Outdoors

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, September 17, 2016

Reflections on 25 years in Colorado Springs

Posted By on Sat, Sep 17, 2016 at 10:44 AM

SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Shutterstock
This past Labor Day weekend marked 25 years since my wife and I moved to Colorado Springs. We’ve never regretted it and never considered picking up and moving anywhere else.

Our move here was elective — it wasn’t the only place we investigated when looking to relocate. Our employers didn’t send us here. We didn’t have relatives here. In fact, we knew no one here. What we did know was that Springs was a beautiful town. And those mountains right THERE. You could almost touch them. The skies were blue, the air was clean, the water was clear. How could anyone not want to live here? For a kid from New Jersey who, except for a few trips to Colorado, had only been as far west as Rapid City, Colorado Springs represented everything we could want. Especially for outdoor recreation.

It’s not like we lived in the stereotypical New Jersey (“Which exit did you live near?”)…in fact we lived in a rural, heavily wooded area. But, it was, well, FLAT, humid, and buggy. And so much of it was privately owned that the opportunities for hiking, camping etc., while plenty, were nothing compared to Colorado and the Rocky Mountain west. I didn’t know how much I wanted to live in wide open spaces until I spent four years in Rapid City, courtesy of the Air Force. And I didn’t know how much I would miss those wide open spaces until my discharge and return to New Jersey.

Twenty-five years ago, the population of Colorado Springs was around 280,000. Today, it’s around 416,000. And when you take a second to think about it, it seems kind of odd that I’m writing about the great outdoors while sitting in a town rapidly approaching half a million people. But that’s what makes Colorado Springs and the west so special. On the east coast there aren’t many really big cities, but there are a whole lot of little ones. Shoulder-to-shoulder. One runs into the next, which runs into the next. You often have no idea which town you might actually be in. But here, you have a big city next to miles of almost nothing but wide open spaces.

So while we’ve seen Colorado Springs expand, sprawl and reach its tentacles further and further out, the mountains have remained largely untouched, thanks to their status as national forests. And while the city and El Paso County have grown by leaps and bounds, government officials, and, to an even greater extent, regular citizens, were able to foresee that Colorado Springs could become just another concrete jungle. Today, a development can’t be built in the city or county without a requirement for parks and open spaces and connecting them together with regional parks and trails. Visionary citizens, many still working actively in the community, saw the need to raise funds to purchase land to preserve open spaces and make sure that generations to come have plenty of land for recreation.

The opportunity for regular citizens to be involved in how the city and county governments do business, by way of various advisory boards, commissions and non-profits, is unfathomable to people who live in other parts of the country. Elsewhere, decisions are made by elected officials with little or no input from regular citizens. We don’t do everything perfectly here, but for the most part, we do things very, very well.

In our household, we’ve been (and continue to be) on planning commissions, non-profit boards, and advisory boards. We’ve had the opportunity to provide checks and balances and citizen input to our local governments. It’s a privilege other parts of the country simply do not have.

To the people who say they can’t stand it here, to the people who say it’s too expensive (as if…), to the young adults who say there is nothing to keep them here, I disagree, but I won’t berate you. You’re entitled to your opinions. Take a long, hard look at what Colorado Springs has to offer. Look at it through the eyes of someone who came from somewhere else. Sure, you’ll see things you don’t like, things that need to be fixed. But instead of throwing up your hands and complaining, try to be a force for change. And when you see things you like, be a force to make sure those good things continue and don’t fall by the wayside.

So, on the occasion of passing the 25-year mark in Colorado Springs (still in the same neighborhood we first set foot in), consider this my love letter to Colorado Springs. I recently made the statement that Colorado Springs has the best people anywhere. And I meant it.

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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Friday, September 9, 2016

Strawberry Fields trade featured in WSJ

Posted By on Fri, Sep 9, 2016 at 3:37 PM

Residents protested the city's deal to trade Strawberry Fields open space for other property owned by The Broadmoor. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Residents protested the city's deal to trade Strawberry Fields open space for other property owned by The Broadmoor.
The battle over Strawberry Fields has made it to the East Coast where the controversy is featured in a story posted on line by the Wall Street Journal.

The story looks at several examples of public property being sold or traded to for-profit interests, as was the case with the 189-acre open space called Strawberry Fields. The city traded it to The Broadmoor for several hundred acres of trails easements and wilderness land.

