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Colorado's beautiful trails are calling. What can you discover this year?

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Hide and Seek

Find These Gems on San Juan Mountains Association’s Scavenger Hunt

GO WILD FOR WILDFLOWERS
Summer wildflowers pop like fireworks on the Pass Creek Trail (#500) up to Engineer Mountain. Wildflowers are like your nose—resist picking! Flowers are a key food source for pikas and marmots, which eat dried wildflowers stored in their burrows over winter. Take pictures and create virtual bouquets instead.

SCARS ARE HOT
Did you know ponderosa forests, like those engulfing the Boggy Draw Trail System, need regular wildfires to keep them healthy? At lower elevations, a 10- to 15-year cycle is perfect. As you trek through Boggy Draw, look for trees with burn scars. More scars indicate a robust forest.

LIFE AND DEATH ARE LYNX’D
The lodgepole pines found along the Crater Lake Trail (#623) from Andrew’s Lake are technically an invasive species. They were planted during past wildfire restoration efforts. Mo’ invasives usually means mo’ problems, but the lodgepoles saved lives. Their presence boosted the snowshoe hare population which, in turn, saved dwindling lynxes from demise.

LITTLE BUGGERS
If you pause to soak your sore feet while traversing the Vallecito Creek Trail (#529), flip over a submerged rock or two. Odds are good you’ll see benthic macroinvertebrates, or BMVs. These soggy larvae will develop into winged insects, like dragonflies and stoneflies. Far from lazy loafers, these teen bugs are a sign of a healthy waterway.

CLONE WARS
SJMA dares hikers to point at a single aspen tree on the Big Al Trail (# 630). Aspen trees are clones. To point at one is to point at hundreds. Clone colonies change colors simultaneously in autumn. Some clones stand out thanks to burls, or tree warts. These trunk lumps are caused by fungus or other disease.

NATURE’S ARCHITECTS
The Owens Basin Trail (#746) conceals a rarely-sighted secret! A massive embankment of lumber and mud is actually an engineering marvel. This and every beaver dam "breaks" ponds and rivers, which creates a rich habitat for other wildlife. Plus, the beaver's oasis mitigates devastating wildfires. Beavers and humans are the only animals on Earth that reconstruct and redesign their environments.

  • Burn scars are a sign of a healthy ponderosa forest.
  • Lynx look cute, but they are dangerous predators. Look for lodgepole pines on your scavenger hunt.
  • Before they metamorphose for flight, many insect larvae develop underwater.
  • Good luck spotting just one aspen tree! These clones are tough to distinguish.
  • Burls distinguish otherwise identical aspen clones.
  • Beavers seem destructive, but actually create healthy habitats.
  • Columbine, lupine, mule's ears, paintbrush...how many specimens can you identify?
  • Colorado's beautiful trails are calling. What can you discover this year?
  • Good luck spotting just one aspen tree! These clones are tough to distinguish.