Helping people connect with Nature

Volunteer Trail Stewards Needed!

The trails of Pueblo Mountain Park see a whole lot of footsteps from so many people – Earth Studies students learning about the park’s trees and ecosystems, MPEC’s guided hikers and many other hikers, folks looking to access the National Forest trails west of the park, birders looking for an elusive three-toed woodpecker and plant lovers wanting to enjoy the scarlet-red blossoms of a claret-cup cactus.  Yes, the parks six miles of trails are used and loved by many!

volunteers needed

Considering all of this use, the park’s trails are always in need of some TLC. With that in mind, MPEC is initiating a once per month Volunteer Trail Stewards day so these trails can receive some of that needed TLC.

Please consider becoming a Mountain Park Environmental Center Trail Steward and help improve and maintain the trails of Pueblo Mountain Park.  MPEC maintenance staff will be coordinating the trail projects. Individuals 12 years of age and up are welcome to participate in these trails projects that will keep Pueblo Mountain Park’s trails safe and enjoyable for all who wish to connect with Nature.

trail building VOC 09

Trail Days will be the second Saturday of each month (July 9, August 13, September 10, and October 8).  We will meet in the Horseshoe Lodge parking lot on each of these Saturdays at 8 am and will conclude trail work at noon.  Participants should bring water (at least 2 liters), snacks, hiking boots, work gloves, and sunscreen.  Additionally, a sun hat is highly encouraged, along with rain gear.

For more information, please contact Steve at 719-485-4444, or by email Steve@hikeandlearn.org. You can register by clicking HERE!

Forest Stewardship Project Update: Summer 2016

If you were standing in the forest that is now Pueblo Mountain Park 200 years ago, chances are you’d be in a place that had recently burned. Historically, ponderosa pine forests experienced a cool ground fire, usually started by lightning, every 5-10 years. It was a “cool” fire because it pretty much stayed on the ground burning grasses, forbs and shrubs, including most young ponderosa pines. The thick bark of the mature ponderosa pines could handle the scorching, and the lack of lower branches prevented the fire from working its way up into the canopy. Fire was the tool that Nature used to keep ponderosa pine forests open with relatively few trees and lots of grasses.

IMG_3381When settlers arrived in the West, they brought with them a European approach to managing forests, which lacked an understanding of the important role that fire played in many forest types. Anytime lightning would ignite a fire, every effort was made to to put it out. Over time, this approach led to ponderosa forests becoming wildly overgrown, and the combination of more shade from more trees and, often times, livestock grazing, the grasses that would carry a fire across the forest floor disappeared. In their place grew more and more trees and shrubs, which meant more and more fuel for catastrophic fires that burn up through the forest canopy and everything else in their path. Pueblo Mountain Park was a good example of such a forest.

IMG_3376Over the past 15 years, many efforts have been made to return the park’s forests to a more natural condition – less trees, less understory that could bring a ground fire into the canopy, and more grasses. Much progress has been made, as a good portion of the eastern third of the park now more closely resembles what a healthy ponderosa forest should look like.

If you’ve been wondering what the recent tree cutting is all about, it is our next step in reducing the park’s vulnerability to a catastrophic fire. All of the current tree cutting is taking place directly along the park roads. A road, lacking fuel, is a fire break that could effectively stop a fire moving along the forest floor. Our current efforts are meant to bring the potential of breaking the path of a fire into the upper part of the forest by opening up a gap in the tree canopy. If a fire were moving through the crowns of the trees, the gap we are currently enhancing stands a better chance of stopping it. It also gives firefighters a good place to “take a stand” in the case of a fire moving through the park.

IMG_3371As an added benefit, the removal of these trees will increase the amount of snow that reaches the park roads, which we close off in the winter, making for better snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. And, the wood we get from the trees will be burned in the Horseshoe Lodge’s biomass boilers to heat the lodge, saving the burning of thousands of gallons of fossil fuels.

IMG_3373

So, please excuse the temporary mess – we will soon be removing the remaining branches as we’ve arranged to have use of the City of Pueblo’s huge chipper in July. When this project is done, we all will have a safer, healthier and better Pueblo Mountain Park.

Noticing-Deficit-Disorder!

