Saturday, August 9, 2014

Stay on the trail!

Posted By on Sat, Aug 9, 2014 at 8:24 AM

click to enlarge SHUTTERSTOCK
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You’ve seen them — the rogue “social” trails that shortcut switchbacks or cut across fields where no park trail was intended. These trails destroy aspects of the ecosystem, whether wildflowers native to the Pikes Peak region, lichen in the upper reaches of Rocky Mountain National Park, or cryptobiotic (living) soil in Arches National Park.

Rogue trails cause erosion, create confusion for hikers — potentially causing them to get lost and require rescue — and tend to be pretty unsightly, too. What’s worse is that rogue social trails cost money.

The Colorado Springs Parks Department doesn’t have an accounting of how much time, money, equipment and supplies are expended specifically for blocking, eradicating and rehabilitation. But it should be obvious that with a finite amount of resources at hand, time and money spent fixing rogue trails is also time and money not spent on legitimate trails. And it’s not just the Parks Department’s time; the many Friends groups that work with the Parks Department spend plenty of volunteer hours working on rogue trails. In fact, with the exception of the mitigation and repair work being done to fix last year’s flood damage, the majority of labor hours spent by Friends groups goes toward fixing and rehabilitating rogue trails.

I’ve heard the arguments: “There should be a trail there,” “It’s public land, I can go wherever I want,” etc. My reply is the same I give to anyone who questions an expert: Unless you have a background, and education on par with the experts making these decisions, you don’t know better than the people making these decisions.

I’ve hiked in other parts of the country and from what I can tell, the creation and use of rogue trails is more rampant here than other places. It’s very disappointing.

You should be out there, enjoying the beautiful, diverse trails our state has to offer, but make sure they’re the legitimate, official trails.

Trail and Safety Tips:

For experienced, well-equipped hikers looking for a challenge, try these hikes:

Barr Camp via Elk Park: An easier way to Barr Camp, along a quieter trail with great views. You’ll start out above timberline and then quickly drop down. As a side trip, look for the sign and take the short (1/2-mile round-trip) to the Oil Creek Tunnel about 1.5 miles from the start. Moderate/difficult, approximately 11 miles round-trip.

Pikes Peak Summit via the Crags trail and Devils Playground: Another way to summit Pikes Peak, without the long grind up Barr Trail. It’s also less traveled and a bit more scenic, with the stretch from the Devils Playground to the summit paralleling the Pikes Peak Highway. Difficult, approximately 13 miles round-trip. (For more trail details, you can search for info on-line, or send me an e-mail.)

There are many lists of “essential” items that a day hiker/runner/cyclist should carry, but one item that’s missing from many happens to be one of the most basic needs — shoelaces! You may be able to get by without a few spare items, but if you can’t keep your footwear on, you’re going to have a miserable trip. Stow a pair of shoelaces in your pack (they don’t weigh anything), or, for a more universal approach, carry a length of parachute cord or a survival bracelet.

Bob Falcone is a firefighter, arson investigator, nonprofit board president, college instructor, photographer, hiker and small business owner who has lived in Colorado Springs for 23 years. You can follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: info@hikingbob.com.

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