Outdoors – The Pagosa Springs SUN http://www.pagosasun.com The most trusted source for news and information about Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Fri, 03 Jul 2020 14:52:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.4.2 http://www.pagosasun.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/cropped-sun-logo-512x512-1-32x32.jpg Outdoors – The Pagosa Springs SUN http://www.pagosasun.com 32 32 Firefighters continue monitoring Sand Creek Fire http://www.pagosasun.com/firefighters-continue-monitoring-sand-creek-fire/ Thu, 02 Jul 2020 22:10:51 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=206741 By Randi Pierce
Staff Writer

The Sand Creek Fire, located 21 miles northwest of Pagosa Springs, in the Piedra Special Management Area, had burned 88 acres as of late Wednesday morning.

Firefighters are continuing to monitor the fire until they can safely engage it, a Wednesday update from the fire’s management team indicates, with the “dense layer of fallen trees and steep terrain, coupled with the slow movement of the fire” dictating modified firefighting tactics.

The update notes that, as of Wednesday, fire activity on the Sand Creek Fire “remains light to moderate as it creeps within thick slash. Light smoke is intermittently visible where heavy fuels smolder and burn away.”

On Tuesday, the report states, considerable personnel were released from the Sand Creek Fire to be available to assist in other areas of the southwest.

On Wednesday, crews were set to scout trails south and west of the fire for conditions that may necessitate additional firefighting resources, according to the update. A snowpack measuring station north of the Sand Creek Fire was slated to be inspected as part of further assessment and contingency plans. 

The update indicates that firefighters also planned to utilize unmanned aerial systems to monitor the fire’s progression Wednesday.

A forest closure remains in effect around the fire area. The full text and a map of the closure can be found at: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/closures/6790/.

The update also notes that a temporary flight restriction is in place over the Sand Creek Fire and reminds that wildfires are a “No Drone Zone.” 

“If you fly, we can’t. Every time a drone is spotted near the fire all aircraft are grounded until we can be sure the drone is clear of the area. For more information, visit http://knowbeforeyoufly.org,” the update states.

Local fire groups outline conditions, ask for money http://www.pagosasun.com/local-fire-groups-outline-conditions-ask-for-money/ Thu, 02 Jul 2020 22:09:13 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=206739 By John Finefrock
Staff Writer

Staff from Wildfire Adapted Partnership (WAP) and the San Juan Headwaters Forest Health Partnership (SJHFHP) outlined local fire dynamics to the county commissioners at their work session on June 16.

The full version of this story is available in the print edition and e-edition of the Pagosa Springs SUN. Subscribe today by calling (970)264-2100 or click here.

Williams Creek Reservoir http://www.pagosasun.com/williams-creek-reservoir-2/ Thu, 02 Jul 2020 21:00:23 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=206798

Photo courtesy Kirin Vicenti

Williams Creek Reservoir glistens in the sun last weekend. The reservoir is located about an hour from downtown Pagosa Springs via Piedra Road and is just over the Archuleta County line in Hinsdale County.

Hitchhiker http://www.pagosasun.com/hitchhiker/ Thu, 02 Jul 2020 15:35:53 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=206566

Photo courtesy Scott Bradford

This young bear attempts to take on the role of hitchhiker. Window washer Scott Bradford was working at a house on Terry Robinson Road last week, and when he returned to put his ladder on top of his van, he found this bear attempting to hitch a ride back to town.

Tree watering necessary during drought conditions http://www.pagosasun.com/tree-watering-necessary-during-drought-conditions/ Tue, 30 Jun 2020 11:00:59 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=206290 By Teddy Parker-Renga
Colorado State Forest Service

Despite occasional showers in certain areas of southern Colorado, persistent drought conditions have parched the soil over much of the southern part of the state, stressing even irrigated lawns and larger landscape trees. During these periods of drought, homeowners should consider supplemental watering to keep their trees healthy.

“Adequately watering your trees is the best way to ensure optimum growth and vigor during the summer months,” said Donna Davis, urban and community forestry specialist for the Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS). “Drought-stressed trees become susceptible to root and branch die-back and subsequent insect and disease problems.”

All of southern Colorado is currently experiencing some form of drought, in many places “severe” and “extreme,” according to the latest data from the National Drought Mitigation Center.

The CSFS offers the following tips to keep trees healthy during summer drought:

• Mulch. Mulch is an inexpensive solution to retain soil moisture and save water. Apply 4 inches of organic mulch onto bare soil within 2 to 3 feet from the base of the trunk (removing any grass first, if necessary). Do not allow the mulch to directly contact the trunk. 

