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HIKE ROCKY m a ga z i n e Vol. I, Issue 8 July, 2021

a publication of


HIKE ROCKY We are having an old-fashioned summer with regular a ernoon thunderstorms and heavy rains that almost turn into gully-washers before they move out onto the eastern plains. And the wildflowers are responding in abundance, filling the hillside with a mosaic of colors. We are in a pocket of moisture not being experienced elsewhere in the west. It is as if we are in a dream.

In this issue, we are celebra ng the Year of the Tundra! We con nue to dream up new and exci ng material for your reading pleasure. Marlene Borneman takes us up into the alpine tundra and onto our bellies to have a look at the ny world of alpine flowers. Jason Van Tatenhove tells us more about that magical world. And Barb Boyer Buck takes us on a walk down the Tundra Communi es Trail, while I journey up the Lawn Lake Trail and above the treeline. Meanwhile, Murray Selleck gives us a review of a water purifier system to make sure we stay hydrated while on the trail. We con nue our diverse stories with ar st Laura Young, while Sco Rashid examines Colorado’s bird count. Be sure to try out the alpine wildflowers quiz and catch up with all the latest news from The Park. Enjoy! Dave Rusk, Publisher

Top: Alpine Avens on the Tundra at Medicine Bow by Darlene Bushue; Darlene also provided the feature photo for this month!

Cover photo: Pamela Johnson took this amazing photo of Old Man of the Mountain Flowers on Rocky’s Tundra. Her statement: “I am a third genera on Colorado na ve living in Westminster. Living so close to Rocky is truly a blessing and great therapy for the mind, body and soul. I enjoy wildlife and nature photography and Rocky gives me the opportunity to learn all about the flora and fauna of this magnificent park. I have been coming up to Rocky since the 1970's and no ma er how many mes I hike a certain trail or drive Trail Ridge Road - every day is a new adventure where I'm always discovering new things.” HIKE ROCKY Magazine is a publication of Barefoot Enterprises, LLC, and RockyMountainDayHikes.com, Estes Park, Colorado. HikeRockyMagazine@gmail.com Volume 1, Issue 7, July 15, 2021 Copyright 2021, all rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without prior written permission is prohibited. Publisher: Dave Rusk Managing Editor: Barb Boyer Buck Copy Editor: Sybil Barnes Sales: Cynthia Elkins Contributors to the June, 2021 edition: Scott Rashid, Marlene M. Borneman, Barb Boyer Buck, Dave Rusk, Murray Selleck, Pamela Johnson, Darlene Bushue, and Jason Van Tatenhove


a note from the managing editor Welcome to July in Rocky! For the past decade or so, this me of year has been inordinately busy in RMNP so I’ve stayed away from the most popular spots - but not this year! The Park’s med-entry reserva on systems is really loosening up traffic which makes for an enhanced visitor experience. Don’t have a reserva on? Head up before 9 a.m. or a er 3 to visit most of the Park. You’ll need to get up and in the Park by 5 a.m. (or a er 6 p.m.) to see Moraine Park and the Bear Lake Corridor. There’s so much to experience in RMNP right now!

call for submissions Here at HIKE ROCKY magazine, we welcome quality content from writers and photographers who love Rocky Mountain Na onal Park as much as we do! Email your story idea and/or photos to HikeRockyMagazine@gmail.com to be considered for publica on and to inquire about what we pay to our contributors. HIKE ROCKY is a collabora on, con nually seeking to involve our online community!

cover photo contest Each month, we will feature a cover photo from a photographer who lives and breathes Rocky Mountain Na onal Park. Photo submissions must be received by the end of the month to be considered for the following month’s cover. The photo must have been taken in Rocky, not previously published (except for social media), and be seasonal. The winner will receive a cash prize, free access to the edi on that features his or her photo, and online promo on. A hint about what we are looking for to grace our cover every month is included in our weekly email blast. To sign up for no fica ons, visit: h p://rockymountaindayhikes.com/hike-rocky-emailno fica on-page.html - Barb Boyer Buck, Managing Editor, HIKE ROCKY


CELEBRATING THE YEAR OF THE TUNDRA

table of contents

click on any of the links below to be taken straight to the story

Alpine Widlowers Quiz, by Marlene Borneman

RMNP UPDATES COVER STORY

News from Rocky Mountain National Park, June 16 - July 15

Rocky Mountain Alpine Flowers by Marlene Borneman

HIKE ROCKY Trail of the Month: Lawn Lake Trail (with video) The Tundra Communities Trail by Barb Boyer Buck (with video) A review of the Grayl Geopress Purier by Murray Selleck (with video) A Journey up the Roaring River to Lawn Lake with reections on the Lawn Lake Flood, by Dave Rusk

ART IN ROCKY

A Nature Journal in Rocky, a demonstration by artist Laura Young, by Barb Boyer Buck (with video)

FEATURES Feature Photo: Pika with a Mouthful, by Darlene Bushue Low Bird Numbers in Colorado, by Scott Rashid RMNP’s Alpine Tundra by Jason Van Tatenhove Devastated by Fire, part two by Barb Boyer Buck (with video) Coming next month in HIKE ROCKY


Alpine Beauties by Marlene Borneman

The fragile and stunning beauty of Rocky’s tundra wildflowers, at their peak this month, is a glorious sight. Can you recognize some these less common alpine flowers? The answers are sprinkled throughout this issue. Remember, do not walk on the tundra and/or pick wildflowers in Rocky! Inspired by the Colorado Na ve Plants Society.

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RMNP UPDATES

Body found near the Loch and more RMNP news Photo of the trail to the Loch by Dave Rusk

Editor’s note: the following are reprints of RMNP news releases, issued between June 16 and July 15, 2021. Body Recovery In The Loch Area Of Rocky Mountain Na onal Park RMNP Update - June 20, 2021 Late Friday a ernoon, June 18, park rangers were no fied that a woman’s body was discovered below the ou ake of The Loch in Rocky Mountain Na onal Park. The body was no ced by park visitors in the drainage below the outlet of The Loch. Park rangers a empted to reach the loca on on Friday night, but lightning storms and darkness hampered those efforts. On Saturday, June 19, Rocky Mountain Na onal Park Search and Rescue Team members were again hampered by weather while conduc ng field opera ons. Today, Sunday, June 20, thirty-eight RMNP Search and Rescue Team members were involved, twenty-eight of which were in the field. The woman’s body was extricated up 60 feet through steep, rocky, hazardous terrain to the Loch Vale Trail and then wheeled out by li er to the Glacier Gorge Trailhead.

Her body was transferred to the Larimer County Coroner/Medical Examiner’s Office. She has been posi vely iden fied as a 33-year-old female from Arvada, Colorado. The woman’s name will be released a er next of kin are no fied. As is standard protocol the incident is under inves ga on. Swi Water Incident In St. Vrain River At Rocky Mountain Na onal Park RMNP Update - July 1, 2021 Yesterday, a 45-year-old woman from Oklahoma fell into the St. Vrain River approximately one mile from the Wild Basin trailhead in Rocky Mountain Na onal Park. She slipped on wet rocks and was swept about 100 feet downstream under some large logs before she was able to pull herself up on a variety of log debris. Rocky Mountain Na onal Park Search and Rescue members arrived on scene and assisted her from the log. She was on the south side of the river, so no rescuers or swi water teams had to deploy in the water.


hold in 2020. One of its main purposes is to provide public transporta on, very reasonably priced, from Denver to mountain communi es. This summer, the Bustang will be opera ng on weekends only, beginning the fourth of July weekend. CDOT will have a maximum of two buses with capacity of 50 individuals per bus.

