Wilderness Wanderings: Keep wilderness wild; what does that mean?
- Wildflowers are beginning to peak. A hike last Sunday to Mandell Lakes revealed flowers of all colors in full bloom: monkshood, paintbrush, asters, bluebells and orange sneezeweed, to name a few.
- Backcountry fire restrictions remain in place due to sharply below normal precipitation in June and July. That means no campfires are currently allowed in the Mount Zirkel, northern Flat Tops and Sarvis Creek wilderness areas and other areas of the Routt National Forest outside established campgrounds and picnic areas.
- For the latest trail conditions, call the Steamboat office of the U.S. Forest Service at 970-870-2299.
Steamboat Today occasionally utilizes public service reminders to fill space: “Love Your River,” “Recycle this Newspaper,” “Spare the Air: No Iding” and my favorite, “Keep Wilderness Wild.”
Think for a minute about that last one. What does it mean to keep wilderness wild? How can we do it?
Maybe it’s easier when we contemplate what isn’t wild.
Does it seem wild when we hike up to a beautiful alpine lake — Gilpin, Gold or Three Island lakes, for example — but find tents set up right on the shoreline? There goes that perfect picture you were thinking about taking and submitting to this newspaper or posting on your Facebook page.
As backpackers, doing the right thing is not only following regulations, such as no camping within one-quarter mile of the above-mentioned lakes or, otherwise, 100 feet from trails, lakes and streams. But we can also be more considerate about where we establish our campsite so others may also enjoy the same feeling of solitude.
Are we building a new campfire ring, even though there’s an established one only 10 yards away? Are we leaving litter or toilet paper behind when we pack up?
What are your thoughts when you arrive at Slavonia Trailhead at the end of Seedhouse Road and find 75 to 100 vehicles already there? Are you thinking of a wilderness experience for yourself and others on the trail that day? Or, is it all about having to do your yearly hike of the Zirkel Circle?
How about being open-minded and driving to another nearby trailhead for your hike? You can always go back and do the Zirkel Circle on a slower weekday or maybe in the fall. And besides, you might discover another spectacular trail destination or loop hike you hadn’t thought of before.
I once complimented a wilderness ranger for the spectacular scenery of the highly popular Shining Rock Wilderness in western North Carolina. At first, I was suspicious of his response — “If you like it here, you should visit Mount Rogers sometime.”
I initially thought he might have been trying to disperse visitation to little used areas until I read an article about Mount Rogers Recreation Area in an outdoors magazine.
Intrigued, my wife and I drove the extra distance to southwestern Virginia and found an even more spectacular place: unbelievable views, wild ponies walking right up to us and solitude. Wow!
There are lots of scenic, alpine lakes in our nearby wilderness areas. By studying a map, we might find another version of the Zirkel Circle and that special feeling of wilderness.
Interested in a loop for a long hike or overnight backpack? Try Three Island Lake Trail up to Beaver Lake, then the CDT over to the top of North Lake Trail and back down.
How about other spectacular alpine lakes with more wilderness solitude? Over on the east side of the Zirkel Wilderness are a variety of easy, harder or longer trails that take you to Rainbow, Katherine, Big Horn and Bear Lakes.
As an alternative to hiking the Devil’s Causeway, visit Mandell Lakes with the spectacular Flat Tops in the background. Or hike Derby Trail to Hooper, Keener and other lakes. You’ll find scenery that rivals any other hike you’ve ever done. Plus, there will be fewer people, more solitude and those feelings of wilderness you were seeking.
Bob Korch is president and trail crew leader with Friends of Wilderness which assists the US Forest Service in maintaining trails and educating the public in the Mount Zirkel, Sarvis Creek and Flat Tops Wilderness areas. http://www.friendsofwilderness.com.
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