The deal was approved in May and in July, opponents filed a lawsuit.

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Saturday, September 3, 2016

Leave your stinkin' drone at home

Posted By on Sat, Sep 3, 2016 at 8:12 AM

nodrone.jpg
Last weekend I was enjoying some time on a dune in Great Sand Dunes National Park — basking  in the sun, taking in the sights, shooting pictures — when suddenly an irritating, high-pitched noise interrupted my quiet time. I turned around to see a drone, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), buzzing around the dunes, at one time flying low over me. It was annoying, disruptive and a violation of National Park Service rules. I wasn't happy about it, and later on I was happy to see the offending "pilot" in the hands of NPS law enforcement.  

Our parks, whether they be city, county, state or national, are designed to be places to go to enjoy the outdoors with little or no noise or harassment. They are places to get away from it all, and to that end, most park systems justifiably ban the use of drones over parks, regardless of where they're launched from.
 
I'm not a Luddite who hates new technology; far from it, actually.  But I'm a person who, like many of you, goes outdoors on the trails so I'm not bothered by outside influences. Trails without cell phone service are among my favorite trails, and I know I'm not the only person who feels this way. I certainly don't want to hear the whine of a drone while I'm in a park or on a trail.

So, here are the rules:

Colorado Springs City ordinances prohibit "...propelling of objects such as stones, arrows, javelins or model airplanes." While the ordinance doesn't specifically say "drones," the city's lawyers say they are included in this language. And there are plans to amend the city ordinance later this year to specifically include the word for the sake of clarity.

In El Paso County Parks, newly adopted rules state "It shall be unlawful for any person to launch or fly rockets, model airplanes, or drones... in any park except in designated areas set apart for such forms of recreation."  

In Colorado State Parks, park rules state "It shall be unlawful to operate radio-controlled and/or fuel-propelled models, except in designated areas." "Radio-controlled models" interpreted to include drones. Asked during a phone call, a State Parks Law Enforcement official stated flatly that the use of drones in parks is prohibited. Colorado law also forbids the use of drones in conjunction with hunting.

In an order issued in June of 2014, the National Park Service prohibited drone use over all property it controls. The prohibition, which is undergoing review and possible modification, was enacted after wildlife were harassed and drone noise disturbed visitors' enjoyment of national parks, among other transgressions.

There are exceptions to all these rules for governmental and commercial (with permit) use.  

Parks are for peace and quiet and to enjoy the outdoor experience. Don't ruin the experience with your noisy, obtrusive drone. Leave it home.

Now for a bit of road and trail closure news:

Starting September 14th, the entire length of Mt Herman Road, from Rampart Range Road on the west to Red Rocks Drive on the east, along with all trails along the road, including the popular Mt Herman trail, will be closed for maintenance.
US FOREST SERVICE
  • US Forest Service
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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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Flooded basements, piles of hail and zombies

Posted By on Tue, Aug 30, 2016 at 1:36 PM


OK, I want to talk about two things:

1) ZOMBIES!!!

2) Those two crazy storms we had Monday and Sunday that wiped out everyone's gardens, sent cars floating down the street, piled hail in people's yards deep enough to consider building snowmen, and made me really glad I don't have a basement.

What do these two things have in common? Well, actually not a whole lot. But El Paso County does host a really fun Annual Zombie Run and PrepareAthon (it's coming up on September 24) in which you are chased around by people dressed as zombies and then taught about preparing for disasters. 

The basic premise here is that if you don't know how to save yourself when a natural disaster is threatening your life then you are sort of like a zombie. Which is bad. And dangerous.

Anyway, if you want to learn some strategies to save yourself from the next major Colorado disaster and also get chased by people wearing a lot of fake blood, then you should read this:

The 4th Annual Zombie Run and PrepareAthon is Set for Sept. 24
Emergency Preparedness the Focal Point of the Event


El Paso County, CO, August 29, 2016 – El Paso County’s Bear Creek Regional Park will host the 4th Annual Zombie Run and PrepareAthon on Saturday, Sept. 24, to promote emergency preparedness.

