High winds, downed tree rattle campers at Avalanche Campground
June 1, 2011
CARBONDALE – High winds Saturday toppled a large tree at the Avalanche Campground south of Carbondale. No one was hurt, though the top of the tree snapped off and grazed an unoccupied tent, according to one of the campers who spent a relatively sleepless night there.
Nancy Snyder of Littleton said she and her boyfriend were sitting in their car, reading, at about 9:30 p.m., after leaving their tent because of the howling winds. At some point, a large tree fell into a neighboring campsite. The top of it partially hit a tent and fell on a camp chair, but no one was hurt, Snyder said.
Occupants of the site heard the tree cracking and scrambled, she said.
The individual who was to sleep in the tent was apparently a few minutes away from hitting the sack, according to Snyder. Rattled, the campers got into their cars and left, intending to come back Sunday to collect their gear.
By then, Snyder said she and her companion had decided to forgo their tent and sleep in their car, a sedan, with the seats folded down and their legs extending into the trunk area. It wasn’t until Nancy moved the car out into an open area of the campground, near the equestrian staging area, though, that she was able to get some sleep.
Another set of campers left the campground at about 1 a.m., she said.
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Among the campers who remained, apparently no one slept very soundly, Snyder said.
“One of them said they didn’t sleep a wink,” she said.
Snyder said she and her boyfriend decided to depart Sunday, only to encounter a few more hazards while they were driving over Independence Pass. First, a river raft flew off a vehicle in front of them, then a snowboard sailed off the roof rack mounted on another vehicle, she said.
Falling trees at campgrounds have become a growing concern in the White River National Forest, which surrounds Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley, given the number of trees that have succumbed to pine beetles. The blue spruce that fell over at Avalanche, however, was a healthy specimen, according to Mike Kenealy, recreation special uses coordinator for the White River.
“It’s a perfectly healthy tree – just extreme wind,” said Kenealy, who examined the spruce Tuesday. “Trees fall in the forest. We’re certainly fortunate that no one got hurt.”
Kenealy said he’d heard no other reports of tree problems from campground hosts after the windy weather over the holiday weekend.
Crews removed more than 200 trees from campgrounds around the valley last summer, mostly lodgepole pines, because they were diseased or infested with pine beetles and posed a hazard to campers.
At the 13-site Avalanche Campground, located 13 miles south of Carbondale off Highway 133, three sites along Avalanche Creek were closed last summer because of the dangers posed by aging or infested trees, including giant spruces. They remain closed.
The Forest Service is eyeing replacing those sites with new ones in open meadows outside of the existing campground, Kenealy said.
Site No. 1 at Avalanche, where the tree fell Saturday, will be closed until the downed tree can be cleared, he said.