Those of us who live full time in Colorado take a great deal of pride in our beautifully wild landscapes. So, finding anything on a trail that doesn’t belong there is disappointing. If you are headed out this summer, remember a few things to help all of us enjoy our state’s natural beauty.
Remember to take your trash with you. This also means not leaving “natural” things like apple cores and banana peels. These items are not natural to our environment and should be taken with you. Plan ahead and bring a bag to stash your trash. Don’t leave it for someone else to find.
Stay the Trail. Trails are often created so hikers avoid traps like mine shafts and other items that increase risk of injury. Certain areas, off trail can be at high risk for flash flooding, avalanches, etc. Best to stay on the trail also, so we don’t disturb the natural flora and fauna. Staying on the trail also decreases the chance you will become lost, and no one wants that!
Driving. On your way to your favorite trailhead, know there are some norms for mountain driving. Stay in the right lane if you are going slow. And if you are on a two lane road, and notice a trail of cars behind you, by all means, pull over and let others pass. No one likes a tailgater, but locals appreciate some tourists want to meander, just be mindful that some people may have perishable items from the grocery store which is 40 minutes away, or are trying to get to a destination on time. Just pull over and let them pass, simple as that. Road rage is a real things, so let others pass. No need to make other motorists upset.
Make sure your car is ready for mountain driving and always keeps abreast of the local forecast. Summer thunderstorms can pop up in a flash. And if you are traveling in an area close to a burn scar, those areas can experience deadly flash flooding in an instant.
Fido. If you plan on taking the family pet with you, know that there are also rules in place for man’s best friend. Rules vary depending on the park, with most National Parks ban pets on trails. Do your research, know ahead of time if Fido is allowed to hike with you. And if they are, and a leash law is in place, be prepared to follow it.
Not all pets are friendly, and if you come across another hiker with a pet and both are on leashes, the chance of an unwanted encounter is lessened. Pick up your pup’s poop and take it with you and don’t forget that pets get thirsty too. A portable bowl in your backpack can help your dog have as an enjoyable time as you!
And by all means, don’t forget to pick up your dog’s poop.
Our dogs will follow us anywhere, anytime, always. They don’t question our decisions, look at weather forecasts or plan how much water they need. They just continue to follow us loyally until perhaps their paws are bleeding or they collapse in exhaustion. We must be the guardians of their safety if we want to prevent their suffering.
“Search and Rescue teams stay busy throughout the year and the last thing they need is someone who made a bad decision and put them and others at risk. Know you abilities and limitations and travel safely. Study a trail map, take plenty of water and always, always tell someone where you are going. Planning ahead and making good decisions can help reduce injuries and fatalities.” Out There Colorado
SCRG had two dog rescues on Quandary this week. Both were exhausted, and one had torn pads. Their owners were caring people who weren’t hurting them on purpose, but they just didn’t realize what was happening until it was too late. Learning what your dog can handle in the backcountry is part of Know Before You Go.
Fire. Colorado is dry and this means things burn. There are regular burn bans through the state. This means no campfires, but also means banning cigarette smoking outdoors. This is why it pays to do a little research ahead of time. Forest fires destroy people homes, kills wildlife and vegetation. Know before you go what the fire restrictions are and if you do light a campfire, be prepared to fight to put it out should it get out of control.
Recently, I was hiking the Blue to Bear Lake trail and found several cigarettes butts on my way up and back. For someone who has survived a forest fire and worried everyday for over a week whether I would lose my home, seeing that someone is smoking in the forest is so frustrating. Having to pack one small suitcase of everything you value in your home and evacuate is not something I ever want to do again.
So, please do not smoke outside while in the mountains. And for God’s sake, please do not through your cigarette butts out the car window. Such carelessness could cost someone their home.
Parking. Parking at Trailheads is serious. Rules are there for a reason. Should you decide to make a makeshift parking spot, it can limit the access for Search and Rescue. Makeshift parking makes it more difficult for Search and Rescue to do their job during a time when minutes can mean the difference between life and death.
Altitude. Remember coming to an area with high elevation will most likely affect you. It’s also very dry here and getting easily dehydrated is a real thing. Give your body time to adjust. Drink lots of water, especially anything with electrolytes. If you do get an altitude headache, ibuprofen will help. And if you have difficulty breathing, you can always buy a bottle of compressed oxygen to keep close by.
Marijuana. It may be legal in our state, but there are still rules. Partaking in public spaces is still illegal and do not drive while high. If you purchase here, ask the shop owners for local rules and regulations.
Wildlife. It should go without saying that you should not try to pet or feed wildlife while here. Wild animals are just that, wild. Please keep a safe distance. Even if you think that cute deer is Bambi’s relative, they can still punch a powerful kick if you get too close. And bears, well give them a very wide berth. Do not leave food out for them. The new rule in our area is one and done. If a bear is reported harassing humans, it will be captured and euthanized. End of story. These are magnificent animals and no one wants to see them put down because someone thought it might be cute to leave them some apple cores.