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Hejtmanek wins Shortcake; Cheney leads women

Shortcake Run Results

Sunday’s Strawberry Shortcake 4k (2.5 mile) Run in West Glenwood Springs drew a field of 20 total participants.

Glenwood’s Josh Hejtmanek was the overall race winner with a time of 15 minutes, 36 seconds on the hilly course up Mitchell Creek Road. For the females, Coal Ridge High School sophomore Mikayla Cheney topped the field by posting a time of 18:58.

The race was a benefit for several local animal shelters with a total of $330 being raised for the cause.

All Race Finishers

* Denotes Female Runners: 1. Josh Hejtmanek, 15 minutes, 36 seconds; 2. Bryce Risner, 16:08; 3. Reid Swanson, 16:27; 4. Benny Swanson, 16:31; 5. CJ Alberts, 17:46; 6. Mikayla Cheney*, 18:58; 7. Jerick Sorensen, 19:49; 8. Anne Swanson*, 19:54; 9. Johnny Utah, 19:55; 10. Brad Palmer, 20:05; 11. Bruce Barth, 20:12; 12. Josh Nye, 20:15; 13. Martin Pearson, 20:52; 14. Sophia Vigil*, 21:10; 15. Charley Marley 24:08; 16. Calvin Swanson, 29:38; 17. Warren Swanson, 29:39; 18. Abbey Ehlers*, 32:29; 19. Jaime Moore*, 32:29; 20. Bob Albright, 42:40.

Strawberry Shortcake 4K time trial runs Sunday

The Strawberry Shortcake 4K individual time trial — a replacement for the Strawberry Shortcut race that was canceled this month due to the coronavirus — takes place between 7:30–9 a.m. Sunday, June 28.

Runners are asked to show up at the starting line on the west end of Donegan Road in West Glenwood based on their estimated time, and clock themselves on the 4K (2.5 mile) course.

Up to four runners/walkers at a time will go off in time-trial fashion every 2 minutes.

Those expecting to complete the course up to the Mitchell Creek Fish Hatchery and back in less than 20 minutes are asked to be ready to go between 8–8:10 a.m. Under 24-minute runners should be ready from 8:12–8:20, and those in the 24-30 minute range should prepare to start after 8:20. Walkers will start after 8:30 a.m.

Suggested wave times are encouraged, but anyone can complete the course on their own and record a time. Prizes, including former Shortcut and Glenwood Springers medals and t-shirts, will be awarded to the top finishers.

Blizzards publish book on wild mushroom foraging

They may not have exactly “written the book” on wild mushrooms.

But they have written a book titled “Wild Mushrooms.”

Trent and Kristen Blizzard of Glenwood Springs run a website design company BlizzardPress.

But their alter ego is self-proclaimed mushroom geeks. They’ve been collecting mushrooms for eight years, Kristen Blizzard, 46, said.

“We started the hobby together,” she said.

In that time they’ve traveled the country foraging for mushrooms and attending events.

“We attend a lot of festivals and conferences every year and speak publicly at them as well on foraging,” Trent Blizzard, 50, said.

The Blizzards’ mushroom book is scheduled to be released on Oct. 13. The cover may change some. For one thing, there are 115 recipes in the book.

‘Wild Mushrooms’ book

And their book “Wild Mushrooms: How to Find, Store, and Prepare Foraged Mushrooms” is scheduled for an Oct. 13 release.

“It focuses on about 15 mushrooms and focuses on how to preserve mushrooms. Then we have over 100 recipes that we interviewed about 20 different foragers for, and they each provided a few recipes and tips. So it’s a combination of wild mushroom preserving, cooking and forager stories about those mushrooms,” Trent Blizzard said.

It took a lot of work to finish the book.

“We’ve been working on it pretty hard for a year. Definitely a lot of work. The photography was a difficult part; we had to learn how to do a lot of photography. We had to interview all the foragers. Then we had to cook up 115 recipes and take pictures,” he said. 

