Backcountry Wrenchin’

Post by blogger | August 1, 2006      

Had a superb 4×4 journey over Colorado’s Schofield Pass the last couple of days (using it as a commute to Crested Butte to visit family). That place is exceptional, a mountain immersion experience with the incredible views, wildlife and generally fine environment. Schofield road is becoming quite the multi-user trail. On Saturday I saw at least 50 hikers, a horse packer, ATVs and 4x4s, bicycles and deer (the later proving as always that backcountry roads are not that big a deal to wildlife.) User conflicts? WHAT user conflicts? A minor trailside repair kept things interesting.

Backcountry Jeep repair
The nut worked its way off one of my spring hanger bolts, and the bolt was hanging half way out before I noticed. Luckily the spare parts bin had a nut that fit and the tools to go with it. Biting flies kept me moving. Don’t laugh at the long pants and long sleeved shirt — it’s that or wall-to-wall DEET as it’s tough to swat flies with a socket wrench.

Schofield conditions: Still slightly rougher than average, but rock stackers have filled in the best holes so they can get their stockers through. Shucks. (Note, weekdays are practically deserted up there — more of our incredibly crowded Colorado backcountry — not.)


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10 Responses to “Backcountry Wrenchin’”

  1. Greydon Clark August 1st, 2006 1:56 pm

    You saw some deer, so that proves that roads in the backcountry aren’t that big a deal to wildlife. Are you moonlighting as a wildlife biologist or just of fond of sweeping generalizations?

  2. Mark August 1st, 2006 7:19 pm

    Sometimes tons of biting bugs require lots of coverage by clothing. I’ve been there…and I prefer to avoid the DEET if possible. Did use a little bit of it the other night, and it did do the job though.

  3. Lou August 1st, 2006 10:59 pm

    Hmm Greydon, I’m just imitating the anti road folks, most of whom are fond of playing wildlife biologist as well as making sweeping generalizations about how bad roads are. So I guess my answer is “both.” (smile)

    P.S., I saw a lot more than deer…

  4. Chris August 2nd, 2006 8:17 am

    Obviously, Lou can write whatever he wants on his blog. But it sounds like he is setting up a strawman when he says that most anti road folks “are fond of playing wildlife biologist”, when actual wildlife biologists seem to agree with them….at least here in Colorado.

    “Professional field wildlife managers and biologists at the Colorado Division of Wildlife recommend that all Inventoried Roadless Areas be protected, preserved, ehnanced, managed and maintained in a manner consistent with the goal of providing maximum benefit for wildlife and wildlife habitat.”

    “Maintaining the provisions of the 2001 Roadless Conservation Rule would allow us to conserve the values and characteristics of Roadless Areas that are critical to the Divison’s mission…Repeal of these provisions may result in undesireable consequences for wildlife, but also in the loss of choice for future generations.”

    see for yourself at

  5. Mike Marolt August 2nd, 2006 8:34 am

    Lou, nice zinger on the road thing. Ha. M

  6. Greydon Clark August 2nd, 2006 4:51 pm

    Lou, I’m sure you saw more than deer. Roads have a tremendous impact on our wildlands and, unless Colorado is remarkably different than the rest of the world, I’m sure you saw a number of non-native plants—brought to the region by users of the road, motorized and non.

    Generally, you have a interesting and highly informed perspective on backcountry recreation, and I hope you’ll continue to blog on public lands management and user access. But I can do without the Greenpeace/Bill O’Reilly-style “zingers�.

  7. Chris August 3rd, 2006 7:41 am

    Well, I guess I sound like a humorless grump. But its far too easy just to “zingâ€? roadless advocates as being enviro-hippies. The fact is, that’s far from the case today. Yes, roadbuilding – whether for industrial use or recreation – annoys unwashed gaia-worshipping backpackers, but it also affects hook and bullet folks, and anyone else who values quiet backcountry recreation….especially those of us who are primarily weekend warriors, or don’t have the ability, funds, and sponsorship to travel to the far-flung areas of the globe. So, zing away, but I would think that someone who holds themselves out as a trustworthy guidebook author and ski mountaineering historian would have some interest in framing an accurate picture of the issues rather than just painting one side with the broadest brush possible.

    Just to illustrate that its not just “enviro whiners” anymore:

  8. Lou August 3rd, 2006 10:58 am

    Chris, thanks for your effort to round up those resources, nice blog comment!

    RE hook and bullet and how some commercial backcountry outfitters are supporting roadless: Roads are the worst thing for commercial outfitters, as ATVs and 4x4s on backcountry roads bring elk hunting to the unwashed masses. It’s incredibly expensive to hire a horse packer. Outfitters love roadless areas for commercial reasons that are no different than the reasons a gas company like roads. Both are trying to make money. I of course would generally rather see a few horses than a drill rig, but let’s not get all excited about an outfitter supporting roadless. Horses have done more destruction in the Wilderness of Colorado than anything else, and continue to do so. I’ve seen much more damage on horse trails than many of the Jeep trails I enjoy. And that includes scaring animals, trash, and non-native plants.

    As I’ve stated a zillion times, I of course like roadless backcountry, but I also like backcountry roads. I believe we have a huge amount of protected or de-facto protected roadless land in Colorado, and there is no need to get all hot and bothered by trying to make a few more areas “roadless,” when the definition of “roadless” is so vague as to allow ATV trails in the so called “roadless” areas. I’m quite certain the only reason the core environmentalists are fighting so hard for this is they figure that making so called “roadless” areas is a backdoor way to get land that’s more easily upgraded to legal Wilderness. From what I’ve been able to find out, the whole thing is somewhat of a sham, more, once those roadless areas become Wilderness, say goodbye to mountain biking, and even hiking and climbing will be more heavily regulated and more likely restricted if necessary, as Wilderness is managed in a much different way than multi-use land. How is that for framing a picture (grin)?

    Let me be clear to everyone here that my position is that of a RECREATION ADVOCATE. I may go for one liners and strawmen, and sound like I’m railing on enviros and such, but where that all comes from is a point of view of recreation advocacy. It’s an odd and uncommon position these days. It seems like most people are either pro preservation and want ever more Wilderness that restricts most forms of recreation, or else they’re watching out for their own little piece of the recreation pie, as in the skier vs. snowmobiler debate. I feel that environmental preservation, while a good concept, can go overboard and be destructive to recreation, that’s where my remarks and opinions come from, and I’ll continue to take that position.

  9. Lou August 3rd, 2006 11:04 am

    P.S., we should remember that nearly all Colorado backcountry is entirely roadless about half of every year. Let’s keep that in mind. And that time is coming soon!

  10. Seth Flanigan August 4th, 2006 9:45 am

    Why do we always look out for number one when there are millions of us out there that want to enjoy the backcountry or even front country for that matter. Where I live in Northern Utah there is a constant battle betweeen backcountry skiers and snowmobilers in the winter and backpackers, mountain bikers, horseback riders, and backpackers. though we may not enjoy each others company on our excursions, I think it is necessary to note that it is, by a large majority, the non-motorized (or semi-nonmotorized users due to our dependance on TAV’s) users that have problems with backcountry roads and motorized access. If you want to get away from snowmobile and ATV/4×4 users, do as the wildlife do and move into the areas where there is a little more of what you are looking for. And in my own limited experience, it is the freeways and four-lane highways that criss cross wildlife habitat (and that we ALL use) that cause the most damage to wildlife habitat and survival during critical times of the year.

    And may the Heavens bless again this year as the SNOW begins to fall

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