Be Nice to Box Canyon

Have you strolled through Box Canyon lately?

It’s one of my favorite places to go when I just have a few hours and need to get outside.

Our kids love climbing the rocks.

We love having picnic dinners in the canyon.

Or packing library books in to read as we’re perched on the top of a rock formation.

We go there at least once a week.

I love Vedauwoo and a walk through Box Canyon is the perfect place for families.

But lately I’ve been sad, and angry when I walk through the canyon.

Because of things like this.

Excuse me while I step on my soap box!

Why on earth do people feel the need to carve their initials into aspen trees.

Why?

Is it because aspens along the path are already scarred with graffiti? Why not add my initials too?

Why not add my initials too?

Monkey see, monkey do?

Tree carvings suck.

No.

No.

No.

It is NOT okay to carve into trees.

It’s called vandalism.

It’s called graffiti.

It’s not art.

It’s punishable by a fine, $325 for one family who thought it was cute to Instagram their family tradition of tree carvings on federal lands.

Wouldn’t it be great if they had a family tradition to clean up trails instead and didn’t turn aspen tree bark into their own twitter feed?

$325 is too light of a fine if you want my opinion.

Here’s what the US National Forest has to say about it, “Respect living trees. By carving or chopping into the trunks of trees, people unknowingly damage the tree by slitting veins right below the bark. These veins transport nutrients and water throughout the tree. If the damage becomes severe, it will deprive the tree of nutrients and food, and the tree slowly starves to death.”

We’re already dealing with a pine beetle epidemic. Why would we want to destroy more trees by being jerks?

There’s one problem with this.

The USFS doesn’t have time to patrol and hand out fines to people being jerks in our forests. They are understaffed and underfunded and doing the best they can with what they have and I think they are doing a great job.

Let’s help them by taking care of our local forests.

Let’s preserve them so our children’s children can enjoy them without seeing trees marred by jerks.

Let’s report anyone we see carving trees to the USFS and local authorities.

Let’s teach our children to be respectful of our natural world so they learn to respect it.

Let’s remind visitors to our local forests that this is our home and demand that they care for it too.

Because I don’t know about you, but I seek solace in the wilderness.

And seeing trees destroyed makes me angry, not peaceful.

Let’s be good stewards of the land.

{end of rant}

{thanks for tuning in}

{feel free to share this post and help get the good word out}

 

What You Need To Know About the Snow Survey Cabin

Last weekend we headed to the Snowies to celebrate our oldest kiddo’s 5th birthday.

We’re all about birthday adventures at our house and our kids are all about trying to stay in every single Forest Service cabin that exists.

The Snow Survey Cabin

So naturally we had to check out the Snow Survey Cabin on the back side of Medicine Bow Peak.

We’d heard great things about this cabin, especially in the winter since it has propane heat and lights.

But since we didn’t get up there last winter July seemed like a decent enough time to go, even though we booked our stay in recreation.gov several months ago to make sure we got it for the big birthday weekend.

Here’s a little synopsis of our stay and details about the fascinating history of the cabin.

 

A few things you need to know if you head there.

  • The outhouse is pristine, the most non-stinky outhouse ever!
  • The cabin is super clean and organized, a completely different experience than the Little Brooklyn Lake Guard Station which seemed cluttered and dirty after staying at the Snow Survey Cabin.  I don’t think any cabin in the woods is entirely mouse-free but there was no evidence of mice inside the Snow Survey Cabin.
  • The cabin is stocked with dishes, pans, and basic necessities. But don’t forget an axe to split firewood if you want to use the outdoor firepit, matches, toilet paper, and sheets for the beds.
  • The cabin has lights and heat, it’s almost too luxurious!
  • There isn’t any drinking water or a pump at the cabin, You could boil water from the creek or just bring your own water jug from home.
  • Make sure you reserve this place months in advance, it fills up quickly year round. When we called to get the code for the door we were also super impressed with how kind and friendly the Brush Creek/Hayden Ranger District office was so thank you for that.

More details and booking information can be found right here.

(p.s. We don’t get paid to review Forest Service cabins or anything really so do know that all of these thoughts are our own)

Have you stayed at the Snow Survey Cabin? What did you think?