The COVID-19 lockdown gave the Blizzards time to dedicate to the book.

‘In a way the pandemic helped us because we just finished up all the cookbook pictures and then it hit. … We had two months of downtime to sit here and write, edit, rewrite and re-edit. That was our pandemic project. We probably got the book out a couple of months early because of that,” Trent Blizzard said.

One of the websites BlizzardPress designed was for Modern Forager, the couple’s mushroom-hunting side business.

The website features blogs, links to resources, items for sale and burn maps. The Blizzards have looked at fires in all western states except Nevada and selected the ones that are accessible, where picking is legal and which are most likely to have burn morels.

Mushroom class

Enthusiasts can also sign up for one of Trent Blizzard’s online mushroom classes. Session 1 of Learn Colorado’s Wild Mushrooms just wrapped up on June 19 with all 50 slots sold out. According to the website, the class covers when, where and how to forage for gourmet mushrooms along with identification, habitat, preservation and cooking.

A second session started June 24 and continues Wednesday and July 22. 

‘We did one a couple of weeks ago and it sold out, so we figured we’d better do another one,” Trent Blizzard said.

He said missing a class is not a problem as recordings will be made available to people who sign up.

“We will be recording the class and providing the recordings for people because a lot of times people can’t attend all the classes or they move too fast and they want to watch them at their leisure. So as people come in and miss the first class it’s no big deal,” he said.

The class will cover Colorado’s popular and lesser-known mushrooms.

A morel looms in the foreground as Kristen Blizzard forages in back.
Trent Blizzard

“In Colorado we talk about the easy to identify [mushrooms as being] morels, porcini, chanterelle, puffball and hawkswing. Those are generally the big ones here in Colorado that people chase that are very easy to identify. Oyster mushrooms are also probably on that list or would be the next one you would add,” he said. “The class will talk about each of these mushrooms as well as more difficult ones, too, what you look for to identify them, and what are some of the key lookalikes you might want to be aware of or look out for.”

Knowing which mushrooms look like edible mushrooms but are not is very important.

“If you’re identifying mushrooms and you’re not aware of what the lookalikes are, you’re not identifying them properly,” he said.

Certified experts

The Blizzards are Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment certified wild mushroom identification experts, which is not an easy certification to get, Trent Blizzard said.

“Colorado has a certification for wild mushroom experts. You go through a process with that. It’s a fairly difficult process. There’s only a few people in the state I believe that have completed it. Kristen is — I think — the only woman to have completed that process. It’s difficult, that’s why there’s only a few people that have it in the state right now. … You basically have to have a scientist write a letter listing each mushroom that you’re qualified to identify,” he said.

Personal faves

So what mushrooms do the experts like?

“It’s tough not to love Colorado’s porcini the most (Boletus rubriceps) for the thrill of the hunt and their versatility in the kitchen. My favorite wild mushroom to eat is the chicken of the woods (Laetiporus cincinnatus), which does not grow in Colorado,” Kristen Blizzard said.

While many fungophiles revere morels, Trent Blizzard said he can’t eat them.

“I personally am allergic to morels. … I pick huge quantities of them and I can taste them, but if I eat more than a couple I get pretty sick,” he said.

Kristen Blizzard said one particular day foraging stands out as special for her.

Kristen and Trent Blizzard show off a matsutake mushroom.

“Oh, so many adventures. Last year in Colorado was quite special, though. I think I would say it was then, when we found a hillside of matsutake here in Colorado. Special because we had yet to find any matsutake in Colorado, and because of the sheer number of mushrooms we stumbled into,” Kristen Blizzard said.


Hikers suspect they saw a wolf at Crater Lake in Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness

Jim and LuAnne Spurrell were hiking the trail alongside Crater Lake in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness close to dusk Tuesday night when the alarmed cries of an animal stopped them in their tracks.

