| PostIndependent.com

PHOTOS: Fall forage, colors on display in Garfield County

Roaming through the brush, a black bear searches for berries in 4 Mile Park on Monday .
Ike Fredregill/Post Independent
A disc golf course at Sunlight Mountain Resort leads hikers down the yellow-leaf road Monday.
Ike Fredregill/Post Independent
Rows of trees at a tree farm in Rifle stand beneath a morning sun Saturday.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent
A patchwork of fall colors is on display along the Redstone Cliffs in the Crystal River Valley.
Peter Baumann/Post Independent
Vibrant swathes of yellow mark the end of summer in an aspen stand tucked into 4 Mile Park’s wildlands.
Ike Fredregill/Post Independent
A bee pulls nectar from a blossoming shrub near Harvey Gap State Park on Saturday.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent
Green leaves are beginning to change along Coal Creek in the White River National Forest.
Peter Baumann/Post Independent
An afternoon storm rolls over the mountains near Sunlight Peak in 4 Mile Park on Monday.
Ike Fredregill/Post Independent
Harvey Gap State Park begins to show its falls colors Saturday.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent
The trees, they are a changin.’ Sunlight bursts through a mosaic of fall foliage, persistent conifers and shrubbery in Babbish Gulch near Sulight Mountain Resort.
Ike Fredregill/Post Independent
A pond at Lion’s Park Circle in Rifle reflects surrounding vegetation Saturday.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent
Aspen trees have already changed their colors along Coal Creek.
Peter Baumann/Post Independent
The water of a fishing pond at Lion’s Park Circle in Rifle stands still Saturday.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent


Go & Do: Pack burro racing in Garfield County a throwback to Colorado’s mining boom days

Runners and their burros take to the Sutey Ranch Trail during the Independence Run & Hike burro run on Aug. 26, 2021.
Tami Stroud/Courtesy photo

Addie apparently wanted to stake her own claim on the downhill, and Charleston seemed to have his own opinions about this particular runner’s pace.

But it was all good fun on a late August evening at the new Sutey Ranch Trail outside Carbondale, where Independence Run and Hike hosted a “burro run.”

Pack burro racing, in case you didn’t know, is the official Colorado Heritage Summer Sport.

Legend has it that a pair of miners who had found gold in the same place high in the Rocky Mountains had to race each other back to town to stake their claim, but they couldn’t leave their prized pack burros behind. So, the six-legged race was on.

Today, places like Fairplay, Leadville, Buena Vista and Georgetown are renowned for their pack burro races, where distance runners of various abilities, and even a few shaggy miner types, compete in a point-to-point or loop race covering a variety of distances.

Burro running became popularized more recently with the release of the 2020 book “Running with Sherman” by Christopher McDougall (“Born to Run,” “Natural Born Heroes”).

When my friends at Independence Run and Hike announced the burro run night, being an avid runner always on the lookout for something new to try, I couldn’t pass it up.

A couple dozen of us crazy runner types took turns on the lead rope running alongside brothers Charleston and Ellis, Addie, Cinnamon and cute-as-a-button Dylan, a miniature donkey who just turned 1.

Burro is Spanish for donkey.

Addie mugs it up for the camera.
Tami Stroud/Courtesy photo

Alexis Knight of Rifle keeps this particular group of burros at a ranch just off Colorado Highway 13 along with her wife, Kathleen.

It all started when they were visiting Kathleen’s parents in Arizona, where they met up with some friends who talked them into adopting some donkeys.

“We thought it would be a fun thing to do, but the only thing was what would we do with them?” Knight recalled of that initial conversation.

An avid ultra runner herself, she thought, “Duh, I’ll run with them,” she said in an interview after the burro run event in Carbondale.

Soon, she reached out to Longhopes Donkey Shelter in Bennet, Colorado and adopted Charleston and Ellis, who are a bit unique in the donkey world because they’re pure white.

Knight soon entered her first pack burro race, an 8.5-mile event in Georgetown.

“I remember this distinct moment standing at the start line with 30 seconds to the gun and I thought, ‘oh, wait. This could turn out bad,’” Knight recalled of the prospect of falling and being dragged down the trail holding onto a 500-pound donkey.

