The Thunker

by Sarah Holdt

For the first two months of the summer I avoided Bear Lake Road. I just didn't want to hassle with the construction congestion, the dust, the exhaust. But I couldn't keep up my boycott; I missed many of my favorite trails and lakes and peaks. Besides, I was curious. What did I find but abandoned trails leading to lonely lakes and unpopulated peaks! Because of the road construction many nature lovers have stayed away from the Bear Lake corridor and those of us who venture forth despite the inconvenience have been rewarded. Of course the parking lots still fill up and there will always be a parade of hikers to Alberta Falls and Nymph and Dream Lakes, but beyond the most popular destinations, the park is deliciously deserted. Sometimes eerily so. The construction is scheduled through next summer so if you stayed away this summer, I encourage you to take advantage of what is considered a disruption (road construction) and enjoy the park in a state we don't often get to see (underutilized). When we're eager to hit the trails, sitting in a long line of cars waiting for the flagman to rotate his sign from one four-letter word to another (STOP to SLOW) is a test of our patience. It is also an opportunity to ponder, which I did: why do people leave their cars running when they know they're going to remain in the same spot 20 minutes? How long could I stand there with a sign in one hand and a walkie-talkie in the other before I went crazy from boredom? Where do all of these rocks come from? That's the question I couldn't stop asking. Along the road, beautiful walls are being built out of huge boulders that weigh several tons each. Are they our rocks or did they get hauled in from somewhere else? Mark and I paid to have boulders hauled in from a Fort Collins operation for a small landscaping project underway. I felt silly paying for rock when our whole town sits on nothing but. We examined the collection of rock chunks for sale, making our selection based on shape, color and size, ensuring that every one was perfect. Then we tagged a dozen as ours. When the load was delivered, we spent several hours making sure each boulder was positioned just so in our yard. The entire exercise was so serious it was comical. They're rocks, for heaven's sake. We pay little to no attention to the abundance of them forming the foundation where we live. They are in mounds along roadways, they hinder us from digging and planting, they trip us on hikes, they make up our mountains. They simply are. Everywhere. So what about the park's rocks? I asked the flagmen. (They appreciated having someone show interest. One fellow said we were the first people to talk to him all day and this was at 3:00 in the afternoon.) I asked rangers at the BioBlitz. I asked the strapping young trail builders we encountered as we hiked. (Thank goodness for those guys and gals. They break their backs to maintain the trails for us.) Nobody knew the answers. I turned to the project's manager and goto guy, my buddy Joe Arnold. He calls them "rockery walls"-isn't that charming? "The big boulders used for the rockery walls came mostly from the area where we are rerouting the road away from Glacier Creek," Joe said. "Since we didn't have to import boulders we could do this kind of wall for about a quarter of the cost of the cut slope wall further up." I was so glad to hear we, meaning you and me, the taxpayers who are funding this road improvement project, didn't pay to have boulders hauled in for the rockery walls. We made use of what is found in abundance all around us. I wished Mark and I could have done the same for our little yard project. The Bear Lake Road retaining walls are beautiful to look at-art, really-and are structural wonders. I thought it odd, however, that the rockery walls don't match the fortification, or what Joe calls "cut slope walls" on the upper portion of the road, redone in 2004. Joe said those walls were constructed differently because the slopes up there had drainage issues that required different engineering to provide stability-and they used rock from Rifle and Lyons for those flat, red walls with sills. The new rockery walls currently being built with huge boulders look much more anchored to me, but I'm not an engineer-what do I know? I know that once the project is complete, part of the road will have been rerouted away from Glacier Creek where erosion has been affecting the riparian habitat, just as Joe said. The old road will then be converted into a trail. There's ranger talk of allowing dogs on that trail, or it could become a bicycle trail, but none of that has been determined yet. And I know that when it celebrates its hundredth anniversary in 2015, our Rocky Mountain National Park is going to be in tip-top shape, with 47 miles of road improvements done since 2003. We're rollin'. That's rockin'. You may let The Thunker know what you think at her e-mail address, donoholdt@gmail.com. EP NEWS/ Gary Hazelton

Friday, September 14, 2012


Page 9

11am to 2am FREE POOL 11am to 9pm



with KJ Justin D at 9pm



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