They pivoted to see what the commotion was about and were startled to see what they believe was a gray wolf loping across terrain they had just passed 30 to 40 yards behind them.

“I immediately yelled, ‘That’s a wolf,’” Jim Spurrell recounted Thursday. “At about the same time, my wife blurted out, ‘That’s a wolf.’”

“When you saw it, you knew exactly what it was,” LuAnne said.

The sounds of alarm were coming from a smaller animal that they couldn’t see well enough to identify but suspect was a beaver or marmot. The presumed wolf was walking across a pile of downed timber on the north end of the lake, paying no attention to the smaller animal. The wolf “floated” through the tree trunks without a problem, Jim Spurrell said. Once clear of the logs it followed the trail in a “characteristic wolf-like gait” and soon disappeared to the west into the woods, he said.

The Bethesda, Maryland, couple are in the Roaring Fork Valley to visit their daughter in Carbondale. They had booked time to visit the Maroon Bells area under the new reservation system and were hiking at Crater Lake at 7:53 p.m. when the shadows were long and the number of people dwindled.

LuAnne said it was ironic that just a few minutes before seeing the presumed wolf, she and her daughter were talking about the evening taking on a “fairy tale” kind of atmosphere with the dark forest and deteriorating light. The trip back to the parking lot at Maroon Lake was slightly eerie after the wolf sighting, she said.

In retrospect, Jim wishes he would taken time to search for a paw print, but it was getting dark and they didn’t want to be roaming around after dark in the presence of a wolf.

“We were a little bit freaked out,” Jim said.

The couple is certain what they saw wasn’t a coyote. Jim said they are accustomed to seeing eastern coyotes, which are slightly larger than those in the West. What they described as a “beigey-white canid” was one-quarter to one-third larger than their 85-pound German shepherd. Jim said he frequently throws a Frisbee to his dog and is used to seeing his pet 30 to 40 yards away. Therefore, he said, he is confident of his assessment of the size of animal he saw in the wild.

Unfortunately, they don’t have a picture of the possible wolf.

“I think we were all so drop-jawed that no one even thought of taking a picture,” Jim said.

He did report their encounter to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife on Wednesday and was urged to go on the state agency’s website to file an official report on a possible wolf sighting. He filled out the report on Thursday.

“I’m not doing this as an alarmist,” Spurrell said. He just thinks the possible sighting could be an interesting development. Spurrell had double majors at the University of Tennessee in chemistry and zoology, though he didn’t pursue species identification in his studies, he said.

CPW has confirmed the presence of a wolf pack in northwestern Colorado and it is investigating a handful of other reports of wolves that the agency has deemed “credible.”

In a recap of wolf activity issued on June 12, CPW said a lone wolf that was first confirmed in North Park one year ago remains in that area. The wolf was collared in the Wyoming Snake River pack and migrated to Colorado, where it was first photographed in July 2019. It’s labeled as 1084-M.

Another lone wolf, with a wildlife-tracking collar, has been reported in Larimer County. Officials believe it left a pack in Wyoming or Montana. However, flights and ground crews haven’t been able to detect a signal or visually confirm the wolf.

Two groups of campers in Grand County reported spotting a “large, wolf-like animal” on the weekend of June 6-7, according to CPW. The agency is investigating to try to confirm the presence of a wolf.

The presence of a pack of at least six wolves was confirmed late last year in the extreme northwest corner of Colorado. There have been several sightings by wildlife officers, hunters and landowners.

Area Wildlife Manager Matt Yamashita and district wildlife manager for the Aspen area Kurtis Tesch couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday about the Spurrell’s possible sighting of a wolf. It is unknown if wildlife officers attempted to collect scat samples of look for paw prints.

Officials with the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District said they are unaware of wolf sightings in the terrain around Aspen but noted CPW is better suited to answer if it is feasible a wolf could have ventured into the Aspen-area forest.

