5 Great National Forests in Colorado

Colorado is a great place to go camping during the summer months. There are many wonderful destinations to choose from, including several of America’s National Forests. Here are my picks for five of the best ones:

San Juan National Forest

The San Juan National Forest is located near Durango. It features three large camping areas. Some of the campsites are suitable for RVs and equestrians. In my opinion, the Chimney Rock Archaeological Area is one of the forest’s best attributes. Within the archaeological area are the remnants of Native American kivas, a pit house and prehistoric sea creatures. In addition to the culturally significant sites, the forest also offers campers ample opportunities for mountain climbing, mountain biking, hiking and horseback riding.

Rio Grande National Forest

The Rio Grande National Forest is located south of Denver. It features 11 large camping areas with plenty of spots for RV campers and equestrians. Dispersed camping and cabin rentals are also on offer. Onsite activities include mountain climbing, rock climbing, scuba diving, mountain biking and hiking. Hikers should definitely take the time to explore the Wheeler Geological Area and the Ute Creek Trail. I’d suggest bringing a camera along because the views are stunning.

Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forests

The Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forests are located near Fort Collins. Collectively, the two forests offer an array of camping areas to choose from. While in the area, campers may enjoy target shooting, rock climbing, waterskiing, fishing and hiking. I’d suggest that hikers consider exploring the Stormy Peaks Trail and the Devil’s Thumb Trail. Horseback riding and OHV trails are also on offer.

White River National Forest

The White River National Forest is a huge expanse of land with multiple ranger districts. One of the ranger districts is located in Vail. The forest has five large camping areas, each with its own notable features. Campers won’t want to miss the Crystal Mill or the Holy Cross Wilderness Area. The Fulford Cave and Fulford Cave Trail are also worth exploring. Unfortunately, the cave is temporarily closed in order to protect the forest’s bat population. Other activities on offer include target shooting, windsurfing, fishing and horseback riding.

Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests

The Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests stretches from Colorado to Wyoming. Altogether, the forests have six large camping areas and 10 amazing wilderness areas. There are many activities to keep campers busy during their stay. Among the activities on offer are fishing, OHV riding, horseback riding, mountain biking and hiking. I’d suggest that hikers check out the Miner’s Cabin Trail.

Durango offers Summertime Fun!

Durango is fortunate that its summer activities, travel and tourism businesses have not been affected by wildfires. It’s business as usual in the scenic Colorado mountain town. Durango offers cooler temperatures and plenty of water activities for a refreshing Colorado mountain vacation. Enjoy attractions like Mesa Verde National Park, Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, Durango Mountain Resort, as well as superb dining, galleries, zip lines, microbreweries, rafting, hiking, horseback riding, fishing, biking and other outdoor adventures. Take advantage of the uniquely-Durango summer events including Music in the Mountains, USA Pro Challenge Overall Start, Dante’s Summer Concert Series and more. Start planning your trip at:

www.durango.org or call 1-800-525-8855.

Coolest Temps in the Southwest with temperatures in parts of the country ranging from 100 – 116 degrees, Durango offers a reprieve from the heat. This morning there was a refreshing rain at Durango Mountain Resort (DMR) that gave way to blue bird skies. Temperatures at DMR are forecasted to be in the mid-70s for the next week.

Colorado is home to 23 million acres of public lands, including 10 national parks and monuments, 41 state parks and 334 state wildlife areas. The active fires represent less than 1 percent of the state’s public lands and most of the state’s destinations and attractions are open for business. The Colorado Tourism Office has announced an online travel resource for tourism-related fire updates at www.colorado.com/articles/colorado-wildfire-updates-travelers .

Durango is located in the breathtaking San Juan Mountain range of Southwest Colorado in the Four Corners Region. It’s a scenic and easy 3-hour drive from Albuquerque, 7.5 hours from Phoenix and 9 hours from Las Vegas. Over a dozen flights daily into the Durango-La Plata County Airport: US Air direct from Phoenix, American Airlines from Dallas-Ft Worth, and United Airlines and Frontier Airlines direct from Denver. Beat the summer heat – and head for Durango for a great vacation.

Essential foods for Hiking, Camping and Survival


Here’s a great article regarding essential foods to have while camping or hiking.