“The PrepareAthon is not just a fun zombie run, but an event for entire families,” said County Commissioner Peggy Littleton. Littleton reminds area residents that emergency preparedness is a matter of personal responsibility because emergencies frequently cutoff communications and disrupt travel. “It is our personal responsibility to know what to do when You're On Your Own, YOYO. We each are the first responders to any event—fire, flood, power failure—and we need to be well informed and prepared.” Everyone is invited to join the zombies as children make preparedness pillowcases, Boy Scouts demonstrate how to 'live off the grid' and others provide education and tools to be prepared.”

The annual 3K run and PrepareAthon encourages local residents to understand the importance of being prepared for emergencies like the fires, flash flooding and blizzards the Pikes Peak region has seen in recent years. At home, at work, or at school, residents need to have their own specific emergency plans. The family friendly PrepareAthon offers everyone an opportunity to talk with emergency responders and vendors and learn more about emergency preparedness establishing personal emergency plans.

“The whole family can have free fun and become better prepared at the same time,” said Robin Adair, El Paso County Community Preparedness and CERT coordinator. “Everyone will find a valuable takeaway, if you’ve already well-prepared and want to take it to the next level, or if you’re just starting to pack your first emergency kit.”

The Zombie Run is a traditional 3K with minor obstacles and zombies. The runners will wear “life flags,” similar to flag football. The fully costumed zombies try to steal the flags from the runners as they move along the trail. Runners who lose flags must correctly answer emergency preparedness questions to get their life flags back. For those who like a little more fun, they can also modify their traditional running apparel to dress as zombies.

Zombie Run and PrepareAthon
Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016
Pre Registration is required for runners and zombies.
Register at www.PikesPeakZombieRun.com

Cost:

$30 for the 3K Run/Walk: Early Bird and Team discounts available.
You can also register to participate as a zombie to chase the runners for $10.

A commemorative event t-shirt is included in your registration fee.

Time: The first of multiple heats begins at 10 a.m.

Location: Bear Creek Regional Park, 2002 Creek Crossing, Colorado Springs.
The event is on the east side of the park near the Park’s Office and community garden.

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psnPVLKwmYs

PrepareAthon: is free, open to the public, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
No need to be a runner or a zombie to enjoy the PrepareAthon.
Family activities, information, & demonstrations to include:

• Emergency Responders, Vehicles, and Equipment
(fire trucks, bulldozer, bug-out car)
• Personal and Family Readiness for Disaster
• Off-grid camping and survival demonstrations
• Disaster First Aid
• Fire escape planning smoke demonstration trailer
• Backup and portable power alternatives
• Preparedness supplies and gear (plus zombie novelty items)
• Animal Readiness for domestic pets & livestock (plus petting zoo)
• Readiness Activities for children (with take-home kit)
• Community Emergency Response Team
• Community Gardeners
• Games and prizes (free stuff!)
• Hands-on Fire extinguisher practice (real flames)
Food Trucks on site

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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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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
Hike 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

Hike Beaver Creek Wilderness Study Area

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.

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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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
Hike Sharptail Ridge
Sharptail Ridge Sharptail Ridge Sharptail Ridge Sharptail Ridge Sharptail Ridge Sharptail Ridge Sharptail Ridge Sharptail Ridge

Hike Sharptail Ridge

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.

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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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

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.

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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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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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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Thursday, June 30, 2016

5 surprising facts about homeless camps

Posted By on Thu, Jun 30, 2016 at 8:14 AM

Not exactly a fun weekend in the woods: The Forest Service is finding homeless camps all over national forest lands. - COURTESY USFS
  • Courtesy USFS
  • Not exactly a fun weekend in the woods: The Forest Service is finding homeless camps all over national forest lands.

In this week’s cover story,
I wrote about the problems that homeless camps will cause this summer, as they mushroom throughout our urban park and trail systems and into our national forests. Since there’s a shortage of shelter beds, police can’t usually boot campers, as they have nowhere else to go. But having people living on the streets is anything but ideal — certainly not for the people who live in these make-shift camps, but not for those of us who are more fortunate either.

Here are some surprising facts you may not know about our local homeless population:

1) They are increasingly young.
Officer Brett Iverson, of the Colorado Springs Homeless Outreach Team (HOT Team) says that perhaps 40 percent of the people they encounter on the streets now are under 35. They also say that many of them are coming to the state for legal weed, though at least one service provider says she thinks a bigger driver is jobs.
Either way, many of the young people aren’t interested in the help service providers have to offer, and may even see homelessness as a lifestyle choice. Unfortunately, it’s likely not a safe one. The homeless can often end up as victims of crime or get sucked into unhealthy choices, like heavy drug use.

