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Sunday, September 25, 2016

Opinion: Manitou Springs' war on hikers

Posted By on Sun, Sep 25, 2016 at 2:02 PM

FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
For a town that is heavily dependent on tourism, many of whom are hikers, runners and cyclists, it certainly isn't putting out the welcome mat.

In case you missed it, the Manitou Springs City Council moved earlier this week to once again raise the price for parking on Ruxton Ave., this time from $5 to $10 per hour — up from only $1 per hour a year ago. Parking violation tickets will now cost you at least $70. The impetus behind the extraordinarily high parking fees is complaints from residents of Ruxton Ave. Hikers and incline users, they say, are noisy. Traffic is unbearable, and there's no place for residents to park. All are valid complaints.

Although it may seem to the contrary, city officials say the high fees aren't a money grab, but a method of decreasing traffic on Ruxton Ave., and make life easier for residents. City officials point out that they have free parking and a free shuttle on the east end of town for hikers to use. And while the shuttle is free and convenient, it's not nearly sufficient. The shuttle runs year round, but while the schedule is fine for the Incline or the adjacent Ute Pass Trail user, it's not much good for the Barr Trail hiker.

In the summer months, when Pikes Peak hikers are apt to start at or before dawn, and possibly get back at or after sunset, the shuttle doesn't start until after sunrise and stops running an hour or more before sunset. The shuttle parking lot is also inadequate during summer months, often without any available spaces during peak hours. Users are then forced to either abandon their plans to use the Incline or nearby trails or try to find a spot on Ruxton Ave., much to the dismay of local residents. For hikers who do make it at least to Barr Camp, a voucher is available that can be redeemed to Manitou Springs to get $5 of the Barr Trail parking lot fee returned, but it creates a burden on the Barr Trail user who may be on a multi-day backpacking trip on Pikes Peak.

The Barr Trail parking lot is frequently full, and Manitou Springs charges $10 per day to park there. Manitou Springs defines a "day" as from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., having set those hours based on what it determined were "safe hiking practices." How Manitou Springs determined what the appropriate "safe hiking practices" are, or why it should play a role in policing how well suited or equipped someone is for hiking the Barr Trail at any time remains a mystery. And I'm curious how the city is able to regulate the use of National Forest land.

The Incline was closed for a period of time in 2014 while the City of Colorado Springs performed several million dollars worth of improvements, and now closed again for another million dollars worth of improvements. So, while the City of Colorado Springs is working to make the Incline safe and sustainable, the actions by Manitou Springs may make the Incline less accessible to people who can't afford the higher parking fees. The is also affecting the use of the Ute Pass Trail, which was recently improved and re-routed by El Paso County. (Full disclosure: I serve as the chair-person of the El Paso County Parks Advisory Board).

Tourists will pay the high parking fee. I get it. When I'm on vacation, I will pay whatever I can afford to experience an attraction I may only see once in my lifetime. There are die-hard incline users who will pay it, or find a way to park without paying a the fee. But there will be those local area users, who also help support Manitou Springs, who may finally think that enough is enough and go elsewhere for exercise.

If Manitou Springs was truly concerned for the residents of Ruxton Ave, and also wanted to be welcoming to hikers, the city would close the street to all parking except for residents. It would increase the available parking for the shuttle and expand the hours the shuttle operates.  And if Manitou Springs wanted to stop the use of the Barr Trail parking lot by Incline users, it could close the trail connecting the lot to the foot of the incline.

One has to wonder if raising fees and fines is really the only way to cure the woes of Ruxton Ave residents.

Happy Trails!

Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, college instructor, business owner and author of Hiking Bob's Tips, Tricks and Trails, available via his website. He has lived in Colorado Springs for 25 years. Follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), Instagram (@HikingBob_CO) or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: info@hikingbob.com.
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Saturday, August 27, 2016

Let's talk about maps

Posted By on Sat, Aug 27, 2016 at 8:00 AM

BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
There are many necessities for hiking: Appropriate footwear, food, water, rain gear, flashlight, an extra layer of clothes, and maps. Want to look for a new trail to hike? Pull out a map and look for trails you haven't done yet. Are you out on a trail and want to know where the next intersection is, or want to know the name of that big mountain in front of you, or even how steep the rest of the hike is? Pull out your map.

There are many maps to choose from. Almost all state, regional and local parks have maps either at a the visitor center or via a website. But these maps are inconsistent from park to park. Some show only the barest of details — they may or may not have distances shown on them — and often do not include much of the surrounding area. These maps work for the park they're made for, but not much else.

If you're looking to hike outside of a park, such as in a national forest or a national park, you'll want a more detailed map, and there are plenty of choices. For easy-to-read maps that cover the Pikes Peak Region with turn by turn directions, the locally produced Pocket Pals maps are hard to beat. I personally carry most of these maps in my car.

