Helping people connect with Nature

Tag Archives: MPEC

A Cricket Thermometer

As the nights lengthen and cool, it seems that the night music of crickets becomes more noticeable to my ears. Maybe the fact that it won’t be too long before the cold of winter silences them heightens my awareness of those warm season sights and sounds that will soon go dormant for the winter.

Hearing the evening cricket chorus last evening, and how most were chirping at the same rhythm, I was reminded that there is a formula for determining the temperature by counting cricket chirps. According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, you can convert cricket chirps to degrees Fahrenheit by counting the number of chirps in 14 seconds, then add the number 40 to get the temperature. For example, you count 30 chirps in 14 seconds, add 40, and it is 70F. Happy chirp counting!

~ Ranger Dave Van Manen

 

 

The Halfway Point of Beulah’s Snow Season

The last day of January just became the first day of February. January added 14.2″ to December’s 6.5″ of snow, bringing the season total to 20.7″ (Nov and Oct brought no measurable snow). Our snow season roughly runs Oct 15 – May 15, so we are 50% through the season. If half the park’s average 118″ fell in the first half of winter, then those 20.7″ put us at 35% of an average snow year. The latter half of the winter is usually somewhat snowier than the first half; so, factoring that in, the 35% figure is probably a bit low. Even so, we are still having an extremely dry winter. Unless the weather pattern changes, we may be in for a record dry winter.

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.

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

Earth Studies for 5th Graders starts Sept 4th

 

What is the Earth Studies Program?

Earth Studies, now in its 11th year, is a comprehensive, outdoor-based Nature education program that takes place among the ponderosa pines of the 611-acre Pueblo Mountain Park.  MPEC’s Nature Educators are busy training and getting organized for our first class to arrive on Sept 4th!  If you live in Pueblo and have a 5th grader in Pueblo City Schools, then your student will be coming up to spend 6 full days over the course of the upcoming school year. They will learn to identify birds, explore what bioregions are near where they live, hike the Pueblo Mountain Trails and experience MPEC’s wonderful outdoor classroom. Parents are welcome to join their child’s class for the day so we hope to see you!

This photo is from an Earth Studies Day during winter 2011 where eager students gathered during snow falling. ES Students love seeing MPEC’s outdoor classrooms in many different weather forms and cold and snow don’t deter them from being willing to learn!