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UNDER THE SUN

Buckling down for the winter

Doug Crowl

— For those who haven’t accepted reality, summer is over, fall conditions are fleeting, and though you may be praying for an Indian summer, it’s time to acclimate to the cold weather.

Therefore, because there are a bunch of hunters in the woods many of whom are new to the area and the snow is falling and staying in higher elevations in the county, this is a good time to remind everyone to begin acting safe and smart in the backcountry.

First thing is first.

Though the Colorado Division of Wildlife says no hikers or bikers have ever been accidentally shot by hunters, it’s still important not to be mistaken for an ungulate when you are in the woods.

That means wearing an orange cap and preferably an orange vest. Think of it as the ultimate display of function over fashion. A little orange on the dog wouldn’t hurt either.

For the hunters, when it comes to gun accidents during hunting season, statistics show hunters don’t accidentally shoot other people; they accidentally shoot themselves because of bad gun safety. So be careful. Be smart with your loaded gun.

Secondly, and probably more relative, is that it is cold and snowy in the mountains now that summer is over.

For the people who haven’t ventured above 7,000 feet recently, it’s winter up there. Buffalo Pass, for example, has deep snow and ice near Summit Lake, at the summit and down a large stretch of the Walden side. You could go snowshoeing up there right now if you wanted.

However, there is a problem with the road.

A four-wheel drive without chains or aggressive tires probably will get stuck in some parts, which can turn a nice drive in the mountains into a bad experience.

Some recent good advice I received about driving that should be thought about right now is that driving aids should be used to get you out and not in.

In other words, if you have to put on your chains, it should be to get you out of a jam, not enable you to go farther, higher and deeper.

The problem with this time of the year is the warm summer months are still fresh in the mind. It can cause you to forget to throw the heavy coat, hat and gloves in the pack or in the car, just in case. It also can lead to misinterpreting the weather.

For people new to the area, misjudging the weather, or not understanding just what the mountains are like right now, can be downright lethal.

So it’s time to put together a cold-weather emergency kit for the car matches, emergency coat, gloves, sleeping bag, flares and water and to start thinking about the worst-case weather scenario in the backcountry, like being stuck in a full-fledged winter storm.

It’s also time to smile and be happy for the coming winter; because if you don’t look forward to the winter weather in Routt County, it’s going to be a long, long, long winter and it might be time to think about moving.


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