Jim Spurrell said he couldn’t rule out seeing a wolf-dog hybrid, although there was no evidence of a human around that would be accompanying a domesticated animal. They saw two tents at Crater Lake, but no people.

“I don’t know how to explain it — this was not a domestic animal,” Spurrell said. The fur was mottled, he noted.

“I’m pretty certain of what I saw,” Spurrell said.

This isn’t the first possible wolf sighting in the Aspen area. A Roaring Fork Valley resident said he encountered a wolf while hunting on Independence Pass in 2007.


Tie one on: The simple joys of popper fishing

It wasn’t too long ago that my springs were spent on the waters of Harvey Gap and Rifle Gap reservoirs on the outskirts of Rifle, pursuing smallmouth bass with a fly pole. I say pole because rod seems overwhelmingly too fancy a term here in the heart of trout country where tourists spend thousands of dollars on gear and guides to catch pretty trout on a fly rod during the famed green drake hatch standing next to other sports from Texas, California and New York trying to do the same. 

Smallmouth Bass, long considered pound-for-pound the strongest of freshwater fish are also considered as pound-for-pound one of the most dangerous of fish, threatening populations of endangered native chubs and sucker. Colorado Parks and Wildlife has therefore been trying to eradicate smallmouth bass and northern pike among other species that prey on or compete in habitat with the endangered fish species

For the past few years the pickings were slim for smallie fishing diehards like myself as CPW staff gillnetted the reservoirs several times in efforts to drastically reduce the numbers of smallmouth bass and northern pike present in Rifle Gap, Harvey Gap and other Western Slope impoundments. My friends and I were going through bass withdrawals and would regularly travel to the far corners of Colorado and surrounding states to go catch a few measly bass. Gone were the days of heading out after work in the jon boat and enjoying the sunset while stretching out the fly line on numbers of wildly acrobatic bronzeback smallmouth. I continued to go out to the lakes in subsequent years and chased the last few remaining specimens simply out of habit and nostalgia. I continued to release them all but cherished each one more than the last, taking the time to really look at their beauty as they become even fewer and farer between, thanking them for letting me into their world.

I obviously wasn’t alone in my frustrations as CPW staff have recently been appeasing the Western Slope bass, pike and warmwater fishing crowd by stocking non-threatening fish species like Largemouth Bass, Tiger Muskie, sterile Walleye, Crappie and Bluegill in places such as The Gaps. 

There’s simply nothing as enchanting as fishing a popper for bass. These large, air resistant flies don’t necessarily imitate anything and fish often eat them out of instinct and curiosity. Some vaguely resemble frogs, snakes, and birds while others remind me a foam-bodied grasshopper at a rave party spun-out on molly. Anything seems to go in bass fishing as they are welcomed opportunists making fly selection more about your gut feeling and mood compared to which stage of the ephemerella grandis green drake is hatching at the moment on the Roaring Fork.

While fishing this past weekend, my friend Mark compared fishing a popper to watching a fire. There’s just something rhythmical and totally enchanting in the pops, glugs and splooshes (all technical bass terms) of poppers as they leave bubble trails and rings when stripped and pulled on the waters surface. There’s nothing delicate or dainty here like trout fly fishing – you fish the banks, the rock piles, the ledges and edges, and any other piece of structure where bass can hide near cover. The takes are fast and explosive, not gentle sips like the elegant trout. 

Fast forward to the present, where this spring my fishing partner, Travis, and I took my skiff out for an evening of nostalgia. Unbeknownst to us at the time, the CPW recently released a brood stock of around 50-100 largemouth bass that varied in size from 10-12” inches up to 5-7 pounds. We ended up boating three bass that evening totaling over 10 pounds including a fish approaching 7 pounds all on topwater popper flies. To put that in perspective, the state record largemouth bass is 10 pounds. That would be the equivalent of catching a 15 pound trout on the Fryingpan River on a large dry fly.

