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Hiking

By Matt Payne, Examiner.com 

This is the third and final installment of my tips to hiking in Colorado series. You can go back and see my beginner tips and my intermediate tips for a refresher course. These tips are for the advanced hiker, someone that is experienced with hiking and backpacking, and clearly understands the basics outlined in the other two articles.

1. Blister avoidance

If you’ve ever been on a long hike, you have probably had a few blisters in your day. Avoiding blisters is not as hard as it may seem. A lot of hikers swear by putting duct tape over their heels before putting on their boots. Some claim this will prevent blistering. Try it out  – you might be surprised. Secondly, wear liner socks. These help wick moisture away from your feet, making it harder for blisters to form. Lastly, wear good boots and make sure to break them in before you go hiking. This may seem like a beginner lesson but I’m always surprised to see people wearing flip-flops or tennis shoes on long and arduous hikes. Good boots provide ankle support and keep your feet dry. Additionally, Moleskin is a great product to use in the field if a blister should begin.

2. Research your hike before you go. Again, this may seem elementary, but you would be surprised at how many people just go hiking up into the mountains before actually familiarizing themselves with a map of the area. If you’re planning a long hike, take the time to look at the routes and trails and any escape routes you may need to use if the weather gets bad.

3. Avoid hiking in the afternoon above treeline. Lightning does not kill a lot of people in Colorado, but it does have the potential to. Lightning safety is very important and its also really simple. If you can, start your hikes as early as possible, even before sunrise. This will ensure that you are down from treeline before the afternoon thunderstorms. Granted, there is always the possibility for morning storms, so be sure to research the weather report before you begin hiking.

4. Pace yourself. The key to a long and steep hike is to keep an even and slow pace. A lot of difficult hikes are accomplished simply through mental endurance. A slow pace will ensure that your mental attitude is positive.

5. Learn wilderness first aid and bring a first aid kit with you. Wilderness first aid is a different type of first aid class that teaches you first aid techniques for wilderness situations. For example, you might learn how to create a sling out of materials found in the woods. You will also learn about how to recognize the signs of altitude sickness and how to treat and prevent it.

By Margena Holmes, Examiner.com

Everyone knows that exercise is good for you in many different ways.  It can lower your blood pressure, it can help you lose weight, it helps build stamina, and can help build muscle, and muscle burns more calories than fat.

Walking is an easy way to get exercise.  You don’t need any special equipment except good sturdy shoes.  Walking can be done almost anywhere-the mall, the grocery store, around your neighborhood, or around your office during your break at work.  If you need more of a challenge, or you’re stuck at a weight loss plateau, you can try hiking.

I recently went on a hike at the Ute Valley Park in Colorado Springs.  It was very easy to get to, and the park itself was beautiful.  The hike, on the other hand, was pretty hard for someone who has lived at sea level for her entire life until a year ago!  There are quite a few trails to hike on, and at first it seemed like it would be pretty easy.  The first part of the hike was fairly even and flat, but as we went on, it gradually got steeper and more rocky, but you don’t notice it too much if you’re looking at the beautiful scenery.

When you hike, the terrain plays a big part in how much you burn.  Hiking up hills, on rocky terrain will burn more calories.  Two hours, four miles, a steep uphill grade, and 8000+ steps, the parking lot was back in sight!  According to the American Council on Exercise, hiking burns between 4.5 and 6.7 calories per minute, so that adds up to approximately 1200 calories burned.

You may want to gradually work up to hiking four miles, hike at a slower pace, or hike an easier trail if you’re not accustomed to hiking.  Check with your doctor first before you tackle any trail, and remember to bring a bottle of water with you.

By Matt Payne, Examiner.com 

I read far too many stories of beginner and experienced hikers alike getting lost or dying in the mountains. Usually the circumstances are all the same: the hiker was not fully prepared. These guides will give you the basic knowledge to prevent this from happening to you. Staying with the same format, this article will highlight three important tips to hiking in Colorado.

