Important Public Land Designations: Wilderness and National Monuments
In Part 1 of our public land series we clarified the three major federal land managers: US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and National Park Service. All three of these land management agencies manage different types of lands within their jurisdictions. In the forest and on the BLM most of their lands are usually open to multiple uses—that means they are available for harvesting trees, grazing cows, mining, and/or recreation of all types. But both agencies and the park service also have lands that are special for one reason or another.
Lands can achieve special status for many reasons: perhaps they are critical wildlife habitat, or they may have some special recreation status like a reservoir or motorized recreation area—in which case they many have a special name, a special color on the map, and special rules for visitors. Many of these special designations can be made by the agency itself through planning processes that include public input. But the two most special designations: National Monuments and Federally Designated Wilderness Areas are made by the president in the case of national monuments and by the Congress in the case of Wilderness.
The Wilderness Act of 1964 was the first time we as a species decided to put the needs of nature above the needs of man. Until this time, and for all of human history, the earth was here for us to use. By the early 1960s the pace of development around the globe became a concern and many people began to think that it would be wise to leave some portions of the planet in their natural state, thus the Wilderness Act of 1964 was born. The act itself is fairly simple in that the goal is to leave areas designated as wilderness ‘untrammeled by man.
Since the mountain bike was not invented in 1964, there is no specific mention of bicycles in the act. But the act does clearly state that mechanized transport is prohibited. Horses however were allowed continued access, partly because they are animals, partly because it was a historic use, and partly because the act would never have passed if horses had been excluded. Every act that congress has ever passed has includes compromises.
Many people have tried to slice and dice the wording to find a way to allow mountain bikes in Wilderness Areas but none have succeeded. Instead many bike advocates have worked with wilderness advocates to sort out Wilderness boundaries in a way that keeps established and legal bike trails open. With one exception, none of the Wilderness bills passed since 2009 have closed bike trails.
This is one of the important distinctions between Wilderness designations and national monuments. When a Wilderness bill is proposed by a congressman to designate either BLM or Forest Service land as Wilderness, the process is long and detailed and the public is part of the process at every step. The public can see drafts of the bill, they can submit testimony at the hearing, and they can lobby members of congress to vote for or against the bill.
National monuments go through a process that goes through the executive branch rather than the legislative branch, and in some ways is the opposite because the public input come primarily after the designation has been made. The president was given the power to unilaterally issue a proclamation designating a piece of public land as a national monument by Congress when it passed the Antiquities Act. The purpose of this act is to protect places of historic or cultural significance. Many of our national parks started as national monuments. At first the locals were angry because they found themselves losing the right to use these lands for grazing or mining or other traditional ways to make a living. But over the years most (but not all) residents have come to appreciate their national parks.
Today, many people who live near public lands may agree that a particular place deserves a higher level of protection, but they would prefer achieving that protection using legislation—a bill in Congress that would include their input and ideas as it was developed. The national monument designation rankles some residents because the proclamation process does not officially include public input.
However—and there are two ‘howevers’ involved here. The national monument process DOES include public input in the management plan that is developed to sort out exactly how the new monument will be managed. In this process, many of the same types of decisions that are made about Wilderness boundaries and other public land designations, that are part of public land legislation, are addressed in the monument management plan and the public is involved.
The second ‘however’ involves gridlock in Congress that prevents any legislation from passing. In many cases locals have been working on public land bills that would designate some Wilderness and perhaps create some other designations, but Congress has failed to pass these locally supported bills. In those cases, the public had had no choice but to by pass Congress and ask the president to act unilaterally to implement the protections they have agreed upon via a national monument designation.
Whether these special designations are achieved via a public lands Wilderness bill or a presidential national monument proclamation—there are still people that think any increased protections are a bad idea. The current thinking of the Trump administration is that all regulation prohibits economic growth, and many of the recent updates in land management and environmental protections have already been rolled back. There are many ways that these changes could affect a mountain bike trail near you, but before we head down that dark path, our next post will be about communities that are prospering precisely because they have access to protected public lands.
Tags: #itsallyours, BLM, National Forests, National Parks
Why you need to know about public land: As mountain bikers, we are dependent on public lands. Through my career in bike manufacturing, racing, and as an outfitter I have had the opportunity to ride on trails of every description on public lands of every type.