After landing our third fish that evening, still with about a half hour of light remaining (what we refer to in fishing as the magic hour), we sat motionless on Harvey Gap watching the sun set, stunned and still in awe of our rejuvenated local bass fishery. Finally, with all the doom and gloom surrounding the Corona virus and racial tensions, there was a brief moment of escape, relief and hope for us – the Gaps are back and fishing possibly as well as ever. 

I leave you this week with a quote from President Hoover, “To go fishing is the chance to wash one’s soul with pure air, with the rush of the brook, or with the shimmer of sun on blue water. It brings meekness and inspiration from the decency of nature, charity towards tackle makers, patience towards fish, a mockery of profits and egos, a quieting of hate, a rejoicing that you don’t have to decide a darned thing till next week. And it is discipline in the equality of men – for all men are equal before the fish.”

Kirk Webb is a longtime angler who lives in the Roaring Fork Valley.

Vidakovich column: I will, I won’t; I do, I don’t; I would, I should … I could

I must warn you that this column has no particular subject or rhyme or reason to it. A collection of random sporting thoughts is what makes up the sentences and paragraphs that are to follow.

You may agree with some of my ramblings and strongly object to others, keeping in mind that this is not the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Rather, it’s simply arguable opinions of a person who has spent a life immersed in the study and playing of many sports and the remarkably unique characters that make up the always entertaining field of dreams.

So, here goes.

I couldn’t care less if or when the Major League Baseball shortened season ever gets going. The players and owners have been squabbling for quite some time now about how many games should be played and how much money those poor and destitute millionaire players should make. In a time when folks are trying to stay employed, pay bills and keep their heads above water, the guys who get richly rewarded for playing a kids game can’t seem to bare to part with a million or two here and there. I think it’s quite a shame.

I don’t seem to be much more excited for the resumption of the NBA season in late July than I am for baseball to begin. How they are going to keep all of the sweaty, heavy-breathing, colliding bodies from contracting this virus is a mystery that I can’t even imagine Columbo could solve.

I will be surprised if the Denver Nuggets make it past the first round of the bubble-bound tournament that is to be played entirely at Disneyworld in Orlando. The experts say plumpy Nikola Jokic has lost some weight and is in the best shape of his life. Extra padding and a low motivation level have always plagued Denver’s Croatian hoops star. Maybe if some of the flab is gone from his frame, someone in the organization has also decided to stick a hot poker up his keister to get him going.

I should be excited for late summer and the beginning of college and professional football, the two leagues that I would miss immeasurably. I could be mistaken, but like basketball, I think once all of those big bodies start to fall all over each other, players are going to be getting infected right and left. It’s already started to happen, and NFL camps don’t even open for another month.

I would like to tell you that I am a good golfer, but the word competent to describe my game on the links would be a stretch. I sure have had fun playing more this spring and summer than I have in a long time. Hitting that little ball and chasing it around green pastures is quite a challenge. But there is never anything about a good walk spoiled when you get the exercise and the scenery of a beautiful jaunt around a golf course with a bunch of good buddies, or even perfect strangers for that matter.

I do derive an equal amount of pleasure playing softball with my Tuesday night team in Rifle. We have a group of very fun guys and gals and they’re a pretty talented lot to boot. This could be our year to grab that elusive championship. We’ve come close a few years, but no victory cigars have ever been lit. The main thing is everyone is having a blast and that’s why I drive down the western turnpike each week to see my team.

I won’t ever stop running. Even someday when I’m old and used up, I will still get out the door early in the morning and crawl-run if I have to. Running is still the best therapy for dealing with this mixed up world that I have ever found, without exception.

I should tell you, though, that about a week ago I had to run a few extra miles in the early dawn light trying to make sense of why I had to say goodbye to beloved Aunt Jemima on my syrup bottle. This good friend, regardless of color, race or religion, has been with me for Sunday morning hotcakes since I was a little boy. I guess I’m just behind the times and filled with dumb-assery, because all I ever saw in this wonderful woman was someone who looked like she could really make a tasty stack of griddle cakes!