1. Wear layers!

Dressing in multiple layers is very important, regardless of the season. Your clothing should be made of a synthetic material, never cotton. If you’re like me and go for very long hikes, you may start hiking very early in the day and finish in the afternoon. Having a nice warm pair of gloves or mittens and a stocking hat becomes even more important if you’re planning on hiking at higher altitudes, irregardless of the season. Even in July and August, the temperatures above 12,000 ft. can be life-threatening due to the wind chill. Wearing layers and coming prepared can prevent and / or mitigate this.

2. Know your location!

Anyone interested in survival (which should be everyone) should make sure that they have the appropriate maps of where they will be hiking, especially if you are hiking in the wilderness, at high elevations, or far away from a large metropolitan area. My personal preference is to carry a GPS with me that has TOPO! maps loaded on it. I also would highly recommend that you learn how to use a compass and how to apply it to a Topo map.

3. Tell people where you are going to hike at!

It may sound simple, but letting your friends and loved ones know where you are going to be hiking and sticking to that plan is very important in the event that you get lost or injured. If people know where you are at and you do not come home on time, they can properly notify search and rescue teams of your general location. A friend of mine even goes so far as to send those people a full page email on his blood-type, allergies, medications, expected date of return, and search and rescue contact information for where he is hiking in case he does not return when he says he will. These steps will hopefully ensure that if you were to become lost or injured that you will be found and rescued in a timely fashion.

By Matt Payne, Examiner.com 

Imagine this scenario:

You get home from work on Friday night and get the urge to climb a 14er. Your friends you usually go with are all busy. You take one last desperate attempt to find a hiking partner by posting on 14ers.com, and to your surprise, 6 people respond wanting to go. You pick the first person that responds, meet them at the trailhead for Blanca Peak and Ellingwood Point early Saturday morning and begin your long hike up to Lake Como. After you pass Lake Como and reach treeline, you begin the steep ascent of Blanca Peak. Your hiking partner, just feet in front of you, begins to have an epileptic seizure, causing you to go into panic. How will you respond to their medical crisis on the side of a 14er? Wouldn’t it have been nice to have been alerted of this condition up front so that you could learn how you should respond, or decline the hike altogether?

Unfortunately, scenarios like this are all too common in the high country. In fact, the above scenario happened just last year – the person with the seizure ignored pleas of their hiking partners to head back down and continued on after their seizure, and eventually required a helicopter rescue, but not after needing her newfound hiking partners to spend the night with them through a thunderstorm at 13,000 ft. These sorts of fiascos can be avoided if everyone involved as new hiking partners did some honest questioning up-front.

I am not suggesting that people with medical conditions should be avoided like the plague, rather, that careful selection and questioning of new hiking partners will afford you the time and resources to make important (and potentially critical) decisions on who to hike with or not. I’m going to be honest, I may be overly selective of my hiking partners. I’ve had one too many bad experiences with strangers to know that the best thing for me to do is to ask questions. Think of it like dating. Would you marry someone before dating them? Not me. Nor should you blindly hike in strenuous situations with people you don’t know (at least without some base knowledge beforehand).

Here’s what I’m suggesting – and I hope you’re still with me on this. Find out what kind of experience your potential partner has in the level of activity you are going to be engaging in. Doing some roped climbing? It may be comforting to learn that your partner actually knows how to belay. Climbing a long 14er? Get a feel for how many 14ers they have climbed and which ones. I’m not suggesting you be an elitist, rather, get to know the person’s experience and ability beforehand so you can A) decline the invitation, or B) know that you’ll need to take it slow, or step up your game (if they are a much better hiker than yourself).

Here are some questions I like to ask:

1. Do you have any medical conditions? If they do, this allows you to learn how this may impact your hike and/or your response to that condition if it should present itself during the hike.

2. What mountains have you climbed before (or hikes have you done, etc)? This allows you to gauge the person’s abilities and accomplishments. Someone with far fewer accomplishments than you may turn out to be a superior hiker; however, it may be useful to learn that they are afraid of heights before you attempt to climb Little Bear Peak.