• Water a wide area. Tree root systems may spread much wider than the height of the tree, with most absorbing roots in the top foot of soil. Apply water to soak the entire area underneath the full span of a tree’s branches.

• Water slowly. To ensure soil penetration, use a deep root fork (inserted 8 inches or less), soaker hose on low setting or soft spray wand to apply water gradually to the full area.

• Keep the yard green. Trees located in irrigated lawns generally do not require additional water, as long as the area surrounding the tree receives adequate moisture. Conversely, a dry, yellowish yard means the roots of any trees present are also dry.

• Provide enough water. For trees 1-3 inches in diameter, apply 10 gallons of water for each inch of tree trunk diameter once a week. For medium-sized trees, those 4-9 inches in diameter, apply 10 gallons of water for each inch of trunk diameter three times a month. For larger trees over 10 inches in diameter, apply 15 gallons of water for each inch of trunk diameter twice a month.

• Focus on new and nonirrigated trees. Water newly planted trees and seedlings more frequently than once a week, following the rates listed above, as they have less-extensive root systems. To avoid stress during drought conditions, trees that do not receive water from sprinkler systems or irrigation can also benefit from additional water.

Visit csfs.colostate.edu for more tips on tree watering, planting and general care.

Bird of the Week http://www.pagosasun.com/bird-of-the-week-139/ Tue, 30 Jun 2020 11:00:45 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=206324

Photo courtesy Ben Bailey

This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the gray catbird.

Named for its cat-like “mew” calls made while hiding deep within a shrub, the gray catbird also performs amazing songs. It belongs to the family of birds known as mimics, who copy the songs of other species. The catbird weaves parts of these songs and other sounds in its habitat into its own song. It often sings from a high perch a song that can last up to 10 minutes. These complex songs are believed to tell a potential mate that this is a bird whose been around and is a great catch.

These are birds of dense, tangled thicket, often around water. With the exception of southwestern extremes, they breed across much of the U.S. and into southern Canada. A recent trip to the Riverwalk in town revealed catbirds delivering food to a nest hidden deep within a shrub. In winter, they migrate to southern states, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.

Gray catbirds are medium-sized, gray birds with dark caps. Their long tails, cinnamon-colored underneath, are held down when perched, giving them a hunch-backed look in profile. They forage on the ground for insects, larvae and spiders, adding fruits and berries to their diet when available.

Gray catbirds have adapted to live in suburban environments where, according to a Smithsonian study, domestic cats destroy nearly half of all fledglings. The American Bird Conservancy reports that every year in the United States, cats kill more than 1 billion birds. They urge us to keep our cats indoors for their safety and for the safety of birds.

For information on future events, visit www.weminucheaudubon.org and www.facebook.com/weminucheaudubon/.

Chimney Rock National Monument to begin small-group special programs in July http://www.pagosasun.com/chimney-rock-national-monument-to-begin-small-group-special-programs-in-july/ Sun, 28 Jun 2020 11:00:41 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=206295 By Nadia Werby
Chimney Rock Interpretive Association

There is so much to learn and experience at Chimney Rock National Monument. In July, Chimney Rock will be offering small-group special programs and daily self-guided tours that will bring this beautiful site to life so you can visualize what it might have been like to live here 1,000 years ago.

The new Flora of Chimney Rock will take place on July 1, 8 and 9. A thousand years ago, the people who lived at Chimney Rock depended on the plants around them for food, fuel, tools, housing, clothing, medicine and art. The breadth and depth of their knowledge is almost unimaginable today. 

At this special program, visitors will receive an introduction to some of the plant species that grow at Chimney Rock and their uses by ancestral Puebloan people. The 1.5-hour guided tour will include the Great House and requires negotiation of a steep, rough trail with exposure to heights and drop-offs. Visitors must arrive for check-in at 8:45 a.m. and the program begins at 9 a.m. Tickets are $16/adult and $8/child (5-12). Space is limited to eight visitors on July 1 and only nine visitors on July 8 and 9. 

The Chimney Rock Geology Tour will take place on Saturday, July 4. This 1.5-hour guided tour explores local geology and its relationship to the daily lives of the ancestral Puebloans who lived at Chimney Rock. No prior knowledge of geology is needed. The fee is $16 for adults and $8 for ages 5-12, and is considered a nonrefundable donation. Space is limited to five visitors.

Self-guided tours will be available to the public from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Chimney Rock has two trails that can be experienced through self-guided tours: the Great House Pueblo Trail and the Mesa Village Trail. The Great House Pueblo Trail has awe-inspiring 360-degree views of the San Juan Mountain range and the twin spires from the Great House Pueblo. It is a moderately challenging unimproved trail with a 200-foot elevation gain and exposure to heights. This trail includes a multifamily dwelling, several unexcavated structures and a Chacoan Great House Pueblo (7,600 feet in elevation). 