I must confess that when I heard the horrible news of AJ’s demise, I rushed to the store and stocked up on her likeness for many breakfasts to come.

I don’t let loose of dear friends that easily!

Mike Vidakovich grew up in Glenwood Springs, is a longtime youth sports coach and is a regular sports contributor for the Post Independent.

Sunlight looks ahead after COVID closure sours season

Sunlight Mountain Resort is predicting a 25-30% decrease in overall revenues for the 2019/20 season, but staff still found something to smile about.

With the uncertainty of the pandemic, Sunlight has an updated season pass policy called the Sunlight Smile Guarantee, Sunlight sales and marketing director Troy Hawks said in an email.

If Sunlight is open less than 50% of its planned 2020/21 season, pass holders may be eligible for a 50% discount on 2021/22 season passes. If Sunlight is open 50–74% of the season, the discount drops to 25%, Hawks said.

“The words ‘may be eligible’ are included in the Sunlight Smile Guarantee primarily as an indication that should the circumstances arise, we will look at each season pass transaction on a case-by-case basis to confirm that each season pass does indeed qualify for a particular credit, refund or no refund,” Hawks said.

“If it turns out we are closed, say, 52% of our season, we will review our policy and determine the appropriate credit at that time,” he said.

There will be no discount offered if Sunlight is open 75% or more of its planned season, as was the case in 2019/20. Sunlight was closed for 22 days out of its planned 114-day season, which means it was open for 80% of its season.

While that’s 20% shorter than the resort planned to be open, those three weeks included spring break, so it affected revenue by a greater percent.

“Spring break is our second-most-important period in terms of revenue,” Hawks said. “Our out-of-state and international guests generally ski here two to four days during their stay.”

Prior to COVID-19, Sunlight was having an excellent year, Hawks said.

“At the end of February, our revenues were on-pace to eclipse that of our 2018/19 season, which was the best season on record in terms of revenues in Sunlight’s 53-year history. … Strong season pass sales last season (up more than 40%) has played a primary role in helping us weather this storm so far,” Hawks said.

Sunlight’s finances were also helped by strong sales in the downtown bike shop, Hawks said.

“Our revenues are ahead of budget at Sunlight Ski & Bike, attributable to strong demand for bikes in April and May. Success at our downtown shop helps offset expenses we incur at the mountain as we have staff employed doing our regular lift maintenance, etc.,” he said.

And it wasn’t just revenue that got a boost.

“This spring there was so much uncertainty that the strong response at our downtown shop really infused our entire company with confidence,” Hawks said.

Sunlight expects to escape the pandemic slightly on the positive side financially, Hawks said.

“Our fiscal year ends at the end of August, and we do anticipate closing the year in the black, but not by a large margin,” he said.

The resort has reserves to dip into for next season, but doing so comes at a cost.

“We will head into 2020/21 with financial reserves that we can tap into for payroll or other operational expenses as needed as next season unfolds. Unfortunately some of those funds are being drawn from the reserve we intended to dedicate toward the installation of a new $4 million lift on East Ridge,” Hawks said.

Work is still being done on the project, though.

“The East Ridge Expansion is in progress (Phase II) this summer with trail crews doing more glading east of Perry’s Plunge. There will be additional glading within our existing terrain in concert with Forest Service mitigation efforts,” Hawks said.

Even without a lift, the new terrain will be available this winter, Hawks said.

“For the coming season skiers and riders can look forward to limited shuttle service from the new East Ridge terrain, returning them to the lifts. We are still working out details, but on days that we are able and when snow conditions warrant it, we plan to have a shuttle available near our lower lot, making it a cinch for skiers and riders to return to the lifts after scoring fresh powder on lower East Ridge,” he said.

And that would probably put a smile on anyone’s face.