Today there are increasing pressures on our public lands from all directions, so we here at Western Spirit thought it would be useful to use our blog as quick and easy place for mountain bikers to get informed on public land issues that are likely to effect the trails you love.
Land ownership through the ages: The first land owner was probably someone from a nomadic tribe that accidentally planted a seed and decided to stick around to watch it grow. Or maybe it was someone who found some type of ore coming out of the ground and figured he could trade it for food. For most of human history, land ownership has been the best way to generate wealth to take care of yourself and your family.
The Homestead Act of 1862 encouraged immigrants to head west and claim some land. Lots of land did get claimed but quite a bit didn’t. Why not—nobody wanted to live there. In most cases the problem would have been lack of water, but in other place the topography itself just wasn’t very hospitable.
Thus more by accident than by design Americans ended up owning large sections of public land, primarily in Western States. These lands are in three major categories: National Parks—the jewels of the program, National Forests, and Bureau of Land Management Lands. And in all three there are places that are considered: front-country—near roads, near towns and easily accessible; and backcountry—which are further away, usually you need to camp out there. In general more skills and experience are needed to reach backcountry places.
National Parks are the most unique and special places in the country and are also often historic locations. Front country lands within National Parks include visitor centers and short hikes to points of interest. Backcounty areas in National Parks are often sensitive landscapes where visitation is limited by a permit system. The good thing about a permit system is that when you do get out there, you have the place all to yourself! Like we do on the White Rim Trail in Canyonlands National Park. National Parks are managed by the Department of Interior. Congressman Ryan Zinke from Montana was just appointed Secretary of the Interior and while we don’t know if he mountain bikes—he does hunt and fish so we are hopeful!
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is also managed by the Department of Interior. These lands include all kind of incredible deserts and canyons and are primarily designated for multiple use. That means oil and gas, grazing, and mining, as well as motorized and non-motorized recreation. In recent years, recreation on BLM lands has grown exponentially, partly due to strong partnerships between local BLM Managers, local mountain bike groups, and the International Mountain Bicycling Association, IMBA. But conflicts between recreation and resource extraction like oil and gas and mining are starting to pop up around the country. Because oil and gas operators pay for leases on these lands, they have more rights than we do. We are making progress zoning some lands for recreation through the land planning process as business owners and trail users get involved, but when we don’t show up, resource extraction usually wins the day. More on this in future blogs.
National Forests are managed by the Department of Agriculture, primarily because much of the original focus was on harvesting trees. Today there are lots of trails on forest service lands and in some places near ski areas or other resorts ‘the trees are worth more standing up than they would be lying down.’ Timber management remains the focus of the Forest Service, but the Outdoor Industry Association along with other groups have recently launched a process for improving recreation management on Forest Service lands and this program is progressing.
These are the major categories of federal land managers. These lands are owned by you. Its all yours!! Next week Wilderness and National Monuments demystified!
Tags: #itsallyours, BLM, National Forests, National Parks
One of the most-asked questions from people about going on a Western Spirit trip is what to bring. So, I sat down for a few minutes to write down some tips. These come from my personal experience guiding trips. They are helpful for me and hopefully helpful for you also!
1. – Avoid things you don’t need
Going on a trip with Western Spirit is awesome! We do just about everything for you except ride your bike and set up your tent. We bring all the food and drinks, a kitchen to cook for you, tools to fix your bike, an extra bike if we can’t fix it, chairs for you to sit in after a long day, and amazing knowledge about the topography and local lore. We also bring stuff you may not even think of. We have been doing this for 25+ years, so we know what our guests are going to need to have the trip of a lifetime! The best thing to do is follow the packing list in your itinerary for the trip you are doing. Oh, and make sure to bring a camera. You will see amazing places during your trip; you need a way to capture it!
2. – Keep clothes and camp gear separated
Using a little organization while packing your bag goes a long way. I could write a whole blog post on things to have in your gear bag for the trip! But, that’s another post. One of the most basic things you can do is have a way for keeping your tent and gear away from your clean clothes. The easiest way to do so is to have them in two different bags. Why? Well, your tent might get dirty, muddy, wet, dusty, who knows! Being able to keep that away from you clean clothes is a must. Keep your gear separated and everything will be good. Another tip is having multi colored stuff sacks for yor gear. Separating out camp clothes, riding clothes, rain gear, and dirty clothes is a great way to keep your bag totally organized and keep your clean clothes clean and easy to find.
