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Hiking the Fancy Pass-Missouri Lakes Loop Trail

Hiking has been more popular than ever with people looking for something to do during the pandemic, and it’s considered one of the safest activities. If you are ready for a longer hike and something a bit more off the beaten path, try the Fancy Pass-Missouri Lakes Loop Trail in the Holy Cross Wilderness.

During the summer, I typically like to hike up Overlook Trail on Beaver Creek Mountain; Berry Picker near Vail; or the Minturn Mile Trail up to Eagle’s Nest on Vail Mountain — and then take the gondola down (to help save my knees). But, after a summer of getting a lot of hiking in, I thought I’d venture away from my usual treks and try a new trail. I have always heard of Missouri Lakes and Fancy Pass, and a friend who had done the loop before invited me to go along. I love it when I can go with someone who knows the territory.

The Fancy Pass-Missouri Lakes Loop trailhead is near Homestake, just south of Minturn on your way to Camp Hale and Tennessee Pass. Even though my friend knew the area, I like to see the map and descriptions so I enlisted the help of the “Vail Hiker” by Mary Ellen Gilliland, “The Best Hikes of Colorado” by Christina Williams and the All Trails app to make sure we were going in the right direction.

We brought the “Vail Hiker” book with us since it is a lightweight spiral-bound book that fits easily into your backpack. It’s good to have the map and description on hand just in case cell phone batteries die or there’s a lack of a cell phone signal on the hike.

After following directions to the parking area, off we went. We started at 10 a.m. on a nice sunny fall day, but we were prepared with layers for changing weather and temperature variances due to altitude. Keep in mind, for every 1,000 feet of elevation gain, the temperature can drop 3-4 degrees. The elevation gain on this hike is 2,550 feet and the starting elevation is above 10,000 feet. We dressed in layers also knowing we’d work up a sweat going uphill.

We decided to do Fancy Pass first. According to the “Vail Hiker,” Fancy Pass was named after Joe Fancy’s bustling mining camp in the early 1880s. It’s hard to believe there were once 20 cabins and a water-powered stamp mill to process local ores. Down the road was Holy Cross City, which was home to two ore mills during the boom-bust era. We had plenty of time on the hike to marvel about how they got the ore from the mines down Homestake Road to the Denver & Rio Grande rail line to deliver the goods to Denver. Those miners were tough, and we let that be an inspiration to keep going on this trail when our energy waned.

After winding through the trees on the lower portion of Fancy Pass, we reached Fancy Creek about a mile in. This was a good spot to shed a layer and take a few photos. Then, onward to Fancy Lake, where many more photo opportunities followed. At this point, we consulted “Vail Hiker” again to make sure we were heading toward the lake. Luckily, we weren’t too far behind a group of women, who actually were from Vail, and could hear their hoots and hollers once they reached the lake, so we knew we were close and followed their sounds of excitement.

Fancy Lake is a great place to take a rest, grab a bite to eat from the backpack and roam around on some of the side hikes to Mulhall Lakes, Holy Cross City or Cleveland Lake. After taking a few photos, we opted to keep going upward to stay on schedule.

After Fancy Lake, we psyched ourselves up for what the “Vail Hiker” calls a “dizzying climb” to Fancy Pass, which lies at 12,380 feet above sea level. We pulled out the “Vail Hiker” book at this point to make sure we were going in the right direction after the stop at Fancy Lake. We followed the directions to the “rock-paved” Fancy Pass road, which would take the miners and their loads down to Holy Cross City. This “road” was about as wide as a sidewalk and once again, I wondered just how the miners survived with such primitive equipment and passageways.

The climb to Fancy Pass from this point is short, about one-half of a mile, but that “dizzying” description fit the bill when my friend said she felt a bit dizzy, so we sat for a bit to catch our breath. The trail is almost non-existent at this point. We were scaling over rocks and some scree was underfoot. We took it slowly and watched our foot placement. The thought that we were so close to the top was inspiration enough to keep going. And, we again thought about those resilient miners who worked day-in and day-out in the mines in these conditions.