The Roaring Fork Tri-Team training must go on

It’s not about the race.

That could be the Roaring Fork Women’s Triathlon Team’s motto this year.

Actually, it could be their motto every year, but, thanks to COVID-19 event cancellations, this is the first time the women are training without being sure that there will be a season-ending race.

Their target race, the Outdoor Divas Sprint Triathlon on Aug.16, has not been canceled yet. Organizer Without Limits Productions has canceled all its June races and is cautiously optimistic about its July races.

But the point of the team is not to complete a race. While that’s a useful goal, team members say it’s about the sense of community.

Second-year team member Lindy Clarke said, “The training and what they provide is valuable, but the sense of community is so important as well, and I think that’s what had me coming back, and that’s not lost. … It’s a very different experience [this year], but the community and camaraderie is still there in full force.”

Assistant coach Jeannette Chiappinelli isn’t concerned about Outdoor Divas being canceled. 

“It doesn’t really matter. At the end of the day it’s just a race. This team has been more about having a group of women from all ages and abilities together for a common goal,” she said.

Co-lead coaches Sharma Phillips, left, and Carla Westerman talk to team members.
Taylor Smith

“It’s not about the race, it’s the journey,” co-lead coach Sharma Phillips said.

COVID-19 has had other impacts on the team.

“Before the season started we were faced with … when are the pools going to open, are we going to have anywhere to swim. It became evident as time went on that there was not going to be a pool that would open in time for us to do our regular swim training. So we had to make a decision that instead of being a triathlon team this summer we would be a duathlon team, and we just dropped all of our swim training. … We knew that we were going to have to be practicing social distancing. By this time we were on Plan C. We were going to have to be meeting all over town in groups of 10 or less,” co-lead coach Carla Westerman said.

And then there’s that running while wearing masks thing.

“It’s not as bad as I thought. It’s not my favorite thing. … It’s about the safety of others, the tri team sisters. My slight discomfort is nothing compared to making sure everybody stays safe,” Clarke said.

Westerman sees mask wearing as just something they have to do.

“You know how women are, women just want to be together. It’s hard to keep them 6 feet apart, so we insist that everybody wear the mask even while they’re running. Nobody likes it, I hate it, but it’s what we have to do to be able to be together,” she said.

Westerman and Phillips weren’t sure there would be a team this year and had to be upfront about the changes.

“Carla and Sharma, they planned everything. … They put a lot of thought into it and really wanted to make sure that we’re safe, and also that we were getting our money’s worth, as they described it. They’ve taken measures — they reduced the costs, they were very upfront about what it won’t be this year versus what it was last year, and they joked about, ‘We tried to scare you guys away and you’re back,’” Clarke said.

“There’s no swim, you’re going to have to wear a mask, we’ll have to be in groups of 10 or less, we won’t have a race … we still ended up with 50 women that just wanted to be together working on their fitness,” Westerman said.

The team, which ranges in ages from 15–73, filled up, but operations have changed.

“The team looks a lot different this year than it has in years past, that’s for sure,” Phillips said.

“Carla and Sharma have managed to make it work with Zoom meetings and different ways to still feel like you’re part of something and yet with social distancing as well,” Chiappinelli said.

“There is a give and take, we have to do everything virtually, work inside the parameters of 25 [people] and less. We usually get together once a week outside of our training meetings to have a meeting with just Carla and I to get all of our ducks in a row. But now we meet at least two times a week if not three and for probably twice as long each meeting,” Phillips said.

While Westerman and Phillips worked hard to figure out how to make the team work, the new skills could pay off.

“Now that it’s virtual we can reach a lot more people than we could just physically getting together. … Now everybody’s getting the same information on their own time through our words. There’s definitely been some silver linings. There’s talk about can we do this for remote teams next year. Say we had a Roaring Fork Women’s Triathlon division in Denver or in Meeker where they could have all the exact same information and experience, and then just train on their own,” Phillips said.

