Hike the forest, help the wilderness | VailDaily.com

Hike the forest, help the wilderness

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” People who come to hike and camp in the area’s forests usually love the wilderness, said Cyndi Koop ” but in some cases, they’re “loving it to death.”

Koop, a volunteer with Friends of the Eagles Nest Wilderness, said many people do not know how far they should be camping from water or how to make a campfire without scarring the ground.

Once she said she saw a dog running around the trails, and the owner said he had come all the way from Denver so he could walk his dog unleashed in the wilderness.

“He was so shocked to find out that you’re not supposed to do that. People don’t mean to, they just don’t know,” she said.

Friends of the Eagles Nest Wilderness are looking for volunteers to provide visitor education and awareness of the wilderness and while hiking various trails or during a backpacking trip.

The deadline to apply is April 23, and the half-day training course will be in June. The program is in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service to help reduce the impacts of human activity in the Eagles Nest, Holy Cross, and Ptarmigan Peak Wildernesses.

Ranger Patrol volunteers will give visitors they meet trail and camping information, teach Leave No Trace and camping techniques, explain wilderness regulations, and give the natural and human history of the area.

The job is fun because you get to talk to people and be in the backcountry, Koop said.

Volunteers can also do field monitoring, which involves tracking campsites and noxious weeds.

If a campsite has hurt the surrounding plants or camp fires have left marks on the ground, the volunteers come in and repair the site, Koop said.

All volunteers must have hiking and preferably backpacking experience, including map reading and compass skills. Experience with a GPS is a plus, especially for field monitors. All volunteers must be able to hike the required distance of the trail or area being worked and be healthy enough to hike at elevations ranging from 8,000 to 14,003 feet.

Koop said there are only four rangers assigned to two wilderness areas, so the forest can use all the help it can get.

“There’s just so much work to do. If we don’t do it, it won’t be there for our children. I don’t want to see the wilderness trashed ” they don’t make extra wilderness,” she said.

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 748-2928 or mwong@vaildaily.com.

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