The huffing and puffing was worth it once we arrived at the top of Fancy Pass. From here we could see the Ten Mile Range, Mosquito Range and Missouri Pass, which was the next climb. But before we went on, we enjoyed lunch at the top of Fancy Pass. We ate quickly because it was really windy at the top, so we tried to huddle behind some rocks. The sun was warm but the breeze was cold. We did see a lone mountain goat high up on a point to the south of us, his white furry body framed by the dramatic dark blue sky.

Up next, some downhill trekking! Yay! But, it was short-lived. From Fancy Pass, the trail winds through a basin cut by tiny streams. Treasure Vault Lake and Blodgett Lake were below us. This area is a bit more protected from the wind and may make for a better place to stop for lunch instead of windy Fancy Pass. Here, we saw the ladies from Vail who had been ahead of us. They were having lunch and relaxing on a huge rock, out of the wind that plaques the summit.

We had one more uphill before going all downhill on the rest of this hike, which totals 10 miles. Missouri Pass is 11,986 feet above sea level and the trail is easy to follow and very attainable after summiting Fancy Pass. We kept our cameras handy to snap a few photos once we got to the top of Missouri Pass. Below were 14 turquoise-colored lakes and ponds in a basin of golden late-season vegetation.

We spent some time stopping and respectfully wandering around the lakes taking photos and having another snack before traveling approximately four miles back to the parking lot. While we were relaxing, we took out the “Vail Hiker” book and read more about the wild times of the boom and bust days of the 1880s.

My feet were feeling it on the last mile or two at the end of the hike. Once again, I thought about those miners and told myself to toughen up. We got back to the car at 4:30 p.m., over six hours after we started. The guide books will give you time estimates and it all depends on how fast you go and how many rest stops you take. I’d suggest allowing the whole day so you can take things at your own pace and not rush back.

The Fancy Pass-Missouri Lakes Loop was a bucket list item for me and I’d do it again. Next time I’d like to do a trip in the middle of wildflower season. I felt pretty prepared with water, snacks and adequate clothing, but here’s a list of things I wish I’d had:

Hiking poles: Ideally, you want adjustable backcountry poles so you can change the height for uphill and downhill trekking. Ski poles will work if you don’t have adjustable poles. Sometimes you can find a walking stick on the trail if you’re lucky enough to find one that fits your height.

Arch support: I switched shoes on this trip and didn’t wear my hiking shoes that have arch support insoles. Make sure you are wearing hiking shoes that are broken in, fit well and offer support to your arches. It makes a big difference after all those miles on uneven terrain.

Hands-free hydration system: I had my water bottles with me when I should have taken my CamelBak. You want to have both hands free to scale some of the terrain on the east side of Fancy Pass near the top. You also want to keep your hands free to take plenty of photos.

Sunscreen: Sunscreen only works if you apply it. I left the house without it and thought, “I’ll be OK, it’s late in the season.” Wrong. My exposed skin on my neck and chest got sunburned and I felt so foolish for letting that happen since I promote wearing sunscreen all the time.

Hiking is a wonderful activity to do during the fall. It is a great way to get in shape for the upcoming ski and snowboard season and don’t forget, many of the trails we love to hike on during the summer become great snowshoe trails in the winter. See you out on the trail!

Bavarian fun, trail runs, walks for charity and a grape stomp: Tricia’s Weekend Picks 9/25/20

Septemberfest at Beaver Creek

It’s not quite the annual Oktoberfest celebration Beaver Creek hosts every fall, but we’ll take it. Septemberfest will offer up Bavarian food, beer, music and fun this Friday and Saturday.