And that would pay homage to original team founder Nancy Reinisch, who died from cancer last year.

“That was Nancy Reinisch’s vision to be able to bring the team outside of the Roaring Fork Valley,” Phillips said.


Winds take out large section of blue heron rookery by Ironbridge Golf Course

High winds that blew through the Roaring Fork Valley recently took out a portion of a long-established great blue heron rookery along the Roaring Fork River near the Ironbridge neighborhood.

River users who frequent the area south of Glenwood Springs reported the downed tree to Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials this week, and District Wildlife Manager John Groves was out to inspect things on Wednesday evening and again Thursday.

Groves said the top half of one of the big old ponderosa pines that line the river in that stretch broke off and fell into the water, trapping and killing several near-fledgling birds that occupied at least four nests in that particular tree.

“When I went out there (Wednesday) night, I found one still alive in the river and pulled it out,” Groves said. “A bunch of others had made it back up into the brush out of the river.”

Numerous adult birds were also still in the area. Groves said wildlife officials will let nature take its course, and hopefully the parents birds can be reunited with the young that survived.

“As far as rehabbing a heron, that’s pretty difficult,” he said. “It’s probably been about a month since they hatched out, so they were pretty close to fledgling and learning to fly at this point.”

Groves said there are at least three or four more trees along that stretch that still have active nests, so it wasn’t a total loss.

“Over time, this particular heronry has kind of spread out along the river as other trees have died,” Groves said.

Blue herons do tend to spoil their own nesting sites over time, due to the weight of the large nests and bird excrement that builds up and can eventually kill the trees, he said.

Groves said there are about 10 other nesting sites along the Roaring Fork River from Ironbridge upstream to the area east of Carbondale, including several on the old Sanders Ranch parcel near Aspen Glen.

Two summers ago, another large ponderosa pine at Aspen Glen that had contained a bald eagle’s nest for decades also fell over into the river. The eagles had at that point abandoned that tree for another site farther upstream, Groves said.

The nesting sites along the river for both bald eagles and great blue heron have resulted in various protections being put in place as residential and golf course development has occurred, including at Ironbridge and Aspen Glen.


Phased plan begins Monday to resume athletic activity on Roaring Fork School District grounds

Student-athletes in the Roaring Fork School District may resume voluntary sports workouts using outdoor school facilities starting Monday, but with strict health precautions in place to protect against coronavirus spread.

School district officials announced Friday that they have developed a phased plan to return to athletic participation, based on local and state health and safety requirements and recommendations to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The plan was reviewed by the public health departments in Garfield, Pitkin, and Eagle counties, according to a district news release. It will involve a tiered return to sports activities through the summer, leading up to a tentative start to formal practices in August, depending on where things stand at that point.

Athletic participation during phase one this summer for schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt will require: 

  • All coaches and students to be screened for COVID-19 signs and symptoms before participating in each workout. 
  • All workouts will be held outside; there will not be access to locker facilities, weight rooms and gyms. 
  • All activities must adhere to a maximum of 10 people, reflecting the most restrictive local requirement currently in place (This number may change as public health requirements change.)
  • All workouts will be conducted in student cohorts to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. 
  • Social distancing must be maintained, and masks must be worn unless the activity is exempted (swimming, distance running and high-intensity aerobic activity)
  • All participants must use their own equipment for ball sports; all shared equipment, such as weights, must be sanitized before and after use. 

The full plan for resuming school sports activities can be viewed here.

“Plans for phases two and three become increasingly less restrictive in conjunction with the continued reopening and expansion of activities in our community,” the news release states. “The district reserves the right to change the restrictions and requirements outlined in this document as needed to support the health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches, and the broader community.” 

All summer workouts are voluntary for students, per Colorado High School Activities Association bylaws, and coaches. Students who choose to participate in RFSD athletic activities over the summer must complete a waiver