I frequently talk about “Nature deficit disorder” in my work as a Nature educator. I recently saw the phrase “noticing deficit disorder” the other day and it immediately registered as another downside to the techy plugged-in world we live in. Here is a wonderful article (click on the image below) on an antidote to these modern-day challenges – a way to reconnect with the other world we all live in – Nature. ~ Ranger Dave

walking

Opt Outside This Valentine’s Day: Tips for a romantic outdoor adventure.

I know that with Super Bowl Fever going around (Go Broncos!), some of you may have forgotten that Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching. Sure, you could go the traditional route, gifting your sweetheart a bouquet of roses, fancy chocolates, jewelry and/or expensive dinner out, or you could wow your date with a romantic day outside that will be not only memorable but affordable. If you need a little more convincing as to why your Valentine’s Day should be centered more around experiences than things, read THIS article.

If you are ready to opt in favor of getting outside on this day of love, the Mountain Park is the perfect place to take your special someone! With 22 inches of fresh snow blanketing our forest, not only is your romantic scene set (and instagram worthy), it is a wonderful time to try snowshoeing; a fun, and easy adventure that is sure to get you and your partner’s hearts beating!

  • Snowshoes will be available to rent ($5 dollars a pair for the day) from 9-11am Sunday the 14th at the Horseshoe Lodge. If  you have never snowshoed before and would feel more comfortable learning in a group setting, we have a guided Sweetheart Snowshoe that starts at 11:30 with one of our experienced Rangers.

Somethings to remember, thoughtful details make good memories.

A romantic outdoor adventure is at least as much about the little details as it is about the destination, especially if the weather isn’t perfect. So here are some tips to keep in mind as you plan your romantic outing:

  • Take a few photos but for the most part, unplug. Be present in nature and with your date.
  • Bring a sleeping pad so that you have a warm, dry place to sit next to each other. A light blanket never hurt either!
  • Pack a thermos of hot chocolate or tea to share.
  • Bring hand and feet warmers for your date.
  • Enjoy the moment with your partner, don’t fear silence, and ask questions about them.
  • Let your partner set the pace and suggest breaks along the way. It’s not about fitness – unless you are both into that.
  • If things go well, suggest stopping for snacks or a meal on the way home. For some local Beulah favorites head to The Beulah Inn for beers and burgers, or go cozy up with a cup of coffee and pastry at The Stompin Grounds.

Want to go above and beyond?

Whether you have been dating 3 weeks or married 20 years, a snowshoe hike is a great way to leave your everyday lives at home. Being outside and getting active can provide freshness, and excitement in your relationship, and, with a little creativity and forethought, you can make this day one your love won’t soon forget. Here are a few more romantic ideas if you are really going for that wow factor:

  • A Picnic – Surprise your partner with a picnic lunch or appetizers. Does a busy schedule make it hard for you to make your own? Let us do it for you. Click Here to order.
  • Yoga– If you are looking for yet another way to connect with your partner, start your morning by opening your heart chakras side by side. This will help you feel even more in tune to one another for your snowshoe hike. Click HERE to learn more.
  • Romantic Getaway – Don’t tell your partner where you are going, just what to pack. – A stay at our cozy, secluded Horseshoe Lodge will be sure to go down as a Valentine’s Day to remember. Click HERE to learn more.
  • Memories with a View – On a hike, bring along something sentimental to both of you (love letters from when you first dated, old photos) and read them together at a nice viewpoint. The Fire Tower, Lookout Point and the pond are great places at the Mountain Park for a serene view. Click HERE to view our park map.

 

 

Bumps and Challenges are Nothing New for this Non-Profit

If you have been a follower of MPEC over the last couple of years, you are likely aware of the fact that MPEC has been down a somewhat bumpy road administratively. It was just under two years ago that our organization put in motion an Executive Director Succession Plan that ultimately was not successful. Earlier this year, we embarked on what we believed was a better Executive Director Succession Plan, but that proved unsuccessful as well. So, we are now applying lessons learned and are hopeful the third time is the charm.

Yes, it’s been tough. No, things have not gone the way we expected. But are we going to pack it in and give up? The answer is an emphatic NO! The truth is, bumps are nothing new to MPEC. In fact, before MPEC ever opened its doors there were years of unsuccessful proposals, “it will never work” comments, false starts, and countless frustrations. Back in the late 90s, when we began the long path of bringing the dream of MPEC into reality, it was nothing but bumpy. We could have thrown in the towel, but the attitude captured in thoughts like “Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.”A failure is not always a mistake. It may simply be the best one can do under the circumstances. The real mistake is to stop trying.”kept us plugging away during MPEC’s earliest challenges, and that same attitude is inspiring us now to do the same. Why? Because MPEC was, and is, too good an idea to give up!

