LODGE: Blue Shirts Protect the Wilderness
Grand County CO Colorado
Here in Grand County we are surrounded by wilderness areas: Vasquez Peak, Byers Peak, Indian Peaks, Never Summer. These wilderness areas create a border around a place called Middle Park. I love that I live in a place called Middle Park. It has all the connotations of living somewhere grand and fun. I didn’t know that wilderness is called a wilderness park in some organizations. I had a friend in town this week from Mississippi, and when I explained that I lived in Middle Park (one of three high basins in Colorado), and that South Park is south of I-70, he was taken aback to learn that South Park is a real place and not just a cartoon.
I learned a few weeks ago that Grand County has a history of service in wilderness parks. I met with Joan Shaw, one of the founding members of the Grand County Wilderness Group (GCWG), over lunch at Sharky’s Eatery last week – two of my favorite things eating and talking about wilderness. As we dined on delicious huevos rancheros and a patty melt, Joan explained that GCWG was founded in 1996 with the mission of “assisting the US Forest Service in the preservation, protection, improvement and public understanding of the wilderness areas in Grand County.”
GCWG is a service organization, not a political organization. They do not write letters or declare a political position. They are in the woods and on the trails, preserving and protecting wilderness and educating the people who use it. Members work closely with Mike Ricketts of the forest service and enlist speakers who represent public land ideals for their fall and spring meetings.
One of the group’s activities in the wilderness includes trail hosting. They hike on wilderness trails wearing their blue shirts and offer advice to hikers. As volunteer hosts of the Junco and Monarch cabins, members issue backcountry permits, answer questions about the trails, and share information about regulations in the wilderness areas .They manage 11 hiker registration boxes throughout the wilderness trail system and report back to the Forest Service. A great service they offer to anyone with Internet access is a Web site with trail updates: http://www.gcwg.blogspot.com.
Members of GCWG pay a $15 annual due and complete four service activities each year such as trail hosting, cabin hosting or working on the organization’s adopted trail: Junco Lake Cabin to Columbine Lake.
This year’s fall members meeting is at 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 8, in the Adam’s Camp Summit Building at Snow Mountain Ranch. John Montkowski of the Kremmling BLM office will speak on the topic: “This Land is Your Land: The BLM in Grand County.”
On a trail note, the lower portion of the Fraser to Granby Trail in Granby is open. The trail starts just past the Inn at SilverCreek on Village Road and climbs to the gazebo just before the SolVista Basin ski resort. I hiked it this week before the snow fell and felt like I was in a different world. I had an “on top of the world” perspective looking down on Grand Elk and Granby. Hike this trail before it closes for the winter on Nov. 15. Thank you to former Headwaters Trails Alliance executive director Lucinda Elicker for all her work on the Fraser to Granby Trail. Good luck in your next endeavor.
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