The venerable and iconic Pikes Peak Atlas is a map almost everyone has. It's still available in stores, though, it hasn't been updated in a number of years, which means it's not quite as accurate as it was in the past. Trails have been closed, re-routed, or have become overgrown from lack of use, but they're still on the map. Still, The Pikes Peak Atlas is more right than it is wrong. I still carry mine.

Trails Illustrated maps, made by the National Geographic Society, seemingly cover every square mile of Colorado's public lands. The 250 assorted maps cover most of the rest of the U.S., almost all national parks and monuments, and other countries, too. As for their ease of use, they fall between the Pocket Pals maps and the Pikes Peak Atlas. They are also updated regularly, ensuring that they'll stay somewhat accurate. I have lots of these maps, and find them to be quite useful. 

But if you want to get really deep into maps, look for official U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) maps, the most detailed and presumably accurate topographical maps around. They're not the easiest to get your hands on, but now two websites offer the ability to view, customize and print USGS maps from your home computer. The customization options are many, so you'll want to spend time on the websites www.natgeomaps.com and caltopo.com to get a feel for how they work.

The USGS doesn't update maps very often, so be aware that they may not always have the most up-to-date information. Reading a detailed topographical map isn't very easy, and can be confusing. Take the time to develop your map reading skills, especially when using the USGS maps.

Happy Trails!

Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, college instructor, business owner and author of Hiking Bob's Tips, Tricks and Trails, available via his website. He has lived in Colorado Springs for over 24 years. Follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), Instagram (@HikingBob_CO) or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: info@hikingbob.com.
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Sunday, August 21, 2016

Hope swings eternal

Posted By on Sun, Aug 21, 2016 at 10:24 AM

DFREE / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • DFree / Shutterstock.com
If you were surprised by US Women’s National Team soccer goalkeeper Hope Solo’s latest vitriolic outburst, where she took a swing (several of them actually) at the Swedish women’s na tional soccer team after they unceremoniously dumped the US team out of the Olympics, suggesting that they were "cowards" because of their style of play, then you’ve not been paying attention.

Solo’s latest hissy-fit is one in a litany of toddler-esque meltdowns spanning her career. For such a seasoned campaigner, Solo being a veteran of multiple Olympics and World Cups, an inability to rein in one’s temper at 35-years-old either suggests anger management issues, straight up ignorance, or that she knows what she’s saying is highly inflammatory but simply doesn’t care. I suspect it’s a combination of all three.

It’s not worth me running through Solo’s verbal rap sheet. Anyone with access to the internet can easily find a list of her indiscretions; from her slating both her former and fellow team mates, as well as hers and other teams' coaches. What makes this latest rage so egregious, though, is that it targets an entire national team. Way to raise the bar, Hope!

It’s troubling to lovers of "the beautiful game" that not only do her comments reflect poorly on herself, her federation and her nation, but also that they are just plain wrong. And by wrong I don’t mean her opinion isn’t valid, I mean that her statement is 100% inaccurate. When you call someone a coward, your characterization better fit the definition. Solo’s did not.

Sweden beat the US with better tactics, and better execution of THEIR game plan. Sweden demonstrated discipline, togetherness and the ability to carry out their coaches wishes to a tee. The US, for all their attempts to play a different, albeit ‘prettier’ type of game, were unable to do so successfully.

One of the things that makes soccer such a wonderful sport is that there is no one way to score a goal. There is no one way to win. Tactics, strategy, technique, mentality, physicality, opportunity, luck; they all come into play during every game to some degree. A game can be won in the first few minutes, or in the dying seconds. It can be won via a monumental team effort, or by a moment of individual genius.

Though it hurts to lose, desperately so one would imagine when competing in a tournament that you are favorites to win, acting like an infant in a post-game interview does nothing to enhance your reputation, or your team's, nor is it representative of the Olympic spirit. It’s not the way the USWNT team wants to present itself either, according to fellow veteran Megan Rapinoe.

Characterizing Solo’s comments as “very disappointing,” Rapinoe went on to say, "Let's inspire, let's be badass, let's be fierce, let's be competitive. But we're gracious and we're humble, and we play the game a certain way, whether we win or lose. We've been on the winning side quite a bit, and when we find ourselves on the other side, we need to handle that graciously, and unfortunately that wasn't the case."

Why is that so hard for Hope Solo to understand?

Mark Turner is formerly of Oxford, England, but has lived in America for over 15 years, the majority of that time in Colorado. Mark enjoys playing soccer (football!), hiking and biking when the weathers good, and when the weathers rotten writing blog entries that he hopes will amuse and entertain. Mark can be followed on Twitter @melchett, or the Back Chat show on KCMJ 93.9.
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Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Incline is closed (again), and so are some others...

Posted By on Sat, Aug 20, 2016 at 11:22 AM

The Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon are this weekend, restricting access to Barr Trail and the Manitou Incline. Soon after, the Incline will close for several months for more repairs and trail improvements. For avid users of the Incline this is no doubt a cause for distress, for casual users, not so much. And for the residents of Ruxton Ave, a little respite from traffic woes.