Area restaurants will feature specials on Friday from 3 to 7 p.m. and on Saturday from 1 to 7 p.m. No tickets required for entry, a la carte food and beverages will be available for purchase at restaurants in Beaver Creek Village. Here are a few samples of what you’ll see:

The Dusty Boot: Bratwurst and Sauerkraut with chips, cheese beer soup with pretzels

The Golden Eagle Inn: Schnitzel and Kolsch Beer

Coyote Cafe: Beirock and Oktoberfest Lager

The Met Kitchen: Strudel and The Kaiser Lager

Pair those items with your dirndl or lederhosen and enjoy live music performed in the village. For more information, go to beavercreek.com.

Last weekend for gondola rides

The last weekend in September marks that last time you can ride lifts until the winter season fires back up on November 20 on Vail Mountain and November 25 at Beaver Creek Resort. Vail starts the weekend early with lifts starting at 9:30 a.m. on Friday and will run Gondola One in Vail Village until 4 p.m. Those are the operating hours for Saturday and Sunday as well. Beaver Creek will have the Centennial lift running from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

If you work up an appetite, you can purchase a grab-and-go lunch from Sarge’s Deck on Vail Mountain at Mid Vail or from Spruce Saddle at Beaver Creek. This is prime hiking and biking season because of the fall colors. Have the camera handy so you can snap a few pictures of the golden aspen leaves whether you are hiking or biking up or down the trails.

Beaver Lake is a popular destination this time of year. You can hike up the trail from the base area by starting out on the Five Senses Trail before embarking on the Beaver Lake Trail or take the Centennial lift up to Spruce Saddle and follow the Royal Elk Trail to Beaver Lake.

Bikers can try the Grand Traverse trail for spectacular views of the back bowls or do a lap on Big Mamba and Radio Flyer. 

Keep an eye on the time if you are hoping to download the lifts at the end of the day. The temperature is cooler as you ascent, so pack an extra layer for once you get to the top. For more information visit vail.com or beavercreek.com.

Walk to End Alzheimer’s

Saturday marks the third annual Vail Valley Walk to End Alzheimer’s, a disease that affects 5.8 million Americans and 76,000 Coloradoans. Due to COVID-19 gathering restrictions, the walk won’t be held in one central location. Instead, participants are encouraged to walk their families or small groups on neighborhood streets, school tracks and trails in support of a world without Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

Registration is still open by going to alz.org/walk. Search for the Vail Valley’s walk and join a team or sign up as an individual. Registration is free, but if you’d like to donate you can do so with or without walking in the event. The goal of the Vail Valley Walk to End Alzheimer’s local planning committee is to raise $130,000 by the end of 2020 and at press time over $74,000 had been raised. Here are some stats about Alzheimer’s and why this is such a national concern:

  • 5.8 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease and that number is expected to reach nearly 14 million by 2050
  • More than 16 million Americans provide unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias, providing an estimated 18.5 billion hours valued at nearly $234 billion
  • There is so prevention, treatment or cure for Alzheimer’s disease.

Walk with your family and friends at this year’s Vail Valley Walk to End Alzheimer’s. For more information, go to alz.org/walk.

Boneyard Boogie Trail Run

This Saturday marks the final race in the Dynafit 2020 Vail Trail Running Series. The Boneyard Boogie is presented by and held in the town of Eagle. This race typically takes place in the spring, but due to COVID-19 cancellations and postponements, this race was pushed to the fall. The benefit will be the wonderful fall colors that racers will get to see by having it held in September versus May.

The Boneyard Boogie is a 13k race that starts and ends at the Eagle Pool and Ice Rink. The terrain is mostly dirt single track with a small percentage of double track that winds through pinyon groves and juniper shrubs. The race includes about 1,400 feet of climbing.

The race is capped at 175 runners and there is no day-of registration. Racers can pick up their race numbers or register ahead of time in person (space available) on Friday from 3 to 6 p.m. at Peak Performance in Edwards.

As with all the other races, there is a race t-shirt and Northside Coffee and Kitchen will be serving up donuts. You can grab both after you finish and head home. Due to COVID-19, the series champion and raffle winner prizes will be given out by staff at the race area as racers finish. Boneyard Boogie overall men’s and women’s finisher prizes will be mailed. Go to vailrec.org for more information.

