Q&A with Jake Castle
● By Christina Freeman
Jake Castle takes in the views from the summit of Gray's Peak. Photo courtesy Jake Castle.
After completing a BA in Elementary Education with a focus on Natural Science, Connecticut raised Jake Castle came to Steamboat Springs in 2012 for a winter. He never left. He relishes his role as Yampatika's Environmental Literacy Program Coordinator throughout the school year, and Camp Director in summers.
Best hiking spots to see the most variety of flora and fauna? Emerald Mountain, Mad Creek trail, Fish Creek Falls are excellent places earlier in summer. Flowers bloom later at higher elevations. My favorite places for later season flora are Dumont Lake up to the Ears, Stillwater reservoir in the Flat Tops, the Zirkel Circle hike, Mica Basin (for the more athletically inclined) and Hahn's Peak.
What are simple things to look out for when tracking animals? Best identifiers are scats and tracks. Understanding animals habitats will help narrow down what you might see, where. Moose tend to stick to riparian areas (areas with running water nearby) as their favorite food is willow. Elk usually stick to the higher elevations in the summertime. Mule deer, stay at lower and mid-elevations. They aren't very common but their populations are slowly returning. All these animals have a scat pattern that looks like chocolate Easter eggs, and size is comparable to the animal it came from. You'll likely see black bears in quieter places near drainages, where the berries are plentiful and there isn't a ton of human traffic.
Any advice for bird watching here? Most birds tend to live in riparian areas, hay fields and in the montane and subalpine forests. A few birds make their nests on the ground in the alpine zone too. The Botanic Gardens are popular with hummingbirds, and we have a great variety. Red-winged blackbirds can be seen in the hay meadow at Legacy Ranch. Keep an eye out for sandhill cranes, large white birds that make their home in areas protected by cattails. These are some of the oldest bird species on earth and can stand up to 4 feet tall, definitely not something you want to miss if you're here to see birds.
Most amazing spot for geology here? Hands down the most jaw dropping geology in the area is the Sawtooth Range in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness. Hahn's peak is also a must see for geology enthusiasts. This extinct volcano was heavily mined in the beginning of the 20th century and many historical mining sites can still be seen today.
Can anyone visit the historic Legacy Ranch where Yampatika runs it's programs? It is open to the public to visit outside of camp hours (Mon.- Fri. 8 a.m.-5 p.m. June 15 – Aug. Check out the renewable energy display, take a self guided tour, bird watch and peek in the greenhouse.
What has been your favorite Yampatika moment so far? Backpacking with the llamas during our junior naturalists camp for 9-11 year olds. Getting calls from parents telling me their kids are hooked on backpacking, inspired by the wonder and serenity of true wilderness.
What could we typically find in your daypack?
As a guide in the wilderness, I never leave home without a hand stocked med kit, personal locator beacon, water purifier, electrolyte tablets, rain gear, a map and compass, headlamp, extra layers with lots of wool, snacks and emergency fire supplies.
Favorite animal or species here?