During past Incline closures, I've made suggestions for other trails that can serve as substitutes, but nothing really can serve as a real substitute.  You can read my previous suggestions here:
A Prescription for Incline withdrawal 
Incline alternatives, and a few kid-friendly trail suggestions
Don't want to pay parking fees at the Incline? Here are your alternatives

But that's not the only local trail closure coming. The U.S. Forest Service is doing work in the Bear Creek watershed area, which will result in both permanent and temporary trail closures.  Trail 720 and Trail 668 (Foresters Cut-off and Pipeline Trails) are closed or subject to closure from mid-to-late August while new trail construction in the Bear Creek area is being conducted.  Also the very popular Trail 667/7 Bridges Trail is scheduled to be closed from September 5th through September 16 due to trail work being done above the trail.    

Finally, the National Park Service 100th Birthday celebration starts next week, with entry fees to all National Parks, Monuments and other National Park Service sites waived from the 25th to the 28th.  I wrote about Colorado's National Park Service properties a few months ago. There 's no better time to visit some of our great National Park Service sites than during the centennial celebration.

I'll be taking advantage of the free days with a special project. You'll want to keep an eye here and on the Independent's social media accounts starting next Thursday. More to come.

Happy Trails!

Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, college instructor, business owner and author of Hiking Bob's Tips, Tricks and Trails, available via his website. He has lived in Colorado Springs for over 24 years. Follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), Instagram (@HikingBob_CO) or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: info@hikingbob.com.
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Saturday, August 13, 2016

Hiking the Beaver Creek Wilderness Study Area

Posted By on Sat, Aug 13, 2016 at 10:19 AM

BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
When viewed on a map, the Beaver Creek State Wildlife Area (SWA) looks, for the most part, as though it were haphazardly drawn. It extends north and south for miles but much of it is nothing more than a line, following Beaver Creek, with the exception of a wider area at the south and the Skagway Reservoir at the north end.

As the Beaver Creek SWA winds it's way up to the reservoir, it bisects the Beaver Creek Wilderness Study Area (WSA), which belongs to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.  A "Wilderness Study Area" is an area that the BLM manages and protects as if it were an actual wilderness area, pending it's designation as a Wilderness Area, or before being released of it's status and becoming a non-protected area. There's not much in the wilderness, which is in line with it's purpose; to be a quiet, roadless area.

There are few trails in the Beaver Creek WSA, and it's remote location and lack of notoriety keep what trails are there off the radar for most hikers. These trails can be difficult to navigate and physically strenuous, but the solitude and spectacular views are your payoff — just be prepared to work hard and get wet. This hike uses the Beaver Creek Trail, Powerline Trail and Trail Gulch Trail, for a hike of about 7 miles and a bit more than 1,300-feet of elevation gain.

To get there from Colorado Springs: Take Hwy 115 south to the town of Penrose.  Turn west on Fremont County road 123 (watch for the sign on Hwy 115 for :"Brush Hollow SWA").  Take CR 123 a few miles to County Road 123, also known as Upper Beaver Creek Road, just before the intersection with Phantom Canyon Road.  Take CR 123north for approximately 11 miles to the dead-end and parking lot and trailhead. The road appears to be passable by almost any vehicle when dry.

Happy Trails!

Slideshow
Hiking the Beaver Creek Wilderness Study Area
Hiking the Beaver Creek Wilderness Study Area Hiking the Beaver Creek Wilderness Study Area Hiking the Beaver Creek Wilderness Study Area Hiking the Beaver Creek Wilderness Study Area Hiking the Beaver Creek Wilderness Study Area Hiking the Beaver Creek Wilderness Study Area Hiking the Beaver Creek Wilderness Study Area Hiking the Beaver Creek Wilderness Study Area

Hiking the Beaver Creek Wilderness Study Area


By Bob Falcone

Click to View 14 slides




Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, college instructor, business owner and author of Hiking Bob's Tips, Tricks and Trails, available via his website. He has lived in Colorado Springs for over 24 years. Follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), Instagram (@HikingBob_CO) or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: info@hikingbob.com.

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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Warhammer 40,000: Conquest: A head-to-head battle for distant planets

Posted By on Sun, Jul 31, 2016 at 9:21 AM

NATE WARREN
  • Nate Warren
You’ll be forgiven for thinking what’s pictured here looks none too exciting. Just a bunch of cards, right?

Wrong. These are two factions locked in pitched battle for planets in a far-flung sector of the ludicrous and — if you are secretly 12 years old, like me — alluring universe of Warhammer 40,000.

Warhammer 40,000: Conquest puts its own spin on head-to-head strategy games like Magic: The Gathering by letting two players fight a head-to-head battle using decks of cards, each one with unique abilities that can be played at the right time or in concert with other cards to clobber your opponent.

