by Murray Selleck
Hodid these runs get so steep? Skiers cruise down an intermediate groomed run on Mount Werner in the winter, often without giving much thought to the steepness of the slope. Try hiking or biking down the same trail in the summer, and you might be surprised at hosteep it feels. You’ll be asking yourself, “Are these really the same runs we feel so confident skiing in the winter?” The Steamboat Ski Area has more than 50 miles of mountain biking and hiking trails, which meander through groves of aspen and spruce. Even though they are within the boundaries of a developed ski area, the feeling of getting away from it all prevails. The ski area offers interpretive nature walks with naturalists, women’s mountain bike clinics instructed by Katie Lindquist (2000 World Champion 24-Hour Mountain Bike Racer), and guided gourmet hikes, where a specially-prepared lunch awaits hikers at a midmountain deck hut. Not all of the slopeside fun require venturing up the slopes, either. A free nine-hole disc-golf course is located at the bottom of the mountain. Discs may be rented or purchased at RideSports at the base of the gondola. Gondola Square is home to the Eastface Climbing Wall. At 24 feet, this artificial rock wall may have you thinking “mole hill,” but once you accept the challenge, make a move or two towards the top, your imagination may have you believing “El Capitan!” The wall features an automatic belay system and adjustable harnesses that provide a fun, safe way to test your skills (and courage) in the vertical world of rock climbing. Nearby is the Slingshot Bungee Jump, which combines the heart-stopping rush of bungee-jumping with trampoline action. “It’s a great way to practice being in the air without risking falling on your head,” says local snowboarder Cody Kurowski, who uses the Slingshot to practice the moves he plans to use in halfpipe competitions. “It helps you be more comfortable being inverted. It’s a lot of fun,” adds felloboarder Brad Saunders. With the extensive trail system on the hill, the disc golf course, climbing wall and bungee jump, you may finish the day with an overwhelming feeling... What was that? Oh, yes, confidence! Happy Birthday, Yampatika Is that an eagle or just a big hawk? I wonder what critter left these tracks on the trail. Check out these wildflowers. They’re everywhere! I wonder what they are? Even a simple walk or a short bike ride can generate more questions than answers about the Yampa Valley and its natural environs. But once you are back at the house, what do you do with that curiosity? Do you quickly forget and go on to more “important” things? Does the urge to look through your old field guides pass until the next hike, when you still don’t knothe answers to your questions? Yampatika has the answers. A nonprofit organization celebrating its 10th year, Yampatika provides a key to the natural and cultural resources that make up our area. Through workshops, seminars, nature hikes, field trips and educational programs, Yampatika is a source of knowledge and information for the community. Naturalists teach with a hands-on approach. Memorizing scientific and common names from field guides is all well and good, but the knowledge gained by touching, seeing, hearing, smelling or tasting gives you the insight and sense of place that textbooks on their own can never provide. Yampatika offers a wide range of classes and instruction that include wildflower and mushroom identification, birding, stargazing, geology, identifying herbs for medicinal purposes, composting, tracking – and the list goes on. Sign up for a simple two-hour walk or day hike up nearby trails, paddle trips on mountain lakes, overnights in the Storm Peak Lab high atop the Steamboat Ski Area or in a Forest Service guard station surrounded by thick timber, or llama treks into the Flattops Wilderness. To contact Yampatika for information or a complete list of activities and programs, call 879-8140 or find them online at www.yampatika.org. It’s time to satisfy that craving called curiosity. Saving one of the “Last Great Places Maintaining some of the oldest operating ranch buildings in Northwest Colorado, Routt County has been dubbed one of the “Last Great Places.” It is also the home of a unique venture, The Carpenter Ranch, established in 1903 and purchased by The Nature Conservancy in 1996. The project applies the efforts of conserving globally rare ecosystems to a working ranch. No small task. The Carpenter Ranch is a center where ranchers, scientists, educators, business leaders and local and national government agencies work together toward common goals. The ranch is also a place where you can experience one of the best remaining examples of a rare riparian (streamside) forest made up of narroleaf cottonwood, box elder and red-osier dogwood. No where else in the world does such a prime example of this environment exist. Recognizing that the Yampa River is one of the last relatively free-flowing rivers left in the West (subject to natural flooding cycles), The Nature Conservancy knethe ranch was worth preserving. But it did not want to go about achieving that goal by sacrificing community heritage, or by employing a heavy hand. To visit the Carpenter Ranch, check in at the education center located in the main ranch house. The creaking warped floors and varied ceiling heights will leave you guessing where four old cabins were joined together to create the main house in 1903. The exhibits showcase the diversity of the plant and wildlife on the ranch, the history of the ranch and the dependence of one upon the other. The highlight is walking the ranch’s mile-long nature trail, where the realization of uniqueness grows with understanding. Trying to identify only a feof the 150 bird species or spot one or two of the 50-plus mammals that call this area home will have you walking softly. The old black-and-white photographs on the main ranch house walls portray a history of foresight, creativity and determination. Hopefully, through The Nature Conservancy’s Carpenter Ranch, history will repeat itself.