This photo shows the spot where a 45-year-old woman slipped into the St. Vrain River on June 28.

Members of Estes Valley Fire Protec on District – Dive and Swi water Rescue Team, Boulder Emergency Squad and Allenspark Fire Protec on arrived on scene to assist RMNP Search and Rescue Team members, if needed. The woman’s condi on was assessed by park rangers and she walked out with team members. She was further evaluated by Estes Park Health at the trailhead and declined transport by ambulance. Mountain streams can be dangerous. Visitors are reminded to remain back from the banks of streams and rivers. Rocks at streamside and in the stream are o en slippery and water beneath them may be deep and will be extremely cold. Provide proper supervision for children at all mes, who by nature, tend to be a racted to water. Powerful currents can quickly pull a person underwater.

Clarifica on on Bustang service from Denver to Estes Park Rocky Mountain Day Hikes & HIKE ROCKY magazine reached out to RMNP for clarifica on on several ar cles we've seen lately, claiming that Bustang will connect with the "free Hiker Shu le" which we were told was not running this year. This clarifica on is what we received: "The CDOT Bustang service began in 2019 and was on

The bus(es) will arrive at the Estes Park Visitor Center (EPVC) on weekends. A connec ng shu le will be available only on those weekends for those passengers on the Bustang who are interested in visi ng the park. In 2019, about 50 percent of riders were interested in visi ng the park, the rest explored Estes Park and supported our local economy. That separate bus will go directly to the Park & Ride where those passengers will then board park shu le buses depending on whether they want to access the Bear Lake Route or the Moraine Park Route. There will not be mul ple runs back and forth. One trip into the park per Bustang bus (so two total into the park), and two trips back to the Estes Park Visitor's Center - one at 2 p.m. and one at 4 p.m. on those weekend days for Bustang riders. An entrance pass is required for those riding the Bustang who wish to con nue into the park, but a med entry permit is not required.


damage to the trails. Pressure treated logs are being used to rebuild burned staircases, retaining walls and turnpikes. On the west side of the park, the North Inlet Trail has reopened. On the east side of the park, the Fern Lake Trail has reopened, however the Spruce Lake Trail remains closed. The Mill Creek Basin area has reopened including the Hollowell Park Trail to Bierstadt Lake, as well as the Mount Wuh/Steep Mountain junc on from the Cub Lake Trail. These specific trails experienced significant impacts during the East Troublesome Fire. Park visitors should be aware of addi onal hazards when recrea ng in these burn areas including: Burned-out stump holes where the ground may be weak and unstable Unstable dead trees, especially in windy condi ons Loose rocks, logs and rolling debris Flash flooding and significant debris flow possible in burn areas Dry, hot condi ons with li le forest canopy to provide shade Ninety-four people are working in the park on repairing burn area trails this summer. Fi y are Rocky Mountain Na onal Park trail crew members, and four are from the Na onal Park Service Southeast Utah Group. Assis ng the Na onal Park Service include forty addi onal crew members; one crew is from the Rocky Mountain Conservancy Fire Corp, one crew from the Larimer County Conserva on Corp and one crew from the Rocky Mountain Youth Corp based in Steamboat Springs. Footbridge materials being flown from helibase on the west side of Rocky Mountain Na onal Park on June 7, 2021. Photo courtesy RMNP

Due To Efforts Of Many Addi onal Trails In Rocky Mountain Na onal Park Reopen A er East Troublesome Fire Impacts RMNP News Release - July 2, 2021 Addi onal trails have reopened in Rocky Mountain Na onal Park, as park staff con nue to address impacts from the East Troublesome Fire. Crews have removed down trees and replaced and repaired bridges and trail stabiliza on materials. Many bridges and replacement material, like pressure treated logs, were prefabricated over the winter. These items were flown in this spring to expedite re-opening of areas and limit further

For the most current status of trails, including maps, please visit h ps://www.nps.gov/romo/learn/fireinforma on-and-regula ons.htm On Wednesday, October 21, the East Troublesome Fire ran approximately 18 miles before it moved into the west side of Rocky Mountain Na onal Park, and then spo ed approximately 1.5 miles from the head of Tonahutu Creek on the west side of the Con nental Divide to the head of Spruce Creek on the east side of the Con nental Divide. Rapid evacua ons took place in Grand Lake on October 21. Evacua ons for the majority of the Estes Valley were implemented on October 22, as weather predic ons forecast major winds on the night of October 23 through October 24 pushing the fire further to the east. Firefigh ng ac ons and favorable


weather on October 24 and 25, helped halt the major movement of the East Troublesome and Cameron Peak Fires. Approximately 30,000 acres or 9 percent of Rocky Mountain Na onal Park has been impacted by the East Troublesome and Cameron Peak Fires. Rocky Mountain Na onal Park’s non-profit partner, The Rocky Mountain Conservancy, is accep ng dona ons to support the park’s future restora on efforts from this

View of the Alpine Visitor's Center and several elk from Old Fall River Road in 2020. Photo by Barb Boyer Buck

public lands in Colorado, including Rocky Mountain Na onal Park, along with con nued Covid-19 concerns, ongoing park seasonal staff shared housing challenges, reduced shu le bus capacity and residual fire impacts in some areas of the park from historic fires in 2020. There are two types of reserva ons. One reserva on permit is for the Bear Lake Road Corridor, which includes the en re corridor and access to the rest of the park. This reserva on period is from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. The second reserva on permit is for the rest of Rocky Mountain Na onal Park, excluding the Bear Lake Road corridor. This reserva on period is from 9 a.m.to 3 p.m. and includes Old Fall River Road and Trail Ridge Road. Permits issued using the reserva on system allow park visitors to enter the park within two-hour windows of availability. The reserva on system applies to all areas of the park. Timed entry reserva ons are full for the month of July. However, twenty-five percent of reserva on permits are being held and available for purchase the day prior at 5 p.m. through recrea on.gov. These con nue to sell out quickly and visitors are encouraged to plan ahead when possible. For more informa on and a link to recrea on.gov visit h ps://www.nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/ medentry-permit-system.htm

Old Fall River Road Will Open To Vehicles Saturday July 3 Travelers Are Reminded To Plan Ahead For Timed Entry Reserva on Permit System RMNP News Release - July 2, 2021 Old Fall River Road will open to vehicles on Saturday, July 3. Old Fall River Road normally opens by fourth of July weekend. Old Fall River Road was built between 1913 and 1920. It is an unpaved road which travels from Endovalley Picnic Area to above treeline at Fall River Pass, following the steep slope of Mount Chapin’s south face. Due to the winding, narrow nature of the road, the scenic 9.4-mile route leading to Trail Ridge Road is oneway only. Vehicles over 25 feet and vehicles pulling trailers are prohibited on the road. Travelers should plan ahead for Rocky Mountain Na onal Park’s pilot temporary med entry permit reserva on system which began on May 28. Park staff are managing for significant increases in visita on to

Fern Lake Road Will Be Closed For Emergency Road Work RMNP UPDATE - July 8, 2021 The Fern Lake Road has reopened from the winter turnaround to the Fern Lake Trailhead. RMNP UPDATE - July 7, 2021 Tomorrow, Thursday, July 8, and poten ally Friday, July 9, the Fern Lake Road will be closed beyond the winter turnaround to all uses. The park’s road crew will be replacing a culvert that was damaged during the East


Troublesome Fire and received further damage during recent heavy rains. For more informa on on Rocky Mountain Na onal Park please visit www.nps.gov/romo

followed by a ques on and answer session. The recorded links to these mee ngs are available at h ps://www.nps.gov/romo/ge nvolved/day-usevisitor-access-strategy.htm The content was the same for both mee ngs. This Pre-NEPA (Na onal Environmental Policy Act) phase is a step in the long-range planning process but not the end, there will be more opportuni es for public involvement looking at more developed strategies ahead. Pre-NEPA planning allows park staff to define the issues and their impacts as well as explore possible ways to address those issues. At the end of the preNEPA planning, park staff will have ini al input and reac ons from the public on our iden fied issues and possible ways to address those issues.