SeeYouNextTimeMPEC has always dealt with bumps and challenges – not unusual for any business, and especially so for the non-profit sector lately. Like in 2002, when the the school district suddenly initiated a new policy not allowing students to be transported in 15-passenger vans, a month before school started and we had just raised the money to start a new program, Earth Studies, which would utilize vans for transportation. (So, we found the money, bought an old bus, and got CDLs so we could drive the bus). Or in 2007, when we learned that the initial estimate of $650,000 to renovate the Horseshoe Lodge was off by about a million dollars. (So, we raised another million dollars.) Or in 2013, when the basement of the lodge flooded with 6″ of muddy water during a heavy rainstorm, and then, after cleaning it all up, it flooded again three weeks later. (So, we came up with a flood mitigation plan, wrote a successful grant proposal to pay for the project, and so far no more floods.) And a hundred more bumps…

So, it’s been a bumpy ride since the very beginning for all sorts of reasons. Yes, it’scampjump2015 been challenging administratively the last couple of years, but our campers and students haven’t an inkling of it. If you were a 5th grader participating in our Earth Studies program, or a summer camper during the last couple of years, it would not have been bumps but animal tracks, birds, trees, and other natural wonders that you would have been aware of. In spite of the bumps, MPEC’s programs continue to do our most important work – connect people, especially young people, to Nature.

A Final Howl To Summer

This past week, nine lucky campers and two excited MPEC counselors loaded up the van to embark on the final camp of the 2015 Summer. Our destination, Mission Wolf, a 200 acre sanctuary for wolves and a nature center for people.

IMG_1847

 

Mission Wolf has always been an MPEC camp favorite and offers campers the chance for a unique educational opportunity to better understand these wonderful, wild creatures. At each Mission Wolf camp we try to give back to this incredible volunteer run organization, by participating in a few small service projects around the property. The campers all worked incredible hard and were rewarded with not one but two wolf visits with the three residential Ambassador wolves. The wolves showed their appreciation for our hard work by sharing their attention and plenty of wolf kisses!

 

 

IMG_1792

 

 

IMG_1791IMG_1850

 

IMG_1823

IMG_1868             IMG_1819

 

 

 

 

 

Each night and morning we were treated to a beautiful mountain choir; 37 howls comingled in a hauntingly beautiful harmony that resounded through the hills. It was a perfect way to wrap up this summer season!


IMG_1861

If you would like to be the first to know the dates of next summer’s Mission Wolf camps email taylor@hikeandlearn.org!

Musings about Summer

camp2015 scarlettcholoehobbitvillempecamp2015I remember my summers as a child. I grew up in New York City, but the last day of school meant that the next day we would head out to eastern Long Island in a packed Rambler station wagon to spend the summer in the country. Fishing, exploring the swamp behind our house, building tree houses, climbing trees, swimming and being at the beach, riding my bike (my Dad had my family’s one car during the week working back in the city, so my Mom and four siblings lived carless all week). Fast forward a few decades…much of my life’s work has been providing opportunities for young people to be outdoors, to experience the joys of camp 2Nature, away from the City for awhile. One way we do that at MPEC is our summer camp program. I am proud that this summer, over 100 young people got to do just that. Here are a few photos from our Mountain Adventure Camp. On a related note, please check out this video about the value of children being outside and the lifestyle changes associated with that; then please share your thoughts. By the way, we wound up giving nearly $3000 more in camp scholarships this summer than our scholarship fund had – please consider making a donation to help us offsecampjump2015t that deficit. Thanks so much!

camp 4

camp 2015 boys walking sticks

Summer Seems to have Finally Arrived!

After an average winter of snowfall, May arrived with a bit of snow and lots and lots and lots of rain, all to a backdrop of chilly temps. Mid-spring was not turning out to be the warm flowery month we have all come to expect. Yes, the park had a fair share of wildflower species in bloom, but winter’s grip seemed to not want to let go. June arrived with some warmer temps, the faucet of rain turned to moderate, the end of MPEC’s school programs and the start of camps. Yes, summer has finally arrived. Just this morning, the pine woods under the early morning sun were alive with the clicking of cicadas, a sound that was not present just yesterday morning. So, the summer season, with all of its vibrancy and life and activity, is unfolding in Pueblo Mountain Park! Please come on up and enjoy it with us!senecio

It’s John Muir’s Birthday & Earth Week 2015 !