3. What kind of pace you do like to hike at? This allows you to gauge how compatible you are with the other hiker. Perhaps you’ll need to agree up-front on a signal to stop or that you want them to wait up for you, etc. These are important things to learn.

4. What do you do for a living? It’s always nice to get to know the person you’ll be spending the day with!

5. Do you have (x, y, z) piece of equipment that we’ll need? This will allow you to make sure the person is prepared and if they need you to bring anything for them to borrow.

This all may sound a little silly to you, but trust me, you don’t want to find yourself in the situation I described above unwillingly. Your hiking partner’s life (and possibly yours) may well depend on how you select your hiking partner and what kinds of questions you ask before the hike begins.

And just to be clear, one last time: I am not suggesting you become an elitist. Just this past summer I hiked with two different people that I did not know before the hike, neither of which had hiked a 14er before. However, I had no reservations on hiking with them because I was able to learn about them and their abilities, health, etc. As it turned out, they were most excellent hiking partners that often left me in the dust!

Finally, I would also suggest that a simple round of questioning is a great way to break the ice and learn about the person. You never know, they may just turn out to be a friend for life!

By Deb Stanley, Examiner.com

It may just be one of the best problems to have, how do I find a good hiking trail? Colorado is a beautiful state with breathtaking places, but how do you pick a hike that’s not a dud? Here are some of the best places and hikes to consider:

Rocky Mountain National Park. There aren’t many dud hikes in the park. Mills Lake, Calypso Cascades & Ouzel Falls,  Flattop Mountain, Gem Lake, Bridal Veil Falls,  Nymph, Dream & Emerald Lakes,  Fern Falls & Fern Lake,  Finch Lake, Mount Ida,Spectacle Lakes, Ypsilon & Chipmunk Lakes, Shelf & Solitude Lakes, Jewel Lake, Timber Lake,  Arch Rocks/The Pool,  Spruce Lake, Alberta Falls, MacGregor Falls.

There are two wilderness areas just south of Rocky Mountain National Park, the Indian Peaks Wilderness and James Peak Wilderness. Both are filled with dozens of trails to scenic lakes and mountain peaks. Two of the easiest hikes to get you started in this area are Lost Lake and Diamond Lake. Or hike to Isabelle Lake, Mitchell/Blue Lakes, Crater Lakes, Forest Lakes,Arapahoe Lakes and Woodland Lake & Skyscraper Reservoir.

Want to try something different, how about hiking to an arch? There’s Harmonica Arch in the Pike National Forest, Royal Arch in Boulder and the Rattlesnake Arches near Grand Juction.

Interested in history? Then don’t miss the chance to see several homesteads from the late 1880’s and early 1900’s. Homestead Meadows is in Larimer County, just about 10 miles south of Estes park. There’s also the Shafthouse hike (a failed reservoir project) in the Pike National Forest.

Want something even more unique? Check out the dinosaur tracks at Dakota Ridge in Golden. There’s a castle at Lair O The Bear that you can see from the trail, especially in the winter when the trees lose their leaves. And there are the castle ruins at Mount Falcon. You can even hike to an old fire lookout tower on Squaw Peak near Evergreen or at Devil’s Head in the Pike National Forest . Or try a “hike” underground by exploring Fulford Cave.

Dreaming of climbing a 14er? One of the best for first timers is actually two peaks, Grays & Torreys.

Traveling to the high country? Don’t miss South Willow Falls in Summit County. Or visit Hells Hole in the Mount Evans Wilderness. In Glenwood Springs, there’s the very popular hike to Hanging Lake or try the trial at the next exit at Grizzly Creek. You can also hike to Doc Holliday’s grave and the Storm King Memorial.

