Posted By shefisher

Rock and Mountain The mornings are frosty, but by midday the warming sun is shining in the intensely blue sky of the central Colorado mountains. After several days of face time with the computer, it wasn't hard to get talked into spending some quality time hitting the trail into the high ... er, higher ... country.

We started on the familiar ATV track from Ruby Mountain. Six miles later, up and over the main crest, we took a left turn heading toward a narrower track that I'd never been on. Twisting, turning, rolling, then up and up we went, to the narrow gateway at the fence. The sagging barbed wire borders private land that hosts narrow, rugged public tracks. Posted signs warn the unwary of  this forbidding Chinaman Gulch, rock-crawling heaven for extreme jeepers. We chose to walk the upper reaches. Not so the 3 jeepers who happened by. They were still working on getting the first jeep over the boulders when we left.

Sunlit bush seeds Having just seen the only other riders out there, we had the trails, the sky, the spectacular views all to ourselves. The low-angled November sun backlit fuzzy seedpods adorning skeletal bushes. A golden eagle soared overhead. Deer were everywhere. Singly or in small groups, they all eyed us as we drove by, watchful but never scared. As we skirted a long, high rocky slope across the way, I spotted a golden tan shape in a cavern opening. Was it a rock or an animal? Then I saw it move! In the moment that a passing bird distracted me, the mystery animal disappeared. Likely a mountain lion. At least that's my story.

How many angles have I seen of Mt. Princeton? How many pictures have I taken of the views? But I never tire of seeing it. Every vantage point, every angle, shows its powerful, dominating beauty. One vantage point displayed an unusual rock obelisque, seeming to stand at attention before the valley's Prince of Mountains. A couple of ridges beyond that, we had lunch on a high outcropping of rocks, basking in the warmth of the noon sun. Three tiny nuthatches tap-tap-tapped as they sought out their own lunch under the pine bark. All this with a stellar view to Mt. Princeton. My husband only takes me to the best places for lunch.

Posted By shefisher

River Fly Fish Mention Colorado and most people think of fishing a pristine mountain stream or trout-filled lake, hiking a quiet forest trail or high tundra on the way to a 14,000' summit, or whitewater rafting. This time of year, it may be skiing the powdery snow down rugged Rocky Mountain runs, or taking a more leisurely tour on snowshoes or cross-country skis.

Or maybe your recreation of choice involves a motor: ATV, dirt bike or Jeep. That's where some conflict commonly arises. There are no easy solutions to noise vs quiet, trails vs wilderness, but with more and more people living and "recreating" in Colorado, there are inevitable collisions of purpose.

The most recent re-igniting of controversy involves a proposal to reallocate up to 70% of the Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) permit fees collected by our state park system. Sure, there are those OHVers who flagrantly drive off trail, damaging the forest, tundra and wetlands. Every group has its bad guys. But for the vast majority of responsible users, taking this money away from their trail maintenance and repair funds will cause even more long-term damage and erosion. The couple more officers this might provide will not begin to cover the thousands of trail miles in this state. Additionally, last year's passage of HB1069 authorized by nearly 4 times the current forest management officers who could issue citations for trail violations. This new reallocation is an expensive, ineffective and tardy afterthought.

ATVs in Aspens The worst part of all this is the principle of the thing. Now, I've always been more a "quiet use" type of user than a motorized one. So why am I not all for this proposed "solution?" A group called Responsible Trails America out of Arlington, Virginia, that is primarily anti-OHV has come in from out of state wielding their ever-increasing influence over the ultimate policy makers. They have even succeeded in securing TU's endorsement of their plan. Now here's the question - Why can one group determine the reallocation of another group's legally collected and assigned $3.1 million dollars just because they fundamentally disagree with what some fringe members of that group's participants are doing? Granted, the OHV scofflaws are destructively wrong. The responsible OHV community, especially ATV clubs, recognizes that. But all ATVs and other OHV users are being summarily punished by those who not only don't belong to that community, but don't even belong to our state. It's really hard to not be outraged.

Hundreds of ATV club members in this state voluntarily work a combined thousands of hours each year maintaining, restoring and repairing OHV trails. They have not been given equal voice in this debate. Is it too much to ask that they be given the option to work toward a solution before all their funds are stolen (in essence) by other public lands users who happen to disagree with their sport of choice?

Polarization and animosity never solved anything. Get the Virginians out of here, give the Colorado OHV community their rightful voice, and hammer this out intelligently. We can hope that starts with the Colorado State Parks Board's Friday meeting. Public comment must be emailed to by noon on Wed., Nov. 18.

