Wilderness Wanderings: Enjoy wilderness solitude and serenity | SteamboatToday.com

Wilderness Wanderings: Enjoy wilderness solitude and serenity

Mary Korch/For Steamboat Today

For many people, the word "wilderness" brings to mind hiking, hunting or fishing. However, by definition, wilderness is also an "outstanding opportunity for solitude" and thus, offers the best environment for an underutilized, but vitally important, activity of doing absolutely nothing.

On a recent day of volunteer trail maintenance, I had an opportunity to privately enjoy two hours of indescribable beauty and silence of nature. I could not confidently get across a high, cold, fast-moving creek on the trail to Gold Creek Lake. Instead of hiking back to the trailhead, I found a private spot above the crossing, threw down my daypack and sprawled out on a layer of pine needles. I can truly say I quickly felt a total sense of inner peace.

Escape the stresses, concerns of civilized life and seemingly unsolvable problems by immersing yourself in the solitude of nature. You will find some of our country's most peaceful spots right here in our Mount Zirkel, Flat Tops and Sarvis Creek Wilderness areas. To experience a slice of wilderness serenity and refresh your spirit, leave your tech toys at home, and take some time to explore these suggestions. If at all possible, go alone on a day hike or overnight trip. Most importantly, remain silent.

  • Stargaze on a clear night. Use a compass and star chart to identify planets, stars and constellations.
  • Hike to an overlook, lake or mountain peak. Read or write poetry to match a scene.
  • Bring a pair of binoculars, and look for the opportunity to observe wildlife in their natural setting. Be thankful they are sharing their home with us.
  • Keep a journal to relive amazing moments and adventures.
  • Sketch pictures or abstracts of plants, animals and landscapes.
  • Improve your senses: Observe colors, shapes and sounds. Listen closely to birds and insects, the wind, the sensations of earth underfoot, water flowing. Draw your senses to one thing and focus — a flower, a tree, a rock, a blue sky, cloud patterns. Notice the fragrances, such as pine needles, leaves, flowers and tree bark.
  • Carry a field guide to identify wildflowers, birds, trees, fungi, animal tracks and scats.
  • Select a place to revisit during different seasons.

Above all, don't forget to practice good stewardship. Know and follow all regulations. Police yourself and do the right thing, even if no one is looking. "Take only memories; leave only footprints." Leave the land unspoiled, as if you were never there.

Mary Korch is a volunteer with Friends of Wilderness which assists the U.S. Forest Service in maintaining trails and educating the public in the Mount Zirkel, Sarvis Creek and Flat Tops Wilderness areas. friendsofwilderness.com.

Experience solitude and serenity while gazing up at an aspen tree.

Know before you go

Summer is arriving approximately two weeks late in our higher elevations. That means elevations above 10,000 feet are still snow packed, and creeks are still rushing cold and fast at their high water level.

What does that mean for you? Simply plan to do your favorite hike or backpack two weeks later. For example, the Zirkel Circle should not be attempted this season until at least mid-July.

Also, please know that FOW volunteer and Forest Service crews are two weeks behind, meaning some trails are virtually impassible due to deadfall from beetle killed pines.

Current conditions are as follows.

  • Gold Creek Lake and Three Island Lake trails have been cleared to their respective lakes, but beware of high, swift stream crossings on Gold.
  • FOW was hoping this past week to clear trees from Gilpin Trail. However, reports indicate 25 trees and the remnants of a snow avalanche on the trail between the two water crossings.
  • Mica Basin Trail has downed trees; the lake is solid ice and surrounded by snow.
  • North Lake Trail is blocked by 75 downed trees to the bottom of the old burn area. We don’t even know yet what awaits beyond that to the lake.
  • South Fork Trail from Burn Ridge has been partially cleared, but recent high winds have brought more trees down.
  • Trails near Summit Lake are still not assessable due to lingering snowpack, as is usual up there for this time of year.
  • Parks District trails off CO 14 have been heavily impacted by fallen trees. Crews on June 22 cleared more than 100 trees from Lake Katherine Trail.