The purpose of this site is to encourage you, your friends, and your family to use the Colorado landscape as an environmental education opportunity. The goal is to encourage outdoor exploration in a safe and respectful manner. In the end, maybe you'll even be inspired to become an environmental steward!
By sharing personal photos, experiences, and adventures in Colorado, my goal is to inspire you to get outside. By doing so, the hope is that you'll learn a few things, including how to treat our landscape with respect.
This site includes information on various outdoor activities, best practices, and resources (via links). Explore the pages and please leave comments on the forum, located at the bottom of the page.
Friendly Reminder: We only have one planet Earth.
For one thing... it's B-E-A-UTIFUL!
In the last few decades, humans have adopted a tendency of staying indoors, opting to hang out with their electronics over exploring the outdoors. It isn’t fair to say that all humans behave this way, but there has been steady growth in various research that show humans are less immersed in nature and therefore less exposed to the benefits nature offers (Schwab, 2011).
Though not a true medical diagnosis, the term Nature Deficit Disorder (NDD) has been coined and venturing outside into nature is now being ‘prescribed’ as a solution for various issues (Palomino, 2016).
Background photo: Mt. Elbert; credit Lara Coleman-Sprague
Benefits of experiencing natural settings include:
- Positive impacts to human health and well-being (Palomino, 2016). In particular, people who spend the majority of their time indoors may deal with issues such as obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and the sometimes too often diagnosed Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) (Schwab, 2011).
- When you spend more time outdoors, the sunlight stimulates your pineal gland; this increases serotonin levels, Vitamin D levels, and more (Schwab, 2011).
- The added exercise and fresh air (filtered exclusively for you by the local vegetation) also supports physical as well as psychological well being (Shanahan, 2015).
Background photo: Mills lake, RMNP; credit Lara Coleman-Sprague
You don't even have to drive very far to experience amazing natural areas! Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge is located just a few minutes from Denver in Commerce City.
This refuge is one of the largest urban wildlife refuges in the nation. They have more than 15,000 acres of land, easy hiking trails, and over 330 species of wildlife!
Coyotes, prairie dogs, bison, deer, raccoons, recently reintroduced endangered black-footed ferrets, cottontails, falcons, hawks, bald eagles, burrowing owls, many other bird species, snapping turtles, bull snakes, and bullfrogs are among the many fauna found here.
"It’s a place where wildlife thrives and where visitors can reconnect with nature and experience the many wildlife-dependent opportunities the Refuge has to offer."
-U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (2017)
Background photo: Bison at Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Park; credit Lara Coleman-Sprague
These signs will give you information on the surrounding area, available trails, safety information, prohibited activities, and park rules.
Remain on the designated trails at all times. Increased human foot traffic can have detrimental effects on the natural landscape. Your footsteps have the potential to trample low-lying vegetation, expose soil that can be blown away by high winds, and create an unsuitable environment for regrowth. Recovery in some alpine areas can take centuries (NPS, 2016).
Background photo: Gray's peak trailhead; credit Lara Coleman-Sprague
If you're interested in visiting one of Colorado's many mountains, take a moment to understand what you're experiencing.
Colorado Life Zones
Mountains can be divided into different elevational zones or belts as shown above. Each of these zones has distinctive qualities in the type of plants and animals found there.
Mountains have great biodiversity because they include extremely different climate-specific life zones over very short distances (Körner, 2004).
Examples of animals found in the Plains, subalpine, and alpine zones of Colorado:
Both humans and animals rely heavily on the health of our mountains for survival. We all depend in one way or another on them for water.
With such high elevations, mountains collect, store, and deliver water during long dry periods (Körner, 2004). Mountain protection, as well as sustainable land use, is therefore a top conservation priority.
Pikas - tiny mammals teaching us giant lessons
Pikas can be seen while hiking up a mountainside. You'll most likely hear their high-pitched squeaks before you see them. They're adorably cute, rabbit-like animals that have a very important story.
As described in the video by the University of Colorado-Boulder, Pikas are cold-adapted lagomorphs (members of the rabbit family). They cannot withstand higher temperatures and also cannot easily migrate to new areas in order to fix this issue. When Pikas die due to overheating, they show scientists how they're affected by climate change. When Pika populations die out or are struggling, you can look to them and their habitat for the answer. Recent loss of a few populations have been located in drier areas where snowpack is decreasing due to climate change (Erb, 2011). The loss of snowpack affects the Pikas and it also affects Coloradans due to decreased water run-off and subsequent watershed issues (Erb, 2011).
Looking for a companion to join you on your outdoor adventures?
What else can you do to help protect biodiversity?
As the above link shows, there are many ways you can help our planet without leaving the comfort of your city.
But if you are adventurous and want to help out, here is another opportunity to rock climb and help bats. Seriously doesn't get cooler than this:
Share other opportunities you find and let us know about your outdoor experiences.