“I Love Lucy” Wine Crush

If you’ve ever followed the “I Love Lucy” show, the classic comedy that starred Lucille Ball, you may have seen the episode where Lucy stomps grapes with her feet. Each year during harvest time, Vines at Vail allows those who dare put their feet in the vat to stomp grapes and don a costume similar to the outfit Lucy wore in that famous episode. The best costume and look alike winner will receive a $150 credit toward Vines at Vail wine.

All fun and games aside, it’s a busy time at Vines at Vail with the crush and press going on this fall with harvest in full swing. This boutique mountain winery has been sharing the experience with guests for decades. The grapes are from Lodi, Amador and Stockton, CA.

After the grape stomp and costume contest, stick around and taste some wines that have already been bottled. The event goes until 5 p.m. Vines at Vail offers Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel, Tempranillo, Petit Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, just to name a few.

For more information about tickets to this event and to learn about how you can get your own barrel or host an event out there with your friends – Vines at Vail is located at 4 Eagle Ranch – visit vinesatvailwinery.com. If you can’t get there on Saturday, Vines at Vail is open daily from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Oct. 15 and open Fridays and Saturdays through November.

Middaugh takes Davos mark below 16 minutes

Josiah Middaugh made it look easy.

The Davos Dash, essentially a 3-mile straight-up climb in West Vail, is anything but easy, but the local triathlete stamped his name on the course with an emphatic performance Wednesday.

In the oldest annually held mountain-bike race in the state held on the same course since its inception, Middaugh finished the 3.1-mile climb in a staggeringly fast time of 15 minutes, 57 seconds, 48 seconds ahead of the old record set by Jay Henry back in 2009.

“I kind of set my sights on it a few weeks ago,” said Middaugh, 42. “There’s not a whole lot to focus on these days. That record has been dangling out there. I’ve been close a couple of times. I thought I could do it. I’m not getting any younger, so I didn’t want to put it off for another year.”

Like a lot of people, Middaugh has seen his world spin off its axis a bit with COVID-19. The Xterra Pan-Am off-road triathlon series didn’t happen in 2020 for obvious reasons. Without the triathlons, his focus this season has been on fitness and getting outdoors.

The change in his triathlon schedule gave Middaugh a chance to go at Henry’s record. Normally, Middaugh would be gearing up for Xterra Nationals in Ogden, Utah, in a weekend or two. Had Davos been in this spot in the calendar in a “normal” year, it would have been a glorified workout for Middaugh, if he participated.

In 2020, Middaugh made it a goal. He said he had a few Davos-specific workouts in the weeks leading up to Wednesday. Unlike when he usually competes at Davos — usually in June or July — he took some rest days before the race.

“It was, by no means, easy,” Middaugh said. “The record by Jay Henry stood for a long time. He used to destroy me in these races. I looked up to him and aspired to be like him on the bike.”

And Henry was in the field on Wednesday night, and the two talked after the race. Middaugh came into the race having time checks for some intervals early in the climb. He knew he was doing well early, but that last climb, which stymies all, is tough even for the elite.

“Those last six minutes, I didn’t know,” he said. “If you let off the gas at any moment you can lose a minute.”

Middaugh didn’t and he has the new mark. It’s worth noting that even for pros, the Davos Dash is still a gut-check.

“The one thing I would say is that hurts just as bad no matter how fast or how slow you’re going,” Middaugh said.

As competitions slowly restart, Middaugh’s upcoming adventure is the Pikes Peak Apex, a four-day stage race next week in Colorado Springs. In the meantime, Lisa Isom’s record for the ladies, set in 2005 with a time of 20:20, stands for another year.

Open for Business: Peak Performance Footwear

Name of business: Peak Performance Footwear

Physical address: 137 Main Street C 103 W, Edwards, CO

Phone number: 970-835-0340

Website: www.ppfrun.com

What goods or services are you offering at this time? 

We opened the store on May 1 and we are limiting in-store traffic.