“I’m at a little over a hundred pounds, so of course the donkey’s going to win that one,” she said.

She finished the race without incident, adjusting to the fits and spurts of running at a good clip, interrupted by sudden stops to check out that oh-so-tempting clump of grass alongside the trail.

A picture of Knight and her donkey in that race ended up in a competition for an adventure grant, which they won.

They’ve since added more donkeys to the local herd of, uh, what to call them? Burrobreds! How’s that?

Knight is now known around the area as the “donkey lady,” trailering her burros to different trails around the area for training runs.

Which brings us to the evening of Aug. 26 at the Sutey Trail. The burro run came about when Knight called Independence Run and Hike manager and events organizer Sean Vanhorn out of the blue one day.

“She asked if we had some runners who would want to race and train with the donkeys, and I immediately responded ‘yes,’” Vanhorn said. “I think I enjoyed it a little more than I expected. It might have been the biggest group run we’ve ever had.”

Store owner Brion After and wife Betsy brought their two young children, Julius and Arbaney, along for the experience.

“They both love animals, and it was a great opportunity for them to be around an animal they don’t get to see very often,” he said. “It was a cool way to introduce something new and different to them.”

The After family, from left, Betsy, Brion, Julius and Arbaney with Dylan the miniature donkey during the Independence Run & Hike burro run at the Sutey Ranch on Aug. 26, 2021.
Tami Stroud/Courtesy photo

Personally, my turn to take a donkey didn’t come until we’d climbed up to the 2-mile turnaround point where the foot trail through the old Sutey Ranch ties into the back side of the Red Hill Recreation Area.

After a couple of minutes getting to know Addie, and a word of advice from her owner to try to stay in front of our asses on the downhill, off we went.

The bonding was short-lived, as my smart phone promptly bounced out of my pocket and my attempt to slow Addie from her suddenly spirited trot to keep pace with the front runners was unsuccessful. I had to let go, and off Addie went in pursuit of Cinnamon, Ellis and little Dylan.

About halfway down, Charleston’s runner was ready for the handoff, and I was about to make a new friend. Problem is, Charleston seemed to have developed a case of the munchies. That might be a perpetual thing for burros, but about every four or five strides forward was met with a tug backward, donkey head down to chomp on some greenery.

Charleston seems to have a mind of his own as the Post Independent's John Stroud attempts to get him up to pace during the Independence Run & Hike burro run at Sutey Ranch on Aug. 26, 2021.
Tami Stroud/Courtesy photo

Once I figured out how to keep Charleston a little more focused, along with some helpful smacks on the backside by my fellow trail runners, we finally settled into a comfortable pace. Soon, interrupted only by a few fits, we were back at the trailhead — and I was hooked.

Pack burro races this summer have taken Knight and her burros to Canon City, Creede, Fairplay, Buena Vista, Leadville, Idaho Springs, Monte Vista and even to Tombstone, Arizona.

Knight said she’s always looking for willing, consistent runners to help train her burros.

After a pair of upcoming races take place later this month, she’ll be starting up training runs again in October.

Training grounds include the 32-Mile Gulch and Rifle Arch areas, along with occasional treks to Sutey.

For information on how to get involved — if this sounds like it might be your thing — visit the Burro Out page on Facebook, or contact Alexis Knight at nestacres@gmail.com.

Runners and their burros take to the Sutey Ranch Trail during the Independence Run & Hike burro run on Aug. 26, 2021.
Tami Stroud/Courtesy photo
If you go …

Runners and their burros take to the Sutey Ranch Trail during the Independence Run & Hike burro run on Aug. 26, 2021. | Tami Stroud/Courtesy photo

Take a fall color road trip and take in a burro race as a spectator along the way. Upcoming events include:

Victor Pack Burro Race, noon Saturday, Sept. 11, Victor, Colorado.

The annual Victor Pack Burro race kicks off at noon downtown, with racers from across the region competing for cash prizes. There’s also a beer garden, live music, kids donkey race and a poop drop contest. [stcfg.com/BurroRace.htm]

Frederick Miners Day Pack Burro Race, 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 18.