Jjohn muirohn Muir’s life is an inspiration to all who love Nature and wilderness. His life is a model for how to learn about and love the natural world. Read this reprint from The Writer’s Almanac (http://writersalmanac.org/):

It’s the birthday of naturalist John Muir (books by this author), born in Dunbar, Scotland (1838). He grew up on a farm in Wisconsin. His father was a strict Christian, and by age 11, Muir could recite three-quarters of the Old Testament and all of the New Testament by heart. One evening, the boy was up late reading, and his father forbade him from staying up late, but decided that as a compromise, he could get up as early as he wanted in the morning. Muir began getting up at 1 a.m. and going to the cellar to work on inventions by the light of a tallow candle. He invented a self-setting sawmill, thermometers, barometers, complex door-locks, an automatic horse-feeding machine, clocks, a firelighter, and many more tools. For motivation in the dark winter mornings, he invented an elaborate clock that also told the day of the week and the month, and was connected to a bed that set him on his feet at an appointed hour.

He exhibited some of his inventions at the state fair, and made enough money to enroll at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. One day, he was standing underneath a black locust tree when a fellow student asked Muir if he knew what family the locust tree was in. Muir said that he didn’t know anything about plants, so the student asked him, well, what does the flower look like? Muir said it looked like a pea flower. When the student explained that they were in the same family, Muir was amazed, even more so after the other student explained the principles of taxonomy. He wrote: “This fine lesson charmed me and sent me flying to the woods and meadows in wild enthusiasm. [.] I wandered away at every opportunity, making long excursions round the lakes, gathering specimens and keeping them fresh in a bucket in my room to study at night after my regular class tasks were learned; for my eyes never closed on the plant glory I had seen.” Despite his new fascination with plants, he was a mechanical genius, and he remained equally interested in inventions. He improved his clock-bed, which now set him on his feet and simultaneously lighted a lamp. The bed was supplemented by a clockwork desk that kicked into gear as soon as he woke up; it took each book he needed to study in order, pushed it to the top of the desk, and opened it for the correct number of minutes. He invented a wide variety of complex scientific instruments. Professors were so amazed that they regularly brought visitors to Muir’s dormitory room on the weekends to show off his inventions. Muir chose not to follow a recommended course of study. Instead, he dabbled in whatever interested him, from botany to Latin, and left Madison without a degree. Before his death, he wrote about his college years: “I wandered away on a glorious botanical and geological excursion, which has lasted nearly 50 years and is not yet completed, always happy and free, poor and rich, without thought of a diploma or of making a name.”

Muir found work as a sawyer in a wagon wheel factory. He was quickly promoted, and expected to have a great career. But after a year, he was repairing a belt for a circular saw when a file slipped and struck his eye, and he was temporarily blinded. He spent six weeks in a dark room, not knowing if he would ever see again. When his sight did return, he realized how important the beautiful world was to him. He wrote: “It was from this time that my long continuous wanderings may be said to have fairly commenced. I bade adieu to all my mechanical inventions, determined to devote the rest of my life to the study of the inventions of God.” He set out on a 1,000-mile walk from Indiana to the Gulf of Mexico, then walked from San Francisco to the Sierra Nevada.

Muir went on to become one of the most important naturalists and conservationists in American history. He founded the Sierra Club and helped fight to protect wilderness areas, especially the area around Yosemite Valley in the Sierra Nevada mountains. His books include Picturesque California(1888), My First Summer in the Sierra (1911), and The Story of My Boyhood and Youth (1913).

Summer Camp Registration Open

Camps blue marketing box shoafMPEC is excited to offer a great summer of camps.  We love how MPEC provides so many children with precious summer days filled with Nature fun and life-long memories through our summer camps. We have camps available for children in Kindergarten, starting with our Little Kids Camps, all the way through 12th grade – Mission:Wolf Camp!

Transportation from Pueblo is included in all of our camps, and through our amazing scholarship program we are able to send many children to camp at a reduced rate. Please visit www.hikeandlearn.org for more information and to register.