Rau: Trail groups have storied history in Grand County
Grand County Trails
Our trail system keeps growing and developing from wagon trails and a means to travel from town to town to a recreational asset for our community.
Grand County residents are mostly confirmed trail users in one form or another, one season or another. Many groups have been created that cater to that active part of our population.
Back in the mid-80s, The Over The Hill Gang from Copper Mountain started operating in the Fraser Valley, mainly catering to skiers in the 55-plus age group. A local group broke off and formed the SkiMeisters, a group of active older adults now coming from all over the country to enjoy Grand County and the Front Range. Winter Park Resort is their home base where they function as guides and emissaries, and there is actually a waiting list for club membership.
They have branched into cross country skiing, bicycling, hiking, tennis and a variety of social events. Their motto is, “Since we are all going downhill, we want to help you enjoy it.” The XC program is centered in the Fraser Valley and an introductory lesson is offered at the beginning of each season. They meet at the various touring centers and at trails outside of groomed areas every Tuesday during the downhill season. Most of their biking trips are in the Denver area or Georgetown-Frisco-Copper Mountain corridor and have been groups of up to 25 or so on Mondays.
The objective is to experience the many and varied paths, some gravel, some paved, throughout the Denver Metro Area and some mountain trails with both longer and shorter rides available.
Hiking trips started in earnest in the 1990s, and Wednesday hikes were scheduled from May through early October. The current group concentrates on Front Range lower elevation and shorter hikes until the melting snow allows access to higher elevations and longer distances. Groups of differing abilities always offer a choice for distance and pace, and they have rules for both leader and hiker responsibilities clearly set forth in their Flurries publication and online.
Even though their tennis program ended in 2009, their social calendar is filled with Annual Meeting and dinner, Winter Fest, Summer Picnic, Spring Brunch and more. The club addresses most levels of abilities and interests and keeps the Active Older group really moving. You can find out more about the SkiMeisters on their website http://www.skimeisters.org/Public.
Meanwhile , another group was forming with a different purpose in mind, one that had more roots in the wilderness and back country scene – the Grand County Wilderness Group. Approximately 1994, Walt and Sally Bobb were enjoying their cabin on Shadow Mountain Lake and one of their favorite hikes was Crater Lake. Walt’s family ethic was to take a large plastic bag for trash pick-up. According to Walt, “The idea of forming an organized group that would assist the Forest Service in protecting the wilderness by educating the public and helping to maintain trails and campsites took root in his family’s appreciation of the abundant natural beauty in wild places such as Crater Lake and our shared responsibility for its stewardship.”
From the small group of individuals including the Bobbs, the Clarks, the Deloachs and the Jacksons, as well as Jack Placchi and Roger Rood from the Forest Service and Anne Vickery and Jim Gluck from the Indian Peaks Wilderness Alliance, the Wilderness group has grown, assisting the Forest Service by things like speaking with the public to enforce rules like dogs off leash, camping in proper places, permits information, packing out all trash, counting cars in parking lots before the current registration boxes were put in place, and reporting sightings of various animals to the Forest Service. They have obtained grants to improve the Junco Lake cabin and provided the outhouse on site as well as currently provide hosts on an ongoing basis at both Junco and Monarch.
The mission of the Wilderness Group is, “To assist the U.S. Forest Service in the Preservation, Protection, Improvement and Public Understanding of the Wilderness areas of Grand County.” “What a wonderful legacy, what a wonderful Wilderness,” write Bob Saint (current GCWG president) and Ann Steers in their History of GCWG – Wilderness Legacy. The group has trail maintenance groups and hiking and snowshoe groups and continues to be a valuable assistant to the Forest Service and our entire trails system in Grand County.
And there are many more groups that have sprung up since the turn of the century. More on them next week. Meanwhile, please do your part picking up trash, maintaining trails when possible, and reporting issues to both land management groups and Headwaters Trails Alliance. It takes all of us to make it work.
Supporting organizations like Grand County Pet Pals help trails issues in another way, taking care of our furry friends who hike with us. Join Pet Pals at the Barking BBQ and Open House on Saturday, Sept. 5, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Grand County Animal Shelter. See the new cat condos, ventilation system and flooring and – oh yeah – those really cute cats and dogs! Enjoy food and a garage sale to help pay for them.
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This summer’s potential for record-breaking recreation in Grand County comes down to simple math.