Public Input Requested On Long-Range Day Use Visitor Access Strategy In Rocky Mountain Na onal Park First Phase Of Comments Taken Through July 19 RMNP New Release - July` 12, 2021 ocky Mountain Na onal Park staff are seeking the public's engagement and input on the park's long-range Day Use Visitor Access Strategy. "We are eager to con nue engaging with our stakeholders and connect with park visitors from near and far, to help iden fy shared values, clarify key issues, and begin to develop poten al management strategies to help the park prepare for our long-term day use strategy" said Park Superintendent, Darla Sidles. "We hope to hear from current park visitors as well as those who have told us they no longer visit Rocky Mountain Na onal Park because of crowding and conges on." Public comments are invited for sixty days which began on May 21 through July 19, 2021. In May, the park hosted two virtual mee ngs regarding this strategy. The mee ngs provided opportuni es to learn more about the purpose of the project, key issues, desired condi ons for day use visitor access, poten al management strategies, ask ques ons of Na onal Park Service staffand get informa on on how to provide formal wri en comments through the Planning, Environment and Public Comment (PEPC) website. Each webinar begans with a presenta on,

Rocky Mountain Na onal Park has experienced a 44 percent increase in visita on since 2012. Rapid growth in day use visita on and changing use pa erns in the park have degraded natural and cultural resources, diminished quality of the visitor experience, increased visitor and staff safety concerns, and created a heavy strain on the park's facili es and ability to perform daily opera ons. The purpose of the Rocky Mountain Na onal Park long-range Day Use Visitor Access Strategy is to provide visitor access in a way that enhances the protec on of the fundamental resources and values for which the park was created. The goal of the process is to iden fy strategies that will help protect park resources, offer varied opportuni es for high quality visitor experiences, enhance visitor and staff safety, and coincide with the park's opera onal capacity. Park staff encourage public par cipa on throughout the planning process. There will be addi onal opportuni es to comment formally on the project during the future NEPA process. Public comments for this stage are invited for sixty days beginning May 21 through July 19, 2021 by visi ng h ps://parkplanning.nps.gov/ROMO_Duvas


Click on "Open for Comment" on the le side of the screen. Then select, "Day Use Visitor Access Strategy Power Point Presenta on." Comments may also be sent to the following mailing address: Superintendent Rocky Mountain Na onal Park 1000 US Highway 36 Estes Park, CO 80517 Before including your address, phone number, e-mail address, or other personal iden fying informa on in your comment, you should be aware that your en re comment – including your personal iden fying informa on – may be made publicly available at any me. Although you can ask in your comment to withhold your personal iden fying informa on from public review, we cannot guarantee we will be able to do so.


COVER STORY

Rocky Mountain Alpine Flowers

“The alpine tundra is a land of contrast and incredible intensity, where the sky is the size of forever and the owers the size of a millisecond.”

Mountain meadow full of Arrowleaf Ragwort

while at the same me teaching them about fragile alpine ecosystems. Her studies became known worldwide and influenced public policy in the protec on and preserva on of alpine tundra.

- Ann H. Zwinger and Beatrice E. Willard, Land Above the Trees story and photos by Marlene Borneman In 1959, American botanist Beatrice E. Willard began studying the alpine tundra with great passion and intensity. Her goal was to document the recovery of the alpine tundra following human impacts. Her studies led Rocky Mountain Na onal Park to construct permanent walkways to popular viewpoints along Trail Ridge Road to keep visitors from trampling the tundra Mountain thistle, Sky Pilots, and Alpine Sunflowers


S ll located at the Rock Cut today is a scien fic plot used to con nue studies on the many variables impac ng tundra ecosystems. The paved Tundra Communi es Trail, a 0.6 round trip, offers an opportunity to see the fragile plant life. Besides human impacts, other threats to the tundra include climate change and airborne pollutants. With one-third of Rocky composed of alpine tundra, it is worth acquiring knowledge about the extraordinary plants that not only live but thrive in alpine communi es. Alpine refers to high al tude, in Colorado star ng between 11,000-11,500 feet. It is a life zone that is absent of trees but abundant in miniature flowering plants. There are two types of tundra: arc c tundra and alpine tundra. Arc c tundra is where the subsoil is permanently frozen all year called permafrost. Alpine tundra is the type found in the park. Alpine tundra is depicted by high eleva ons, cold temperatures for extended periods, and strong winds and storms with a very short growing season. So how do these ny plants survive in this harsh environment? Alpine Sunflower, or Old Man of the Mountain

Alpine cushion plants in a fellfield


Alpine Forget-Me-Nots

Moss Campion

Alpine plants are characterized as hardy and resilient, survivalists that have adapted to the challenges of the extreme cold, winds/storms, short growing season and o en drought condi ons. In fact, alpine plants are leaders in adapta on. These plants hug the ground so when high winds and storms appear they simply blow over the plants but do not blow them down. Long, deep tap roots allow these plants to search for water and keep the plants anchored to the thin soil. Fine hairs can cover the leaves ,the stems, the flowers that capture heat and moisture. These hairs also fend off injurious insects that may cause harm and act as a sunscreen in the intense sun. Old Man of the Mountain, also known as alpine sunflower, is a good example. This flower is covered with white, long, woolly thick hairs, thus its name Old Man of the Mountain referring to an old man's beard. It is a monocarpic plant, meaning it takes many years to mature, then blooms once and dies. The tundra consists of several plant communi es. Fellfields are fields of rocks on tundra slopes where winds are strong. Cushion plants grow here hugging the ground finding warmth between the rocks. Moss campion, alpine forget-me-nots, alpine s tchwort are common plants growing in fellfields. Snowbeds are where snow persist late into summer. Hardy plants can start growing even under snow. The alpine bu ercup starts its growth under the snow o en blooming through the snow. Some plants prefer to find a home in boulderfields where large boulders toppled over each other crea ng pockets of soil and shelter for plants. Steeper talus and scree slopes that have

Fellfield, or field of rocks, on the tundra

weathered down smaller rocks are where plants find just enough soil to plant their feet. Their roots actually help stabilize these ever-moving slopes. Alpine meadows are created by rolling hills in the tundra. Here the winds are less fierce and there is more soil to spread out. Taller plants can grow in these wider spaces. The arrowleaf ragwort thrives in alpine meadows and o en spreads out in large bunches. Marshes and bogs exist in the tundra ecosystem. They are created when there are slopes at the bo om of mountains where mel ng snow or springs feed the ground most of the summer. Plants that revel in wet and cold live here. Marsh marigolds, globe flowers and alpine laurel are a few examples. Rocky shows off a few unique alpine flowers. The Rocky Mountain Blue Columbine, also known as the Dwarf Alpine Columbine, is endemic to Colorado. It is an


uncommon flower to see in the alpine making it special when found. The flower has blue sepals with white petals and blue spurs at the ps. It is a small plant growing two to eight inches. The alpine columbine o en hides under the shelter of boulders and rocky cliffs. Another member of the Aquilegia genus that is uncommon to see in the park is the Western Red Columbine. This delicate columbine Is found only on the west side of the park. The moss gen an is rare to see in Rocky because of its ny size and characteris c of closing at the slightest cloud cover. The nodding saxifrage and the weak saxifrage can be elusive. These plants like to grow among rocky outcroppings and are o en un-no ced. There are a couple of na ve orchids that grow in the subalpine and alpine. The common white bog orchid can be found in alpine where the ground is wet and moist. The exquisite Hooded Lady's Tresses orchids prefer the higher eleva ons of the subalpine. Marsh Marigolds in an alpine marsh