In conjunction with the 4th annual Frederick Miners Day, this 10K race represents one leg of the Western Pack Burro Ass-ociation 2021 race series. [frederickpackburrorace.itsyourrace.com/event.aspx?id=12800]

Nederland Pack Burro Race and 137th Miners’ Day, 9 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 19.

This 10K burro run goes from the fire station towards the Caribou Mine and back. [trailrunner.com/event/pack-burro-race-and-137th-miners-days/]

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.

Grizzly Creek Trail to remain closed to public due to slide damage

Some of the recent damage to the Grizzly Creek Trail in the White River National Forest. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service

The Grizzly Creek Trail and Grizzly Creek Canyon remain closed following damage sustained earlier this summer from debris slides, a U.S. Forest Service news release states.

“The trail was cut by flows in several places, leaving banks over 10 feet high, while several other areas of the trail are buried in several feet of debris,” said Rifle District Ranger Kelsha Anderson in the news release.

Grizzly Creek Trailhead has been inaccessible for much of the summer because the nearby rest area of the same name remains closed.

“The Jessie Weaver Trail in No Name Canyon fared much better than the Grizzly Creek Trail, with just one debris flow at the first creek crossing about 4 miles up the canyon,” Anderson said. “A closure of Jessie Weaver Trail is not warranted based on trail damage, but hikers should be aware of the increased risk of rock fall, hazard trees and flooding in areas burned by wildfire.”

For more information about the White River National Forest, including current closures, visit FS.USDA.gov/whiteriver.

How drought conditions affect Garfield County fisheries

Water recedes far from the shoreline at Harvey Gap Reservoir.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Most times it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. People hop on Dustin Harcourt’s boat, and they’re likely to catch a boatload of trout.

Recent drought conditions around Garfield County, however, have left the well-known fishing guide wondering if all the fish simply disappeared. The realization struck him while fishing the Colorado River a few days ago.

“We caught like two fish,” he said. “We were out for six or seven hours.”

It could be the murky, chocolate milk consistency of the water creating low visibility conditions for the fish, he said. Or maybe it’s the lack of nutrients in the water that’s caused a significant fish kill, Harcourt wondered.

July and early August mudslides in Glenwood Canyon are partly to blame. Drought has also caused water temperatures to rise to above 70 degrees, which is not conducive to good fishing, Harcourt said. Both the Colorado and Roaring Fork rivers exceeded 70 degrees this summer.

When it comes to Garfield County’s reservoirs, drought conditions have dramatically reduced water levels throughout the summer.

Rifle Gap State Park Manager Brian Palcer said low water levels aren’t necessarily uncommon, but that it is unusual to see low water levels this early in the year. At Rifle Gap’s highest point this year, it was 15 feet below full storage.

Right now, it’s 40 feet feet below full.

“Harvey Gap is down a long ways too, but it’s a little more normal over there,” he said. “Rifle Gap is where we’re seeing a real deficiency.”

It’s not that water is evaporating into thin air — instead, it’s being relied on by 532 local farmers and ranchers who use the two reservoirs as part of the conservancy district. As their livelihoods are impacted from the drought, they’re more likely to need to draw more and more water from the reservoir.

“That’s what’s drawing it down, is irrigation,” he said.

But lower water levels have not had a negative impact on fishing the reservoirs.

“They’re still catching some trout, even though it’s warm. They’re catching perch, I’m seeing some small mouth bass, there’s been walleye caught here and there,” Palcer said. “So fishing is still pretty decent.

The real fear is that if bodies of water don’t fill back up, fish nesting areas will be left high and dry, Palcer said. The hope is that water levels will return to normal come winter, when snow falls and local farmers and ranchers stop pulling from the reservoirs.

The pull for irrigation officially stops Oct. 15.

“We went to Harvey Gap a number of times, and both Harvey Gap and Rifle Gap are extremely low,” Harcourt said. “The fish get to meet a lot of new friends as they get congested into a puddle. So if you’re a little fish, you better watch your back.”

According to information provided by Silt Water Conservancy District representative Tina Bergonzini, Harvey Gap was originally built by immigrant farmers in 1897 to store water. Their water rights were not intended just for agricultural uses but domestic as well.