The neat part? Unlike Magic, the makers of W40K Conquest followed the template of their other living card games (LCGs); all the army decks are available to the entire market and are released in identical sets, meaning that your kids don’t have to go broke snapping up booster packs in hopes of getting rare or unique cards.

This game sold out at Gamer’s Haven so fast two years ago that I never even got my reserved copy. A year later, I snagged one and recently spent an afternoon trying it out with two buddies. There was a nine-pound brisket in the smoker, plenty of beer and plenty of time to explore the wrinkles of this game. Yeah, we were messing a bunch of stuff up and having to check the rulebooks all the time, but we still knocked out several games that afternoon. (Since so much of what happens is determined by the ability of each card, we were always getting into weird situations that the basic rules didn’t seem to cover.)

Learning a game can be more fun than mastering it. We were in the ecstatic throes of discovery, trying our hand at commanding the six armies that come with the base set: Space Marines, Chaos Space Marines, Eldar, Dark Eldar, Tau and Imperial Guard, each one with unique cards that enable different strategies. (Once the vanilla decks get dull, there’s a guide to customizing them. And that doesn’t even scratch the surface. Look at all the expansions Fantasy Flight has put out since the game’s release.)

As commander of one of these factions, it’s your job to contest your opponent for control of a series of planets in the middle of the table. You take turns deploying various units and assets to one of five available planets, resolving battles and claiming victories until you’ve won battles on three planets with a matching symbol, you’ve killed your opponent’s warlord card or your opponent has exhausted his or her deck.

The fun started after we’d gotten our heads around the basic mechanics and began to discover some of the sneaky crap you can pull with these cards — and how much nuance an experienced player could put into his or her approach. We were like cubs in our first springtime, charging over one hillock only to see a new vista each time. We probably got six or seven games in. (Some of our matches were over in 20 minutes, which gave us ample opportunity to try a different army or play the same army with a slightly refined approach.)

Am I any good at this game? No. I suck. But I do know I’m going to play the bejeezus out of this thing every chance I get. If you have a head count of two and a few afternoons figuring out the wrinkles, W40K Conquest has a huge amount of strategic variety and brisk gameplay to offer.

Nate Warren is a Colorado Springs-based copywriter who offers both the veteran gamer and the uninitiated a local window into the burgeoning and wildly creative world of hobby and designer board games enjoyed by fanatics and connoisseurs — around the corner and and across the globe.
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Saturday, July 30, 2016

Lots of outdoor happenings in August

Posted By on Sat, Jul 30, 2016 at 9:11 AM

Nymph Lake at sunrise, Rocky Mountain National Park - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • Nymph Lake at sunrise, Rocky Mountain National Park

August is a couple days away, and kids are starting school soon (whatever happened to school starting after Labor Day?). But summer outdoor events are far from over.

August 1st is Colorado Day, the anniversary of Colorado becoming a state. Entry fees to all Colorado State Parks are waived for the day. Take advantage of it to visit that state park you've wanted to visit, but haven't gotten to yet. 

If you're active duty military or a military veteran, entry fees to all Colorado State Parks is waived for the entire month of August. You'll need to bring documentation to a State Park or Wildlife office to get a special pass, and CPW recommends doing it before your visit.  

As I wrote earlier this year, 2016 is the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. Entry fees to all National Parks, Monuments and other sites operated by the NPS are waived on the NPS birthday weekend from August 25th thru the 28th. This is a great opportunity to visit one of Colorado's many National Parks and Monuments.

Dome Rock State Wildlife Area, bordering the south side of Mueller State Park, has great trails, many with great views. Much of it is closed for over seven months of the year to protect big horn sheep that breed there, but the entire area was re-opened for use in mid-July. It's not only a great place for summer hikes, but the fall foliage there from mid-September to early October is some of the best in the area. Don't delay going there, however, much of it will close again December 1st.

To get there: Take state Highway 67 south from US 24 in Divide for approximately 4.5 miles and turn right onto County Road 61 (4 Mile Road). Continue down 4 Mile Road to the marked entrance to Dome Rock State Wildlife Area.

And finally, if you have been procrastinating doing the Manitou Incline, do it soon. It'll close August 22nd for repairs and improvements and will not reopen until December. 

Happy Trails!

Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, college instructor, business owner and author of Hiking Bob's Tips, Tricks and Trails, available via his website. He has lived in Colorado Springs for over 24 years. Follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), Instagram (@HikingBob_CO) or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: info@hikingbob.com.
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Saturday, July 23, 2016

Photo tour: Sharptail Ridge

Posted By on Sat, Jul 23, 2016 at 11:14 AM

BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
Located adjacent to Roxborough State Park north-west of Castle Rock, the Sharptail Ridge Trail is a delightful hike among tall, wild grasses over gently rolling hills. Part of the Douglas County Open Space system, the trail cuts through the far southeast corner of Roxborough State Park, and intersects with other trails. This blog describes the hike going from the trailhead, at the north end of the trail to Douglas County Road 5, and back, for a round trip hike of about 8 miles. This is a kid- and family-friendly trail.