While in town hikes may not be as exciting as mountain hikes, two of the best areas to hike on the front range are the Boulder Open Space & Mountain Parks and the Jefferson County Open Space parks in Golden, Morrison and Evergreen. Boulder and JeffCo have informative Web sites with good maps and easy to use information on their trails. Hikers often choose Jefferson County hiking trails because they are so well marked, with easy to find and read signs.

Like waterfalls? Here are my favorite waterfall hikes and my favorite waterfalls to visit with little to no hiking. Here are some waterfall hikes: Bridal Veil Falls (RMNP), Alberta Falls,  Lost Lake (Indian Peaks Wilderness),  Maxwell Falls (Evergreen), Horsetooth Falls (Ft. Collins),Boulder Falls.

County Web sites: Boulder open space trailsJefferson County open space trailsLarimer County parks & open landsDenver parksDouglas County parks & trailsSummit County open space & trailsEl Paso County parks & trails

Federal government Web sites: Rocky Mountain National ParkIndian Peaks WildernessBrainard Lake Recreation AreaArapahoe & Roosevelt National ForestsPike & San Isabel National Forests.

State Web sites: Colorado State Parks Web site

By Deb Stanley, Examiner.com

Need a trail? Pick one of these! I have them organized first by area – Jefferson County, Douglas County, Boulder County, Rocky Mountain National Park, Indian Peaks & James Peak Wilderness, State Parks, Colorado Springs, Pike National Forest, Summit County, Holy Cross Wilderness, Glenwood Springs, Aspen, Northern Colorado, Grand Junction, urban areas and others.

Then I have the hikes in different categories – waterfalls, homesteads, arches, fire lookouts, snowshoes and odd/interesting hikes.

Let’s go!

Jefferson County Open Space & nearby area:

Douglas County:

Boulder County:

Rocky Mountain National Park:

Indian Peaks Wilderness & James Peak Wilderness:

State Parks:

Colorado Springs:

Pike National Forest:

Summit County (incl. Leadville):

Holy Cross Wilderness:

Glenwood Springs area:

Aspen area:

Northern Colorado including Steamboat Springs & Fort Collins:

Southern Colorado, near Silverton:

Grand Junction/Fruita:

Urban trails:

Other areas:

Waterfalls:

Homesteads:

Arches:

Fire lookouts:

Snowshoes:

Odd/Interesting hikes you have to check out:

By Matt Payne, Examiner.com

In my travels, I’ve noticed that many people are unprepared for the rigors and particulars of hiking in Colorado. Having led many backpacking trips at Colvig Silver Camps, I taught the importance of what I call “the big three.”

1. Water!

Make sure you bring enough water for your hike. People often take far too little water on their hikes. I typically bring about 10 oz / mile of hiking. So if you are hiking 10 miles total, 100 oz. should be good. My preference is to bring a 100 oz. Camelbak and keep another 32 oz. Nalgene of Gatorade. If you are planning on hiking for longer distances or over multiple days, it is essential to bring a high-quality water filter. I used to rely on the emergency iodine water tablets, but I’ve learned that they do not properly kill Cryptosporidium, a parasite that can live in the intestine of humans and animals which is passed in the stool of an infected person or animal. Both the disease and the parasite are commonly known as “Crytpo.” It is also possible to drink too much water, known as water intoxication. As a general rule of thumb, the human body can typically only process about 8 oz. of water every 15 minutes. Additionally, if you are hiking at high altitudes and are not acclimated to that altitude, you will want to drink even more water than normal in order to prevent Acute Mountain Sickness or “AMS.”

2. Sunscreen!

Even in the winter months, the sun’s UV rays are extremely damaging to your skin. These UV rays can result in severe sunburns and possibly skin cancer, otherwise known as melanoma. It is therefore very important to ensure that you are properly applying a high quality sunscreen (SPF 30) at regular intervals during your hike.

3. Raincoat!

It is vitally important to make sure you bring a very nice nylon “shell.” A nice lightweight shell can stop the wind, keep you dry, and keep you warm, or even be used as a shelter during an emergency. Staying dry is one of the most important components to survival in the wilderness. My personal brand preference is North Face, Marmot, or Columbia. I also like to wear a shell that allows for a fleece lining to be zipped into it.