Rocky Mountain Blue Columbine, or Dwarf Alpine Columbine


The elusive Moss, or Pygmy Gen an

Rocky Mountain Na onal Park is celebra ng The Year of the Tundra Campaign in 2021. What does this mean? In carrying on Beatrice Willard's remarkable accomplishments, the park has increased educa on and awareness of the fragile tundra ecosystem that is such a dis nc ve feature of the park. The volunteer group Tundra Guardians along with Rangers are out in the alpine tundra areas interac ng with visitors to increase understanding of protec ng the fragile ecosystem so future genera ons can enjoy. There are new signs: Tundra Protec on Area, Closed along Trail Ridge Road where the tundra has been overused and plant life destroyed. Recovery may take hundreds of years. Tundra revegeta on projects are also underway. It is be er late than never to take ac on in caring for this remarkable

Marlene has been photographing Colorado's wildflowers while on her hiking and climbing adventures since 1979. Marlene has climbed Colorado's 54 14ers and the 126 USGS named peaks in Rocky. She is the author of Rocky Mountain Wildflowers 2Ed, The Best Front Range Wildflower Hikes, and Rocky Mountain Alpine Flowers, published by CMC Press. She has created the alpine flower quiz for this issue of HIKE ROCKY magazine.

FRONT COVER PHOTO

CONTEST Did you know? Each month, we hold a front cover photo contest for anyone who wants to par cipate! Click here to sign up for no fica ons about what we’re looking for, each month!


Colorado wildowers Spring through fall, Colorado’s dazzling display of wildflowers charms and some mes overwhelms. These guidebooks make flower iden fica on easy; the compact size is perfect for hikers and backpackers.

This guidebook showcases 22 trails filled with na ve wildflower species across five life zones. Trail descrip ons include habitats and interes ng dbits on each flower, along with lis ngs of na ve flora, common and scien fic names. •

• •

Marlene Borneman has been photographing Colorado's wildflowers while on her hiking and climbing adventures since 1979. Marlene has climbed Colorado's 54 14ers and the 126 USGS named peaks in Rocky. Purchase Marlene’s books at the Rocky Mountain Conservancy or the Colorado Mountain Club Press.

All summer, the alpine tundra of Rocky Mountain Na onal Park awakens from winter sleep with an incredible display of wildflowers. The harsh environment has a short growing season and the plants must make the most of it with a showy presenta on.

22 of the best wildflower hikes • along the Front Range, Colorado Springs to Fort Collins (and RMNP) A wide range of hikes - from family- • friendly to challenging • Complete trail descrip ons including color photos and maps

Wildflowers are grouped by color and subdivided as plant families. Both common and scien fic names are provided to avoid confusion. Addi onal help comes from the informa on on life zones, habitat, characteris cs, and season. •

Covers 128 of the alpine tundra’s most common wildflowers Detailed photos for easy iden fica on The latest classifica ons for serious wildflower lovers

• • • •

Inden fies 180 of Colorado’s most common wildflowers Revised with latest classifica ons Organized by color and plant families 220 photos for easy iden fica on Superb educa onal tool for all ages


TRAIL OF THE MONTH

The Lawn Lake Trail Our Trail of the Month, the Lawn Lake Trail, gains eleva on quickly out of the parking lot through upper montane forest for about 1/4 of a mile before reaching a precipitous overlook of the Roaring River where you can see the damaging effects from the Lawn Lake Flood that happened nearly forty years ago. At about 1.3 miles, the trail to Ypsilon Lake branches off the main trail, crosses the Roaring River, and travels

Lawn Lake; all photos by Dave Rusk

mostly through lodgepole pine before arriving at the subalpine lake. The main trail to Lawn Lake con nues to follow the Roaring River, traveling through subalpine forest of Engelmann spruce and subalpine fir. Beyond Lawn Lake, an unimproved trail rises above treeline and travels in alpine terrain to Crystal Lake, encircled with the north side of Fairchild Mtn, providing a drama c backdrop.

Lawn Lake

Lawn Lake, miles from trailhead: 6.3 miles Trailhead: Lawn Lake Beginning Eleva on: 8,540' Des na on Eleva on: 11,007' Total Eleva on Gain: 2,467' Total Roundtrip Miles: 12.6 RMDH Trail Guide link: h ps://www.rockymountaindayhikes.com/lawnlake-longer-hikes.html

Lawn Lake Trailhead

Screenshot of GPSMyhike map to Lawn Lake

Globe Flowers & Rosy Paintbrush

Showy daisies


Ypsilon Lake Distance from Trailhead: 4.7 miles Trailhead: Lawn Lake Trailhead Eleva on: 8,540' Des na on Eleva on: 10,599' Total Eleva on Gain: 2,180' Total Roundtrip Miles: 9.4 RMDH Trail Guide link: h ps://www.rockymountaindayhikes.com/ypsilonlake-longer-hikes.html

Photos, clockwise from top le : Ypsilon Lake; Waterfall at Ypsilon Lake; screenshot of the GPSMyHike map to Ypsilon Lake; on the trail to Ypsilon Lake; view of West Horseshoe Park from the Lake Ypsilon Lake Trail.


Crystal Lake Distance from Trailhead - 7.5 miles Trailhead: Lawn Lake Trailhead Eleva on: 8,540' Des na on Eleva on: 11,525' Total Eleva on Gain: 3,219' Total Roundtrip Miles: 15 RMDH Trail Guide link: h ps://www.rockymountaindayhikes.com/crystallake-challenge-hikes.html

Photos, clockwise from top le : Approaching Crystal Lake with Mount Fairchild in the background; Crystal Lake with Greenback Cu hroat Trout (catch and release only, with a valid fishing license); screenshot of the GPSMyHike map to Crystal Lake; Mount Fairchild reflected in Crystal Lake.


Watch a hike to Lawn Lake and Crystal Lake on July 8! Click on the photo above.

Crystal Lake

Subalpine Larkspur

Milbert's Tortoiseshell bu erfly


The Tundra Communities Trail Reading the interpre ve signs along the trail is highly recommended.

story and photos by Barb Boyer Buck Trailhead: Rock Cut Parking Lot on Trail Ridge Road Beginning Eleva on: 12,050 Eleva on Gain: 260 feet Roundtrip Distance: 1 mile Gaining 1,000 feet in eleva on on Trail Ridge Road is similar to driving from Mexico to the Arc c Circle. That's something to contemplate. Many of the alpine plants growing in Rocky's tundra are also found far north, on similar landscapes in Canada, Alaska, and Siberia. I learned this from one of the first interpre ve signs you encounter along the Tundra Communi es Trail, a short (half a mile) hike that gains 260 feet at an eleva on of 12,050 feet above sea level. This may seem like an easy hike, but at this al tude, it can feel similar to hiking a

Do not step onto the tundra and pets are not allowed.