What You Need To Know About Medicine Bow Peak

So, maybe you’ve lived in Laramie your entire life and climbed to the top of Medicine Bow Peak dozens of times.

Or, perhaps you’re new to town and looking to learn more about this iconic peak.

Regardless we thought we’d talk about one of our favorite places (ever!) on the blog today, ‘The Peak.’

The best place to start if you’re looking to summit this peak is on our trail page, where you can learn more about the trek to the top and print off a FREE downloadable trail guide. We also have an entire map card dedicated to this peak our Trail Deck and an app and it’s mentioned in our e-book as well. So tons of resources right at your fingertips.

Please don’t be like the group we found last summer, lost and trying to navigate their way to the top with a bad map, that’s not fun for anyone!

WELCOME (3)

Now, I’m assuming you’re here because you already have your reasons for wanting to climb the peak but just in case you need some convincing here are 5 reasons why you should add this to your summer bucket list.

When you’re charging up or down the peak if you know exactly where to look chances are you can view some wreckage from United Airlines Flight 409, which crashed smack dab into the mountain during a storm in 1955. It’s a sad, but true tale.

But there have also been amazing things to happen on the peak, like an old fire lookout and the scandal that took place to construct it, or the first woman to ever “man” the lookout tower. You can read both of those stories here.

And last, but certainly not least. If you’re a parent the thought of climbing the peak with your children (especially babies and toddlers) might seem daunting. But I’m here to hook you up with a High 5 and tell you to go for it. I’ve climbed this mountain pregnant, with a baby, toddler, preschooler and I’m not that awesome. You can climb this mountain with kids of all ages. These tips will help.

Have questions about how to climb the peak? We’re always here to help. Hook us up with a note or send us a quick comment and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

Top 10 Things You Need To Know About the Little Brooklyn Lake Guard Station

The Little Brooklyn Guard Station.

This iconic cabin in the Snowy Range is a place that you need to experience. I stayed at this cabin twice this winter and here are a few things that might help you plan a weekend there.

  • Book the cabin early. You can book it up to 6 months in advance, if you’re looking to reserve it for a special day then it might be worth it to get up at midnight to make your reservation. I’m not joking. Currently renting the cabin costs $40.00 per night. I did learn that if you change your reservation recereation.gov you’ll get hooked you up with a big fat fee even if it’s still months in advance. I want to say the fee $50.00 so beware of that little extra fee.
  • The cabin has 1 futon, 1 set of bunk beds, and 3 single beds. Say hello to the “hobbit bed”–fun for kids and that’s about it unless you want to make an epic bunk bed fort, which we did (of course!).
  • The cabin description on recreation.gov isn’t completely up to date. As of a few weeks ago there is no refrigerator or gas heating. Neither of which are a problem. If you go during the winter let nature be your fridge. If you go during the summer pack along a cooler and sufficient ice. The cabin does have a wood burning stove which can reach sauna-like temperatures, you won’t be cold in this cabin once you get that stove fired up.
  • There are mice in this cabin, so keep it clean and pack your food up well, especially at night.
  • Be prepared to ski or snowshoe in from October to the end of May. When we went a few weeks ago, I dropped Al and the kids off near the turn off to the Mountain Meadows Cabins and then parked the car at the Green Rock trailhead and skied up from there to meet them. It worked out great, especially if you’re heading in with kiddos who might be good on skis or snowshoes for just a mile or two.
  • Bring a sled in the winter, a hammock, fishing pole and a good book in the summer. The sledding might be the best part about staying at the cabin. This place has the most scenic sledding ever.
  • This cabin gets a lot of use and abuse, and I doubt that it’s high on the priority list for maintenance and upgrades. But it’s actually pretty clean–or was left clean the two times I’ve stayed there. I pack along sheets to cover the futon and beds, mostly because dogs are allowed in the cabin and I’m allergic to dogs so putting a buffer between me and any residual pet hair is a good thing. I also have a thing for cleanliness…so if you’re a neat freak or an allergy sufferer trust me, bring some sheets.
  • This cabin has a nice supply of cookware, pots, pans, cooking and eating utensilss, plates, mugs etc. So there’s no need to pack that stuff in or drive it in if you head there in the summer. But don’t forget garbage bags, toilet paper, and matches. Fire starter is good to have in the winter too. Previous occupants are supposed to stock the wood pile but you might find yourself stuck with wet or no kindling.
  • This cabin is not a place to go if you’re looking for peace and quiet in the winter. There is a lot of snowmobile traffic on the way to the cabin and around the cabin.  For the most part, we like snowmobilers, they make a nice packed surface to ski on and most of them slow down and are courteous. But snowmobiles are noisy and there is a constant hum of snowmobiles in the area during daylight hours. If you’re looking for solitude and quiet go in May when there’s still enough snow to ski or snowshoe in but not much left for snowmobilers.
  • Bring a hammock! I’m serious. The beams on the cabin’s porch are the perfect distance apart for a lazy nap in a hammock.

