Need Help Finding a Colorado Trailhead?

One thing we have found lacking on Colorado hiking websites are accurate maps to trailheads. Often we have drove right past a hidden parking area, or parked in the wrong one and ended up hiking an extra half-mile or more. When you have got lunched packed and all the kids finally loaded in the car, every minute can count.

So, one of our goals here at Day Hikes Near Denver, is to give you the exact location for a trailhead. We spend time zooming in and out on google maps, trying to find out exactly where you need to make that turn. And it's tricky. I swear that they try to hide these things.

Here are a few with hard to find trailheads:

Best Way to Not Die in the Woods

Those heroic stories of people having to cut off a limb or survive on plant roots for weeks usually have one thing in common - they never needed to happen. Same with most stories of people getting lost and dying in the woods. In almost every case there was one important thing that they needed to do but they didn't they didn't leave an itinerary. When they were lost, hurt, or stranded, no one knew where to find them.

Most people who die in the wilderness could have lived through their predicament had someone known where to find them. People are always surprised when they hear of an "experienced hiker" dying in the woods. I'm not. Experience is double-edged. One side is that you have increased competence. The other is that you begin to rely too much on your competence, you think that nobody needs to know where you are and when you are coming back.

How to Leave an Itinerary

  • Write it, Text it, Email it, Print it - Just do it.
  • Write out Where you will be: If I'm covering some miles, I try to give the general area where I plan to camp. If I plan to make day hikes from a base camp, then I'll include those. Additionally, give them your trailhead parking location.
  • If you change your itinerary: If you decide to add a day hike, explore an unknown area, fish a new lake, then leave a note at your campsite.
  • Give them your time out: Give your planned time out and give them a worry time, that would be when they should be concerned enough to check in on you or contact search and rescue.
  • Make a Call: Call your point person when you are within cell range again to let them know where you are and that you are safe.

Tuber Near Drowning on Platte River

Well, when you have to be revived by CPR, then I guess you can't call it a "near drowning" but a real drowning. A man in his mid-50's was found floating and lifeless in the middle of the Platte River near confluence park on Monday, Aug. 2nd. See the Denver Post Article here.

I walk the Platte most days, sometimes twice a day. Most of the summer the water level is pretty low, but right now it's swollen. I see tubers and kayakers most afternoons. Tubers are pretty notorious for not wearing PFDs. My guess would be that only about 1/3 actually wear them. Most of the river can be pretty lazy, which is very deceiving. In fact, I've wondered if PFDs were really necessary. I've been convinced otherwise.

Just a few weeks ago, I watched a strong, twenty-something guy fall off his tube and get caught in a small hole. It looked like nothing, but the force kept pulling him down. After a full minute or more, he was able to find a way out. If he were caught in that same hole on a day like there when the water is high, he wouldn't be able to get out on his own. So, enjoy the Platte, but wear your PFD!

Missing Mt. Massive Hiker Recovered by Special Ops Soldiers

A woman became separated from her party near Leadville, Colorado this week. She spent all night in the woods on Mount Massive while maintaining contact with Lake County emergency dispatchers on her cell phone. The Fort Lewis based Special Operations Aviation Crew were in the Mt. Massive area to recover the wreckage of the Black Hawk helicopter that went down in August of 2009. The 50 year old hiker was recovered on July 29th, 2010 by the crew using a basket system on the helicopter.

As the hiking with or without a cell phone debate continues, this story provides a solid vote for the "bring your cell phone" side.
Do you carry your cell phone? Leave it at home?

Hit by Cannon Fire on the Colorado Trail

I had thought that shooting off fireworks in a nation park was stupid - how about firing a cannon and at a person! A cyclist traveling along the Colorado Trail near Durango was hit by cannon fire last Sunday. By the news coming out, it looks like a dangerous prank perpetrated by a group of teenagers who where camping just off the trail. No projectiles were in the cannon other than a chemical soaked gauze. The Durango Herald said that "Particulate from the blast lodged in Altman's legs and arms." For more info, read the Durango Herald Article

Poison Ivy in Colorado

In Colorado? I grew up in the Midwest. So, when I moved to Colorado, I was surprised to see fence rows without poison ivy. In fact, I was relieved because I'm incredibly allergic to it. While it's not prevalent in Colorado, it's alive and well. The best way to deal with its toxic leaves is to know how to avoid it, and if you get it, to know how to treat it.

Here Are Some Poison Ivy Tips

  • "Leaves of three, let it be." Poison Ivy has 3 leaves and they are often a bit glossy.
  • Not touching it is not enough. Some people are more allergic. Brushing up against it with your clothes, then touching your clothes, is enough. I'm getting itchy just thinking about it. If you are highly allergic to it, then throw your hiking clothes in the wash as soon as you can, and wash your hands and arms.

  • If you get it: 1- Keep it dry. Calamine lotion is great. I like to use hot compresses to draw out the poison. Pat your skin, don't scrub or you'll spread it. Then I'll dry it out with a hairdryer. Often I'll repeat the process two or three times.

    2- One of my friends found Hylands Homeopathic Poison Ivy Tables I'm sure their affect varies between people, but both he and I have had the same experience. If taken before or within about a day of getting it, the sores raise up, don't itch, and instead of breaking and spreading, the sores go away in about a couple days. This has been the best way I've found to treat it.

Your Advice & Stories

I'd love to hear your comments on how you treat poison ivy & your stories of getting it (I've heard some funny ones).

The Best Flyfishing Site in Colorado...