Note: The trail is closed periodically in the fall by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, so I suggest you call Douglas County Open Space at 303-660-7495 before venturing out in the fall months, Also, no pets of any kind are allowed on the trail.

To get there: Take I-25 north to the Founders Parkway exit in Castle Rock and turn west (left). At Santa Fe Drive (Hwy 85), turn north (right). Exit at Titan Road and turn left. After approximately 2.miles, turn left onto Roxborough Park Road and take the gravel road south for approximately 3.7 miles to the trailhead/parking lot.

Slideshow
Sharptail Ridge
Sharptail Ridge Sharptail Ridge Sharptail Ridge Sharptail Ridge Sharptail Ridge Sharptail Ridge Sharptail Ridge Sharptail Ridge

Sharptail Ridge



By Bob Falcone

Click to View 13 slides



Happy Trails!

Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, college instructor, business owner and author of Hiking Bob's Tips, Tricks and Trails, available via his website. He has lived in Colorado Springs for over 24 years. Follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), Instagram (@HikingBob_CO) or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: info@hikingbob.com.
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Friday, July 22, 2016

Local DNC (and Sanders) delegate speaks out before his journey

Posted By on Fri, Jul 22, 2016 at 10:45 AM

MIKE MADAY
  • Mike Maday
Mike Maday, a Colorado Springs resident and prominent activist in the Democratic party, has agreed to provide the Independent with some reports next week as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

But after watching the Republicans this week, capped by Donald Trump's acceptance speech Thursday night, Maday felt compelled to file his first thoughts before making the weekend trip to Philly. His observations:

Now that the Republican National Convention dumpster fire has burned out, I’m looking forward to representing Colorado Springs as a Bernie Sanders delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia next week. The RNC in Cleveland was a crazy mixture of anger, hate, bigotry, disorganization and no new ideas.

Good speeches articulating a conservative vision that, by the way, I disagree with, but were clear statements of conservative principles, were ignored or booed.

In my geeky prep for the RNC, I listened to Tricky Dick Nixon’s acceptance speech from 1968 in Miami Beach and it sounded like he had the same speech writer as Trump: “I am the law and order candidate!”

Democrats get together next week to articulate a very different philosophy that supports individual freedom but also honors the importance of our obligations to each other and the fact that we are always stronger together.

Democrats have a had a very spirited nomination process. I’m looking forward to voting for Bernie Sanders at the DNC and supporting Hillary Clinton to beat Trump in the fall. While Bernie and Hillary disagreed on some issues, Democrats overwhelmingly see eye to eye on nearly all the important ones.

This is my third DNC in a row. The DNC is a lot more diverse, star-studded, intellectually stimulating and uplifting than the RNC. But the main reason those of us elected as delegates are going to Philly is to launch the effort to stop Trump and his hatred. I’m looking forward to helping with this effort, adding to my button collection and to blogging about what I see from the floor of the convention and the streets of Philly next week.

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Saturday, July 16, 2016

Photo tour: Hike Cheesman Canyon

Posted By on Sat, Jul 16, 2016 at 9:44 AM

BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
Winding its way on along the Jefferson County side of the South Platte River, the Gill Trail through Cheesman Canyon is a pleasant hike with great views, good fishing and plenty of solitude.

To get there from Colorado Springs: Take US 24 to Hwy 67 in Woodland Park, Turn right (north) and take Hwy 67 for 23 miles to Deckers. At Deckers, keep left onto County Road 126 and take it approximately 4 miles to the Cheesman Canyon Trailhead, on the left side of the road. The trail starts at the east end of the parking lot, near the bathroom.

This hike can also be done as a two car shuttle. Turn left off of County Road 126 onto Forest Service Road 211 (it will be the road just prior to the trailhead on 126) and take it to the Upper Canyon parking lot at the reservoir. Return to County Road 126, and turn left a short distance to the Lower Canyon lot.

Slideshow
Hike Cheesman Canyon
Hike Cheesman Canyon Hike Cheesman Canyon Hike Cheesman Canyon Hike Cheesman Canyon Hike Cheesman Canyon Hike Cheesman Canyon Hike Cheesman Canyon Hike Cheesman Canyon

Hike Cheesman Canyon



By Bob Falcone

Click to View 16 slides



Happy Trails!

Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, college instructor, business owner and author of Hiking Bob's Tips, Tricks and Trails, available via his website. He has lived in Colorado Springs for over 24 years. Follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), Instagram (@HikingBob_CO) or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: info@hikingbob.com.


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Sunday, July 10, 2016

The most important lesson in life

Posted By on Sun, Jul 10, 2016 at 9:13 AM

Judy and Gisela on their wedding day at The Edgewood Inn in Woodland Park, Colorado. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Judy and Gisela on their wedding day at The Edgewood Inn in Woodland Park, Colorado.