WELCOME (2)

Have you stayed at the Little Brooklyn Lake Guard Station? What advice or tips would you give to those who want to stay there?

Little Laramie Hikers: Come Hike With Us!!!

If you’re on our local trails on a Friday morning chances are that you’ve seen a gaggle of children stopping on the side of a trail to eat a snack, throw pinecones, or climb rocks.

Once a lady we saw on a hiking trip asked if our group was a daycare. Nope, just a bunch of kids and parents…

I’ll admit that one of the best parts of my week is our weekly hikes with our hiking group, the Little Laramie Hikers.

If you’re a parent with children who need to get outdoors.

Or a grandparent looking for something to do.

Or a childcare provider.

Or even if you don’t have kids but are looking to inspire a new generation to turn off the screen and get outdoors I’d like to invite you to come and join us on a hike!

We don’t hike far (most of the time). We don’t hike fast. And sometimes I think we spend more time stopping to play on the side of the trail than actually hiking down the trail.

But our goal is simple. To connect children (of all ages) with trails.

All of our hikes are free.

Most of our hikes are fun (every once in a while we enjoy an epic 2-year-old meltdown) 🙂

We typically publish our summer hiking schedule on our private group facebook page. But since facebook isn’t everyone’s jam I thought I’d publish our schedule right here for all to see.

Little Laramie Hikers

So here goes, the Little Laramie Hikers schedule for the summer of 2016.

***
  • June 3. Fairy Slippers Wildflower Hike with Seniors on the Go. Location TBA meet at the trailhead at 9 am.
  • June 10. Geocaching Hike. Meet at the Happy Jack trailhead at 9 am.
  • June 17. Lake Owen Hike + Playing in the Lake. Meet at the West Laramie Shell Station (2471 W Jackson St ) at 8 am or the Lake Owen Trailhead at 9 am.
  • June 24. Hike through Soapstone Natural Area in Colorado. Meet at the Barts Flee Market parking lot at 8 am or the trailhead at 9 am.
***
  • July 1. Safe Kids Hike. We’ll talk about hiking safety, practice getting lost and teach kids the Search and Rescue ‘hug-a-tree’ method during this hike. Have your children bring a whistle. Meet at the Chimney Park trailhead at 9 am.
  • July 8. Lone Pine State Wildlife Area in Colorado. Meet at the Barts Flee Market parking lot at 8 am or the trailhead at 9 am.
  • July 15. Libby Flats Hike. Meet at the Forest Service Visitors Center in Centennial (just up the hill past town) at 9 am. From there we’ll convoy to the point where we’ll start our hike.
  • July 22. Geocache Hike. Meet at the Vedauwoo Pay Kiosk outside the gate at 9 am.*
  • July 29. Saratoga Fish Hatchery & Hobo Pool Swim. Meet at the West Laramie Shell Station ( 2471 W Jackson St ) at 8 am or the Saratoga Fish Hatchery at 9:30. Bring a lunch & a swimming suit. This will probably be an all day adventure.
****
***
  • Sep 2. Raspberry Picking. Location TBA

A few notes about the group:

  • Sometimes we’ll change the location of a hike based on weather or trail conditions. This schedule is subject to change so come join us on facebook for the latest information and check out our calendar page for other local outdoor events throughout the summer.
  • I’d love to offer weekend hikes, but we’re busy teaching backcountry navigation courses on weekends…and I also work a pesky part-time job a few weekends/month. But often families will come up on our facebook page and invite others to join in on weekend hikes.
  • We try to be prompt with our schedule. Most hikes start at 9, we take a few minutes to load kids into carriers and get settled and we step off by 9:10.
  • Bring along snacks, water, appropriate footwear, hats and dress in layers.
  • Don’t forget your MBNF parking pass, WY State Parks pass or cash for a parking fee depending on where we are going.
  • We hike year round…well, we snowshoe and ski in the winter so come on out!

Questions? Let me know. 

Hope to see you on a hike this summer.

 

How To Climb Medicine Bow Peak With Kids

 

Last week a friend posted this question on the facebook page of our local kid-friendly hiking group.

Any tips for a family hike up Medicine Bow Peak? Best trailhead?

It just happened to coincide with some other questions we’ve been asked lately regarding taking kids to the top of the peak. So, I thought it’d be a good time to talk a little bit about climbing Medicine Bow Peak with babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. 

How to climb Medicine Bow Peak with Kids

Medicine Bow Peak is the highest peak in the Snowy Range at 12,013 feet. It is part of a rugged ridge line that towers over several alpine lakes and forest below. There are several different trailheads that will take you to the summit.

The Lewis Lake Trailhead is very scenic at 1.6 miles offers the shortest route to the summit.

The Lake Marie Trailhead offers a generally more gradual, but longer climb (3.6 miles) which is just as scenic. It will also take you past an old lookout cabin.

No matter your route you will hike through some very steep sections and very rocky sections but there is hardly a spot on the trail that doesn’t offer a stunning view.

Here’s a video of the hike to the peak. I think it does a good job of showing the terrain that you’ll see on the climb.

I think the beauty of Medicine Bow Peak is that it is a peak that the entire family can bag together. But it’s not an easy hike and I would say that when it comes to outdoor family adventures it’s one that needs to be approached with caution.

This might not be the hike for your family if you aren’t comfortable with heights, altitude, and unstable rocky terrain.  Or, if you aren’t comfortable carrying a baby or toddler on your back on a steep climb. Or if thinking about your children standing on a rocky summit without good footing makes you nervous. Instead of a summit attempt I’d recommend a waterfall hike or a scenic trek to Gap Lakes instead. 

How to climb Medicine Bow Peak with kids

Usually, I’m comfortable taking risks in the outdoors with kids, in fact probably a little bit too comfortable.  But I did try to summit earlier this summer alone with both kids and turned around just a few hundred feet from the summit when the terrain got a little bit too difficult to manage by myself with a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old. If you do hike with kids know that it’s okay not to summit. Part of being savvy in the outdoors is knowing when to call it a day.

With that being said, we frequently see families on this peak and there’s no better family holiday photo than one that’s taken at 12,013 feet.

Here are a few tips for the hike.

  • Food and fluids are essential for both you and kids of all ages at altitude. Pack more than you think you’ll need and don’t forget to stop often to replenish your bodies. The good news is that no matter where you stop you’ll be able to find a nice rock to sit on and you’ll be able to enjoy a spectacular view. 
  • Get an early start. The parking lots at both Lewis Lake and Lake Marie fill up quickly and you’ll want to avoid afternoon thunderstorms and lightning.  Try to be moving no later than 7:30 or 8 am.
  • Save this trail for August and September after the snow melts and before the snow flies.
  • Some parents find hiking with a child in a framed backpack carrier is challenging on this trail since there will be some bending over to scramble across the rocks. If you do hike with a framed carrier make sure that your kiddo is securely fastened so they won’t fall out of the carrier or choose a soft carrier–like an Ergo instead. A soft carrier will keep the child tucked snug against your body and help with your center of balance. If you want to use a backpack carrier take your kid up to Vedauwoo and practice a few scrambles while wearing the carrier before tackling the peak.

Framed backpack carrier.