Whether you are packing for a hike, camping trip, an emergency or simply stuck on a desert island, there are basic foods that we all need to be aware of for survival. Depending upon body size, genes and other unique factors, the average person may be able to survive without any food for 30-40 days if they are properly hydrated. Unfortunately we can only last about a week without water.
Our “must have” foods need to be high in energy, easy to transport, require no refrigeration or cooking and provide the necessary nutrients for survival. Here are some foods to add to your survival gear.


Fats – Fats are highly concentrated sources of energy. Gram for gram, fat provides twice as much energy as carbohydrates and protein. Add these portable sources of fat to your survival list: nuts, canned fish, dried/dehydrated meat. 

Carbohydrates – Carbohydrates are essential in survival mode where you often burn more calories and reach exhaustion faster than normal. Carbohydrates are important for providing physical performance. Add these carbohydrates to your survival list: instant oatmeal, dried fruit (also high in vitamins and minerals) and granola bars. 

Protein – Complete proteins, which contain all of the essential amino acids are important to repair muscle tissue. In survival mode, especially if you are injured, you will need protein for healing. Quick and easy sources include tuna or salmon in a pouch, dehydrated/dried meats, like jerky and nuts. Protein bars are an ultimate survival food because they contain a lot of nutrition in a small package. No preparation is required for any of these as they can be consumed right out of the package.
Beans, a great source of protein, have high amounts of important nutrients for the body, including calcium and iron. Both dried and canned beans have a very long shelf life. Many varieties of canned beans require no preparation and are ready to eat right out of the can. 

Water and Electrolytes – Last but definitely not least is the need for water. You need about a gallon per day. This is especially important in extreme temperatures when you may perspire a lot. Perspiration can cause deficiencies of electrolytes which can lead to drowsiness, weakness, nausea, confusion and disorientation – not something you want when you are struggling to survive. Electrolyte tablets are great choices to include in your backpack because they are lightweight and easy to transport. According to the United States Search and Rescue experts, rationing your water wisely gives you the best chance of survival. It is advised not to drink on the first day and to work off the reserves of water in your system first. Over the next few days you should lower your daily water intake from 14 ounces to between 2 and 8 ounces. 

Prior Planning – Don’t just plan to survive when lost; plan not to get lost or hurt. Packing the right food is just as important as selecting the right shoes and clothes. A day-pack stocked correctly can last much longer than a day. A map and compass are easy to get, inexpensive and light-weight, as are granola bars and water. The math is easy; 2-16-ounce bottles of water only weigh 2 pounds and according to the experts, that can last from four to 16 days. Some of my favorites, the “salt and sweet” type granola bars seem to be the best for having many of the ingredients mentioned above that you need for survival; fast to slow burning energy sources and salt for water retention (electrolytes). Hopefully you will never have to use your food survival skills! But just in case… 

Dr. SeAnne Safaii, Ph.D., RD, LD, is an assistant professor at the University of Idaho. Original Article

Shedding light on Summertime Myths

By Rachel Saslow
Special to The Washington Post

marc vogelHave you ever hesitated before diving into a pool, trying to remember if it’s been at least 30 minutes since you ate? Or not itched a mosquito bite for fear that scratching would only make it worse? Health myths buzz around summer pastimes such as swimming, camping, hiking and picnicking like so many gnats.

People have a hard time letting go of word-of-mouth wisdom, even when faced with good evidence to the contrary.

“Myths stick with us because they make sense to us, on some level,” says Indianapolis pediatrician Rachel C. Vreeman. “When you’ve heard them from your grandmother and mother and important adults in your life, you believe those things.”

Vreeman and fellow Indiana University School of Medicine pediatrician Aaron E. Carroll published studies in 2007 and 2008 debunking medical myths that doctors believe. Among them: Hair and nails continue to grow after a person has died. Shaving causes hair to grow back thicker. We use only 10 percent of our brains. Reading in dim light ruins your eyesight.

The studies received so much media attention that the doctors turned them into two books debunking many health myths: “Don’t Swallow Your Gum!” and “Don’t Cross Your Eyes . . . They’ll Get Stuck That Way!”

“It’s fair to ask ‘Why?’ when someone tells you you shouldn’t do something, even if that someone is your doctor or your mother,” Vreeman says.