3. – Bring cans, not glass.
While this might sound like a weird one, we have our reasons. When bringing your adult beverage, cans are much preferred. We will be going to locations that not a lot of people go and sometimes the roads are not so smooth, so if we have a lot of glass bottles in a cooler, they can break. Also, we have to pack out everything we bring in. Pack it in, pack it out. Having glass bottles in our recycling takes up much more space then smashed cans. You can get almost everything in can form now, from fancy brews to wine. And if your tastes are for something a little stronger, consider getting it in a plastic bottle. If cans just aren’t possible, don’t worry; we know how to best protect glass during the trip.
4. – USB recharger
Let’s face it, most things charge via USB. Phones, cameras, GPS, lots of things that you will want to use during the trip. Being able to charge those up at camp is really nice. Bringing along a USB recharger lets you do just that. That way you will be able to have everything you want with you and charged. We want you to take as many pictures as you wish, track your ride with your GPS, and listen to that audio book at camp. I like this recharger from Goal Zero but there are many options available.
5. – Rain gear!
This might be the last thing on the list, but it might actually be the most important. We would love to promise everyone amazing sunny weather on every trip. I even joke around about us having a team of zeppelins to drag the clouds around. However, we don’t have zeppelins, and we can’t guarantee the sun. So bring rain gear! I recommend at least one set to ride in and one set for camp. That way you are able to take off the wet gear after riding and will have a dry set for camp. Nothing feels better than warm dry clothes after a wet ride. We do trips in some very remote places, and it’s awesome to get away from everything. But, this means we are away from everything. No stopping at the store halfway through the trip to buy a jacket. Bring rain gear so you will have an amazing trip no matter the weather.
So there you have it. A few tips for packing your gear for a Western Spirit trip! Have you been on a trip with us before and have some tips of your own? Leave them in the comments below.
Tags: Gear, Packing Checklist, Travel, Trips
Every bike needs love every now and again. So I wanted to fill you in on a few things you can do to keep you and your bike happy and running smoothly.
Before every ride.
1 – Check your tires – Checking the pressure in your tires is something that you should do before every ride. Not only will it make your bike ride nice, It will also help prevent pinch flats and keep your tires from feeling all squirmy in corners. Dont know what pessure to pump them too? Look on the side of the tire for the recommeded pressure.
2 – Lube your chain – A quiet bike is a happy bike. Nobody likes a squeaky chain. And I mean nobody. I keep a rag and chain lube in the door of my truck so I can always make sure its nice and lubed before every ride. Its also super easy to do. Take a rag and hold it on the chain while turning the pedals backwards. Next drip lube on the chain while you backpedal. Rotate the pedals a few more times. Grab a rag and wipe off the excess while back pedaling. Boom! You’re done. Its just that easy.
Every few rides
3 – Check shifting – Checking shifting is also easy. Hang the bike up or flip it upside down, rotate the pedals forward and shift through the gears. Click up one gear and make sure the chain moves up one gear,all the way from hardest to easiest. Then back down. If it’s slower going up than down or vice-versa its time for a tune up.
4 – Bolt check – Its always a good idea to check all the bolts on your bike. Just using your bike will cause some bolts to loosen. Check them in an order of your choosing. I always go front to back. Starting with stem bolts and ending at the back of the bike. Using a torque wench is a good idea for many bolts on your bike. Doing so will prevent you from over tigthening any. Pivot bolts are also a place where you should use a toque wrench and tighten to manufacturer specs.
5 – Check your chain – Checking your chain for wear is a good thing. Replacing your chain is much cheaper than new chainrings and cassettes. You can either use a chain checker tool or take your bike by your local bike shop and they will be happy to check it for you. As far as how many miles you should get out of a chain can widely very. Its a good idea every few rides just to check it out. It only takes a minute to do and will save you $$$ in the long run.
So there you go! 5 easy things to do to keep your bike running smooth.
Tags: Cycling, Mountain Biking, Tips
Telluride and Moab are two of the most charming destinations in the West. Destinations for adventurers, historians, and families alike, you’ve likely heard of them. Western Spirit’s ride from Telluride to Moab is one of our favorites. Here are five things to know before you go.
