Christmas is Come Early This Year

Another peak experience by Martha Perantoni

I’d heard the fall color in Grand County had exploded last weekend, so I grabbed a friend and her son and his fiancĂ© and we headed up to Tabernash and on to Junco Lake Trailhead, intent on reaching Columbine Lake.

True, the aspen trees were luminous yellow and some were even tipped with an unusual bittersweet orange. True, there were significant colorful groves that warranted making the journey from the Front Range.

True, also, the pine beetle has ravaged the remainder of the forests, each tree a sad addition to the brown citadel. At least that which remains – clear-cutting has left the rolling hills looking like a bald man’s hair on a bad day.

We grew silent as we turned onto Meadow Creek Road and found ourselves in an alleyway of devastation. We couldn’t hit the trail soon enough and began to wind our way closer and closer to timberline.

Something looked strange along the trail, though. In spite of the towering dead trees, there were countless young pine, some only a foot or two high, some over six feet, that were green, healthy, and pushing their way up through the quietus. Closer in by the waterfall and before heading up the moraine, the branch tips on the trees revealed the bluish-green of new growth. Every tree had it, looking as if to explode with enthusiasm.

Instead, I felt to explode with arbor ardor. Here I’ve been bemoaning the death of Colorado’s forests when all this time, underneath the canopy, they’ve been silently restoring and repairing themselves. I had no idea.

I paused in front of one particularly beautiful young pine. My friend saw my face and stopped. “Christmas Tree?” she asked. I smiled and shook my head “yes. Not to cut, but to celebrate.”

It’s comforting to know that the forests will abide – they’ll repair, regrow, have their literal rebirth. I’m hopeful that this turnabout will be permanent, that the new trees will be a strain resistant to the pine beetle, and that our forests will rejuvenate to the lush, wind-in-the-pines life they had less than a decade ago.

So, before the snow flies, revel in our new growth. Go celebrate Christmas.


Il Neige!

Another peak experience by Martha Perantoni

A couple of nights ago I was driving west on 72 as it approaches 93. The clouds were louring and it rained sporadically from Westminster on down. Then something changed – the sounds on the windshield turned to a patter and, as I looked more closely, it was clear I was watching snow fall. Not much, no accumulation, but it was definitely snow.

The precipitation was confirmed next morning when I awoke to see a fairy dusting of the stuff on the Continental Divide. Further spelunking through Dick Gilbert’s webcams proved it.

It snowed in them thar hills.

For people like me who prefer their water frozen, this is the news we wait for all season long. Time to start getting ready – wax the skis and skins, sharpen the crampons and axes, put fresh Lithium batteries in the beacon.

And time to share the love. The annual Bent Gate Ski Season Kickoff Party 2010 is prepared to do just that on Thursday, September 30th starting at 6 PM at the American Mountaineering Museum. Silent auction, raffle, backcountry clinics, vendor booths, fashion show, and world premier of The Freeheel Life 2 are all included in admission price.

Okay, so the movie is a production of Telemark Skier Magazine and features the tele timeline but RandonĂ©e enthusiasts, like me, are invited, too. Hey, it’s still freeheelin’.

Proceeds from the event benefit the American Mountaineering Museum, Friends of Berthoud Pass, and the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. Rack up your backcountry karma points before heading out, eh?

Bien alors, faire le neige!



Another peak experience by Martha Perantoni

By now you’re aware there’s a crispness in the evening air, the sun sets earlier and earlier, and the aspen are beginning to change color in the high country. The elk are bugling wildly and bear fattening up for a long winter sleep. This is one of my favorite times of year because it’s a chance to introspect, hibernate, and dream...forward.

As a kid growing up in Vermont, the autumn season was glorious. We viewed every hue of maple from yellow to bittersweet to Mars red and when the leaves began to fall, we diligently raked them into huge piles on the front lawn just so we could jump in them.

It may seem the impending winter is a time to shut down when, in fact, it’s always been a superb opportunity for learning. There’s little better than snuggling down in the rocking chair with a good book, a fuzzy lap throw and cat, and glass of chewy Shiraz, or listening to the crisp creak of snow underfoot heading for an inspiring presentation.

In preparation for this seasonal glory, the American Mountaineering Museum and AAC Library are setting a wonderful tone. September 21st, Jean Mollicone, first woman to summit Mt. Vinson, Antarctica, will recount her historic summit with Mugs Stump, one of the most beloved of American mountaineers. September 30th, get ready for ski season with Bent Gate’s Ski Season Kick-Off Party through a silent auction, fashion show, raffle, The Freeheel Life film in the Foss, avy and beacon clinics and camaraderie all to benefit CAIC, Friends of Berthoud Pass, and the AMM. October 6th Gyatso will help us understand Tibetan lifestyle, culture and environment and the Westernization changes it faces. And on October 28th, continue to challenge the theory that the Yeti don’t exist with Yeti night at the Museum – prizes for best costume and Yeti crafts for the kids.

Not your style? Consider a good book. The American Alpine Club Library is full of them. Historic, factual, inspirational, or just durned good reading. Check ‘em out, grab the cat, pour the wine, and revel in the possibility next summer will offer you.

PS Like this photo? Fred Hanselmann has the best eye for Colorado color and composition of anyone I’ve ever known. His photos are available for purchase in Base Camp Adventure Store. What better way to preserve the memories!