Ten years ago, my wife Cathy and I were enjoying dinner out with our then 18-month-old daughter Abby at Saigon Cafe downtown. Abby was sitting in a high chair, trying unsuccessfully to eat noodles and generally making a mess. She was also chatting away and being adorable.

Near the end of our meal, two ladies, Judy and Gisela, approached our table and passed a folded origami boat to our daughter. Abby was smitten. We were smitten, too. Abby’s antics had thoroughly entertained them, and they invited her to attend the Giving Tree Montessori School, a school they founded.

Judy plays the guitar and sings with the children during circle at the Giving Tree Montessori School. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Judy plays the guitar and sings with the children during circle at the Giving Tree Montessori School.

Ten years later, all three of our children have attended the Giving Tree and graduated from kindergarten there.

This summer, Cathy and I photographed Judy and Gisela's wedding at The Edgewood Inn in Woodland Park.

We celebrated with them and many other parents who enrolled their children at The Giving Tree and also became close friends with Judy and Gisela. And over the years we’ve watched our children blossom at their school.
Judy during a field trip with the kindergarten class to Mueller State Park. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Judy during a field trip with the kindergarten class to Mueller State Park.

The most important lesson Judy and Gisela's taught and modeled for our children was a very simple one — Love is love. Love for a child, love for a parent, love for a spouse — it all comes from the same place, our hearts.

And throughout our lives, love for another must be nurtured and cared for. Love, they taught, is a fundamental quality of life. It's what make us human!

I witnessed their lessons and photographed them; The peace picnic, the soup feast, the Elk watch, the camping trip, the kindergarten graduation, all were imbued with a sense loving kindness for one another.

Gisela blesses my son Jacob at his kindergarten graduation at the Giving Tree Montessori School. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Gisela blesses my son Jacob at his kindergarten graduation at the Giving Tree Montessori School.

This is what Judy and Gisela taught and it is what my children will carry with them for the rest of their lives. We are all human and we all know in our hearts how to love one another.

Colorado Springs-based wedding photographer Sean Cayton loves remarkable photographs and the stories behind them. See his wedding work at caytonphotography.com, his personal work at seancayton.com and his editorial work in the pages of the Independent. Submit your photo and the story behind the image — no more than two a week, please — to sean@caytonphotography.com for consideration in upcoming blogs.

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Saturday, July 9, 2016

This is the weekend for wildflower hikes!

Posted By on Sat, Jul 9, 2016 at 8:00 AM

Columbines - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • Columbines
As you've no doubt noticed, wildflowers are popping up all over the Pikes Peak region. I've been watching the wildflower conditions and I think this is the perfect weekend to take a wildflower hike.  Many varieties of flowers are in bloom, and some, such as sunflowers, are just starting to show up.

These are my choices for easy, kid- and family-friendly hikes to make the most of the wildflowers you'll see on the trails this week.

Obviously, this isn't an exhaustive, all-encompassing list, so don't be upset if I miss your favorite place — wildflowers are ubiquitous in Colorado, the higher elevations are just starting to bloom. The following hikes are all kid- and family-friendly — check each site for dog rules — and I have done all of them within the past week to be able to offer the most up-to-date information.

Palmer Park: Any trail inside the park will give good results, but the Yucca and Mesa Trails on the Mesa, at the northwest corner of the park, has prickly-pear cactus, spiderwort, salsify, Paintbrush, Morning glory and more.

Morning Glories - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • Morning Glories
Mariposa Lily - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • Mariposa Lily























Red Rocks Canyon Open Space:
Like Palmer Park, almost any trail is good here, but my favorite for wildflowers is the Sand Canyon Trail, especially towards the far south end. Prickly-pear cactus, Paintbrush, Mariposa Lily, Morning Glory and Golden Pea are all in bloom.

Cheyenne Mountain State Park: On a recent hike on the Talon, South Talon and North Talon trails (about 7.5 miles if you do all three), I observed Prickly-Pear cactus, Mariposa Lily, Spiderwort, Mountain Harebell, King's Crown, Chiming bells, wild Roses, wild geraniums, Paintbrush, asters, thistle, Morning Glory and more. Also one of the most scenic trail routes in the area and not nearly as crowded at most city parks. Entrance fees do apply. 

Prickly Pear Cactus - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • Prickly Pear Cactus

Aiken Canyon Preserve: The 3.5-mile loop trail has a little bit of everything. Prickly-pear cactus, Mariposa Lily, Morning Glory, Paintbrush and fields of various white and yellow wildflowers. Open Saturday, Sunday and Monday only.  

Wild Rose - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • Wild Rose

Rainbow Gulch/Rampart Reservoir: Often overlooked, but also often one of the best places to see a wide variety of wildflowers, Rainbow Gulch is my top choice for wildflower viewing this weekend. On a hike there a few days ago, I saw Irises, wild geraniums, wild roses, Columbines, Salsify, sunflowers of various varieties, paintbrush, shooting stars, cinquefoils, harebells, Mariposa Lily and many other flowers. 

