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Master Naturalist Training

Earlier this month, Anna was very excited to learn she’d been accepted into the Fort Collins Master Naturalist Program! The program provides 60 hours of ecological and interpretive training. After completing the training and giving two trial presentations, she’ll become a certified Master Naturalist. Anna will then volunteer to lead field trips and informative nature walks in the Natural Areas around Fort Collins.

Training began this week with classes in the ecology of the Rocky Mountains, taxonomy, life zones, aquatic invertebrates, and the shape and speed of rivers. The teachers and other trainees are awesome. Everyone is passionate about the natural world and each participant brings their own expertise. Anna will likely come away from the training with new friends in addition to new knowledge.

Instructor and student looking for insects in the Poudre River

Looking at insects we found in the Poudre River

Yesterday’s class took place in the middle of the Poudre River, where she practiced dip netting and identification of aquatic invertebrates. So much fun!

Anna will learn much more in the coming month of classes, including:

  • Geology of the Front Range
  • Plant Ecology of the Shortgrass Prairie
  • Mammals of the Rockies
  • Riparian Native Trees and Shrubs
  • Night Sky and Nocturnal Animals
  • Birds of Fort Collins
  • Interpretation and Outreach Techniques for Different Age Groups

Though we won’t write about all the classes here, we’ll make sure to include pieces of Anna’s newfound knowledge in our future hiking posts.

Roots and reflections in the Poudre

Roots and reflections in the Poudre

 

High Country News Gallery and Book Review

Want to take a peek into our book Pacific Crest Trail: A Journey in Photographs? Well, now is your chance. High Country News is featuring 12 of Chris’s PCT images on their website. (Soon the gallery will be highlighted on their homepage too!) Check the photographs out here:

http://www.hcn.org/issues/46.3/pacific-crest-trail-a-journey-in-photographs-by-chris-alexander/@@gallery_view

High Country News also published a wonderful review in their print magazine and online. We smiled from ear to ear when we read it:

High Country News Review of Pacific Crest Trail: A Journey in Photographs

If you like what you saw and read, please consider purchasing a book for yourself or a good friend. Thank you.

Backcountry Yurt Trip, State Forest State Park

North Fork Canadian Yurt

The most stressful part of winter wilderness travel can be getting to the trailhead. Remote mountain roads may be icy or unplowed. In addition, we have little experience driving in winter weather, since we don’t own a car, and only rent one to go on hikes like these.

On this trip we drove over Cameron Pass and made it within 100 feet of the trailhead, only to get stuck when we stopped to read a sign. Underneath the snow was a layer of solid ice on which the car’s wheels spun freely. Reversing did nothing, and getting out to push had little effect. Fortunately after a few minutes some friendly snowmobilers happened by and helped push the car free. Thanks Arlen, Justin, and Travis for your noble effort and your useful tips to avoid getting stuck in the future.

Relieved and with the car appropriately parked, we suited up and strapped on snowshoes for our journey to the North Fork Canadian Yurt. The trail began on a compacted snowmobile path, which made for easy walking.

Snowshoeing to North Fork Canadian yurt

Yurt blue trail markerFresh snow gracefully covered the ground in white curves, giving the landscape a peaceful quality. Whenever we took a break, snow-damped silence blanketed everything. Only occasionally would a bird call or rustling wind interrupt the calm.

The trail led us across the frozen North Fork Canadian River. Soon after crossing, the larger snowmobile path diverged from the yurt path. The remainder of our route was a small dimple in the snow, marked periodically by blue yurt signs.

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Snowshoeing Bear Lake to Bierstadt Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park

Bierstadt Lake in January

This past Sunday was the anniversary of our first date. Five years ago we met at the marina in Berkeley, CA where Chris taught Anna how to fly her new two-line stunt kite. Conversation was excellent and flying was fun. Much has changed for us over the past five years, but we still love to experience new things and spend time together outdoors. January in Colorado isn’t ideal for kite flying, so we opted for a more appropriate winter activity to celebrate our anniversary: snowshoeing.

We arrived at the Bear Lake Trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park to gorgeous sunny blue skies. The wind was fierce but we had noted that in the forecast so we were prepared. We bundled up, strapped on our snowshoes, and set off, though a bit awkwardly at first. It had been a while since we’d walked with snowshoes.

Within steps, frozen Bear Lake was visible with classic Rocky Mountain peaks behind. It was a grand start to the hike.

Bear Lake in January

Bear Lake, just steps from the trailhead

Orange trail marker

Orange trail marker

We followed the eastern shore of Bear Lake for a few hundred feet, then broke away from the lake and started climbing. The route wasn’t obvious because people had compacted the snow in numerous paths and the official trail was buried. Preparation and solid navigation skills are important for travel in snow. Even though we were ready to use our map, compass, and GPS to navigate, we were happy to find the Bierstadt Lake Trail marked with permanent orange flags affixed to trees.