June 5, 2021

June 5, 2021

much greater distance. The al tude causes its own problems, with UV exposure twice what it is at sea level and there's less oxygen in the air above treeline, making you work harder for every breath. Virtually everyone huffs and puffs up that half-mile, and the interpre ve signs are a great excuse to catch your breath and learn something new. This is the perfect me to walk the Tundra Communi es Trail; the alpine wildflowers are at their peak and the weather is generally very mild. Remember, at this eleva on weather moves in very quickly. You should not leave your car when traveling above treeline if there is any lightening. It's a science lesson when you walk this trail, one that cannot be experienced in any other American na onal park to this extent. If you read all the signs, you will learn about ecology, geology, and the wonderful wildlife that make their home in this vast, unforgiving landscape. Millions of years ago, the rolling hills of Rocky's tundra were under a primordial sea and then, plains of permafrost during the Ice Age. Tremendous mountainbuilding forces brought this landscape to the top of the Rocky Mountains. Glaciers filled Forest Canyon 1,000 feet deep, and when they receded, they helped carve out valleys and created alpine lakes. Winds of more than 100 miles per hour sweep snow clear from this exposed landscape, crea ng 30-foot dri s on Trail Ridge Road. But this me of year, it's green and lush and filled with a wide variety of plant and animal life. The wildflowers are very ny, some

June 27, 2021

Alpine Phox (blue), Alpine Avens (yellow), and Dwarf Clover (pink)

unique to Rocky's tundra and others that have adapted into a new species in order to survive the high winds which can take place any me of the year. We have several ar cles on the tundra in this issue of


Click on the photo above to watch a video of a walk on the Tundra Communi es Trail!

HIKE ROCKY, so I won't repeat that informa on, but do yourself a favor and stop at Rock Cut next me you're on Trail Ridge Road. If the weather is good, take the walk and learn about this amazing landscape, on top of the world. It can snow any me of the year up there, so wear layers. Stay hydrated and watch for signs of al tude sickness. If you are in physical distress, descend to

lower eleva ons immediately. At the end of the hike, on a large rock forma on, there are two plaques installed. A memorial to Roger Toll, former superintendent at three na onal parks including Rocky, and a round map, the Trail Ridge Mountain Index, describing the mountain ranges visible from that point and how far away they are. While climbing on rocks is extremely common at the end of the trail, it can be very dangerous. Be sure not to step onto the tundra and try to avoid lichen – these plants are very old and help to erode the rock.

The Roger Toll memorial plaque and the Trail Ridge Mountain Index


It's very important that you stay on the trail when visi ng Rocky's tundra. Many of these plants are hundreds of years old and can take just as long to recover. Enjoy your hike on the Tundra Communi es Trail and learn something new about this amazing landscape!

Dwarf Clover

Alpine Phlox

Barb Boyer Buck is a professional writer, journalist, editor, photographer, playwright, and researcher who lives in Estes Park. Barb is the managing editor of HIKE ROCKY online magazine. Alpine Bluebells near the trailhead


Water Chances? a review of the Grayl Geopress Water Purifier

story and photos by Murray Selleck What kind of chances are you willing to take with your health drinking directly from a clear running mountain stream? With the Grayl Geopress Purifier the chances of you becoming sick with giardia or some other form of water-born nas ness is eliminated. With a Grayl Geopress Water Purifier all you have to do is fill, press, and drink. No fuss. No muss. No chemicals. No ba eries. No boiling. In about 8 seconds you have purified water. It really doesn’t get much easier than that. Drinking cold refreshing mountain water is one of the greatest simple pleasures of hiking and backpacking. Nothing is as sa sfying or adds to your experience like quenching a high al tude thirst with water that doesn’t even come close to resembling downstreammetropolitan-tap water. There is a choice when it comes to trea ng your backcountry drinking water. You can purify it or filter it.

The Grayl Geopress is a water purifier. It eliminates bacteria, protozoa, and viruses. Filters only eliminate bacteria and protozoa. Grayl increases the level of your drinking water protec on by purifying water. Another incredible benefit of the Grayl Geopress is it eliminates heavy metals like lead, arsenic, and chromium. Colorado is famous for its mining history. Who knows from where or what sorts of health hazards might be leaching into our mountain streams from these old abandoned mines. Grayl purifiers also take out micro-plas cs, sediment, and silt from your water. Of course, when you are trea ng your drinking water you should always try and begin with the clearest source water you can find. Silty or muddy water will reduce the life of the Grayl cartridge as it will with any water filter on the market today. The Grayl purifies water with non-woven ceramic fibers, posi vely charged ions, and powdered ac vated carbon.


a

Click on the photo above to see a demonstra on of the Grayl Geopress Water Purifier!

The ceramic fibers and ion exchange trap bacteria, protozoa, viruses. The ac vated carbon absorbs chemicals, heavy metals, odors, and unwanted flavors. I’m not a scien st or design engineer and I won’t claim for a heartbeat that I understand the technology, however, I do know the end result. You’re le with worry free, clean, purified water that tastes like mountain water should. The Grayl works pre y much like a french press. Fill the outside container with the untreated water. Turn the drinking cap open a half twist to vent air as you press the inner cartridge down. Use body weight leverage to press the inner press/cartridge slowly through the dirty water. About eight seconds will do the trick. Once the inner press hits bo om you’re done. Drink up! The Grayl Geopress will purify 24 ounces of water with each press. That’s just shy of a liter. Really the only considera on I can find with the Geopress is when you’re backpacking and trea ng enough water for end-of-the day cooking, drinking, and clean up. If you’re trying to make enough bulk water for a group that may be a bunch of presses. However, having said that you just weigh the benefit against the effort I believe the benefit of purified water wins out.


Grayl makes two models of purifiers, the Geopress and Ultralight. Both are easy to carry and pack. If you are on a fast and light trip or casual day hike go with the Ultralight. Bigger days that require more water more o en carry the Geopress. If you like to travel the world the Grayl is perfect for you, as well. Rusty spigots, suspect hostels and sketchy watering holes are no match for the Grayl. Why take chances with your water? There is no simple answer to the ques on of how much backcountry water is contaminated with water-born bacteria and viruses. Just because a stream is running clear does not mean it is free of contaminants. Most of us have had conversa ons with fellow hikers and backpackers who say they have been drinking water directly from backcountry creeks and streams for years and never have become sick. That is all well and good for them. On the other hand, I have never been struck by lightning and I sure don’t plan on being on top of a 14er with dark clouds and thunder all about. Precau ons and good planning are always prudent for the mountain traveler. I’m not ready to rely on luck when it comes to my drinking water. What are the chances? Murray Selleck moved to Colorado in 1978. In the early 80’s he split his me working winters in a ski shop in Steamboat Springs and his summers guiding on the Arkansas River. His career in the specialty outdoor industry has con nued for over 30 years. Needless to say, he has witnessed decades of change in outdoor equipment and clothing. Steamboat Springs con nues to be home.