Posted By shefisher

ATV Collegiate Peaks The sunny, warm days of this week are in stark contrast to last week's snow blizzard. The hardest part is deciding which outdoor adventure to choose each day. It has worked out to ride the ATV one day, fish the next, one day on the mountain, the next day on the river.

The ATV destination of choice has been the popular Four Mile area northwest of Buena Vista. I drove the full 4-wheel drive mode through a section of snow, ice and mud in the pine forest at higher elevation. Lower and more open areas were sunny and dry. In all of those, the outside curves and high ridges offered expansive panoramic views of the 14,000+ feet Collegiate Peaks mountains. Buffalo Peaks Long VuEvery angle is a fresh perspective.

Across the valley to the east are the Buffalo Peaks anchoring the west end of the Mosquito Range to that corner of the valley. This smoothly rounded pair are creatively named East Buffalo and West Buffalo. We had some neighbors several years ago who summered here and wintered in more southern climes. The first snow that dusted "The Buffaloes" was their signal to head south.

Buffalo Peaks closeup From our back yard the Buffaloes just look like a couple of higher mounds on the distant ridge. Up close, as we rode around the base, they look a bit more massive in their commanding station overlooking our valley. Still familiar, though, it's like meeting someone you have only heard about or seen from a distance. They aren't the spectacular stars of the westside 14ers, but still a definitive and comfortable landmark of life in this valley.



Posted By shefisher

Deer in Aspen If it's true that variety is the spice of life, then last week was full of flavor. A few days of early season snow and cold weather put a nip in the air and richer golden color in the changing fall leaves. The first day of the valley's annual Color Run ATV festival drew us up to Marshall Pass. Most of the group had headed over the southern route to old mine sites and the little town of Bonanza. We chose instead the road up Marshall Pass, past O'Haver Lake and around the base of Mt. Ouray's snowy cirque.

Light snow lay in the shadows on the forest floor and frosted the outstretched limbs of pine trees. Ranks upon ranks of towering white aspen trunks held their golden crowns skyward to meet the sun's complementing shimmer. Deer quietly wove their way through the trees. Our return descent down a narrow 4-wheel path along a burbling stream was a ride through an enchanted forest.

Peek-a-Boo Girl Another kind of enchantment was had at my granddaughter's birthday party. The 2-year mark was celebrated with endless energy and laughter. Not getting to see her often, I was fortunate to be able to sneak in our own private prelude to the main celebration. What greater pleasure is there than to spend an hour together on her bedroom floor with new crayons, piles of drawing paper, and a full sheet of smiley-face stickers? The real reward, of course, was re-connecting with this precious young life, and making sure that Grandma is a continuing part of her life.

Rainbow Trout Paling by comparison, but still appreciated, was a day of great fall fishing on the river. It is dry fly season, and the fish are looking to the surface to feed. Bigger browns are on the move, bulking up for the upcoming spawn and the winter that follows. Rainbows feed in the faster lanes where browns are less apt to rule.

The beauty and variety of autumn continues.

Posted By shefisher

Gold Aspen The hills are turning to gold. Aspen trees on slopes and in meadows are dressing for autumn, slowly changing their summer green for the yellows and oranges of fall. Shorter days, cooler nights, and a dusting of snow on the highest peaks accompany the transition.

Dawn snow Mt Princeton Monday's blue sky and sunshine invited us to take an aspen tour on our ATV in the hills east of the house. Other than a few elk hunters, we had the miles of forest and meadows to ourselves. There were too many shades of green to count - from dark green pine trees to aspens of summer green, yellowing green, the thick yellow of fully golden leaves, and even some oranges and orange-red. Layered hills and valleys lay out from every high point, quilted with the riotous array of early fall color. Driving through some of the aspen stands, sun filtered through the leaves, adding a dappled luminesence. White trunks contrasted with their own irregular pattern of shadows reaching across the road and the forest floor. It was like driving through a 3-D Monet painting.

Aspen trees Fall aspen have a distinctive aroma. It combines that certain autumn dampness, a bit of mustiness, and a hint of fresh-mown hay. The pines, of course, always smell wonderful, as does the simplicity of fresh, clean air.

The feel of the day's sunny warmth was offset by the cool wind of our brisk drive from the high hills back to our truck. It was a golden day.

P.S. My photo of fresh snow on Mt. Princeton (above), taken at sunrise Sunday morning, was featured on the Denver CBS TV station's evening broadcast as the Weather Photo of the Day. You can see this one and more good weather photos at cbs4denver.




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