How have you adjusted to serve your customers during these unprecedented times?

We have adjusted by offering free in-valley delivery and curbside pickup.

How can the community support you?

The community can support us by shopping in-store or online.

What’s the best source to keep up to date with your offerings?

Our Facebook page is the best way to keep up to date with Peak Performance.

What’s the response been?

We have an amazing community and have received excellent support.

What are your plans going forward as the “new normal” evolves?

We will see where the dust settles. In the meantime, we will be limiting in-store traffic, employees will be wearing masks, sanitizing frequently, offering private shopping and limiting contact. 

Summer recreation season starts May 21 on local national forests

The White River National Forest summer motorized travel season begins May 21 and ends Nov. 22.

There is no motorized vehicle use or wheeled travel allowed on National Forest System roads until May 21, unless those roads are shown as open in the Winter Motor Vehicle Use Maps. These same dates apply to bicycle use. Some higher elevation roads and motorized trails are not scheduled to open until later in May or June due to snowpack and wet road conditions. In the Eagle River Valley, call the Eagle Holy Cross Ranger District, 970-827-5715 for site-specific information, and check current conditions before heading out.

All forest visitors are responsible for knowing when and where they can drive or ride. Visitors using motorized transportation are asked to obtain and adhere to routes shown on the Summer motor vehicle use maps. The maps show which routes are open to motorized vehicles, which types of vehicles may be used, and season opening and closing dates. Paper maps are free and available at all forest offices. Motor vehicle and bicycle maps are also available online at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/whiteriver/landmanagement/?cid=stelprdb5328670

It is important to note that e-bikes are currently considered a form of motorized transportation on all national forests across the country. E-bikes may only be ridden on designated motorized routes including National Forest System roads open to all vehicles, and National Forest System trails open to all motorized vehicles. Traditional (non-e-bike) bicycles are allowed on designated trails and roads where mechanized use is permitted. Off-road and off-trail travel is prohibited. 

In mid-May, snow levels are typically at around 9,500 feet. Many gates are still buried in snow and many open gates lead to roads that are extremely wet and muddy. Travel in muddy conditions creates deep ruts that damage roads and trails. Please be patient and find alternate locations to recreate and give muddy areas time to dry out and harden.

Please remember to give wildlife a break. Some road and trail closures remain in place until late spring to protect elk calving areas and mule deer migration rest areas. These closures help protect deer and elk during periods that are critical to their survival.

Please be responsible by following these tips to ensure you protect Colorado’s wildlife and the places you love to play:

  • Stay on designated roads, trails and areas identified on the motor vehicle use maps.
  • Adhere to site-specific opening dates to protect our wildlife and other natural resources. 
  • Be respectful of other visitors.
  • Be respectful of property boundaries and know what uses are allowed if you enter non-Forest Service property.
  • Do not widen trails by going around obstacles and do not create shortcuts.
  • Avoid wet, muddy trails.
  • Cross streams only at designated fords.

For more information, go to https://www.fs.usda.gov/whiteriver.

TransRockies Run reaches Eagle County

The TransRockies Run is a multi-day, point-to-point trail running race spanning six days and 120 miles. Stage 1 was from Buena Vista to Railroad Bridge on Tuesday. Stage 2 on Wednesday took the runners from Vicksburg to Twin Lakes.

Stage 3 on Thursday brought the runners through Eagle County from Leadville to Nova Guides. The third stage was the longest stage of the race at over 24 miles, featuring 2,700 feet of elevation gain.

Stage 4 stays in Eagle County on Friday, taking runners from Nova Guides to Red Cliff, over 14 miles and 2,800 feet of elevation gain.

Stage 5 on Saturday sees the runners starting in Red Cliff and ending in Vail, covering over 24 miles and 4,100 feet of elevation gain.

The TransRockies Run ends Sunday, when runners will start in Vail and end in Beaver Creek, covering over 22 miles and 5,200 feet of elevation gain to close out the race.