Harvey Gap can hold 5,806 acre-feet of water, while Rifle Gap holds 12,167 acre-feet before spilling.

“Project water was allocated to property owners in the district based on soil, slope and production possibility. This water cannot leave the land it was allocated to. It transfers to new owners via quit claim or warranty deed when the property sells,” Bergonzini stated in an email. “This is a nice safeguard to keep water distributed to viable lands and keeps people from being able to ‘buy up’ all the water. The Bureau of Reclamation allocated 10,384 acre-feet of water to the 6,597 acres in our district.”

Bergonzini said drought conditions have also affected the way the district distributes its irrigation. One method the district pursued this year was implementing four weeks of furlough at the beginning of the season, when property owners were restricted from accessing irrigation water through the reservoirs.

“We’ve been working with a lot of other entities, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Department — all of these different entities to try to create a more symbiotic relationship between tourism and recreation and agriculture,” she said.

Bergonzini said ranchers in the district have implemented different practices, using products on their fields that help the roots take in more water and pull the water deeper.

District farmer Nathan Bell, whose allotment is stored in Rifle Gap, said he irrigates a couple of different ways.

“Our full allotment is 50 shared days per acre-foot of water,” he said. “This year, because we knew that it was going to be drought conditions, we started at 40 shared days per acre-foot.”

Like most years, they depend on a good snowpack and snow melt, as well as heavy, early-spring rains. This year was short of precipitation, which means less irrigation, Bell said.

For the avid fishers of the community, they too look forward to some heavy snows hitting the mountain. At the very least, water temperatures are already starting to cool down.

That’s good news for Harcourt.

“We’re going to be in fall real quick,” Harcourt said. “Fall fishing is some of the best the whole year has to offer. So, myself and most of my friends and guides, we’ve all just been really looking forward to saying goodbye to summer.”

Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or rerku@citizentelegram.com.

On the Fly column: Good problems

Fryingpan River rainbow trout. Photo courtesy of Justin Moore

The hatches up the Fryingpan this week are nothing short of amazing, especially if you are all about dissecting complex dry fly hatches. The kicker right now is that there are six different insects coming off, all at once. The Pan is offering up coinciding green drake, pale morning dun, cranefly, seratella, midge and caddis hatches these days, which makes for some head-scratching on the part of the angler. You can either accept it or get ticked off, depending on how you handle these “stressful” situations.

While poking around in the river recently, every one of the aforementioned insects were in the air or on the water. There were rising fish everywhere. I like big flies, so of course the first thing to go on the end of the leader was a size 12 green drake Sparkledun. No love. Not even a refusal after close inspection. A pink pale morning dun was offered next, with the same result. After plying the water with Roy Palm’s Special Fryingpan Emerger and my favorite caddis imitiations, I was on the verge of getting upset.

Things were figured out after much trial and, especially, error. On this particular day, these fish were eating specific insects, changing their minds, and changing them back again. Some days you have to wear a few different hats when you are fly-fisher — be it hapless observer, self-help therapist or entomologist. Watch what’s happening like a hawk during these complex hatch days, and roll with the haymakers the trout and river might throw at you.

Personally, the periodic toughness of this sport is what keeps me addicted. Whether you are young or “old,” you will always learn something new on the water if you watch and learn. I think I would have gotten bored with all this stuff years ago if this weren’t the case. On those days when you don’t know whether to laugh or cry, choose laughter.

This report is provided every week by Taylor Creek Fly Shops in Aspen and Basalt. Taylor Creek can be reached at 970-927-4374 or TaylorCreek.com.

PHOTOS: Strawberry Shortcut returns to new finish venue, race routes

A group of Glenwood Springs Middle Schoolers leads the pack out of the gate on Seventh Street in downtown Glenwood Springs for the 43rd Strawberry Shortcut Wiley Coyote 5K on Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021.
John Stroud / Post Independent

It took an extra year, but the 43rd running of the Strawberry Shortcut took to the streets and paths of Glenwood Springs Saturday morning.

More than 100 runners and walkers toed the line for the 10K, 5K and 1-mile events — and in some cases, all three — after the popular community race took a one-year hiatus due to the pandemic.