By Deb Stanley, Examiner.com

Thousands of people come from around the country each year to climb Colorado’s 14ers. A “14er” is a peak above 14,000 feet.

Depending on who you ask, you’ll be told there are 52, 53, 54, maybe 56 14ers in Colorado. 14ers.org recognizes 54 peaks. 14ers.com counts 53. 14ers.com Web site says to be officially ranked as 14er, “the peak must rise at least 300 feet above the saddle that connects it to the nearest 14er peak.”

So what do you need to climb a 14er? The two main categories would be fitness and gear.

Let’s talk about fitness first. While some people fly in from New York, Washington D.C., New Orleans and many other places and climb a 14er the next day, you should give yourself at least a couple days to get acclimated to the elevation in Colorado. Consider a hike at 10,000 feet in Rocky Mountain National Park or in Colorado’s high country to see how you feel. If you get a headache or nausea, it is time to descend. And while you may run 5K’s at sea level, hiking at 14,000 feet is very different.

Now let’s talk about gear. You’ll see people climbing 14ers in shorts, a cotton t-shirt, a hoodie and a single bottom of water. Bad idea. Cotton absorbs water and doesn’t dry quickly. Storms are a normal day on a mountain, you don’t want to be soaking wet and cold. The temperature is also a lot colder at 14,000 feet than your hotel room in Denver. 14ers.org has a good gear list  that includes rugged boots for the rocks and possible ice and snow, and extra food and water since 14er hikes typically take longer than expected. Here’s another gear list from 14er.com that includes a list of cold weather gear. Think you won’t see ice or snow since it’s summer? There was more than 6 inches of snow in places on Grays & Torreys the first weekend in August in 2009.

Maybe the best advice is to remember is there is no such thing as a easy 14er. The Summit County Rescue group says in just one week in July 2009 they were called out four times. Rescue teams say that’s because people read Quandary is one of Colorado’s easiest 14ers and underestimate how difficult it will be.

When you’re ready to climb, here are two good Web sites with information about climbing the 14er peaks: 14ers.org peak’s page & 14ers.com peaks page. Want to bag two 14ers in one hike? Try Grays & Torreys.

By Kathy Harris, Examiner.com

Injured or lost hikers. Trapped climbers. Missing backcountry campers. We hear the news stories all the time. And although we don’t like to think about it, those accidents can happen to any of us who live and play in the mountains. One thing you can do to help protect yourself is to purchase a Colorado search-and-rescue (CORSAR) card. For the cost of the card, you help make sure that trained and well-equipped search-and-rescue teams will respond should you become lost or in need of rescue.

Your purchase of the card is a contribution to the Colorado Search and Rescue Fund, which helps offset expenses that may be incurred if you ever needed a search-and-rescue operation. Many cities, counties and other types of special districts bill victims for expenses related to their rescue. If you have a CORSAR card, the Colorado Search and Rescue Fund will attempt to reimburse eligible expenses to prevent you from having to pay out of pocket.

The card is not insurance, however. The CORSAR website specifically states that “the card is not insurance and does not reimburse individuals nor does it pay for medical transport. Medical transport includes helicopter flights or ground ambulance. If aircraft are used as a search vehicle, those costs are reimbursed by the fund. If the aircraft becomes a medical transport due to a medical emergency, the medical portion of the transport is not covered.”

You can purchase a CORSAR card for just $3 a year, or pay $12 for five years.

NOTE: Anyone with a current hunting/fishing license, or boat, snowmobile or ATV registration is already covered by the fund.

Purchase a Colorado search-and-rescue card online here.

By Deb Stanley, Examiner.com

Have you ever hiked in the Steamboat Springs area? While it may seem far to drive to Steamboat, it’s just three hours from the Denver metro area. The Chamber of Commerce calls Gilpin Lake a “blue alpine lake of magnificent beauty.” I agree. Not only was the lake beautiful, so was the hike there.

