Take a hike

Jump the gun on summer hiking this weekend


Seedhouse Road opened all the way to Slavonia and the trailheads on the edge of the Mount Zirkel wilderness this week. But Memorial Day hikers will find it's difficult to travel very far into the mountains.

Wilderness Ranger Win Dermody reported late in the afternoon Thursday that he encountered significant snow within one-quarter of a mile of the Gold Lake and Gilpin trailheads.

Hikers who equip themselves to travel across rotten snow will encounter adversity, said U.S. Forest Service information specialist Wendy Holden.

"Wherever they go, they're going to have treacherous stream crossings," Holden said. "There's just no rushing it."

Still, Holden had some recommended hikes for people heading to North Routt and the Clark area for the holiday.

Drive 18 miles north of Steamboat on Routt County Road 129, proceed past Clark and look for a right turn on Routt County Road 64 (Forest Road 400). The Hinman Park Campground is open, though campers may hear Hot Shots crews using chainsaws to clear beetle-killed pine and spruce trees in the vicinity.

Beginning at the campground, Trail 1100A along the South Fork of the Elk River is very accessible, Holden said.

Just below Hinman Park, The Coulton Creek Trail (1188) is in good shape. It will lead adventurers to views of burned timber from forest fires in the summer of 2002. The trailhead begins just below 8,600 feet.

Backcountry enthusiasts also can choose to take the North Fork Trail from Slavonia, however the Lost Dog Road into the North Fork of the Elk River remains closed.

Farther north, beyond Steamboat Lake and Columbine, forest roads into Big Red Park, Whiskey Park and Crane park are open. However, there is no access to Hog Park this week, either from North Routt, Jackson County or even the Wyoming side.

Also inaccessible is Buffalo Pass above Dry Lake Campground. Holden said there remains 63 inches of snow on the summit of Buffalo Pass. And that is well below average for this time of year.

In South Routt, the road to YamColo Reservoir and the Flat Tops Wilderness is open south of Yampa on Routt County Road 7. The Mandall Lakes Trail (1121) west of Yamcolo will require stout, water resistant boots and gaiters at the very least to keep snow and mud out. Carrying along a pair of snowshoes isn't a bad idea, but hikers will tire of putting on and removing their snowshoes as they cross from dirt, to mud, to the next big snowbank. An old ski pole will help hikers posthole through the rotten snow. If that sounds like fun -- go for it.

"It's only May," Holden exclaimed. "We've had people coming in and asking us where to hike since March because it has been so warm on the Front Range."

Forest Service Recreation Technician Debbie Hunt said motorists can drive to Dumont lake on the east side of Rabbit Ears Pass and access the lake near the dam. However, snowdrifts cross the access roads into the campground and the picnic areas. She urged people not to attempt to drive into the snowy roads -- getting stuck in the mud and snow is a real possibility.

Still, the ice is off Dumont, and it's a good time to fish for hungry brookies.

Division of Wildlife fisheries biologist Bill Atkinson said he's been receiving reports of good cutthroat fishing in North and South Routt. In the north, Atkinson said, head for Pearl Lake State Park. The road recently opened, and the cutts in that lake haven't felt much pressure. A gold-ribbed hare's ear is a good basic fly pattern at Pearl.

To the south, Crosho Lake outside Phippsburg is fishing well, but the window of opportunity for catching a relatively rare grayling will close soon as the little fish with the dramatic dorsal fins head for deeper water. From Colorado Highway 131 in Phippsburg, turn right on Routt County Road 15 and follow Hunt Creek to Crosho Lake.

Atkinson said trout fishing at Stagecoach Reservoir State Park remains good but that northern pike fishing is just beginning to heat up.

-- To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com


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