Doesn't exist! Well, at least not yet. And maybe I'm asking for too much, something like Marty Bartholomew's Flyfisher's Guide to Colorado that details trails, and hatches, flows, and info on how to get there. It would be comprehensive and...well...a lot like Dayhikes Near Denver. But for now, the best fly fishing site on Colorado is still a book.

Why Not? Here's my theory on why no one has done it. First, most sites are maintained by guys who are fishing. They guide a lot and are on the water from thaw to freeze. Second, most sites are crafted around a store or guiding service. Once you get in a certain mindset, it's hard to break out of it. Like my marketing prof in college said, "The railroad business has to remember that it's not in the railroad business. It's in the transportation business." Finally, we who fish tend to guard our spots - we get protectionistic. That'll kill such a site pretty quick. But what works now, in the information age, is giving your best stuff away for free. For more on that, check out Chris Anderson's book, Free.

Iwould love to hear your thoughts:

  • What Colorado flyfishing sites have you found most helpful?
  • Is there a project going on, maybe a forum, that is close to what I've mentioned above?
  • Are you doing it? If so, give us the link!

Nissan Thermos - Best backpacking thermos

The Best Backpacking Thermos - Nissan Commuter Bottle

B urying my thermos in the snow, I then came back for it 4 hours later. Thinking that my hot chocolate had cooled down a bit, I took a quick swig only to burn my lips. I bought this thing because it was good, but I didn't realize it was THAT good! Travel mugs are ubiquitous. All of us have bought, used, and borrowed a couple dozen different kinds. Most of them are an utter disappointment.

Here is what I was looking for: something that I could pour coffee in, drive an hour to work, open up and watch the steam come out. I'll admit that I'm a coffee snob - really, I just like it to be hot and fresh. I remembered one travel mug that stood above them all. I had borrowed a Nissan Travel Tumbler from some friends in Colorado Springs and I didn't want to give it back because my coffee always tasted fresh, even three or four hours later. I guess Nissan, when they are not making cars, likes to experiment with vacuum thermos technology. Well, they know what they are doing.

Reading a few of the almost 300 positive reviews, you'll quickly realize that this thing has an unprecedented fan base.

  • "It's a wonderful supplement to commuting, work, backpacking, and Arctic expeditions."
  • This guy figured out his weekly coffee savings: "This product has allowed me to steer clear of coffee shops for about two months - equalling a cost savings of nearly $15/week." That's almost $800 a year!

  • Shaky Hands Guy-"Yeah, everybody look at me drinking coffee from my fancy coffee travel mug with my shaky hands and still not have it spill on me!" - Incredible!"
  • "Stop reading this review and buy the darn thing. "

A Couple Tips:

  1. Don't overfill it. This is the only point where the thing leaks.
  2. Be nice to it. For some reason, thermoses are expected to be bomb-proof. It's tough, for sure, but the only problems I've had from it have come from over-torquing the cap and dropping it on concrete. It's like a bumblebee: Be nice to it and it will be nice to you.

So, if you're one of those people who gets out early to bag a summit or get to a high mountain lake, this is a great way to bring your coffee on the trail.

Oh, yeh, and the Amazon Link - Thermos 16-Ounce Stainless Steel Backpack Bottle

Medano Fire in Great Sand Dunes National Park - Photo by NPS/David Eaker

Who Sets off Fireworks in a National Park During a Fire Ban?

I had just zipped up my sleeping bag, let out that long sigh before falling asleep, when I heard a loud crackling sound. "Barry, did you hear that?", I said to one of my buddies who had not yet fallen asleep. "Yeh, sounds like something out in the woods - dragging something...something big." Silence. Then a loud BANG rang off the walls of Mt. Tijeras, across the lake, then echoed for several long seconds into the night. Fireworks. Who hikes in seven miles with fireworks?

Looking back, I wish I had bucked my comfort, threw on my pants and searched these guys out. There was a fire ban in Great Sand Dunes National Park that weekend. Just a few weeks earlier, about 6000 acres burned in the Medano Fire. We had a lot of rain the few days prior, but the tree tops get dried out fast by the wind. It turns them into a tinderbox. But I stayed in my warm bivy. On the way out, we encountered a couple young guys in blue jeans (sure sign of the inexperienced in the backcountry) who didn't have a map or a real plan - but they asked us for advice. We stopped and gave them some ideas on a less exposed area to camp that had a water source. They pointed to some ridges they wanted to cross-over and we let them know that we had been up there and that it probably wasn't a good idea.

The fireworks and these guy's questions reminded me that we who have experience in the backcountry have a real responsibility to educate. Certainly, it has to be done with a graciousness and patience. But we were all there once - naive, novices, or maybe just plain stupid. Someone showed us the ropes or just showed us what was wrong and what was right.

I'd love to hear your stories. Maybe a funny encounter on the trail where you were able to "drop a little knowledge." If you have one, drop it in the comments below.

Where To Take Your Kids Fishing in Colorado!

Where to take your kids fishing in ColoradoThe Colorado Department of Wildlife really hit one out of the park here! This is an interactive map of over 100 of the best places to take your children fishing in Colorado.

Here is how they choose the best Colorado Lakes and rivers for kid's fishing: "Among the criteria applied were location, ease of access to the site and the shore or bank, open areas for casting, chances of catching fish, facilities (camping, biking, hiking, canoeing, picnic areas, restrooms), and other area attractions."

The map gives you the following info: species of fish at the location, nearest town, basic directions, and a short description.

Go check it out at the 101+ Places to Take a Kid Fishing in Colorado Map