This is the perfect first off-road adventure
This ride is challenging, but not too technical, making it ideal for the road cycling enthusiast who is ready to try some dirt-road riding. If you’ve never ridden on fat tires and dirt before, prepare for an exhilarating experience, away from cars and the noise of other people as you roll through the beautiful landscape between these two adventure hotspots.
The terrain is challenging but accessible
Short climbs are intense, but allow time for recovery. This trip is awesome for pushing yourself with plenty of support from your guides and your fellow cyclists. The days are long, and altitude is a factor, so we recommend plenty of cardiovascular training before the trip. Just keep in mind that you won’t need technically advanced mountain biking skills.
The weather is predictably variable
The weather is typically sunny and dry, but the temperature can change quickly, and when storms come in they come with a vengeance. Packable layers are a must for this ride that spans from aspen forests to sagebrush deserts. When the sun goes down in the desert, it gets chilly! So bring warm layers for night time, and plenty of breathable, sweat-wicking clothes for daytime riding. Here’s a list of our recommended gear for desert riding.
Bring a camera
Okay. This one is obvious, but we mean it. The scenery on this ride is unparalleled and will make you look like a pro photographer—even if you’re just using the camera on your iPhone. The trip begins in the Colorado Rockies and crosses the Uncompahgre Plateau. Telluride’s wildflowers are incredible in the early summer and the yellow Aspens will take your breath away in the fall. As you ride down from the mountains into the desert, panoramic views will follow you the whole way. Plateaus give way to canyons as you get closer to Moab, completing the eclectic sample of western landscape.
There’s nothing like it
Have I mentioned that this is one of our favorite trips? That it is the best way to see the American West? That it’s a great way to bond with family and old friends, or to make a great group of new friends? If you’re on the fence about a mountain bike adventure, give us a call and we’ll answer any lingering questions. I have no doubt that you’ll have the time of your life.
Full details about this trip and many more are available at westernspirit.com or call us to talk cycling at 435-201-6310. Check out some stories and testimonials from riders past, and then get out there and start training!
Tags: Moab, Mountain Biking, Telluride
We have a couple of great trips involving the amazing town of Telluride, Colorado: Telluride to Durango and Telluride to Moab. What makes this town such a favorite among road and mountain bikers, travelers, socializers, and artists? Among other things, the views. Here are some of our favorites.
The view of the Mt. Sneffels wilderness area on the way out of the town is dramatic, to say the least. Each season offers a different color palate to highlight the contours of the stunning mountain ridges. Wildflowers, fall colors, and even snow adorn the landscape elegantly. This view provides a great start to Western Spirit’s Telluride to Moab trip. There are great hiking trails up to the summit and along the ridge too, for visitors looking to get up above town on foot.
Bridal Veil Falls
This 365-foot cascade is the tallest waterfall in Colorado, located just a few miles outside of the town. Hiking trails provide the best view of the falls and the historic hydroelectric power plant that sits at the top. For a while, the falls were a well-known and very challenging ice-climbing destination, but now climbing is prohibited and we recommend just enjoying the view.
Top of Ski Resort
The view from the top of Telluride ski resort provides the perfect multi-faceted view of a modern mountain town. You can hike or ride the gondola up and look down at the streets nestled in the box canyon. The man-made structures seem so tiny and insignificant compared to the breathtaking mountains that stretch across the horizon in all directions. This is one of my favorite views to put everything in perspective—either in life, or just when planning out your hikes and bike rides for the next few days.
The Night Sky
Far away from city light pollution, Telluride is an amazing place to look up at the night sky. From a hammock, through a tent skylight, or simply from laying on the ground, you can’t beat an evening of stargazing after a long day of cycling. The alpine meadow at the top of the Galloping Goose railroad grade is one of my favorite spots to lay down and look up. We camp there on the first night of our trip from Telluride to Durango.
The town’s main drag is a colorful display of Victorian architecture that looks great against the mountain backdrop. Historic sites and stories line the street, with signs of the rich mining history, the more recent establishment of the ski industry and outdoor adventure travel, and the subsequent cultural ripening. Art galleries, boutiques, world-class restaurants, and spas provide plenty of activities for your days off from the trails.
While our trips around here are more on the difficult side, we recommend checking out the town and then working your way up with some of our easier trips first! Give us a call if we can help you make your plan.
