Each passing year has so many nuances. Each year brings so many changes. Some are predictable and planned for, some are impossible to foresee. So far in 2022, the tide has not hit the high-water mark, and we’re still gauging just what the summer trends might bring us.
It was not the biggest of snow years, but it sure has been a windy one. Cutting out downed trees has been a main theme of the early Crested Butte Conservation Corps (CBCC) season, and there has been no shortage of trees across trails and roads. We love a good partnership and we’re so proud to work alongside the folks that took to the hills and went to cutting out the huge number of downed trees in our vast network. From individuals looking to help the cause, to organizations like the Gunnison Valley OHV Alliance of Trailriders (GOATs), the network is nearly cut wall to wall. No simple feat with the winds we’ve experienced all Winter/Spring, let alone each new wind event brings down more. We’ll keep the saws sharp and be at it all season. We cut out trails – all trails – from hiker/horse to bike/moto to Wilderness trails (hand saws). Let us know when you see downed trees impeding sustainable system routes, we’ll get out there to slice ‘em up.
We got dumped on in December, then it seemed to shut off a bit. The summer season started off dry. With Blue Mesa Lake looking more like a large pond than Colorado’s largest body of water, we’ve all been hoping for rain. Out comes the Stage 1 fire ban on June 15th, and like billowing clouds at an Alpenglow concert, the rains start. It seems more like August monsoon season than it did a regular June. Let’s hope the rains continue throughout the season and we can not only build up that water level, but live with less concern about the current trend of fires in the American West. At that, we sure love the ‘tack town’ that moisture brings to the trails.
A trend we’d like to see discontinue around here is the usual collection (and disposal) of backcountry makeshift stand-alone toilets! We’re up to three so far this season – our annual average already. It never seems to amaze us the amount of effort and ingenuity some folks will put into these types of creations, but then lack the respect and fortitude to complete the cycle. Same goes for those going to great lengths to get to the edges of the wild to enjoy some majestic natural backcountry beauty and then leave a mean poop and the accompanying toilet paper on the edge of the trailhead or parking area. Ya can’t have one without the other! If you do the crime, take the time – to do the right thing. We now have a locally made, locally created, ‘all in one bathroom kit for outdoor adventures’, called PACT (pactoutdoors.com) that fits in your hydration pack. Founded right here in Crested Butte, the PACT kit is an answer to backcountry bathroom needs, and it is rather ingenious. Do the right thing out there! Be prepared. Bring what you need to either pack it out, or set the stage for proper ecosystem health and quality backyard experiences for those who come behind you.
Designated camping is an official ‘Forest Order’ in the 6 drainages that surround Crested Butte. That makes it enforceable, by a Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer (LEO). The purpose of the Order is to “protect natural resources and public safety, as well as to provide high quality, sustainable recreational opportunities for visitors.” Prohibitions include:
- Camping, except in Cement Creek Campground, Lake Irwin Campground, or Gothic Campground, or in a Forest Service designated campsite marked with a post with the site number and universal camping symbol. 36 CFR 261.58(e).
- Building, maintaining, attending or using a fire or campfire, except if the fire is in a metal fire ring provided by the Forest Service. 36 CFR 261.52(a).
A violation of these prohibitions is punishable as a Class B misdemeanor by a fine of not more than $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization, or imprisonment for not more than 6 months, or both.
The CBCC partnered with the Gunnison Ranger District and installed 208 ‘designated sites’ over the previous two years in those 6 drainages. Now, it’s on – no vehicular/car camping outside of the actual designated sites on the ground marked by a site number and the camping symbol. It is illegal to drive off a system route (road) and create a new campsite. It is illegal to make a fire/campfire outside of a provided FS metal fire ring. Backpacking/bikepacking, etc., are not considered ‘car’ camping and do not have the punishable offenses associated with the order. If you were hiking over from Aspen (riding over, moto’ing over), and wanted to throw up at tent in the National Forest and have a small fire ring, that is a permitted and legal use if you are accessing your camp off a trail. A stage one fire ban would deter the fire ring and campfire, but if there’s no ban, then the tent site and a small fire ring is permitted. The 208 sites are still first come – first served, they are not ‘reservable’ sites. The camping limit is still 14 days. Please be prepared by anticipating on it being busy. Plan ahead by thinking about a backup area to camp if your go-to is taken upon arrival.
Trails in the north end of the Valley wintered well. We are often excited to see previous years’ trail work and how it held up to the elements. Of course, we’ll always have blowouts and high-water run-off issues and impacts, but we continue to implement sustainable drainage and trail improvements to keep on top of our vast network. Keep up with the trail report on our website (cbmba.org) for the latest in trail openings. The whole network is nearly melted out already.
Last year we completed the new Middle Cement Creek Trail (#399) and besides the 100’+ tree that fell and then hung suspended in the forest canopy above and dangled 2’ above the very middle of the new trail, it too, wintered beautifully and is a novel addition to the network. Best of all, it eliminates bikers/hikers sharing a busy, dusty road for over 5 miles, and provides a wonderful trail experience and network connection.
Built by CBMBA community volunteers and the CBCC, the new Mogul Storage Trails at the base of the Baxter Gulch Trail are open and provide two bike specific, downhill only, flow and jump trails. These types of trails have been long asked for and hard to come by in our current Forest and Travel Management Plan. We are so honored to have a partner in the Town of Crested Butte to be able to provide this amazing new addition to the network.
Last year, we saw a well-received reaction to the designated camping that was still being implemented. We saw obvious improvements, and we hope those trends continue in this new season. So far, our numbers are down, except for the usual shenanigans that we’re not going to ever be rid of, like those pesky toilets. We’ve found the usual ‘human waste’ and toilet paper stashes. We’ve found abandoned campsites and hunting camps, and we’ll always provide the boots on the ground to make sure the few don’t spoil it for all. The busy season is just upon us. Our seasoned, professional crews are back on the ground, and we have new energy and new crew members to keep the CBCC tradition alive for the sixth season. We aim to partner and collaborate with stakeholders and agencies to provide the best backcountry experiences, and we eagerly accept observations and feedback from the good folks out there sharing in the glory of Paradise. Please reach out anytime with observations, questions, or how to get involved at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CBCC 2022 Statistics to date
Trees cleared – 315
Campsites cleaned – 181
Miles of trail maintained/worked on – 26.25 miles
Trash collected – 277.1
Reaches/Actual Contacts – 256
Fire rings decommissioned – 4
Human waste properly disposed of – 8
2022 CBCC Crew:
CBMBA Operations Manager/CBCC Supervisor: Grant Spear
CBCC Crew Leader: Jake Scott
CBCC Crew: Erik Stolz, Grant Campbell, Joseph Rice