I was a teacher/chaperon on Wed-Fri. for a retreat up in Keystone. We had great weather, fun (but challenging) hikes, and a lot of team bonding.
Here are a few highlights.
Beautiful weather the first two days.
Some of us even hiked in t-shirts the first day.
The snow was definitely melting for the season,so if you went off the trodden path...you were likely to sink. Luckily there was someone to help you out.
Some boys decided it would be cool to wear shorts on the hike. There were consequences:)
We hiked up to this awesome view on the second day.
I tried to get a picture of myself with the cool background...but it didn't work:)
We also stopped at a lookout point that was only a short hike from the road. I can't remember the name.
I have been fascinated by "gators"- these Velcro things that go under your boots and keep snow out of your socks and the top of your boots. Every time I hit deep snow, I felt no wetness. I can't believe I didn't know about these sooner!
Another super interesting point of discussion/learning was the dead trees in the mountains. The Lodgepole Pine is being eaten by the mountain pine beetle.
Mountian Pine Beetles are usually a good thing for forests because they eat weak, tall, old pine trees and help thin the forest a bit. When there are too many MP beetles, they feast on specific pine trees that are in the 100-120 year age range. Many of the pines in keystone (and the rocky mountains) are in that age range because of the gold rush back then. (Some say that there are too many MP beetles because not enough are dying off in the winter (warm temperatures/global warming).
When a MP beetle attacks a tree it burrows into the bark and right underneath the bark makes a vertical tunnel where it lays eggs. Where it burrowed there is a resin left that looks like popcorn puffs.
When a MP beetle attacks a lodge pole pine, the needles turn yellowish/reddish/brownish and it dies. There is nothing you can do to save a tree that has been attacked. It is pretty sad to see how many trees are dying in the RM forests.
The fun thing was that woodpeckers are one of the things that eats MP beetles, so on our hike we heard a few of them pecking into the tree to look for MP beetle eggs.
I lightened the picture a bit in photoshop so you can see how many dead trees there are.
One thing that is being done in "high traffic" areas like campgrounds is preventative spraying. They spray a chemical on the trees they want to save (during a specific time of year under very specific conditions). It seems like a good answer, but not good for national forests and places with millions of trees. There are other possibilities like tearing off bark to expose larvae to unfavorable conditions (but who wants to do that?:)
I've never really cared that much about bug outbreaks, but this one is pretty interesting. If you would like to know more, check out this website.