For more information, visit www.transrockies-run.com.

Riders hit Lost Lake and further challenges

VAIL — Lost Lake isn’t lost because the Vail Recreation District Westin Athletic Club Mountain Biking Series has a race there every year.

But do racers ever find Lost Lake?

“On this course, in particular, you have to be focused because it’s so technical,” women’s pro racer Gretchen Reeves said. “If you’re just not watching the whole time, there are rocks and roots. It’s my favorite kind of riding. I dig it. But you definitely have to keep your eye on the trail.”

Bobby L’Heureux and the rest of the field at the Lost Lake Loop tackle a stiff climb up to Lost Lake and, once up there, a technical course with rocks and tree roots on Wednesday. (Kelly Getchonis | Special to the Daily)
Kelly Getchonis | Special to the Daily

And that means that racers aren’t looking at Lost Lake, south of Red Sandstone, which means it technically can still be lost. It’s sort of that tree falling in the forest and whether it makes a sound.

Yes, that’s too deep for the Tour de Wednesday.

Eco-Challenge bound

Like a lot of pro racers in the series, Reeves uses the Wednesday races to warm up for bigger things. She’s teaming up with Mike Kloser, Josiah Middaugh and Gordon Townsend, of New Zealand, for the 2019 Eco-Challenge.

Yes, folks, it’s back after a 17-year hiatus, in September in Fiji. Reeves is understandably pumped about it.

As for Wednesday’s race, Reeves felt she “popped” during the climb of to Lost Lake.

“I feel like I got a little bit lightheaded,” she said. “I went a little hard. So I just relaxed and tried to flow it. It was good. It went well.”

Reeves and Marlee Dixon are competing for the season-long title in the division. The good news is that Dixon doesn’t plan to go all Tonya Harding on Reeves.

Keely Hendricks competes in the women’s beginner category on Wednesday during the Lost Lake Loop in Vail. (Kelly Getchonis | Special to the Daily) 
LostLake-VDN-072519-4

“That doesn’t get you anywhere,” Dixon joked.

Wednesday’s Lost Lake Loop was pushed back two weeks because the late-season snow needed a little more time to melt.

“It’s really technical. It was pretty loose, and that made it more difficult,” Dixon said. “It’s a great course and one of my favorite because of technicality and the downhills. It was worth pushing it back.”

He’s done

Yes, the series continues with the Berry Creek Bash on Aug. 14 and Beaver Creek Blast, but Weston Sawtelle celebrated his final race of the season.

The beginner said the Camp Hale Hup was his favorite race of the year because “there’s not as much uphill. I’m kind of big for those climbs.”

Implicit is that Davos Dash was his least favorite race of the year because who really likes 3-plus miles straight uphill?

Sawtelle does have a good excuse for ending his racing season.

“I’m done. I’ve got surgery next week, my right ACL,” he said.

Lost Lake mountain bike race rescheduled; still snowy above 10,500 feet in Vail

The U.S. Forest Service says the snow line is currently at about 10,500 feet in Vail, which means many trails at 10,000 feet and above are still too muddy to enjoy.

That includes Forest Service Roads 734 and 786 in the area north of Vail near Piney Lake, where Wednesday’s Lost Lake race was set to take place. The race, which was a new addition to the Vail Recreation District’s annual summer mountain biking series in 2017, takes riders up Vail’s North Trail to the Son of Middle Creek Trail, to Lost Lake Road (Forest Service Road 786), ending at Red and White Mountain Road (Forest Service Road 734).

As of Monday, Red and White Mountain Road, a popular 4-wheel drive access area in the White River National Forest, was still closed for the season.

The Lost Lake race was scheduled to be the fifth race in the East West Hospitality Mountain Bike Race Series presented by Bloch & Chapleau Attorneys at Law and Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

Instead, the Camp Hale Hup will take its place on Wednesday, with the Lost Lake race rescheduled for July 24.