Tags: Colorado, Telluride
Gearing up for your first mountain biking adventure? Here are few tips from those of us who have been around the block a few times.
You Can Bring or Rent Camping Gear
If you are a seasoned and equipped camper, feel free to bring your own gear on your Western Spirit trip. If not, we’re happy to rent you some! We have North Face tents, 20 degree sleeping bags, and thermarest pads to keep you comfortable and warm. Same deal with bikes, though we really recommend renting them from us. Most airlines charge extra for flying with a bike, and we’ve got great equipment that’s been diligently maintained. If you do bring your own bike, make sure to have it tuned up before you travel. Here’s a packing checklist for other things you’ll want to be sure to remember!
We’ll Bring the Food, You Bring the Booze
On Western Spirit adventures, we take care of all the food, from lunch on the first day through lunch on the last day (and many guests tell us the food is a highlight of their trip!). We are also experts at storing and transporting your favorite alcoholic beverages, but we rely on you to supply them. Let us know if you’re flying in and need some advice on where to stock up before the trip.
It’s Going to Be Awesome
Okay, you might already know this, but if you’re not sure—trust us. There’s nothing better than getting outside with friends (new or old) and riding trails through forests, mountains, and deserts. No matter your skill level, you can find challenge, growth, inspiration, relaxation, and the best environment to connect with the people around you. If you’re looking to up your training game, we’ve got a few tips. But know that our guides will be there to support you at whatever ability level you’re at.
Like, really. Relax. We’ve got it! It always amazes me to watch people transition into vacation mode. So often we don’t even realize how excellent we’ve gotten at being busy! Shorten your adjustment period by mentally preparing yourself beforehand. Our guides will take care of everything. You just need to get on your bike and ride. At the end of the day, we’ll be waiting for you with a cold drink and a delicious camp-cooked meal. So leave your worker-bee mentality at home.
And, most importantly, we are happy to answer any questions that you have. Give us a call at 800-845-2453.
Tags: Mountain Biking Trip
People always ask us how far in advance they should plan their biking trip. Here’s some insight from our years of experience to help you decide.
When You Get Back From a Great Ride
After a good, hard training ride, we recommend a little cool-down stretch. Maybe you’ve got a whole post-ride ritual with water, snacks, or a logbook. Or maybe your rides aren’t as frequent as you’d like, but each time you get out there it reminds you of how much you love to spin those wheels. Whatever the case may be, channel your post-ride energy and inspiration into a little trip planning. Making plans now means you won’t have to later. Once you select your Western Spirit trip, our guides make all of the decisions, and all the food!
When You Need Something to Look Forward To
If you’re feeling a little weighed-down by your everyday responsibilities, planning something exciting for the future can make a big difference! Check out our mountain, road, and family cycling adventures and then put one on the calendar! You can even use one of those handy countdown apps to keep you posted on how many days are left until your trip!
When You Want to Experience a New Place
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there is no better way to see a new place than from the saddle of a bicycle. The perfect pace between walking and driving—cycling is slow enough to take in your surroundings and fast enough to cover some real distance. We love riding in the desert, the mountains, and on the coast. Lots of our rides even take you through very contrasting scenery. Nothing beats it.
When You Want to Get Together With Friends in a Unique Way
Got a great group of friends who are sick of just sitting around eating and drinking together? Why not ride some bikes, and then eat and drink together? If you don’t see a trip in our catalog that looks perfect, give us a call and we can create one just for your crew. We’ve been doing this for years and would love to set up an experience that provides attainable challenge and maximum memory-making for everyone you invite.
There’s no time like the present! Give us a call at 435-383-1821 to start planning today. Whether you’re riding solo, with family, with friends, or with coworkers—if you’re looking to sight-see, push your physical limits, or just try something new, we’ve got the perfect trip for you.
Tags: Biking Trips, Newbies, Planning a Trip
Telluride, Colorado is a town like no other, surrounded by peak after peak of amazing mountains with endless terrain to explore. Hiking is surely the most popular activity in the summer, and there’s plenty of great cycling as well. Here’s what you need to know about hiking in Telluride.
