Mount Sopris trail due for some TLC
April 15, 2014
The route above timberline on Mount Sopris is among some of the high-profile trails that will get some tender loving care this summer throughout the Roaring Fork Valley.
Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers has worked with the U.S. Forest Service and local governments to come up with 10 projects it will undertake this summer. The nonprofit organization harnesses volunteers and often the expertise to undertake trail repair, reroutes and, when necessary, rehabilitation.
One of its major projects this year is to designate one primary route and eliminate braided trails on a one-mile stretch of upper Mount Sopris.
"It's kind of an orphan, in a way," Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers Executive Director David Hamilton said of Sopris. While it is one of the signature peaks in the valley, it doesn't always get the attention is warrants for care because it isn't one of the peaks higher than 14,000 feet, Hamilton said. Nevertheless, as many as 40 hikers scale the summit of Mount Sopris at peak periods, according to Forest Service estimates.
The top mile of the trail "is in dire need of work," RFOV said in its recently released 2014 project list. "Considerable damage is being done in this fragile environment due to trail-braiding and rutting."
Volunteers will hike three miles to Thomas Lakes for a two-night, two-day trip Sept. 5-7. Working conditions will be "pretty extreme," Hamilton said. The project will feature heavy labor at high altitude. Supplies and gear will be shipped in by horse.
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Hamilton said the last major trail project on Mount Sopris was in the early 1990s, when switchbacks were added to the steep slope between Thomas Lakes and timberline.
"This is really important because Sopris is so iconic," Hamilton said.
Six of the 10 projects RFOV will undertake this year are on national forest. White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams told The Aspen Times last week that volunteer work from partners such as RFOV is vital for the Forest Service because of its shrinking budget. The White River's budget is down $4.24 million or 18 percent in 2014 from the prior year.
The Forest Service's challenges were part of the reason the trails group was created. It's been apparent for almost 20 years that the agency's ability to undertake trails projects was limited.
"We were talking about it back in 1995," Hamilton said. "Frankly if it wasn't for us, there would be trails they would let go."
Hamilton and his board of directors work with the Forest Service and local town governments to assess trail needs and determine what order to undertake projects. In addition to Mount Sopris, those making the cut this year are:
• Create nearly one mile of new singletrack trail on the 198-acre Wulfsohn Open Space above the Glenwood Springs shopping center. Thursdays — May 8, 15, 22, and 29 from 4 p.m. until dark.
• Improve a section of trail along a scenic section of the Crystal River in Carbondale. Volunteers will create a sustainable trail surface. Saturday, May 17, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
• Maintain and improve the route to Linwood Cemetery, home of Doc Holliday's grave. Heavy rain last summer created erosion at the cemetery and trail that leads to it. Saturday, June 7, National Trails Day, 8:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.
• Improve the Maroon Lake Trail system as part of the 50 Years of Wilderness celebration. Various improvements will be undertaken, including closing a social-made trail. Saturday, June 21, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
• Improving trails on two of the 14ers. RFOV is recruiting volunteers to help on two projects being coordinated by the Colorado 14ers Initiative. A crew is needed to help on trail maintenance on Capitol Peak above Capitol Lake July 3-6. Another crew is needed to help improve the stream crossing at Minnie Haha Creek on the route up North Maroon, Aug. 7-10. Volunteers will backpack to an established camp during the work.
• Improving the Hunter Creek Valley trail system. Various projects were approved by the Forest Service as part of the Hunter Creek-Smuggler Plan coordinated by Aspen Center for Environmental Studies. A committee will determine the priority of those projects next week. The work will be undertaken on Tuesdays — July 8, 15, 22 and 29 from 4 p.m. to dusk.
• Rerouting the East Elk Creek Trail on national forest near New Castle. Volunteers will rebuild one-third of a mile of trail that was washed out after heavy rain in 2011.
• Restoring wetlands along Crooked Creek, north of Thomasville and along the Thomasville-Eagle backcountry road. The Forest Service has secured funding to create wetlands on multiple acres. Volunteers are needed for a two-night, two-day trip to plant vegetation, Aug. 22-24. Car camping is recommended.
Greater details on the volunteer opportunities can be found at http://www.RFOV.org, then click on the "Volunteer Sign-Up" link.