Once we got into our rhythm, the snowshoes made us feel more superhuman than clunky. It was fun to easily traverse steep or heavily side sloped terrain without fear of falling.

All was going well until we realized that the trail should have ceased climbing and that an orange flag sighting was overdue. We decided to backtrack.

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Reflections on 2013

2013 was a challenging and eventful year for us. The year was filled with a mix of emotions–anticipation, joy, frustration, and excitement. It wasn’t the year we had planned, but it was full and that’s how we like it.

Our PCT book in the window of the Roads, Rivers, and Trails store

Our PCT book in the window of the Roads, Rivers, and Trails store

The most memorable events were:

  • Completing our book Pacific Crest Trail: A Journey in Photographs. Before the book was finished, a friend told us that publishing a book was like giving birth to a baby. We were skeptical when we first heard this comparison, but there is truth in it. Our publishing experience was emotional, painful, and hugely time-intensive. It feels like a part of us is embedded in the book. Once it was printed, we were simultaneously proud and nervous to send our creation into the world. And of course, the work isn’t done. We must constantly support the book and find new people to love it as much as we do.
  • Hiking 200 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Each day introduced us to new sights, people, sounds, and smells. We love the simplicity of living in nature. Our hike was cut short by a terrible case of shingles, but that did not diminish the unique experiences we had on the AT.
    Anna crossing a creek on the Appalachian Trail

    Anna crossing a creek on the Appalachian Trail

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Winter Wonderland

Winter has transformed the landscape into beautiful new forms. Here are a few pictures from our recent wanderings around Fort Collins, Colorado. Happy holidays, and stay warm!

Snowy Lee Martinez Park

Frozen Poudre River

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PCT Book on Sale

Pacific Crest Trail Photo Book on Sale

Happy Holidays! Our Pacific Crest Trail coffee table book is now on sale for 20% off. The book makes a great gift for anyone who enjoys hiking, nature, or art. Click the “Buy Now” button above to purchase, or visit our book page to learn more.

Sale ends December 18th

Cover Article and Book Review in NOLS Leader Magazine

Welcome NOLSies! Thanks for stopping by. You might enjoy:

The National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) publishes a magazine with a circulation of 70,000. We’re happy to share that our Pacific Crest Trail thru hike story graces the cover of the Fall 2013 issue. The issue also contains a glowing review of our PCT photography book.

Read the cover article (pages 16-19) and book review (page 21) by clicking below:


A PDF of the entire issue is also available.

Hidden Lake Trail, Glacier National Park

Mother and baby mountain goats

Mother and baby mountain goats

We rarely hike a trail more than once. We only make an exception to this rule if the trail is either near our home or extra spectacular. Glacier National Park’s Hidden Lake Trail is definitely the latter. We first hiked the trail in 2010. It was the dream day hike: epic views, short mileage, and lots of wildlife. We decided it was time to relive that experience this year, and we’re glad we did.

The trail begins at Logan Pass, behind the visitor center. The amazing views start immediately. Clements Mountain with glaciers at its base dominates the scene. Alpine meadows spread out on either side of the boardwalk path.

View of Clements Mountain from Hidden Lake Trail

We scanned the cliffs looking for mountain goats and bighorn sheep. No luck there. Instead we spotted a weasel dashing under the boardwalk and into its hole 20 feet away. You never know what you’ll find!

After a short one-and-a-half mile walk, the trail reached the Hidden Lake Overlook. The lake and surrounding peaks were unbelievably beautiful.
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Hidden Meadow Trail, Glacier National Park

Hidden Meadow, Glacier National ParkGlacier National Park’s Hidden Meadow Trail lived up to its name. The trailhead was about 3 miles south of the Polebridge ranger station on a small dirt road. It was so well hidden that we drove right past it. After backtracking, we discovered that that when heading south, the only sign was blocked by trees.

Hidden Meadow TrailEvidently nobody else found the trailhead, as we didn’t encounter anyone on the hike. We had heard this trail offered good wildlife viewing opportunities. It was especially promising that no one was around to scare off the local creatures.

The trail led us through a forest which had burned about 25 years ago. The burn had destroyed almost all the old trees, but new trees were growing dense and strong in their place. Everything seemed quite dry, which made us think about how enticing the moist meadow would be to the wildlife.

This is a short trail, only 1.2 miles each direction, and we soon reached the grassy meadow. In the clearing, we were delighted to find a large pond with swans paddling about.
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