Regan Kerst tries to keep her hat in place as she nears the finish of the Strawberry Shortcut Nancy Reinisch Mile in downtown Glenwood Springs on Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021.
John Stroud / Post Independent

Originally just a 10K race, the event added the 5K and 1-mile runs over the years and is usually held in conjunction with the Strawberry Days Festival in June. Since the festival took a second year off this year, race organizers decided to go it alone on the final weekend of August. They expect to return to Strawberry Days weekend next year.

The 5K and 1-mile runs were named in memory of two longtime runners and supporters of local community races, Bob Willey and Nancy Reinisch. The Shortcut serves as a fundraiser for Special Olympics.

Bob Albright, a regular at community running races in the Roaring Fork Valley, gives the thumbs-up at the finish of the Strawberry Shortcut Willey Coyote 5K in downtown Glenwood Springs on Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021.
John Stroud / Post Independent

Following are the top-10 finishers in each event:

10K (*denotes female)

1. Jack Spittler (41 minutes, 41 seconds; 2. *Rachel Bachman Perkins (42:54); 3. *Dana Peterson (46:34); 4. Nick Croissant (46:48); 5. *Coral Thompson (46:54); 6. Ryan Anthon (47:34); 7. Ryan Picchini (48:00); 8. *Anne Swanson (47:34); 9.Bob Dubois (48:09); 10. Paul Erwin (48:34).

Willey Coyote 5K

Braden Meason crosses the finish line under the Grand Avenue Bridge just ahead of Warren Swanson in the Willey Coyote 5K, part of the Strawberry Shortcut community running races on Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021, in downtown Glenwood Springs.
John Stroud / Post Independent

1. Braden Meason (20:37); 2. Warren Swanson (20:41); 3. Eric Lamb (20:53); 4. Calvin Swanson (21:19); 5. Henry Smith (21:43); 6. *Jennifer Spittler (21:54); 7. Brian Pearson (22:43); 8. *Jessica McElroy (23:44); 9. *Dana Peterson (24:09); 10. Brad Palmer (24:32).

Jennifer Spittler crosses the finish line under the Grand Avenue Bridge as the top female finisher in the Willey Coyote 5K, part of the Strawberry Shortcut community running races on Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021, in downtown Glenwood Springs.
John Stroud / Post Independent

Nancy Reinisch 1 Mile

1. Henry Smith (6 minutes, 48 seconds); 2. Keith Bushman (8:06); 3. Kilian Smith (8:14); 4. Jason Smith (8:15); 5. Brody Evans (8:42); 6. Andrew Karow (8:50); 7. *Dana Peterson (8:46); 8. Jeff Carlson (9:19); 9. *Penelope Whattoff (9:43); 10. *Gina Giuliani (9:54).

Runners leave the start of the 43rd Strawberry Shortcut Willey Coyote 5K on Seventh Street in downtown Glenwood Springs, Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021.
John Stroud / Post Independent
A trio of young runners, from left, Rowan Orcutt, Harper Kerst and Regan Kerst, take to the course at the start of the Strawberry Shortcut Nancy Reinisch Mile on Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021, in downtown Glenwood Springs.
John Stroud / Post Independent
David Hayes, front, waves to onlookers as he nears the finish of the Strawberry Shortcut Nancy Reinisch Mile run in downtown Glenwood Springs on Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021.
John Stroud / Post Independent

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.

On the Fly column: Don’t worry, be happy

Christian Hill with a local brown trout. Scott Spooner/Courtesy Photo

A fly-fisher has plenty of relationships outside of the human realm — they also exist between us and our rods, rivers, flies and fish. Fly-fishers can reach a love/hate point with their gear, their cast, let alone hard-to-fool trout. More often than not, this crisis of faith stems from attitudes and expectations. I’ve known fly-fishers much more skillful than myself to come into the shop once a blue moon with that “deer in the headlights” look. But don’t despair.

When I used to play a fair amount of golf, playing and practicing with advanced players always raised my game. The same principle applies here. Find someone who is next level and get on the water with them. Make inroads with guides, join a club or simply stop flailing about when you’re in the struggle box and closely watch an angler who is whacking fish. A thinly veiled compliment (and an offer of a cold one after the hatch ends) goes a long way towards gaining valuable advice and fly recommendations from strangers on the water.