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A journey up

the Roaring River to Lawn Lake Overlooking West Horseshoe Park from the Lawn Lake Trail.

story and photos by Dave Rusk This is it! The peak hiking season is upon us. Skiers may wait for the deep snows of winter, but I wait for the deep greens of the meadows and the tundra, the flows of snow melt and the colorful displays of wildflowers. Gazing upon our mountain peaks, there's a summer me flush of green with white patches of snow. The days are long now. The morning air cool and delicious. It's me to hit the trail! A er our wonderful moist weather of May, we did endure a week of hot and dry weather and people were star ng to whisper about hoping for more moisture; it's truly amazing how fast condi ons can dry out around here. That was also the week, while everyone around town were opening their doors and windows to the warming mountain air, that the ponderosas started to

On the Lawn Lake Trail

release their pollen, leaving a thin layer of yellow pixie dust over everything! You can blame the male pine cones for that. Each pine tree produces both female and male pine cones. The larger, more familiar looking pine cones are female. It's the smaller male pine cones, clustered together on branches, that are responsible for ge ng their pollen everywhere. As the pollen is released, the wind ensures that it reaches as many different trees as possible, along with everything on my desk top! It can take 300400 years for a ponderosa to reach its stately maturity. Recently however, our weather has fallen into a more tradi onal pa ern of beau ful clear blue sky mornings

Male pinecone spreading pollen


Mummy Mountain

take a picture of Mummy Mtn, thinking that the few small clouds floa ng serenely about the lower flank of the mountain, were picturesque. A half an hour later, those innocent li le clouds had grown to form a wet blanket over the en re upper Lawn Lake basin, hiding the high peaks. I con nued on, wai ng to see if rain would follow and listening for any thunder. Male and female pinecones from the same tree

followed by a ernoon thunderstorms. Just the way our forests like it, the ponderosas look healthy and happy so far this summer. With a ernoon thunderstorms popping up seemingly out of nowhere, I checked the weather map on the morning of my planned hike up to Lawn Lake and was chagrinned to see the weather service had placed a dark cloud with a lightening bolt right over where I planned to hike. I made sure my rain gear was packed. But when I got to the trailhead that morning at 7:30, it was hard to imagine any sort of rain or thunderboomers upse ng my day, there was nothing but blue skies and a perfect temperature for hiking. I scampered up the trail, ge ng a jump on a crowd of teens gathering in the parking lot and preparing for a group hike with camp counselors. The trail gains some quick eleva on and then follows the Roaring River 6.3 miles to Lawn Lake at 11,000'. About half way through my hike at 9:00, I stopped to

But the clouds held their moisture as I approached the lake. Taking a rest on a log where I could have a snack, I gazed upon the scene and watched some people fishing along the lake shore. Even though I was a good 20 yards from the edge of the lake, it appeared the level of the water had at one me reached where I sat. And at one me, it probably had. In the year 1900, Colorado was only 24 years old and farming in the state was trying to become an industry. Along with it came a high demand

Approaching Lawn Lake


Marsh Marigolds near a small stream

All along the Roaring River, the damage created by the dam break in 1982 is evident.

The Roaring River and Lawn Lake

for water and in 1902, the Farmers Ditch and Reservoir Company formed, looking to construct dams at high mountain lakes in order to control the flow of water through the growing season to the many sugar beet farmers on the high plains, trying to eke out a living. There were as many as 19 dams built within the area that is now Rocky Mountain Na onal Park, with their first project at Lawn Lake completed in 1911. A er the Park was established in 1915, many of these dammed up lakes remained in private hands and the earthen dam at Lawn Lake was enlarged in 1931, although the project was never approved by a state engineer. In the intervening years, many people con nued to enjoy camping and fishing at the lake (including myself on a family backpack trip in the early 70's) un l the morning of July 15, 1982. That night, people camping at the lake reported hearing what sounded like strong winds, even though the skies were clear to the stars at daybreak. Then, at approximately 5:30 am on the 15th, a leak that had started to form a piped-shaped cavity near the outlet valve of the earthen dam in the night, suddenly eroded a gash large enough to drive a truck through, rapidly releasing an enormous volume of crystal clear mountain water down the Roaring River drainage. People camped downriver reported seeing a 20-30 foot wall of water. “I started to hear a sound like an airplane,” Steven Cashman, one of the campers along the Roaring River, later described. “Also, there were loud booms. It got louder and louder. I thought it was breaking the sound barrier. I kept looking for a plane, but couldn't see one. I got suspicious and started to look upstream. I saw trees crashing over and a wall of water coming down. I started to run as fast as I could for high ground. There was a deafening roar. I fell and got up and kept running. I stood on high ground and watched it wipe out our campsite. It knocked everything in its path over; Steve didn't stand a chance.” His camping companion was one of three campers that died that day. I ventured out on the s ll remaining earthen dam and looked down at the gash where the dam failed almost 30 years ago, trying to imagine how the catastrophe began. “Geomorphic and sedimentologic evidence suggest that it probably was the largest flood in these basins, at least since the retreat of the glaciers several thousands of years ago,” according to a 1986 US Geological Survey report. The impact from the failure of

Globe Flowers on the trail to Crystal Lake and Lawn Lake


Marsh Marigolds

Old Man of the Mountain or Alpine Sunflower

this rela vely small dam was “much larger than many engineers would have expected and was catastrophic in its geomorphic effect,” the report concluded. 30 million cubic feet of water reached the Town of Estes Park three hours later, causing President Ronald Reagan to issue a Presiden al Disaster Declara on. I stood there, with the clouds hanging low, and looked down stream to where all the sediment spread out, then back up across the lake where the level of the dammed lake was s ll visible, a bathtub ring they call it. The reservoir was in use for about 70 years, but I es mated it would take much longer than that for nature to reclaim the area. My gaze raised over the lake and further up the valley in the direc on of Crystal Lake. I checked my me. As long as the weather stayed in the clouds, I decided I would see how far I could go for another hour and a half before turning back. 1.2 miles later, I was perched Sky Pilot Wildflowers


on the rocks that enclosed Crystal Lake, listening to the piercingly beau ful song of a White-crowned sparrow in an otherwise subdued alpine terrain. While clouds swirled ominously on the summit of Fairchild Mountain, but at the lake it was peaceful and calm. For a brief moment, the clouds broke apart and allowed patch of blue sky to open up overhead.

Dave Rusk has been sauntering and taking photographs through Rocky Mountain Na onal Park for decades. He is the author publisher of Rocky Mountain Day Hikes, a book of 24 hikes in Rocky, and the website of the same name. He is the publisher of HIKE ROCKY Magazine and an important content contributor to all of these endeavors.

A portable introduc on to 24 trails in Rocky Mountain Na onal Park, these trails range from very short, easy walks to long and more challenging hikes. Purchase here

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Li le Crystal Lake

Crystal Lake

GPS Myhike

a field of Globe Flower and Alpine Aven above Lawn Lake.


ART IN ROCKY

All There is to See Laura Young’s artistic journey by Barb Boyer Buck Thwarted at every turn because she is red/green color-blind, Laura Young's development as an artist was difficult. She always knew she wanted to be one, but her parents, teachers, and counselors put seeds of doubt into her mind. She was the first person in her family of origin who went to college, so her parents encouraged her toward something more “practical.” Her art teachers were astounded at her failures with color – she can't see many of them - and tempered her passion with personal stories about how they thought they were good artists, but ultimately, not good enough. When she took an art class in her first year at college, the professor suggested she drop the class because she wouldn't be able to do the color exercises. Discouraged, Laura did not create art for the next 10 years. A grey jay at Lawn Lake


A Nature Journal in Rocky is a produc on of

HIKE ROCKY magazine July, 2021 Music: “The Kid Who Played Alone,” by Marcos H. Bolanos. © 2021, Barefoot Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Click on the photo above to Laura Young’s demonstra on on Trail Ridge Road!

