Whether it's the Mount Zirkel Wilderness, Routt National Forest, Seedhouse Road, or the little town of Clark, this area is ripe with interesting facts and tidbits. And while I have plenty more to learn about our area's history and culture, I thought I'd go ahead and share with you some of the most intriguing aspects I've discovered as of late.
I receive many questions on the trail, at the supper table, and on the phone from guests about our area, the geography, the history, etc., and a few of the details below may just answer a few of your questions. I hope you enjoy learning new facts about the area as much as I do!
How did Seedhouse Road get its name?
The road that leads you to the Elk River Guest Ranch known as Seedhouse, or County Road 64, got its name from a cabin built in 1910 where the North and Middle forks of the Elk River converge. This building, several miles farther up the road than where the ranch sits, was controlled by the U.S. Forest Service. Workers or rangers there would roast spruce and pine cones from the surrounding forest in order to extract the seeds and then package and sell them. The seed production only lasted about a year, and the original building was later replaced by the current forest service guardhouse and campground.
Why do mountain meadows form?
With the ranch located at 7,502 ft and most of our riding landscape above that, our trail rides are ripe with diversity. One moment you'll be meandering through a dense pine forest and the next you'll spill out into a wide, grassy meadow. While I've heard folks give all sorts of reasons for meadows forming from glacial movement to fires, it appears that the real answer is more precisely a combination of water and soil composition. As the snow melts each spring, the area that gets most saturated is the meadow, and that water leaves behind nutrients that favor the grasses and wildflowers that you see around the middle-late June through July. Next time you are riding through the Coulton Creek meadows (picture above), it's neat to notice how the trees seem held back by magical forces from getting too far into the meadow!
What's up with the pine beetle in Colorado?
Have your riding areas been affected? Wasn't it really bad out West? And so on and so forth. If you have no knowledge of what I'm talking about, there's this thing called the pine beetle that killed large swaths of pine trees. The trail riding areas and areas around the Elk River Guest Ranch have not been affected like other areas of Colorado. That's not to say there isn't any evidence of pine beetles, but we are quite fortunate to have many pines alive and well in our area.
Here's the catch, though....the beetles aren't all bad. Nature has to run its course, and its actually quite beautiful to see it doing so. And, when you look at one of those large areas affected of huge reddish-brown (dead) trees, appreciate it for what it is. You're looking at evidence of a pandemic beetle attack that only occurs every 350-500 years. These pine beetles live nearly their entire life (2-3 yrs) under the bark of spruce trees. Under normal circumstances, they only attack fallen trees, but given a large triggering event, they will grow in unbelievable numbers and attack mature trees, killing them. I could discuss pine beetles for a long time as I'm quite intrigued by the blue stain left behind in the wood by the adult beetles as they move throughout their galleries. I'll save that for one of our trail rides. :)
What is one of the coolest geological features in the area?
Hahn's Peak. We see Hahn's Peak when we drive to Pearl Lake to kayak and on a few of our trail rides. According to Backcountry Adventure Guide to the Mount Zirkel Wilderness by Raymond Ave, the peak is the "remnant of a formerly subterranean structure that fed lava to a volcano above the site of the present peak. This type of structure is called a volcanic plug. Minerals tend to be deposited where the lava in the plug contacts the rock surrounding it. Such was the case of Hahn's Peak, the site of intense mining activity in the past."