The hike starts at the Slavonia Trailhead, about 29 miles from town (directions below). The dirt parking lot has a bathroom and signboards. There’s one trail from the parking lot, but there are more trails along the path.

Just 0.2 miles from the parking lot, hikers come to their first trail split. A sign has an arrow pointing right for Gold Creek Lake (Trail No. 1150) and left for our destination, Gilpin Lake (Trail No. 1161).

Over the next 3 miles, hikers wind their way through a forest of aspens making this the perfect fall hike. When the trees open up, you’ll enjoy beautiful meadows with views of the peaks in the distance. Gilpin Lake sits at the top of this valley on the right side. As you hike, you may get your feet wet. The trail crosses over several streams. Sometimes there are rocks and logs to help you cross, sometimes there are not. As you can hike, you’ll likely hear a loud river nearby, don’t worry, there are close-up views of the cascades occasionally as you hike toward Gilpin Lake.

The trail has lots of ups and downs as it gains about 1,000 feet over that first three miles. Take it easy, because the trail is about to get a lot harder. There are three sets of closely set switchbacks to the lakeshore. Hikers gain about 850 feet over that final mile or so.

When you come over the ridge to the lake, it will be all be worth it. An open field leads right to the shoreline of Gilpin Lake. The lake sits in a bowl below tree line. The lake’s rocky shoreline is surrounded by trees and peaks. Find a spot in the open field for lunch or find a secluded spot on a rock in the trees.

During lunch, you’ll have a decision to make. Hike back 4.5 miles to the trailhead on the Gilpin Lake Trail or continue on the so-called Zirkel Circle loop trail to Gold Creek Lake and back to the trailhead. The loop hike is 11.2 miles. Even if you decide not to do the loop, consider hiking up the trail a short distance to get a better view of Gilpin Lake.

Details: 9 miles RT to the lake with an elevation gain of about 1,850 feet.

Directions: From U.S. 40 in Steamboat Springs, drive west through town to Elk River Road (County Road 129) and turn right. Follow CR 129 about 18 miles to Seedhouse Road (also known as NFSR 400/CR 64) and turn right. This is a dirt road that can be rough, but manageable for passenger cars. (Check with the Forest Service for the latest conditions.) Drive 11 miles to the end of the road at the Slavonia trailhead.

For more great hikes in Colorado and the west, click here.


Courtesy of Summit County

By Deb Stanley, Examiner.com

If you’re driving through Steamboat Springs, don’t miss Fish Creek Falls. The trail is just 3.5 miles from town and the “hike” is really just a short walk. A trek of 0.2 miles takes visitors to a 280-foot waterfall.

The trail starts at a paved parking lot with about 40 spaces (directions below). Before you start, you’ll need to pay a fee. Cash only.

The wide, dirt trail drops about 100 feet in elevation from the parking lot to a bridge with a view. The hike to Fish Creek Falls is easy, it’s downhill. Remember you have to hike back up after you visit the falls.

At the bridge, find a good spot and take lots of pictures. There’s the falls, the cascades below it and the historic bridge.

A trail on the other side of the bridge leads to the upper falls and Long Lake. The hike to the upper falls is another 2.25 miles with about 1,200 feet of elevation gain. The hike to Long Lake is about 5 more miles with 2,400 feet of elevation gain.

If you’re looking for more waterfall hikes, check out my favorite waterfall hikes and my favorite waterfall hikes with little to no hiking.

Details: The hike to Fish Creek Falls and back is just 0.4 miles with 100 feet of elevation gain on the way back.

Directions: From Steamboat Springs, turn east on 3rd Street, then take the first right turn on to Fish Creek Falls Road. The trailhead is about 3.5 miles from town.

For more great hikes in Colorado and the west, click here.

Don’t miss any of my hiking reports, follow me, HikingDebbie on Twitter or DenverHikingExaminer on Facebook.


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