  • Choose your trailhead carefully. I always recommend the Lewis Lake trailhead for families because it’s shorter. I know that after 3 or 4 hours on the trail my kids are done so the least amount of mileage is usually better for my family. But if your kids are bigger and can handle a longer day you might want to go the Lake Marie Route, the trail is easier until you reach the gap. No matter how you look at it, the final summit push is going to be tough and there’s no way to avoid it.
  • Be prepared for crazy weather. We consider a raincoat and a winter hat essential items on this hike no matter what the season. The summit will be windy and cold even if the weather in Laramie is downright tropical. Also don’t forget sun protection, even on a cloudy day.

Kid on the summit.

  • Break out those trekking poles, the extra support is awesome if you’re carrying a child.
  • It’s okay to reward yourself on this hike…this is a hard hike for adults. It’s even harder for kids. But I’ve heard of 5 and 6-year-olds summiting without any help–and I can’t wait for that day. Maybe you keep a stash of jellybeans in a pocket or promise ice cream in Centennial on the way home. 
  • Tell a few stories to keeps little hikers motivated. There is some fascinating history around the peak. You can talk to your kids about the time an airplane crashed into the mountain. Or the women who kept watch for fires from the peak

If I haven’t talked you into attempting to climb the peak by now here are just a few more reasons and of course, you can check out our trail page and download a free trail map right here. 

Here’s the view as you descend the peak.

Have you climbed the peak with kids? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment of this hike? What would you add to the list?

Friends don’t let friends hike with bad maps

Last Friday Al was leading a guided hike so I headed to Lewis Lake to see how far up the trail I could get with a 3-year-old and a 2-year-old.

My goal was Medicine Bow Peak but the initial ascent from the lake wore my kids out and they needed to be carried for the final 1.5 miles. We had to turn back within spitting distance of the summit when the scramble over the final talus slope proved too challenging with 58 pounds of sleepy kid strapped to me.

Friends don't let friends Introducing

Near the gap we ran into a couple who were trying to navigate off of one of our competitors maps–you know those big sites where the content is crowd-sourced and not always accurate? The route that they were trying to follow on their map was a route that doesn’t even exist. They were looking at the map, looking at the trail, looking at the terrain and trying to figure out why the map didn’t match the trail.

We stopped and chatted with them about the trail and the route to the peak and I made a mental note to toss a few of our demo trail guides in my pack just for situations like that.

Friends don't let friends Introducing (1)

Then yesterday I was at Curt Gowdy State Park with a few friends. We were chasing our children down the Crow Creek trail when we ran into 2 separate groups of lost hikers looking for Hidden Falls. In this situation neither group had a trail map, they were simply relying on maps at trail intersections and following the “Waterfall” signs.

Friends don't let friends Introducing (2)

I get it. I’ve been there. I’ve taken bad maps on big hikes and spent the entire time being confused. I’ve also taken off without even looking at a map. But, since we’re in the map-building, navigation-teachin’ business I really think that it’s important to hike with good maps!

Here’s why we stand by our maps.

We don’t put a map on our website until we’ve hiked it ourselves. We’re local, and small, we aren’t crowd-sourced. We’re Al & Rebecca sourced and if we haven’t hiked a trail it stays in our database until we have.

I’m not telling you to stop visiting Trails.com or AllTrails.com, I think they are good references for some material. Our business models are different, we aren’t subscription based, you can access all of our trail information and even print trail maps for free. We stand by that because no one shoud have to hike with bad trail information.

***

p.s.

We’ve written a lot about Medicine Bow Peak, it’s by far our most popular trail. these links might help if you’re planning a trip that direction.

You can also find a ton of trail information for Curt Gowdy State Park right here. Since Hidden Falls seems to be the most popular attraction at the park here is a step-by-step guide to get you from the Aspen Grove trailhead to the falls.

 

 

Trail Report: Headquarters Trail/Crow Creek Loop

We’d been getting reports of muddy and icky trails on Pole Mountain so yesterday morning we pointed our car in that direction and headed out from the Summit or Headquarters Trailhead West.

When we got to the trailhead instead of heading up headquarters trail we headed down toward to the Crow Creek Loop.