Remembering the many warnings that swimming and outdoor activity inspire, we dug into some of the most pervasive summer health myths to find out whether they’re true.

Myth: Swallowing water-melon seeds is bad for you.

Swallowing a few watermelon seeds won’t do any harm, Washington nutritionist Rebecca Scritchfield says. Our bodies try to digest them but can’t, so the seeds pass directly through our system. Stay hydrated and continue to eat normally and everything will work out, so to speak. If someone were to chew up and eat every seed in a watermelon, the only danger would be overdoing fat and calories for the day, Scritchfield says. One cup of seeds contains 602 calories, 31 grams of protein (about the same as a chicken breast) and 51 grams of fat, a day’s worth for most people. Watermelon seeds are eaten in other parts of the world, such as Nigeria and China, Scritchfield says.

Small children might imagine that watermelon seeds could sprout in their stomachs (or be tricked into thinking this by a mischievous sibling). There have not been any reports of that happening — and it’s unlikely, given how strong digestive acids are — but in 2010, a pea seed did sprout in a man’s lung: A seed he had aspirated grew a half-inch-long sprout and had to be surgically removed at Cape Cod Hospital in Massachusetts.

Myth: You can catch poison ivy from someone who has it.

No matter how icky and oozy a poison ivy rash looks, the rash itself is not contagious, Vreeman says. It’s the oil from the poison ivy plant that is contagious, not the reaction to it that is the blistery rash you see on someone’s skin. “Leaves of three, let them be,” as they say.

Poison ivy causes a delayed response; the rash doesn’t appear for 24 to 72 hours after contact with the plant oils, which are found on the leaves and on the stems, and it can spread for days even without additional contact with the oil depending on individual reactions and sensitivities, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. By the time the rash is in full force, it’s unlikely the person would still have the oil on his or her skin. Washing the exposed area with soap and water for five minutes at the time of exposure may prevent the rash, says dermatologist Ali Hendi.

The blisters cannot spread the rash to other people, nor to other parts of the infected person’s body. The oils can stick around on clothes and shoes, though, so be sure to wash everything that might have brushed against the ivy.

Myth: If a jellyfish stings you, urinate on the wound.

Urinating on a jellyfish sting can make it worse, according to Jennifer Ping, an emergency medicine physician at Straub Clinic and Hospital in Honolulu, who has studied the most effective treatments for dealing with jellyfish stings. About 15 people per year check in to her hospital’s emergency room after being stung by jellyfish.

Jellyfish stings are caused by contact with a jellyfish tentacle, which can trigger millions of stinging cells (nematocytes) to pierce the skin and inject venom, Ping says.

The first line of treatment for all species of jellyfish stings is to get out of the water. Then, remove the tentacles with an object other than your fingers. Deactivate the nematocytes with an acidic compound such as vinegar, either by pouring it directly onto the wound or applying a vinegar-soaked cloth. Once the nematocytes are deactivated, scrape them off with a credit card or other flat object. A paste of vinegar and meat tenderizer also works; scrape it off within 20 minutes or the tenderizer will irritate the skin.

Urine has a different pH than vinegar and, like water, it can cause the nematocytes to swell and release more venom, thus worsening the sting, Ping says. However, if the nematocytes have been deactivated and washed away, warm urine might soothe the sting based on its warmth alone. Warm water or heat packs would also work, as would ice packs. “I think [the myth] gets perpetuated because it’s something that is funny, yet believable,” Ping says.

Myth: Scratching a bug bite makes it worse.

This one is true. If you scratch a mosquito (or other bug) bite vigorously enough to break the skin, the bacteria from underneath your fingernails could cause a skin infection, according to Vreeman.

You’ll know that the mosquito bite is infected because it will look worse, rather than better, as the days go on. An infected bite might also itch more than an uninfected one. Treat the bite with Neosporin or another antibiotic ointment.

Scratching will probably make the bite look worse even if it doesn’t get infected, Vreeman says. The degree of swelling depends on your body’s inflammatory response to the bite, but scratching will temporarily inflame the bite further. Itching can cause the body to release more histamines, and this leads to more redness, swelling and itching, Vreeman says.

And that old summer-camp myth that mosquitoes like people with “sweet blood”? It turns out that it probably has more to do with their breath than with anything in their blood, Vreeman says. Mosquitoes are attracted to carbon dioxide, heat and lactic acid in the breath.