The Mesa Village Trail is a one-third-mile paved trail with a beautiful overlook of the Piedra River Valley and Peterson Ridge. This trail includes a 44-foot excavated Great Kiva as well as an excavated pit house and other structures. Plan on one hour for each trail so you can take in the views and photo opportunities, plus an additional 30 minutes’ drive time to and from the Visitor Center. Interpretation is available in three formats: printed interpretive brochure, audio device with prerecorded interpretation or download the San Juan National Forest Explorer app before arriving. 

Chimney Rock National Monument is located 17 miles west of Pagosa Springs and 3 miles south on Colo. 151. For more information about our monthly programs and tour times, please visit www.chimneyrockco.org or call (877) 444-6777. A booking fee applies to each ticket purchased online or through the call center. Purchasing your tickets in advance is the only way to guarantee a spot for the monthly and annual programs. Most programs are at full capacity prior to the event, but we will accommodate walk-ins if space is available. 

The Chimney Rock Interpretive Association is a nonprofit organization which operates the interpretive program at Chimney Rock National Monument under a participating agreement with the USDA Forest Service/San Juan National Forest. For more information, please visit our website at www.chimneyrockco.org. 

Sand Creek Fire estimated size at 71 acres, closure order issued http://www.pagosasun.com/sand-creek-fire-estimated-size-at-71-acres-closure-order-issued/ Thu, 25 Jun 2020 21:00:14 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=206292

SUN photo/Chris Mannara
Representatives from fire agencies across the country met at Cloman Park on June 23 to discuss the history and a plan to combat the Sand Creek Fire, which was recently upgraded from a Type 3 fire to a Type 2 fire. The fire was started by lightning on June 15 and is located 21 miles northwest of Pagosa Springs in the Piedra Special Management Area. As of June 23, the fire was estimated at 65 acres.

By Chris Mannara
and Randi Pierce
Staff Writer

A fire located 21 miles northwest of Pagosa Springs is still burning slowly, according to a Wednesday morning email from the San Juan National Forest (SJNF).

The Sand Creek Fire was started by lightning on June 15 in the Piedra Special Management Area, according to the email.

As of Wednesday, the size of the fire is estimated at 71 acres, the SJNF email explains.

Dry lightning is possible today, leading to fire danger being considered extreme now, meaning any ignition has the potential to create more challenges for fire crews, according to the SJNF.

“With the rugged terrain and hazards posed by thousands of standing dead trees (snags), fire managers have not found many options for effective fire lines close to the current perimeter,” the email reads, adding that the threat to any structures or communities is very low at this time.

As of Wednesday morning, a Type 2 Incident Management Team assumed command of the fire, the email explains.

The management team is staging at Cloman Park and the park is closed to the public during this time. 

The email also notes for the general public to watch out for any additional fire traffic on Piedra Road and U.S. 160.

Incident Commander Brad Pietruszka is quoted in the email as saying, “We appreciate the support of the community and the Pagosa Ranger District, and we especially appreciate the good discussions we have had about how to manage the risk this fire poses to our firefighters.”

Smoke from the fire is visible to the north from U.S. 160 between Pagosa Springs and Bayfield. The SJNF urges citizens to not report the smoke.

Forest closure

The portion of the SJNF near the Sand Creek Fire is now closed following a closure order signed by Acting Forest Supervisor Steven Hattenbach on June 23.

That closure prohibits “Going in or being upon all NFS lands within the area east of the Coldwater Trail (NFST 597) excluding the Coldwater Trail itself, south to its intersection with the Coldwater Stock Trail (NFST 598) excluding the Coldwater Stock Trail itself, north of the Coldwater Stock Trail east to its intersection with the Piedra River Trail (NFST 596) excluding the Piedra River Trail itself, north of the Piedra River Trail east to its intersection with the Lower Weminuche Trail (NFST 595) excluding the Lower Weminuche Trail itself, west of the Lower Weminuche Trail north to its intersection with the Little Sand Creek Trail (NFST 591) excluding the Little Sand Creek Trail itself, west of the Little Sand Creek Trail north to its intersection of the Mosca Road (NFSR 631), and south of the Mosca Road west to its intersection with the Coldwater Trail (NFST 597).”

It also prohibits being on the following roads and trails:

• Mosca Road (NFSR 631).

• Sand Creek Trail (NFST 593) south of the Mosca Road (NFSR 631) to its intersection with the Piedra River Trail (NFST 596).