Trail Report Headquarters TrailCrow Creek Loop

While we were able to get about 1/5 mile of dry trails in that’s about it.

This overturned tree smack dab in the middle of the trail is your clue to turn back.

IMG_7959

Or else you’ll be hiking through this. Pristine and beautiful but a total swamp.

IMG_7961

Here were the trail conditions.

  • Date: 6/10/15
  • Time: 9:00 am -10:30 am
  • Temperature: 50-55°F
  • Weather: Cloudy
  • Wind: Calm
  • Trails Hiked: Portions of Headquarters & Crow Creek Loop
  • Trail Conditions: Trails were mostly dry with just a few areas of deep mud until the marshy area along the creek. There are several down trees along the trail too. This trail is going to need some time to dry up before it’s accessible. Instead just head the opposite direction on headquarters trail from this trailhead, stay high, and you’ll be golden.

#hikelaramie

We do have a free trail map for the entire Pole Mountain Area or check out our app and Trail Deck.

What are the other conditions in the area?

 

Trail Report: Medicine Bow Rail Trail (Lake Owen trailhead) 6/8/15

Lake Owen is one of my favorite places to hike with kids near Laramie.

I like it because I can usually get some good mileage along the rail trail if I promise to let my kids splash around in the lake and play on the caboose at the trailhead after the hike.

Yesterday was no exception.

trail report

We were on the trail by 7:30 am headed from the Lake Owen trailhead to the Lincoln Gulch trailhead. We didn’t make it all the way but hiked a few miles down the trail and then back up  finishing with a loop around the lake.

The trails were dry, (a perfect place if you’re looking for a nice, easy mountain bike ride), the weather was pleasant. We also couldn’t believe all of the amazing regrowth after last year’s fire near the lake and there were wildflowers everywhere!

fire regrowth

A private road which we usually use to access the Lake Owen trailhead is now closed, causing a detour through Albany but don’t let it keep you away from Lake Owen this summer.

Oh, and this sign is wrong. From this point, it’s only 1/2 mile to the Lake Own trailhead from here.

IMG_7898

And we’d like to thank some chump who decided to build a campfire ring on the trail. What?

trail conditions

Here were the trail conditions.

  • Date: 6/28/15
  • Time: 7:30 am -11:00 pm
  • Temperature: 50-65°F (ish).
  • Weather: Sunny, clouded up toward the end of our hike
  • Wind: Slight breeze
  • Trails Hiked: Medicine Bow Rail-trail toward Lincoln Gulch and then around the lake
  • Trail Conditions: Trails were dry, there were a few areas where trees had fallen across the trail but it’s such a wide trail that we could easily stay on trail and skirt around them, but keep that in mind if you’re cycling.

We do have a free trail map for the entire Medicine Bow Rail Trail. You can grab it here or check out our app and Trail Deck.

We’re seeing reports of muddy trails at Happy Jack, what are the other conditions in the area?

 

Trail Report: Pole Creek Trail (6/2/15)

This morning our local hiking group met at Happy Jack for a morning on the trails.

It’s always chaos when there are a dozen kids scampering down the trail BUT nothing makes me smile more than seeing local kids get outside, get some exercise and learn a little bit about nature.

#justtrails

We meandered our way slowly along the Pole Creek Trail and through the old campground stopping a few times to check out a beaver lodge, wildflowers, and insects. If you live in Laramie or Cheyenne you’re always welcome to come hike with us! Hikes are posted on our calendar.

pole creek trail

Here were the trail conditions.

  • Date: 6/2/15
  • Time: 9-11:00 pm
  • Temperature: 60-65°F (ish).
  • Weather: Sunny
  • Wind: Slight breeze
  • Trails Hiked: Pole Creek Trail
  • Trail Conditions: Trails were dry, there were a few muddy spots where people had gone around forming new trails instead of just hiking through the mud.

{pet peeve alert…just hike or ride your bike through the mud, it won’t hurt you and it’s much better than forging your own mud-free path through the vegetation}

#hikelaramie

We do have a free trail map for the Tie City & Happy Jack trail system. You can grab it here or check out our app and Trail Deck.