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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

Colorado Winter ViewYa gotta love Colorado weather. Last week's storm brought anywhere from 5"-25" of snow throughout this valley. Skiers and snowboarders celebrated. I couldn't help taking my snowshoes out for a spin. For 2 days in our neighborhood, the air was filled with snowflakes crowding their way through the smoke of a dozen home wood fires. It was like living in a Christmas card.

Horse Elk RunningOn the third day, bright sunshine glistens off snow-covered mountain peaks. The sky is a stunning solid blue. Melting snow runs in rivulets off roofs, racing and gurgling through gutters and downspouts. Closets welcome back coats and boots. Past our soggy dirt road, now-dry pavement calls me out for a quick run.

Today, some other runners were out across the highway from us. It was not only horses running, but also elk! We were lucky enough to see not only the ones out in the open, but many others who filed through the pinon forest up on the hill. Most of these elk were cows and their young, but we spotted a couple of bulls. After several minutes, the herd settled down and retraced their path. They hung out up in the trees, teasing us with glimpses of legs, ears or rumps as they milled about.

2 Elk

Heavy snow in the higher forest, along with hunters, has pushed elk down to their winter ranges. We definitely enjoyed this fringe benefit of last week's storm.





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