross,14,005 feet. The summit of Notch Mountain is not found at the end of the trail. Notch Mountain Trail is a gentle switchback ascent of the east ridge of Notch Mountain that ends at a rock shelter built on a saddle south of the summit, a mile east of Holy Cross Ridge.

In winter, the Notch Mountain hike is 24 miles from the gate closure at the base of Tigiwon Road. However, in summer, the hike from Fall Creek Trailhead at Halfmoon Campground, 10,300 feet, is only 10 miles. From the end of Tigiwon Road, the Halfmoon Pass Trail to the summit of Mount of the Holy Cross begins west of the parking area. At the south end of the area, Fall Creek Trail crosses a small wooden bridge and proceeds on the west edge of the Fall Creek Valley toward a junction with the Notch Mountain Trail.

Looking back on the five-mile trail from Halfmoon Campground to the shelter on the ridge at Notch Mountain.

Looking back on the five-mile trail from Halfmoon Campground to the shelter on the ridge at Notch Mountain.

 Fall Creek Trail ascends gradually for 600 feet to a stream crossing 1.3 miles from the trailhead where Mountain Bluebells, Mertensia ciliate, cover the slope in mid-summer. During spring snowmelt, a bit of rock-hopping is required to pass the tumbling water. The Notch Mountain Trail junction is 2.1 miles from the Fall Creek Trailhead at 11,230 feet, among several large boulders perched on a steep drop-off into Fall Creek Valley.

 Turning away from Fall Creek Trail on switchbacks that cross fir-lined meadows filled with paintbrush, bistort, monkshood, and other wildflowers, Notch Mountain Trail continues to a small basin in the krumholz. The trail swings south across the tundra turf until Whitney Peak, 13,271 feet, is visible across Fall Creek Valley, then ascends through a boulder field to the rock shelter 3 miles above the junction with the Fall Creek Trail at 13,070 feet. The rock shelter rests in a tundra field on the saddle facing Mount of the Holy Cross, approximately a 4-hour hike from Halfmoon Campground.

Notch Mountain Colorado

The Notch in Notch Mountain.

Kim Fenske is a former wilderness ranger, firefighter who has hiked thousands of miles in the Colorado mountains. He has served on the board of directors of Friends of the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area.

More travel and hiking stories:

Alaska:

Spring excursions:

Kim’s winter 14er series:

Autumn hikes:

Morning photo: Take a hike!

Foot power!

Hiking in the Eagles Nest Wilderness, Summit County, Colorado.

Hiking in the Eagles Nest Wilderness, Summit County, Colorado.

FRISCO — It’s summer time, so what are you waiting for? Turn off your computer, get outside and take a hike, wherever you are! Here are some of our favorite hiking trails both far and near, compiled for the #FriFotos Twitter chat.

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Two hikers etched against a brilliant high latitude sky on Deception Island.

Continue reading

Congress sets hearing on public lands ‘pay-to-play’ fees

Summit County hiking Colorado

Congress will take input on the controversial federal pay-to-play program this week.

Critics say loopholes enable federal agencies to charge illegal fees

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — The federal pay-to-play program will get a once-over in Congress this week, as a House subcommittee hears from agency officials and citizens before the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act expires next year.

At issue are how the fee program for access to public lands is being implemented by federal agencies. The hearing is set to start at 10 a.m. EDT and should be available as webcast via the House Committee on Natural Resources website.

The access fees started in the late 1990s as the so-called fee demo program, enabling federal land agencies to charge fees as long the money was used to improve the area where it was collected. Continue reading

National Recreation Trail systems grows by 650 miles

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Get out and hike!

Feds designate new trail segments in 28 states

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Along with looking forward to summer, hikers have another reason to rejoice. Top federal officials this week announced the designation of 28 new national recreation trails, adding almost 650 miles of trails to the National Trails System.

“From coast to coast, the National Trails System helps connect American families with the wonders of the great outdoors,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “These 28 new national recreation trails, established through partnerships with local communities and stakeholders, connect federal, state and local lands and waters to provide access to inexpensive, enjoyable outdoor activities for all Americans,” Jewell said.

The announcement was timed to coincide with June 1, National Trails Day, which was marked by hundreds of organized activities including hikes, educational programs, bike rides, trail rehabilitation projects, festivals, paddle trips, and trail dedications all around the country. Continue reading

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