“They think it’s primarily related to the balance of gases and maybe the scent of people’s breath, but it’s not clear,” she says.

Myth: Don’t swim for 30 minutes after eating.

If you have a big meal and then go for a swim, the worst thing that could happen is you’d feel uncomfortable or get a cramp, not drown, according to nutritionist Scritchfield. (There are no documented cases of drowning or near drowning attributed to eating, according to Vreeman and Carroll.) It’s unlikely that a food-related cramp would disable you, Scritchfield says.

After a meal, the body directs blood to the stomach to help digest the food. If you’re swimming, some of the blood might move to your muscles instead, potentially causing the food to move through the gut more slowly, according to Scritchfield. You might cramp up as a result, in which case you should just get out of the water and rest. In general, it’s wise to swim where you’re able to exit the water fairly quickly, such as in a swimming pool or along a shoreline.

“There’s no magic to the 30-minute number,” Scritchfield says. “Nothing dangerous is going to happen before that. It’s really how you feel.”

Children (or those with overactive imaginations) might also fear that food will not move thround their digestive system if their body is floating in the water. This is also impossible, according to Scritchfield, because the involuntary actions the body takes to move food through the body are so strong. After swallowing, the body takes over completely.

“Astronauts still digest their food,” she points out.

Saslow is a former Washington Post staff writer.

Wildflower Season in Colorado will be Short

Photo: Okiemack

If you live in Colorado and you like hiking – chances are you look forward to long hikes through high meadows filled with wildflowers. Colorado has numerous varieties of flowers including the Columbine, Fireweed, Indian Paintbrush, Bluebells and Parry’s Primrose. We always look forward to early summer in the high mountains as the splash of color isn’t to be missed. This year however, due to the extreme dryness, we’re likely in for a very short viewing season. If you’re planning on your usual early June hike to view flowers, you might not see as many as in years past. According to this article in the Summit Daily, we’re in for a short season:

The winter had sparse snowfall, so the flowers aren’t thriving in a high snowmelt environment. The spring has been dry, and it’s expected to continue — and probably get hotter and drier, Colorado State University Summit County Extension Service director Dan Schroder said.

“The wildflowers will undoubtedly suffer,” he said.

Right now, the lupine and Indian paintbrush are blooming along the Peaks Trail and in the Highlands in Breckenridge, Schroder said. Those locations begin to get at the higher elevation areas that don’t typically melt out until July, which usually allows wildflower watchers to continue enjoying colorful hikes.

This year, though, the higher elevation areas have mostly melted — and it’s just the start of June.

“The general consensus (among CSU officials) is that wildflowers are blooming earlier than expected, and this is tied directly to last winter’s snowpack being at 18 percent of normal in Summit County,” Schroder said. “We are observing an early bloom with an expectation of very little wildflower activity later in the summer as the landscape dries out and the lack of moisture doesn’t support wildflower populations.”

If you’re wanting to view our state’s beautiful flowers, better get to that hiking trip sooner than later. For the rest of the article, please see: Wild Colorado: Wildflower season expected to be short and dry

McInnis Canyon NCA offers Outdoor Opportunities

Photo: Matt Mcgrath

McInnis Canyons National Conservation area is a real Colorado Gem. Ample opportunities for hiking, mountain biking and boating abound. Located just west of Colorado National Monument, this 123,00 acre area contains the second largest concentration of arches in North America. The conservation area is a vast desert landscape typifying the terrain found throughout the Colorado Plateau. Contained within its boundaries are lush desert canyons, red rock country and solitude.

Mee and Rattlesnake Canyons are probably the two most well known destinations within the park. Rattlesnake canyon provides up close views of natural arches while Mee canyon holds an enormous alcove which shouldn’t be missed. Also within the confines of the conservation area is the Black Ridge Canyons Wilderness area a natural and undeveloped tract of land totaling 75,000 acres.

For more information please see: McInnis Canyons

Outdoor Recreation Participation

As we’re keen on the majority of outdoor recreational pursuits, this recent article regarding current participation levels in those respective activities is quite illuminating. The author received his data via the annual Outdoor Recreation Participation Report for 2011. The report, often used by outdoor gear manufactures to better understand the nations appetite for all things outdoors, gives the reader a great overview of what’s hot and what’s not.

