Finally we have rains again – the Pineapple Express natural phenomena is blessing us with moisture and clouds to keep the garden from burning up! I can finally leave my shade cloths off the garden for a day or two and my rain barrels are full again with life-giving moisture. Yes, rain barrels are again legal in Colorado, especially if you are on a well. Our own Grand County Andy Miller fought long and hard a few years ago to restore that privilege. But the storms over the weekend were a bit harsh, even overflowed my barrels, and much of hard rain washed off the hillsides before being absorbed by the dry ground.
How many times do you drive a road up a narrow canyon and see signs that say “CLIMB TO SAFETY IN THE EVENT OF A FLOOD”. If you have ever watched a torrent of water cascade down a creek bed or a canyon floor, you know what those signs really mean. Water can have a mind of its own and it is a force of nature not to be ignored. Too much water in the wrong place is very dangerous. As a testament to that, we recently had the anniversary of the Big Thompson Flood that swept away both people, animals and property. So many areas were completely devastated, and my sister-in-law and brother-in-law were in Estes Park when that happened to tell us the real story.
Over this past weekend, we were camping on the Colorado River when the rains came. There was not as much rain in the river canyon as in east Grand County. Here where we live, on Red Dirt Hill, even the ditches that I have encouraged on each side of my house showed the effects of water torrents with big piles of pine needles, sand, gravel and small branches forming blocks in the channel that often made the water overflow the banks. What I really noticed was that the culverts under the driveways of many of our neighbors’ houses are now clogged with that same material – lots of sand, gravel and pine needles. The culverts will no longer function unless people take the time to clear them out. Please take time this weekend and check to make sure the culverts at YOUR house are clear.
We also checked the bigger hills on our section of the Fraser to Granby Trail between the YMCA and Tabernash to see the effect of the hard rain. We have many rolling dips across the trail and watershed ditches along the side of the trail to help guide water off the trail before it does damage. When the rolling dip is oriented at an angle with the downhill slope to redirect the water that is being shed down the trail, it becomes a very effective way to keep ruts from forming and washouts from occurring. It is a simple technique that really works and is barely noticeable when riding a bicycle and or when Nordic skiing. The dip has to be relatively deep but wide enough and the bottom can be lined or armored with flat rocks IF the rocks have enough space between them to allow the water to flow. Otherwise the rocks merely interfere with the water flow and compound the problem. Many people placed the rocks too close together in the recent past and just formed a dam. You need to also dig a good-sized collection area above the dip and a bigger run-off area below the dip to give the water a place to go.
Volunteer overnight project on Strawberry West Trail August 22-23
Headwaters Trails Alliance (HTA) does many work projects that teach this and similar techniques to their volunteers on regular projects. Next week, Aug 22-23, there is a fun overnight volunteer project on Strawberry West Trail. The group will be hiking to Strawberry West from the High Lonesome Hut to a section of trail that has flooding due to beaver dam construction. The HTA leaders and volunteers will be altering trail around the dam to preserve the habitat and to make a clear path for trail users.
The High Lonesome Hut is a 3-story hut with running water, flushing toilets and solar electricity. Participants who wish to stay in the hut will need to bring a sleeping bag and enough food for 2 days (kitchen utensils, pots and pans, coffee pot, and stove are provided in the hut). Volunteers will have the opportunity to ride bikes in from the High Lonesome Hut gate at their leisure, or catch a ride with HTA on Tuesday evening, August 21st. (Time TBD). This will be a fun opportunity to enjoy some fresh air, meet other volunteers and give back to the trails! If you are interested in joining HTA on this project, please email Erica at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (970) 726-1013 by August 20th to reserve your space!
Another fun opportunity is the last free day for locals for the summer at Snow Mountain Ranch on August 25. Grand County residents can receive a free day pass, with proof of residency. You’ll also be able to sign up for a free summer tubing hill session but space is limited so check in early! Check in at the Programs building for your free day pass that gives access to miles of hiking and biking trails, fishing (rentals available, or bring your own), pool, mini golf, roller skating, basketball, volleyball, disc golf, family programs and more! You must register for the tubing hill session in person at the Programs Desk. Space is limited. For more information, go to snowmountainranch.org.