She was born in rural West Virginia, but her family moved to Fort Collins when she was in elementary school. She still lives there and she loves to draw in Rocky Mountain National Park, so I filmed her doing a pencil drawing of one of the stunted trees on the tundra on Trail Ridge Road. In this video, she explains her artistic development and some of the many challenges she faced as she honed her cra . From her bio: “Laura feels that her upbringing in the American West, a place that's renowned for its rich geological heritage, dramatic vistas and varied wildlife, has informed her art in ways that might not have happened otherwise.” "I'm especially interested in areas of rapid transition and how we, as humans, are adding or detracting from the natural beauty around us. Making art is my way of slowing down and purposefully appreciating a particular bird, mountain or tree that I otherwise might've overlooked,” Laura said. “By painting, I hope to share this appreciation with others.” She embodies the phrase, “where there is a will, there is a way,” by demonstrating that if there is passion and

Early-morning water color pain ng at Sprague Lake


Mountain Co onwood Hare

Found feathers in the Park: Mourning dove, Great horned owl and Miriam’s turkey

discipline, almost any disadvantage can create opportunity. She paints in color, too – she goes out in the field with other painters so they can tell her if her pigments make sense. Pain ng Hallet Peak from a frozen Nymph Lake

Laura's work now hangs in private collec ons across the country with top awards from various art organiza ons, including the Susan K. Black Founda on. Her work has been exhibited in the PAAC Na onal Show in Boulder,

the Vida Ellison Gallery in Denver, and the Keimig Gallery of Western Art in Wyoming. Visit her online gallery at: www.lauragyoung.com


Laura tried pain ng flowers in black and white, too.

Winter aspens on the trail to Emerald Lake

These are the colors Laura Young can’t see when she was in primary school, it frustrated her when another child would peel off the labels! Read more about her color-blind perspec ve in her personal blog: h p://lauragyoung.blogspot.com/2014/03/on -being-colorblind-ar st-childhood.html The ar st pain ng and sketching on the west side of RMNP


Miriam’s turkey at the Fall River entrance to Rocky

Greenback Cu hroat Trout, na ve to Rocky


FEATURE PHOTO

Pika With a Mouthful by Darlene Bushue

Darlene Bushue is a landscape and wildlife photographer from Allenspark, CO. From her ar st statement: For me, photography is more than a way of making memories - it is a means of preserving beau ful moments in my life and allowing others to go on a journey with me. I draw my inspira on from being in the mountains and internalize a saying I came across in my travels to the Canadian Rockies years ago, “Mountains bring peace to the people.”


Colorado’s Low Bird Numbers Western bluebird

story and photos by Sco Rashid Last fall there were several wildfires in Colorado. One of the largest had burned more than 300 miles of forest and homes by the me it was ex nguished. We trap owls in the fall a er dark. On several of those evenings, there was so much ash on our vehicles that they were all gray. There was smoke in the area for week, and at mes it was so thick that was raining ash. During those weeks of smoke, many of us began no cing some strange things occurring within the natural world. One evening, during the fires, we were able to see a line of fire that stretched as far as we could see east-to-west along the horizon.

species had never been seen in the yard before. Just before being evacuated we had large numbers of Pine Siskins, House Finches, White-crowned Sparrows, Cassin's Finches and Northern Flickers. Birds that had arrived in the yard for the first me included White-throated Sparrows, Harris's Sparrows, a Brown Thrasher, and a Spo ed Towhee. A few days a er we were evacuated snow fell and put the fires out. We were then able to return to our homes and see that the fires did not get as close to Estes Park as we were told. It was put out before it reached the town. Prior to Estes Park residents being evacuated, some

Normally, hummingbirds remain in Northern Colorado un l late September, or early October. However, in 2020, hummingbirds moved south weeks earlier than normal, presumably due to the immense amounts of smoke that filled the skies. There was so much ash from the fires that ash was con nuously floa ng in the air for weeks. At one point there were several fires around Estes Park including one within the na onal park. One got so close to Estes Park that everyone in town had to be evacuated. During the fires, and prior to being evacuated, my bird feeders were visited by large numbers of birds. Some

House finch at a feeder a er a snowstorm


Male broad-winged hummingbird

rare species arrived at Lake Estes. These included a White-winged Scoter and a Herring Gull along with several dozen species of ducks including a Whitewinged Scoter and several Rudy Ducks. In the winter of 2020 and spring 2021 we began no cing that the bird numbers seemed low. People from all over Estes Park began no cing the same thing. We normally go through a 40 lb. bag of sunflower seed every three weeks, quicker if we have the Rosy-finches in the area, as the finches consume several pounds of seeds per day when present. However, we had the same bag of bird seed from October un l late February, because there are very fewer birds in the area to eat the seed.

Northern Flicker

Star ng in January, it began to get cold and snow fell throughout Northern Colorado. This con nued un l June. The large amounts of snow seemed to interrupt bird migra on. With the low numbers of common birds seen, there were several species that normally migrate over the state to nest in the far north. However, many of these were forced to land in the state due to inclement weather As the storms arrived, more than a hundred Long-billed Curlews landed in a field near Longmont to refuel before moving north. In another loca on within the state several Hudsonian Godwits landed to refuel and in another loca on several Sanderlings were seen refueling. Now, the issue is low bird numbers, and fewer species being seen. This spring when bluebirds started arriving in Estes Park, it began snowing and con nued for

Pine Siskin


assistance. As long as we keep food and water out for the birds, both winter and summer, keep house cats inside, clean out nest boxes at the end of each nes ng cycle, birds should come back in the numbers that we have come to expect.

Owls, like these Northern Saw-Whet owls, seem to be declining.

weeks. Bluebird arrived in early March as they normally do. A er they arrived it began to snow and subsequently get cold. Either the Bluebirds moved to lower eleva ons or died off. Either way, bluebird numbers are very low in Estes this summer. Mul ple species are very low in numbers this year. These include Black-headed, Pine, and Evening Grosbeaks, Broad-tailed Hummingbirds, all species of flycatchers, Cassin's Finches, Northern Saw-whet Owls, Boreal Owls, Swainson's and Hermit Thrushes, Gray Jays, and even species that use to be very common, including Pine Siskins, Pygmy Nuthatches, and House Finches. I have been birding the Pawnee Grasslands in Northeastern Colorado, for three decades. Birds including McCowan's Longspurs, Mountain Plovers, and Cassin's Sparrows are harder to find than normal due to their numbers being down. When figuring mortality rates of birds, it has been sad that roughly 90 % of birds hatched in a given year, will be dead by January the following year. Keeping this in mind, in order to get bird numbers to the levels that they were in 2020, it will take un l 2030. Bird mortality is caused by many factors, including being hit by automobiles, flying into windows, being a acked by cats, being poisoned, ge ng stuck in barbed wire fences, being stuck in buildings, starva on, loss of nes ng habitat, and bad weather during both nes ng and migra on. Nature is always resilient, when we give it some

Ar st, researcher, bird rehabilitator, author, and director of a nonprofit are only a few things that describe Sco Rashid. Sco has been pain ng, illustra ng and wri ng about birds for over 30 years. In 2011, Sco created the Colorado Avian Research and Rehabilita on Ins tute in Estes Park. In 2019, Sco located and documented the first Boreal Owl nest in the history of Rocky Mountain Na onal Park in Colorado. Sco has wri en and published five books and several papers on a variety of avian species. More informa on available on his website: h p://www.carriep.org/


Rocky’s Alpine Tundra An introduc on to this amazing life zone in RMNP story and photos by Jason Van Tatenhove It is the Year of the Tundra at Rocky Mountain Na onal Park. They hope that celebra ng the alpine tundra will inspire apprecia on for the plants and animals that make the tundra their home and raise awareness of changes affec ng the tundra and encourage care of this unique and fragile landscape. This ar cle will introduce readers to the Alpine Tundra of RMNP and some of the issues surrounding this beau ful and unique habitat.

life forms. Their survival strategies are ingenious, their adapta ons remarkable, and during summer blooms, which only last a few weeks, the roo op of Rocky explodes in a brilliant kaleidoscope of miniature flowers.”