There are some interesting numbers the author points out, such as Biking and Hiking continue to be very popular sports with 15 and 11% of Americans enjoying those pursuits. The same can be said for Camping, be it car or tent, with over 42 million Americans ranking it as their most popular outdoor activity.

Another interesting tibit, adolescents are attracted to outdoor related activities because “they are cool”! Young adults gravite towards these activites to “relieve stress”.

The report also delves into why outdoor related activities continue to have the highest participation from Caucasian’s. With the survey using over 38,000 interviews as its draw for statistical data, it is a pretty good read on the current state of outdoor related activities. Make sure to check it out:

Outdoor Recreation Participation Report

You can still backpack in the Gila

Sun News Report

US Forest Service/Reuters

LAS CRUCES — Those planning a camping trip to the Gila National Forest this Memorial Day weekend should take note of a number of trail and campground closures caused by a massive wildfire that had scorched more than 80,000 acres of rugged forest by Friday afternoon.

The blaze is trailing smoke across three states and sending ash 35 to 40 miles away from the burn. The impact of the fire has led to road closures in the Gila and prompted health officials to issue warnings due to the smoke and ash.

People should limit outdoor activities, keep windows closed and avoid using swamp coolers which bring in smoky air. If driving in a smoky area, keep your vehicle windows and air vents closed. Air conditioning should only be operated in the “recirculate” setting.

But Gila rangers say there are still plenty of safe opportunities to enjoy the wilderness.

The visitors center and Gila Cliff Dwellings are open, and notices are posted there as to which trails are accessible. Additionally, the Forks, Grapevine, Upper and Lower Scorpion campgrounds on Highway 15 are all open. The southeastern portion of the Gila remains open to backpacking and hiking. The Aldo Leopold Wilderness is open for extended backpacking and hiking and all the camps along N.M. 152 are open.

For more information please see: http://www.fs.usda.gov/gila/

Memorial Day is Here


Summer has arrived early this year in Colorado. With the recent warm temperatures this Memorial weekend should be an active one in the mountains. Here’s a great article listing some fun activities if you’re still looking for something to do this coming weekend.


National Forests looking for Volunteers

The Pike and San Isabel National Forests and the Cimarron and Comanche National Grasslands are looking for volunteers to assist with a wide variety of activities and projects.

As budgets are tight in regards to our public lands, any help these local ranger districts can get – goes a long way. Each district has a number of different project types that can range from one-day to multi-day projects or even several months in duration. The projects can consist of trail work, volunteer as a trail ranger, campground host, animal  surveys, wilderness restoration, education and conservation efforts.

We know you’d rather be hiking, but giving back to your local wilderness can be just as satisfying. Please call one of these local districts for more information on volunteering.  Contact the individual Ranger Districts listed below:

Pueblo Supervisors Office

2840 Kachina Drive
Pueblo, CO 81008
Ph:   719-553-1400
Fax: 719-553-1440

Cimarron National Grassland

P.O. Box 300
242 East Highway 56
Elkhart, Kansas 67950
Ph:   620-697-4621
Fax: 620-697-4340

Comanche National Grassland

Carrizo Unit
P.O. Box 127
27204 Highway 287
Springfield, CO 81073
Ph:   719-523-6591
Fax: 719-523-4861

Leadville Ranger District

810 Front Street
Leadville, CO – 80461
Ph:   719-486-0749
Fax: 719-486-0928

Pikes Peak Ranger District

601 South Weber
Colorado Springs, CO 80903
Ph:    719-636-1602
Fax: 719-477-4233

Salida Ranger District

325 West Rainbow Blvd.
Salida, CO 81201
Phone:   719-539-3591
Fax:        719-539-3593

San Carlos Ranger District

3028 East Main Street
Canon City, CO 81212
Ph:    719-269-8500
Fax: 719-269-8719

South Park Ranger District

P.O. Box 219
320 Hwy 285
Fairplay, CO 80440
Ph:    719-836-2031
Fax: 719-836-3875

South Platte Ranger District

19316 Goddard Ranch Court
Morrison, CO 80465
Ph:    303-275-5610
Fax: 303-275-5642

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