With the theme “muddy trails are always closed trails” in mind, Vail Rec District organizers checked out the course recently and said while a couple of people might be able to ride it without doing too much damage to the trail, to put 200 people up there would be a disaster.

The Camp Hale Course, on the other hand, which was scheduled to be the sixth race in the series, is looking much better.

The start/finish will be at the intersection of East Fork and Resolution Creek Road, half a mile east of the Nova Guides lodge at Camp Hale. The Vail Rec District has asked riders to note the fact that there are sheep currently grazing at Camp Hale.

“However there are no livestock protection dogs on-site,” the Rec District added in a release sent out Monday.

The races will begin at 4:45 p.m. with the Yeti’s Grind Youth Series for riders ages 8 to 17. The East West Hospitality Adult Series will kick off at 5:45 p.m. View a course map here

Trust Our Land: Waiting for wildlife and hiking with friends

Wildlife are one of our community’s most treasured resources. Deer, elk, and our other furry friends inspire and give us a reason to tread lightly in the backcountry.

Protecting wildlife is a responsibility that unites all of us. Trail closures are one of our community’s most important tools for giving wildlife the space they need during times of the year when they are most vulnerable. Elk and deer are in survival mode; even the slightest disturbances can have significant cumulative impacts throughout winter and spring. As our community grows, so too must our respect for wildlife and their needs.

Fortunately, awareness about the importance of trail closures has been growing in our county. This awareness, combined with efforts like Adopt A Trail’s Trail Ambassador Program, has resulted in a significant increase in trail closure adherence. Not only are local trail users increasingly willing to comply with closures, many have voiced support and volunteered their time and energy to spread the message.

To be a true friend of wildlife, give them space year-round. A rule of thumb is to measure your distance using your thumb. If you are lucky enough to encounter an animal on an open trail, extend your arm fully, close one eye, put up your thumb, and try to block the animal with it. If your thumb fully covers the animal, your distance is adequate. If you can’t cover the animal with your thumb, slowly give it more space until you can.

After a long winter, many of us are bursting with excitement to get out on our favorite trails throughout the county. Please remember that many trails around the county are still closed, so do some research before you go. Fortunately, Eagle Valley Land Trust’s Community Land Connection Series has you covered.

Join EVLT and partners all spring, summer, and fall for programs on protected land throughout the county. The series kicks off this Earth Day, April 22, with a nature break at Eagle River Preserve in Edwards with the Eagle Valley Outdoor Movement and Nurtured By Nature Forest Therapy. The hike will explore Eagle River Preserve’s natural elements and the benefits of slowing down to recharge in nature. The Eagle River Preserve is permanently conserved thanks to a partnership between Eagle County Open Space and the Eagle Valley Land Trust.

Other hikes in the series include the Horn Ranch Historical Tour and the Harrington’s Penstemon Hike in May and June, respectively.

Back by popular demand, the Community Land Connection Series will also include two restoration projects (July and August) to assist landowners in improving and restoring their conserved lands.

To RSVP for EVLT’s Community Land Connection Series hikes and restoration projects, email community@evlt.org or call EVLT at (970) 748-7654.

Jessica Foulis is the stewardship and outreach manager at the Eagle Valley Land Trust. She can be reached at jfoulis@evlt.org. EVLT is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. For more information about the Eagle Valley Land Trust and how it is conserving land and benefiting the community, visit http://www.evlt.org.

East Eagle the only area of county to see new trail openings on April 15

EAGLE — The Pool & Ice Rink trail is now open, although it was still a little wet near the top as of Monday, an annual trail opening day in Eagle County.

Pool &and Ice Rink is among a group of trails in the area known as east Eagle, which was the only area of Eagle County to see new soft-surface trail openings on Monday.

Closures in the West Avon Preserve, Hardscrabble Mountain and other areas of the county that usually celebrate trail openings on April 15 have been extended indefinitely.