When it comes to attitudes and expectations, my best advice is to loosen up. Fish are wild and weather is random. We shouldn’t allow ourselves to get upset if the hatch doesn’t happen exactly when that guide from the fly shop says it will. It’s no one’s fault if the fish are slamming size 22 baetis when you expected them to be on size 10 drakes. Fish without a plan, be adaptable and see where the day takes you. My prescription is to go with the flow, and don’t put your human hang-ups on the fish or the river.

If your cast is giving you trouble or you never seem to have the right fly, don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are probably more casting instructors around here than real estate agents. Every fly shop has an entomology nut willing to spill their guts about bugs and their imitations — all you need to do is ask. Take a deep breath, remember why this sport called to you in the first place, and take what Mother Nature gives you.

This report is provided every week by Taylor Creek Fly Shops in Aspen and Basalt. Taylor Creek can be reached at 970-927-4374 or TaylorCreek.com.

SUP? The Colorado stand-up paddleboarding craze

A stand-up paddleboarder drifts across the water on a quiet afternoon at Harvey Gap.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Over the last decade, stand-up paddleboarding has slowly become a popular recreational activity and sport. Drive past almost any body of water in the Roaring Fork Valley or past cars while stuck in traffic on Interstate 70, and it is not uncommon to see at least one surfboard-like watercraft gliding across the surface.

A pair of stand-up paddleboarders paddle from the shore on a quiet day at Harvey Gap.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Stand-up paddleboarding, or SUP for short, involves putting a board on a body of calm or moderately moving water while standing atop it with a paddle in order to propel the board in specific directions. The activity can at times be challenging, as it involves keeping your balance, engaging your core muscles and using your upper body strength to paddle — all while paying attention to where your board lies in the water. The challenges can be overcome, though, as many get to the skill level where they can not only stand firmly atop the board but also perform yoga while on the paddleboard.

Shaine Ebrahimi runs the home-based paddleboarding company Shaboomee: Stand Up Paddle Boarding out of the Carbondale area. Ebrahimi has designed his own paddleboard gear, garnering five patents in the process. He has been paddleboarding for the past 11 years and has spent thousands of hours exploring Colorado water while atop a paddleboard.

Ebrahimi said he anticipated the large boom that was about to happen around the activity when he started Shaboomee 11 years ago.

“The massive interest in standard paddleboarding is because of the convenient way you can get out onto water and into nature. It’s easy to transport and easier to store. It’s also an activity that families and friends and groups can do,” Ebrahimi said.

For those who are just dipping a toe into the activity, Ebrahimi recommends that you purchase or rent a wider board, as it will provide a more stable standing surface as compared with narrower boards that more advanced boarders might use.

Stand-up paddleboarders enjoy a quiet afternoon at Harvey Gap.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

In terms of paddling efficiently, Ebrahimi says there are four main components to successful paddling while standing or kneeling on a paddleboard. “Catch, power, release, reset. If you remember one thing, remember to release the paddle out of the water by your feet. Paddling behind your feet is ineffective, and it pushes your board off the direction you want to go.”

Some of the local areas newbies can get their boards wet to grow their paddleboarding skills include calmer sections of the Colorado River near Glenwood Springs, North Star Preserve near Aspen, Ruedi Reservoir, Chapman Reservoir, Harvey Gap and Grand Lake in Granby.

Harvey Gap State Park is a popular spot for stand-up paddleboarders.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

There are also some more advanced paddleboarding locations in the area. These include the Glenwood Whitewater Park, sections of the Roaring Fork River and moderate parts of the Colorado River. However, river paddleboarding is drastically different from boarding on calm water.

“Anytime you go paddleboarding on a river, there’s elements of danger,” Ebrahimi warned.

Regardless of ability or where one chooses to ride, paddleboarding promises to be an experience, and it might just become your new go-to weekend activity.

Glenwood Canyon bike path repairs also needed, but I-70 higher in priority; likely to remain closed for season

Burned logs float in a dammed portion of the Colorado River over the Glenwood Canyon bike path after a flash flood swept a major debris slide down the Devil's Hole drainage in July.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Among the permanent repairs that will need to be done in Glenwood Canyon from the damage caused by recent mudslides and debris flows involves the popular recreation path connecting the four rest areas and Shoshone boat launch in the canyon.

