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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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Morning photo: Spring daze

Valley snow is melting fast

Twilight hike on Ptarmigan Mountain, Summit County, Colorado.

Twilight hike on Ptarmigan Mountain, Summit County, Colorado.

FRISCO — You know it was going to happen one of these days — even the biggest snow berms from the winter are melting down and hikers say that some local trails are already starting to dry out. That’s the case along the Ptarmigan Mountain Trail, where the first pasqueflowers of the season are blooming just in time for Easter. 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

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

Woman survives mountain lion attack in Big Bend NP

Two mountain lions rest in a shady spot. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Part of Big Bend National Park closed

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — National Park Service officials say a woman attacked by a mountain lion in Big Bend National Park, Texas, did not suffer life-threatening injuries.

Andrea Pinero Cebrian and companions were exploring the Mesa de Anguila, near Lajitas Friday, Nov. 23 when she was attacked. Cebrian was treated by Terlingua Medics.

The Mesa de Anguila has been closed to all visitors while rangers and park biologists investigate and patrol in search of the mountain lion.

“Visitor safety is our main concern here in Big Bend and we will monitor and close the Mesa until we deem it safe for visitors,” said park superintendent Cindy Ott-Jones.

Fatal mountain lion attacks are rare in the U.S. The most recent documented fatality was in June, 2008 in Pinos Altos, New Mexico. In Colorado, the most recent mountain lion fatality was in 1997, when 10-year-old Mark Miedema was killed by an adult female cougar when he hiked ahead of his family on Rocky Mountain National Park.

Wildlife experts say the best course of action if you meet a mountain lion is to stay calm and talk firmly and quietly to the animal while backing away slowly.

Other tips:

  • Do not run.
  • Raise you arms to appear larger.
  • If the lion behaves aggressively, throw stones, branches, or whatever you can get your hands on. Do not crouch down or turn your back.
  • Fight back if a lion attacks you. Lions have been driven away by prey that fights back.

Colorado: Snowmass Mountain, and our Lady of the Lake

Kim Fenske explores one of Colorado’s most spectacular peaks

The comb of Snowmass Peak viewed from about halfway along the Snowmass Creek trail.

Story and photos by Kim Fenske

As I kneeled at the side of Snowmass Creek and filtered water into my bottle, a tall, slender woman, hair flowing like golden sunlight over her shoulders and reflecting in the blue pools of her glacial eyes, rose up from the water. She was the personification of Snowmass Lake, sparkling glacial water at the base of two miles of mountain that rise above to the spiked comb that forms the summit of Snowmass Mountain.

Snowmass Mountain reflected in Snowmass Lake.

Continue reading

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