2) They leave behind tons (and tons, and tons) of trash in our wild spaces.
Between May 1, 2015 and May 30 of this year, Keep Colorado Springs Beautiful, a nonprofit that contracts with the city, collected about 22,000 tons of trash, or 164 30-cubic-yard construction dumpsters of junk from homeless camps. All of that was collected in 305 clean-ups, by 2,043 volunteers doing 12,801 hours of work. Most came from a single trail — Pikes Peak Greenway.

feature1-03-8a07cdccf963995d.jpg

3) Camps put the city at risk for another Waldo Canyon or Black Forest fire.

Everyone from Manitou Springs Mayor Nicole Nicoletta to District Ranger Oscar Martinez (who work for the U.S. Forest Service’s Pikes Peak Ranger District) cites this as a concern. The fact of the matter is, most people don’t properly put out their campfires, and homeless camps tend to have fires. On a recent tour of a popular urban homeless camping spot, this reporter personally witnessed several scorched trees near old fire pits.  Since more and more people are camping in the dry forests surrounding the city, the risk for a major fire will be high this summer.

4) There are lots of drug needles in the camps.
Dee Cunningham, executive director of Keep Colorado Springs Beautiful, estimates that the number of syringes she finds in clean-ups “has increased probably 20 times from five years ago.” She says she finds needles everywhere — on the side of trails, woven into tents. Martinez, meanwhile, says one of his staffers recently ended up with a drug needle stuck in his boot.
On a tour of homeless camps in Colorado Springs, this reporter noticed many bright orange needle caps.

5) The people who most need help are often the least likely to get it.
The HOT Team’s Iverson says there’s still a high population of people with mental illness on the streets. There are very few programs to help these people, and often those who are seriously ill will refuse help because their illness prevents them from understanding they have a problem. It’s a vexing predicament, and one that Iverson says troubles him.
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Saturday, June 25, 2016

Photo tour: Chautauqua Mountain Loop

Posted By on Sat, Jun 25, 2016 at 9:29 AM

BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
Located between the Palmer Lake town reservoirs and Raspberry Mountain, Chautauqua Mountain is largely unknown, except to local residents. Any maps that do show a trail there only show the steepest route on the peak's north side, ignoring a nice scenic trail the runs the full length of the over 1-mile-long mountain top. The views are great, and although some parts of this loop hike may be arduous, most of the hike is moderate and very pleasant.

To get there from Colorado Springs: Take I-25 to Exit 161 (Highway 105), Turn left on Hwy 105, cross back over I-25 then right at the traffic light. Continue on Hwy 105, turning left on to S. Valley Road. Bear right on to S. Valley Road immediately after turning off of Hwy 105. Turn left onto the one-way Old Carriage Road and look for the trailhead and parking at the hairpin turn at the bottom of the hill.

Slideshow
Chautauqua Mountain Loop
Chautauqua Mountain Loop Chautauqua Mountain Loop Chautauqua Mountain Loop Chautauqua Mountain Loop Chautauqua Mountain Loop Chautauqua Mountain Loop Chautauqua Mountain Loop Chautauqua Mountain Loop

Chautauqua Mountain Loop

Located between the Palmer Lake town reservoirs and Raspberry Mountain, Chautauqua Mountain is largely unknown, except to local residents. Any maps that do show a trail there only show the steepest route on the peak's north side, ignoring a nice scenic trail the runs the full length of the over 1-mile-long mountain top. The views are great, and although some parts of this loop hike may be arduous, most of the hike is moderate and very pleasant. To get there from Colorado Springs: Take I-25 to Exit 161 (Highway 105), Turn left on Hwy 105, cross back over I-25 then right at the traffic light. Continue on Hwy 105, turning left on to S. Valley Road. Bear right on to S. Valley Road immediately after turning off of Hwy 105. Turn left onto the one-way Old Carriage Road and look for the trailhead and parking at the hairpin turn at the bottom of the hill.

By Bob Falcone

Click to View 18 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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