• North Ridge Trail (NFST 594).

The order exempts persons with a Forest Service permit specifically authorizing the otherwise prohibited act or omission, as well as any federal, state or local law enforcement officer, or member of an organized rescue or firefighting force engaged in the performance of an official duty.

Violating the order, it states, “are punishable as a Class B misdemeanor, by a fine of not more than $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization, or imprisonment for not more than six (6) months, or both.”

Forest restoration work underway on Jackson Mountain http://www.pagosasun.com/forest-restoration-work-underway-on-jackson-mountain/ Wed, 24 Jun 2020 11:00:19 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=206016 By John Finefrock
Staff Writer

Work to improve forest health on Jackson Mountain is currently underway and is expected to continue into the winter months.

Jackson Mountain is located on the east end of Archuleta County as you drive from town toward Wolf Creek Pass.

“The purpose of the work is to improve the resistance of forests on Jackson Mountain to drought, insects and wildfire and promote young aspen stands in areas where this tree species is in decline,” wrote Esther Godson, public affairs officer for the San Juan National Forest, in an email to The SUN.

Godson wrote that the work on Jackson Mountain is part of a stewardship contract awarded by the U.S. Forest Service to local contractor JR Ford and part of the work is being monitored by researchers from Colorado State University, Rocky Mountain Research Station and Mountain Studies Institute.

“In this case, we’re working in a forest that historically woulda been predominantly pine, but the white fir has taken it over, so we’re removing a lot of white fir just to give the pine a chance to come back,” Ford said in an interview Monday.

Ford added that the work will allow both pine trees and aspens to come back in the area.

Ford explained that the U.S. Forest Service has determined which trees stay and which get cut down and removed, which is different than similar projects he’s worked on in the past.

“When we were at Echo [Lake] they gave us a prescription and we were making the decision on the removal of trees. In this case, they’ve marked every tree they want kept,” he said.

Ford noted all the white fir and Douglas fir trees will go to a startup company based in Dolores that will ultimately use the trees to make plywood.

Ford explained that his company will take the pine trees to its sawmill.

He added that he was “shocked” by how many hikers, bikers and campers utilize Jackson Mountain and that there are many trails up there that aren’t legal.

“There’s a lot of trails up there that people other than the Forest Service have built without permission and have been there for years, and people are using them,” he said, adding, “When we’re actually working in those areas, are we blocking those trails? Yeah, you wouldn’t want to ride your bike through when we’re working. When we’re done you can ride through without any problem.”

Ford explained that they aren’t clear-cutting the forest, only taking out what Forest Service experts have determined should be removed to improve the overall health of the forest, though noted one area of the project currently looks pretty bare.

“On the very north end of the project, there was a high removal of white fir, so there weren’t many pine trees and there weren’t many Doug firs up there,” he said. “So, you have large open areas up there, but the only way you’re gonna get those other species to come back is to remove that white fir.”

Ford reported that, starting this week, the large piles of wood will begin to be chipped.

“Once the piles are chipped and we go back in and reseed the landing areas — that will, a year from now, that will look totally different,” he said.

Bird of the Week http://www.pagosasun.com/bird-of-the-week-138/ Tue, 23 Jun 2020 11:00:50 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=206029

Photo courtesy Charles Martinez

This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the vesper sparrow.

In many religious traditions, vespers are prayers of thanksgiving recited or sung in the evening, a time of day that this bird is often heard singing. Not as shy as many other sparrow species, it frequently sings from elevated perches on the dryland shrubs found in its habitat.

The vesper sparrow breeds in grasslands and fields throughout the north central areas of the U.S. and Canada. It prefers open areas that have short, sparse grass and shrubs for perching, hiding and shade. Patches of dirt are important to this bird for rolling around in to take dust baths. The vesper is found in dry areas, including those recently burned or abandoned, and in weedy fields, brushy areas and mowed agricultural fields.

Using strong legs and feet, this sparrow often uses the hopping, double-scratch method to uncover the insects and seeds in its diet. In agricultural areas, where it helps to control insect pests and weed seeds, it is a welcome resident.

Although it looks like a typical medium-sized sparrow, the vesper has characteristics which set it apart. These include a bold, thin, white eye ring, white outer tail feathers that flash in flight and a chestnut-colored shoulder patch. In summer it is generally a solitary bird that prefers walking or running across the ground to flight.

Many western vesper sparrows winter in Mexico, where they forage with other grassland species. Loss of grassland habitat in both breeding and winter ranges has contributed to a decline in population numbers of this bird.

For information on future events, visit www.weminucheaudubon.org and www.facebook.com/weminucheaudubon/.