“There's no better place in America to experience alpine tundra than Rocky Mountain National Park” - James Kaiser

Local author James Kaiser opens the ecology sec on of his new guide book Rocky Mountain Na onal Park: The Complete Guide with this elegant descrip on of the park's alpine tundra; “There's no be er place in America to experience alpine tundra than Rocky Mountain Na onal Park. This rugged land above the trees covers 89,000 acres in Rocky—nearly one-third of the park's total area…At first glance alpine tundra appears rela vely barren. But look closely, and you'll discover a secret world of astonishing Alpine Phlox widflower


Click the photo above to watch a short feature, filmed this month!

The word tundra came from the Sami people of Scandinavia and Russia and translated to “land of no trees.” The Alpine Tundra in the Colorado mountains is the most significant example of this habitat in the con guous US. Tundra at RMNP starts at 11,000 – 11,500 feet in eleva on and is considered a transi on zone, or ecotone, found where the forested subalpine zone shi s to the treeless tundra. This area is o en referred to as the tree line. One of the most striking aspects of Alpine Tundra is just how savage Mother Nature can be at these eleva ons.

Yellow-bellied marmot

“The Alpine Tundra in the Colorado mountains is the most signicant example of this habitat in the contiguous US”

Elk grazing on the tundra in July of this year.


“The summers on the tundra are short, only lasting about six weeks. July is the warmest month of the year, with an average high temperature of 52°. In June through August, wind speeds average about 20 mph, and intense afternoon storms are expected. ” Alpine Bluebells

The summers on the tundra are short, only las ng about six weeks. July is the warmest month of the year, with an average high temperature of 52°. In June through August, wind speeds average about 20 mph, and intense a ernoon storms are expected. Winter is only for the most hearty, with wind gusts ranging from 98 – 122 mph. In 2019 RMNP road crews recorded snowdri s on Trail Ridge Road at a depth up to 21 feet deep. Not many animals or plants can survive in this environment. The plants that do are low to the ground and use the natural insula ng proper es of snow to protect themselves from the damaging winds and maintain ground temperatures below freezing. Some researchers also believe that these plants can live for over a hundred years. The Park boasts over 100 species of flowering tundra plants. Many of which only bloom every other year or longer, and some have evolved to reproduce asexually instead of taking survival chances with seeding. Many tundra plants retain green leaves throughout the winter as a strategy allowing them to take advantage of photosynthesis immediately once the snows melt. Nearly all alpine tundra plants are perennials that use the same root systems year a er year. They also have


“There is very much that 'grows above the trees.' But it takes close looking, getting down on hands and knees—or even stomach—to examine a mini-forest at your toes.” -Beatrice Willard dense, hairy, and waxy coa ngs for protec on from extreme condi ons. Another adapta on that many species have made is producing reddish/purple anthocyanin pigments that convert visible light into heat. This makes for visually stunning autumns when the chlorophyll wanes and turns these plants to a bright red color. As hearty and resilient as these plant species are, they are also very delicate and vulnerable when it comes to the impacts of the million-plus visitors that visit RMNP'S Trail Ridge road yearly. These impacts are o en highest in “protected areas” within a reasonable driving distance of large urban centers. Visitors o en stop to hike in the Alpine Tundra. These areas are especially suscep ble to damage because of a short growing season and slow-growing, long-living perennials in shallow and easily eroded soils. Restora on can be challenging in these areas due to environmental condi ons with wind exposure, water availability, and snow depths. Some researchers now believe that the me it will take to restore these areas could take centuries. But, we don't know for sure as there have only been a few studies of this ecosystem that looked at the vegeta ve response a er cessa on of pedestrian traffic for more than 1-3 years. Kaiser men ons one of these studies in his book: “One of the best places to experience alpine tundra is the Tundra Communi es Trail on Trail Ridge Road. Near the trailhead is a research plot where ecologist Beatrice Willard studied alpine tundra for decades (you can read the results of her study here.) Her 1972 book, The Land Above The Trees, was the first comprehensive guide to the alpine tundra in America. In 2007, her research plots became the first-ever added to the Na onal Register of Historic Places. As Willard wrote, “there is very much that 'grows above the trees.' But it takes close looking ... ge ng down on hands and knees—or even stomach—to examine a mini-forest at your toes.”

Jason Van Tatenhove is a journalist, writer, professional ar st, and father raising two daughters in the mountains of Colorado. He is a staff writer for the Estes Park TrailGaze e, Jason is a freelance writer for Hike Rocky and is working on two new book projects; a supernatural mystery novel based in Estes Park and his first nonfic on novel. You can find more about him on his Instagram @jasonvantat or his ar st's webpage www.vantat.org


Devastated by Fire, part 2 Fields of lush grasses and lavender wildflowers are a stark contrast in front of a stand of burned and dead trees on July 4.

The Kawuneeche Valley begins its recovery

an interes ng look into how much the forest benefits from being burned.

story and photos by Barb Boyer Buck Last year, the two biggest fires in Rocky’s history burned more preserved wilderness than ever before in a single season. These fires were also the two biggest in the state’s history and burned close to 400,000 acres of forest in northern Colorado - approximately 30,000 of those were in the boundaries of Rocky Mountain Na onal Park. But fire plays an important role in forest rejuvena on and in the extremely damaged burn areas of the Kawuneeche Valley, there are carpets of lush green, drenched with colorful wildflowers. Fire burns the leaf li er on the forest floor, releasing important nutrients. It also makes more of the ground available to sunlight and rain - both of which are plen ful this summer, so far. Green Gen an (also know as Monument Plant or Elkweed) only bloom once before they die and there are plenty of them blooming now, ac vated by the rich charred soil. This plant provides sweet nectar which a racts bumblebees, honeybees, insects, and even hummingbirds. Rolling fields of wildflowers, interspersed within the burned trees, are breathtaking right now and provide

A hummingbird drinks sweet nectar from a blooming Monument plant.


Trail crews in Rocky have been working extremely hard to clear trails that were burned over but at the me of this publica on, the Tonahutu Trail, Spruce Creek, and Green Mountain remain closed. When traveling in or near the burned areas in Rocky, there are hidden dangers you need to watch out for. Burned, yet standing, trees can fall unexpectedly and trip hazzards are plen ful. But other, less well-known dangers can be ac vated with heavy rainfalls.

A deer rests in one of the burn areas in the Kawuneeche Valley

When recrea ng beneath a burn scar, mudslides and/or flash floods can develop quickly when there is a period of rain. Please be aware of your surroundings at all mes when in Rocky’s burned areas. And most of all, please have respect for this land and its organisms, large and small. Personally, I con nue to be humbled and shocked - and a li le bit ashamed - by the devasta ng power of nature.

A field of American Bistort and Elephanthead wildflowers thrive.

A bu erfly drinks on a Heartleaf Arnica plant.

Western Yellow Paintbrush


Plants currently thriving in the burn areas are, clockwise, from top le , Beauty Cinquefoil, Green Gen an, Shoo ng Star, Elephantheads, and Colorado Blue Columbine


Coming next month in

HIKE ROCKY online magazine - The Wild Basin Trailhead Exlpore the many op ons available from the Wild Basin trailhead, close to Rocky’s southern border! - Local Heros Young men who grew up in Estes Park are now building trails in Rocky! We interview them for the August issue! - Jogging from Estes Park to Grand Lake through Rocky Chris Reveley enjoys trail running, and he’s just completed his latest adventure! - Deep-dive into Rocky’s visita on program and other NPS visita on management strategies Jason Van Tatenhove explores the way NPS is protec ng our na onal treasures. - Art in Rocky: the stained glass art of Jay Grooters! - Growing up McGraw: Fran Grooters offers her first installment of the history of the McGraw Ranch and her family. - and so much more!

Golden Drabba on the Tundra Communi es Trail Photo by Barb Boyer Buck

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HIKE ROCKY magazine, July, 2021  

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