Happy trails and flower viewing!

Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, college instructor, business owner and author of Hiking Bob's Tips, Tricks and Trails, available via his website. He has lived in Colorado Springs for over 24 years. Follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), Instagram (@HikingBob_CO) or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: info@hikingbob.com.
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What have EU done for me lately?

Posted By on Sat, Jul 9, 2016 at 7:21 AM

exit.png
The most significant shock waves in a generation were sent through Great Britain on Thursday, June 23rd, when the public voted on a referendum to decide if Britain were to remain in or leave the European Union (EU). Britain voted and the ‘Leave’ campaign, aka "Brexit," won out by a narrow 52 to 48 percent margin. The referendum debate was highly charged, reflected in the number of voters who participated — the highest turnout since the 1992 general election.

What were the perceived pros and cons of remaining in or leaving the EU?

The EU consists of 28 member countries who shared a single economic market, based on a standardized system of laws that apply to all of its members. EU policies and legislation, to which all member countries must adhere, aim to ensure the unrestricted movement of people, goods, services, etc. within that market. The EU also has a currency component, the Euro, though not all members use it, perhaps most notably Britain which continues to us their own currency, the Pound.

On the pro-side of the referendum house, people have argued that leaving the EU is a regressive and a damaging step for Britain in a variety of ways; affecting open trade routes and citizens' ability to travel freely through EU countries. Employees are able to live and work in EU nations, and passport-less recreational travel is easy and affordable for EU citizens.      

On the con-side, much has been said about the 350 million Pounds that Britain gives the EU every week (which the Guardian and others say is actually more like 248 million Pounds), and how that money could be better invested in the National Health Care System and other Britain-based services. These frustrations are often cited as a reason to remove Britain from outside governing influences. One can certainly sympathize with that argument when considering the US Declaration of Independence contains 1,300 words, the US Constitution 4,543, and the EU's regulations on the sale of cabbages stands at a whopping 29,911!

Though these frustrations do illicit sympathy for the "Leave" campaign, the undercurrent of racism that has characterized their movement is far more disturbing. Prominent ‘Leave’ campaigners, chief among them former UKIP leader Nigel Farage, have generated a litany of speeches, quotes and sound-bites of chest-beating nationalism. Very little consideration is given to, or compassion shown for, anyone arriving on British shores in search of a better life. The anger directed towards "those people coming over here and taking all our jobs" is tangible — sound familiar? — even to me, way over here in America.

Since the EU vote, this anger is manifesting itself in an increase in attacks on immigrants, even British citizens who happen to not look like their white countrymen. This hate has been flushed out and stoked up to a large degree by the "Leave" victory — that's what concerns me most.

It's tragically ironic that on the 100-year anniversary of one of the most infamous battle of World War 1, the Battle of the Somme, when over half a million European soldiers died in defense of an alliance of nations and shared values, Britain now appears to prefer a position of isolation over unification.

Mark Turner is formerly of Oxford, England, but has lived in America for over 15 years, the majority of that time in Colorado. Mark enjoys playing soccer (football!), hiking and biking when the weathers good, and when the weathers rotten writing blog entries that he hopes will amuse and entertain. Mark can be followed on Twitter @melchett, or the Back Chat show on KCMJ 93.9.
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Saturday, July 2, 2016

Enjoy a safe, clean and enjoyable camping trip

Posted By on Sat, Jul 2, 2016 at 8:56 AM

SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Shutterstock

Camping, hiking and backpacking are great American activities, and many will likely be doing one or maybe all of these this July 4th weekend.

As reported in this week's Independent, a number of factors are contributing to heavy use of our national forests and other public lands. In general, and regardless of the reasons, our public lands and outdoor recreation are enjoying a great amount of popularity these days. While I have no doubt that the vast majority of users respect the environment and the people who work hard to keep our forests and open spaces clean and sustainable, there are still problems. Some are due to plain old maliciousness, some due to apathy, and some due to a lack of knowledge.

Whether you've been camping before or not, now seems to be a good time to go over some tips on responsible camping. If you’re new to camping and not sure what the “do’s and don’ts” are, don’t feel bad. We’ve all been there.

Simply speaking, being a responsible user of our lands means to treat them as you treat your own home. Actually, take it a step further and treat the outdoors better than your home. Remember, you’re a guest, not the owner of the land.

I could go on, but instead I’ll leave you with a couple of really good links:
Here is what the U. S. Forest Service has to say about responsible recreation. And from Tread Lightly, of which I am a Charter Member, here are the "Top 10 Ways to Minimize Impact When Camping in the Outdoors". Finally, I'd suggest checking out the good people at Leave No Trace, the Center for Outdoor Ethics before you reach your campsite.

Go out and visit our public lands this weekend. Enjoy the holiday, and the outdoors, but most of all, be safe and responsible.

Happy Trails!

Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, college instructor, business owner and author of Hiking Bob's Tips, Tricks and Trails, available via his website. He has lived in Colorado Springs for over 24 years. Follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), Instagram (@HikingBob_CO) or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: info@hikingbob.com.
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Sunday, June 26, 2016

On your next vacation shoot it wide

Posted By on Sun, Jun 26, 2016 at 9:34 AM

Cathy enjoys ice cream with the kids in Silverton. A wide lens allows you the room to make group shots on a bustling street. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Cathy enjoys ice cream with the kids in Silverton. A wide lens allows you the room to make group shots on a bustling street.
Vacations are a great excuse for practicing your photography. I love to travel with my family, but it can be hard bringing all of my camera equipment along. If we’re pressed for luggage space — like we were on our recent camping trip — I will bring just one lens, my wide lens.

I love to use the wide lens — typically wider than 35mm — more than any other on vacation. My go-to is a Canon 17-40mm F/4 ultra wide angle.

The reason I like shooting with this lens while on vacation is that I can easily capture a sense of place.

Moreover, I can create really interesting compositions with a wide lens — placing people and objects somewhere within the frame that draws your attention and leads you through the picture.

Last weekend, we went camping on Colorado’s Western Slope and took a drive from Ouray to Silverton. We stopped and visited the Box Canyon Waterfall in Ouray and saw the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad depart from Silverton.

Tourists talk with an engineer on a Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad steam engine departing from Silverton. Shooting with a wide lens from far away allows me to frame the engine within the landscape; in this case a high altitude mining town with deep blue skies. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Tourists talk with an engineer on a Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad steam engine departing from Silverton. Shooting with a wide lens from far away allows me to frame the engine within the landscape; in this case a high altitude mining town with deep blue skies.

I’ve selected photographs from our trip to illustrate how shooting with a wide lens works. Do you notice the objects in each image that attract your attention?

An orange door leads to an old mine along Highway 550 outside of Ouray, Colorado. Photographing with a wide lens allowed me to put the door in context with the rock face looming above it. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • An orange door leads to an old mine along Highway 550 outside of Ouray, Colorado. Photographing with a wide lens allowed me to put the door in context with the rock face looming above it.

A portrait of Cory, a steam engine engineer for the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, as he waits for passengers to get on the train in Silverton, Colorado. Making portraits with a wide lens allows me to provide more context and to tell a story with a single picture. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • A portrait of Cory, a steam engine engineer for the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, as he waits for passengers to get on the train in Silverton, Colorado. Making portraits with a wide lens allows me to provide more context and to tell a story with a single picture.
A family portrait of my wife Cathy with daughter Abby, 11,  and sons Harper, 8, and Jacob, 6, on the floor of the Box Canyon Waterfall in Ouray, Colorado. Photographing them with a wide lens allowed me to add a sense of scale to the picture. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • A family portrait of my wife Cathy with daughter Abby, 11, and sons Harper, 8, and Jacob, 6, on the floor of the Box Canyon Waterfall in Ouray, Colorado. Photographing them with a wide lens allowed me to add a sense of scale to the picture.

You can also use the "Rule of Thirds" to great effect with a wide angle lens. See my earlier column on this compositional rule of thumb

My sons Harper, 8, and Jacob, 6, stand on the staircase descending to the floor of the Box Canyon Waterfall in Ouray, Colorado. The staircase was almost as interesting as the waterfall and light bouncing off the walls of the canyon combined with the mist from the waterfall made for an interesting photograph. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • My sons Harper, 8, and Jacob, 6, stand on the staircase descending to the floor of the Box Canyon Waterfall in Ouray, Colorado. The staircase was almost as interesting as the waterfall and light bouncing off the walls of the canyon combined with the mist from the waterfall made for an interesting photograph.

An American black swift nest with an egg in it sits precariously on a cliffs edge at the Box Canyon Waterfall in Ouray, Colorado. I used my wide lens and composed the picture using the rule of thirds. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • An American black swift nest with an egg in it sits precariously on a cliffs edge at the Box Canyon Waterfall in Ouray, Colorado. I used my wide lens and composed the picture using the rule of thirds.

Abby holds Jacob's hand as they walk over the trellis leading from the Box Canyon Waterfall in Ouray, Colorado. The photograph conveys a sweet moment and a sense of place all in one. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Abby holds Jacob's hand as they walk over the trellis leading from the Box Canyon Waterfall in Ouray, Colorado. The photograph conveys a sweet moment and a sense of place all in one.

By shooting your vacation pictures with a wide lens and using careful composition, you can really show off the locations that you visited, and print and display your images much larger. They become works of art, rising above the typical vacation photo.

Hope this tip helps you photograph your next vacation! 

Colorado Springs-based wedding photographer Sean Cayton loves remarkable photographs and the stories behind them. See his wedding work at caytonphotography.com, his personal work at seancayton.com and his editorial work in the pages of the Independent. Submit your photo and the story behind the image — no more than two a week, please — to sean@caytonphotography.com for consideration in upcoming blogs.
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