The concrete path runs the full 12-mile length of the canyon alongside Interstate 70 and the Colorado River, and is regularly used by cyclists, runners, hikers and people looking to access the river.

It is currently closed to the east of the No Name Rest Area, and has been for much of the summer due to the threat of mudslides from the Grizzly Creek burn scar and safety concerns for trail users.

Parts of the path were severely damaged by the massive mudslides and debris flows that occurred in late July and early August, which closed I-70 for 15 days. The canyon was closed again Wednesday and into Thursday due to rains.

“Our first focus is the highway and to get it repaired and restored to two lanes of traffic (both directions) by Thanksgiving,” said Keith Stefanik, the Colorado Department of Transportation’s deputy incident commander for the Glenwood Canyon emergency response efforts.

Burned logs float in a dammed portion of the Colorado River over the Glenwood Canyon bike path after a flash flood swept a major debris slide down the Devil's Hole drainage in July.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Stefanik joined a multi-agency Wednesday video news conference where the U.S. Forest Service announced that the Hanging Lake Trail will remain closed to visitors indefinitely due to extensive trail damage caused by the slides.

Likewise, the recreation path will likely remain closed for some time until repairs can be made, Stefanik said.

“We understand the path is a necessity for the community, but we want to make sure we can open two lanes of traffic in each direction first,” he said.

“There are impacts to the trail all through the canyon,” Stefanik said, adding the path is “completely gone” at mile point 123.5 where I-70 was the most severely damaged.

Parts of the path are also underwater in places where the debris flows poured into the Colorado River, pushing the channel to the north over the path and up against the eastbound highway structure, he said.

“We do have to go in and assess the bike path,” but that’s not part of the initial emergency response, Stefanik said.

“Once we do the emergency repair work we can move on to permanent repairs,” he said. “The bike path will be one of those permanent repair projects.”

As with the interstate repair work, the bike path would be included for funding from the $116 million in federal assistance sought by Colorado Gov. Jared Polis.

In addition, the state and its congressional delegation are seeking emergency assistance for nonroadway impacts via the Stafford Act.

Nonroadway damage assessments are ongoing, but funding could be made available to repair damage to the Colorado River, for rockfall mitigation within the burn scar area on both sides of the river and rebuilding the Hanging Lake Trail.

Funds could also be used to support individuals and small businesses impacted by the slides and resulting canyon closures, CDOT indicated in a Wednesday news release.

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.

Sports briefs: Toe the line for the Dog Day 5K, Strawberry Shortcut foot races

CARE’s Dog Day 5K is Saturday

The annual Dog Day 5K benefit for Colorado Animal Rescue (CARE) takes place Saturday, Aug. 21 at Two Rivers Park in Glenwood Springs.

The race begins at 8 a.m. (registration table opens at 7 a.m.). The course follows an out-and-back on the Glenwood River Trail (Rio Grande).

Registration is $30 (+$5 day of) and includes a race t-shirt, race sticker, cat and dog treats, and a chance to win prizes from Marble Distilling, Susan’s Flowers, Aspen Mini Donuts and more.

Advance registration can be found here: https://www.coloradoanimalrescue.org/event-directory/dogday5k/

Strawberry Shortcut returns Aug. 28

The Strawberry Shortcut 5K, 10K and 1-mile fun run makes a comeback for its 43rd year on Saturday, Aug. 28.

The 10K race kicks off the event at 7 a.m., followed by the 5K at 8:30 a.m. and then the mile run starting at 9:30 a.m. The event will conclude with awards under the Grand Avenue Bridge at 10 a.m. The course will now start and finish under the bridge on Seventh Street.

Cost is $40 per person to register for the 5K or 10K, and $25 a person for the mile run, with package deals for families and individuals who want to do multiple races. Proceeds go to benefit Special Olympics Colorado.

Cash prizes are to be awarded to the top three finishers of each race, including $200 for the male and female winners.

Registration and volunteer information here: StrawberryShortcut.org/