A whole new hike | VailDaily.com

A whole new hike

Veronica Whitney
NWS Royal Elk Trail3 BH 8-9

BEAVER CREEK- They walk pass wildflowers, including monk suits, blue bells and fire weeds; over wood bridges and through aspen groves.With a bright August sun over their heads and 65-degree weather, the group hiking on the new Royal Elk trail stops several times to enjoy the vistas surrounding Beaver Creek Mountain.”This is a fire weed,” says Nate Goldberg, director of the Beaver Creek Hiking Center, as he points along the trail. “They say that what’s left of the flower shows how much is left of the summer.”The trail, which adds to the existing 50 miles of hiking and biking trails on the mountain, is another option for hikers wanting to get to Beaver Lake.”This is a moderate hike and a great way to get to Beaver Lake,” says Goldberg, who is guiding the hike. “You get the vistas of the Gore Range as well as the beauty of the lake. A lot of the time it’s one or the other. Here you can get it all.”The 2.7-mile hike, which opened Aug. 2 after three years of planning and work, starts at Spruce Saddle, the mid-mountain restaurant. By taking this trail, hikers can get to the lake in a little an hour.In comparison, Beaver Lake trail, the trail that hikers have used for years to reach the lake, runs next to the Beaver Creek drainage and therefore offers limited vistas, Goldberg says.After a 10-minute chairlift ride to mid-mountain, the group headed by Goldberg starts a descent down the Red Tail ski run. The first portion of the hike, which will change next year when another section of the trail opens, offers a walk through beautiful aspen groves. Soon, the hikers are crossing Golden Eagle, the Birds of Prey ski run where the World Cup ski events take place in the winter. There, Goldberg and his group – which includes Dave Ozawa, a snow ranger for the U.S. Forest Service; Christina Schleicher, spokeswoman for Beaver Creek Mountain; Gary Shimenowitz, trail maintenance supervisor; and Mike Kloser, activities director for Beaver Creek resort – stops for a drink of water and a unique view of the Gore Range.

The brief stop comes in handy. A few minutes later, the hikers face the steepest part of the hike – two short pitches, which although steep, will not make you lose your breath.After traversing several ski runs on Grouse Mountain, the group enters Black Bear Glade, which in the winter offers some of the most challenging tree skiing in the mountain. Soon, the group walks through the Royal Elk glade ski runs, where the new trail merges with the Beaver Lake trail. Ten minutes later, the group is having lunch by Beaver Lake at 9,746 feet.”It’s a great trail,” Ozawa says. “And it impresses me how fast they got it done.”The whole trail took about 1,000 man hours to complete, says Shimenowitz, who supervised its construction. A crew of five, using shovels and pick axes, leveled the ground, moved rocks and built bridges over marshes.”It’s awesome to see it come to fruition after three years of planning,” Kloser says. “The construction crew did a great job.”The trail is Goldberg’s and Kloser’s brainchild. The two localized the trail on a map and then walked it. The project took some time because it needed an OK from the U.S. Forest Service, which looks for impact on sensitive plants and wildlife habitats before approving a new trail.”I like it a lot because it’s a loop,” Schleicher says. “You can start at Spruce Saddle and then go down using the Beaver Lake Trail. Or you can do it the other way around.”

Beaver Creek Hiking Center’s motto is, “You go as a lamb and come back as a lion,” says Nate Goldberg, the hiking center’s director.But that doesn’t mean that when he takes a group on a hike, he doesn’t take care of the details, Goldberg says. Among the items Goldberg has in his backpack are hand sanitizers and refreshing wash cloths.”People love this,” says Goldberg, who has been a guide for 15 years. “We use the hikes to educate people about nature, nutrition and how to keep the mountains clean.”The hiking center works closely with the U.S. Forest Service in training its guides, he says. “We educate people not to leave food or other stuff behind when they hike,” Goldberg says. “Not even an apple core or an orange peel – because they aren’t natural to the area.”Goldberg also tells hikers not to feed animals and teaches them how to go to the bathroom in the outdoors, he says.

“Either drip dry or pack it up,” says Goldberg of using toilet paper in the mountains. “You want to have as little impact as possible.”The 42-year-old guide also recommends people snack throughout a hike and use hiking poles.”Every 45 minutes to an hour I make them stop and make sure they drink and eat,” he says. “There’s a big exertion for people who come from cities.”The hiking poles not only give you an upper body workout, but reduce the impact on ankles, knees and hip joints,” he says. “In five years, we haven’t had one ankle or knee injury. And I relate that to the use of poles.” From June 16 through Sept. 6, the center offers daily scheduled group hikes as well as private hikes. For more information call Beaver Creek Hiking Center at (970) 845-5373.Staff writer Veronica Whitney can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext. 454 or vwhitney@vaildaily.com. Vail, Colorado

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