Allow for Plenty of Time
There are over 90 different hiking trails in the immediate vicinity of town, so if you are visiting from out of town, make sure you stay a little longer than you think you should. There are also tons of attractions to visit, from restaurants and shops to museums, and all kinds of special events like the Telluride Film Festival and Telluride Blues & Brews music festival.
Keep an Eye on the Weather
Telluride is situated at the mouth of a box canyon, which can make for some sudden changes in weather patterns. In the late summer, afternoon thunderstorms are common, so be sure the sky is clear before you get too far above tree line.
Choose Your Adventure
Telluride hikes span a wide range of difficulty, from meandering trails through town to gnarly climbs up 14,000 foot peaks, known familiarly as “fourteeners.” Know your hiking group’s ability level and intention when selecting your hike. It is also a great area to put together a multi-day hiking and camping trip, similar to the ones we lead on bikes. You’ll need to pack in and pack out your own provisions in this case, of course. Here’s a basic map of the trails close to town. Keep in mind that the town of Telluride is at 8,750 feet above sea level, so if you’re coming from lower elevation you will feel the difference!
A Few Highlights
Rest assured that whatever type of hike you’re looking for, it exists in Telluride. Bridal Veil Falls is definitely one of our favorites. It’s the tallest free-falling waterfall in Colorado, and it’s a short hike from town. This is a fairly accessible hike, suitable for active families. If you’re looking for a challenge, Mt. Sneffels is said to be one of Colorado’s most beautiful mountains. The hike to the summit is short and steep, requiring a bit of class 3 climbing, but the views on the way up are absolutely stunning.
We love multi-faceted adventures. If you do too, start off with a few days hiking in Telluride, and then join Western Spirit for a point-to-point ride to Durango or Moab! Give us a call and we’ll break down the details.
Tags: Hiking, Telluride
Aspen is a legendary, Rocky Mountain town, famous for its skiing, hiking, art, and distinct culture. But have you heard about Telluride, it’s slightly more secluded, just as epic cousin? Here are a few reasons why we think Telluride is the new Aspen.
The two cities have similar origins. Both were first inhabited by the Ute tribe, who hunted the land every summer. White settlers made their way into the valleys around 1870, in search of silver. The towns grew over the next twenty years or so, until the price of silver fell and populations dwindled into the early twentieth century. The terrain surrounding both towns makes it easy to imagine yourself venturing over mountain passages in search of wild game, and old mining structures keep memories of the silver age alive. These remnants of the past make significant contributions to the old-west feel of both Aspen and Telluride.
Ski Town Revival
After the boom and bust years of mining, it was “white gold” (snow) that finally started to bring people back into the two towns. In both cases, enterprising businessmen established ski resorts on some epic terrain, bringing adventure seekers back into town. It’s pretty safe to say that if someone lives in Telluride or Aspen, someone in their recent lineage was into doing challenging and fun things outside. This makes for an adrenaline-fed culture with plenty of outdoor adventure companions. When the snow melts, of course, many skiers take to their bikes, and ski trails often make for great mountain bike rides.
Smaller, Well-Kept Secret
Aspen Skiing Corporation was founded in 1946, and soon after became recognized as a premier international ski resort. Along with skiing came people from all over the world, which prompted the growth of businesses, restaurants, and boutiques, all with a very unique “wild west” appeal. The ski bums of the 60s and 70s stuck around to become the entrepreneurs of the 80s and 90s, and now Aspen is a full-on resort town. The natural beauty remains, but it’s not such a secret anymore. What used to be an escape from the bustle of everyday life has grown into somewhat of a mountain metropolis. There are still some great gems to discover, a bit out of town, and in the off-season. But personally, we’re a little more excited about Telluride these days.
The Telluride Ski Resort got started about 25 years after Aspen, so it hasn’t had as much time to be discovered. Today, Telluride’s population is still only about 2,000 residents (compared to Aspen’s 6,500 or so). But with similar geography, the culture of the place is similar to the culture that made Aspen famous. In addition to its fantastic outdoor appeal, Telluride is well-known for its Film Festival, Jazz Festival, Blues & Brews, Bluegrass Festival, and lots of newer festivals centered around things like wine and yoga. It’s an amazing destination with plenty of old western charm.
Check out Telluride the Western Spirit way—through the surrounding San Juan mountains on a journey to Durango, or out into Utah to our home in Moab. Call us today to start planning your trip!