Even in east Eagle, which would appear to be ride-ready, closures on the Haymaker trail have been extended, as well. Elk have been spotted in the areas surrounding the Haymaker Outer Loops trails, so while that area seems ready to enjoy (and indeed you might see people hiking and biking it), trail users have been asked to stay away for the time being in deference to the county’s dwindling elk population.

Waitig on elk in Eagle

The Haymaker Outer Loops are on town of Eagle property, and the town can choose to deem the area open or closed as it sees fit.

Acting Open Space Manager Jeremy Gross said the Haymaker Outer Loops will remain closed until the elk move on.

“They’re a good quarter of a mile past Haymaker,” Gross said of the elk in the area. “We’re going to continue to observe day by day, and we’ll make a decision.”

In the east Eagle area, the Lower Boneyard trail, along with Redneck Ridge, are also open as those trails aren’t subject to seasonal closures. The Dirt Surfer trail in east Eagle is technically open, but, as it leads to the Haymaker trail, people are being asked to stay off of it or turn around and head back up once you get to Haymaker.

The upper portion of the Boneyard trail is closed, as well, so trail users are being asked to get off the trail and onto the road at the green gate about halfway up the trail.

“We really want to encourage people not to ride muddy trails,” said Charlie Brown, of the Hardscrabble Trails Coalition. “And Upper Boneyard is still a mess, it probably won’t be rideable for a week or two.”

Visit eagleoutside.com/explore/trails for up to date info on trail closures and conditions.

Mud in Avon

Like Eagle, the town of Avon also owns an area of land that contains trails that can be closed and opened at the town’s discretion outside of the normal wildlife closures, which occur between Dec. 15 and April 15.

This year, the town of Avon has decided to extend the trail closures in the West Avon Preserve due to muddy conditions.

“After evaluating the current state of the trail system and the current storm cycle, it was decided to keep the lower portions of the West Avon Preserve closed until further notice,” Planning Director Matt Pielsticker wrote in a press release. “Physical barriers and signage will remain at the closure points until the trails are opened. Signs will also be posted at the trailheads alerting trail users of the extended closure.”

The Avon closures affect the popular Lee’s Way Down trail, along with Avon Singletree Connector, PB&J, Saddle Ridge Loop, Wyse Way, Carroll’s Cutoff, BLT and Wild West Ridge.

Trails not subject to seasonal closures that are still open in the West Avon Preserve include Our Backyard, Playground Way and Beaver Creek Point.

Snow in Vail

And while some areas of the county celebrate trail openings on April 15, other areas see spring wildlife closures going into effect.

The North Trail in Vail closed on Monday, a closure expected to remain in effect until June 20.

Renewed efforts by the Vail Valley Mountain Trails Association to remind potential users of closures — an undertaking known as the trails ambassador program — has been effective in educating trail users of the closures.

Fences were put in to help enforce trail closures on the North Trail in Vail last year.

The formation of the ambassador program also included the erecting of gates in some areas as a more tangible reminder to stay away.

Elk were spotted in the area near the North Trail last spring just days before the closures went into effect.

“The trail ambassador program was pretty impressive in its ability to educate people, make contact with people, and keep stats on those contacts,” said Vail Valley Mountain Trails Association Executive Director Ernest Saeger.

Ambassadors focused on the North Trail and the Two Elk trail in Vail, and the Stone Creek trail in Eagle-Vail. They made 897 encounters with people over 176 hours of volunteer time.

“The information collected was added to a master digital logging system that will help (the U.S. Forest Service and the Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance) better understand what is happening on these trails without relying on cameras alone,” wrote Michelle Wolffe, who helped manage the program last year.

Leading up to the launch of the trail ambassador program, the Forest Service used cameras to document 200 people on a closed trail over a 10 day period.

“Eagle County has a strong biking community and having a dry trail is tempting to people wanting to ride or hike,” wrote Wolffe. “What they might not understand is that the closure isn’t always about the trail condition. Deer and elk that have struggled to survive all winter, need access to specific familiar regions to refuel their depleted bodies and safely raise their new young. Closing some trails allows them a familiar safe zone to refuel and give birth.”