Long time Aspen ranger heading for Carolina
A man who has spent as much time as anyone in Aspen’s backcountry over the last 15 years – and gotten paid for it – is moving on to other pastures.
Tim Lamb of the U.S. Forest Service’s Aspen-Sopris District took another position with the federal agency in Asheville, N.C. His last day on the job in Aspen was Friday.
Lamb was a familiar face to lots of people who roam the woods. He has held several positions with the Forest Service. Regardless of titles, he has essentially spent as much time as possible patrolling areas from Independence Pass east of Aspen to Four Mile Creek southwest of Glenwood Springs. Maroon Creek Valley is about the only place he didn’t regularly patrol. Unique funding arrangements allow the Forest Service to staff that popular valley with a special crew.
Lamb estimated he spent at least parts of 100 days in the field per year, making friends and acquaintances envious of his job. “When you’re on the trail you hear it all the time – you’ve got the best job in the world,” Lamb said.
For the most part, he agrees. However, it’s not a walk in the woods.
“It’s not just sitting under a tree and getting paid for it,” he said. “Dealing with people and the effects of people in the forest is the hardest part of the job.”
He’s seen the good, the bad and the odd in the White River National Forest. Most locals and visitors have a healthy outdoor ethic and follow the “Leave No Trace” rules of being easy on the land, he said.
He’s visited most of the district’s natural splendors and named Snowmass Lake and Lead King Basin as among the best. He also recalled the glory of getting off trail in parts of the Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness and finding beauty and solitude.
As far as the bad, he’s been forced to pick up mounds of trash left behind at weekend party hotspots on places like Basalt Mountain and he’s had to deal with junked vehicles in secluded places. In many years, he’s pulled the equivalent of 30 to 40 garbage bags of trash out of the woods. The most unpleasant problem was removing home built toilets from places like hunters’ camps.
“We end up managing people more because nature does a good job of taking care of itself,” Lamb said.
Then there are the strange experiences. “I never found a big foot print or flying saucer debris. That’d be pretty cool. It never happened,” Lamb said.
But he said he did encounter a surprising number of couples having sex in places that they thought were secluded in the forest. He’s also run into a fair share of nudists, like a guy who emerged from the woods and walked toward him with nothing but a camera strapped around his neck. Lamb said it can be unsettling because you never really know what they are up to or what their intentions are. For the most part, he said, they were just practicing their way of communing with nature.
Lamb, 40, had a particular fondness for wilderness areas, where motorized and mechanized activities are banned. He started working for the Aspen-Sopris District in summer 1993 as a seasonal member of the trails crew. He worked as a wilderness crew leader during summers from 1994 through 1997, then joined the Aspen-Sopris District staff full-time in 1998. His title now is forestry technician. He fits the image that most people have of a forest ranger.
Lamb said he made it a priority to patrol – watch for problems and be available to answer people’s questions when he encountered them in the backcountry. One day you might encounter him checking to see if enough snow had melted on Haggerman Pass Road to open the forest road gate. The next day he might be making sure dirt bikes are staying off closed trails on Basalt Mountain. During winters, Lamb took on much of the patrolling on Richmond Ridge, where there have been conflicts among powder tours, snowmobilers and skiers.
Lamb said he tended to avoid the forest on his days off, opting to ride his road bike on the area’s paved roads. “If I’m in the forest on a day off it turns out to be work,” he said.
One of the accomplishments he was most proud of was helping create a full-time wilderness ranger position in the district last year. The Aspen-Sopris District has all of the Hunter Fryingpan Wilderness and parts of the Maroon Bells-
Snowmass, Collegiate Peaks, Holy Cross and Raggeds.
Lamb’s giving it up for a more office-
oriented position in North Carolina. He will miss Aspen, he said, but the new job lets him, his wife and their son move closer to family and to a place that is more affordable. Plus he will be able to ride his road bike year-round.
“It will be strange driving over Independence Pass for the last time,” Lamb said. “I’m not leaving Aspen because I don’t like it here.”
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