Trails reopen: Recreation returning to Basalt Mountain this summer after Lake Christine Fire | AspenTimes.com

Trails reopen: Recreation returning to Basalt Mountain this summer after Lake Christine Fire

The Aspen-Sopris Ranger District trail crew cleared numerous trees off the Mill Creek Trail, which was in the thick of the Lake Christine Fire last summer. While Mill Creek and the Ditch trails are open, it will take longer for the crew to clear the Cattle Creek Trail on Basalt Mountain.
Jeremy Wallace / The Aspen Times

The U.S. Forest Service wasted little time this spring getting trails reopened on fire-ravaged Basalt Mountain.

The Aspen-Sopris Ranger District trail crew cleared charred trees off the popular Mill Creek and Ditch trails in early June. The routes are open to hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians.

The crew plans to return early this summer to add features to ease erosion, said Katy Nelson, wilderness and trails program manager for the district. The Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association also has committed to supplying labor.

The crew is balancing a long list of needs. In addition to all the downed timber on Basalt Mountain from the Lake Christine Fire, numerous trails in the district are clogged by downed trees from the prolific avalanche cycle in March.

“They have an incredibly tough job,” Nelson said of the crew. “They came back and were so excited to get Mill Creek and the Ditch Trail open.”

It will take longer to clear the Cattle Creek Trail, also known as The Big Loop. Forest Service workers checked it out last fall and found a higher concentration of downed trees, Nelson said.

All of the 1.5-mile Mill Creek Trail was in the Lake Christine Fire perimeter while about 2 miles of Cattle Creek Trail was inside, Nelson said.

Zach Nichols zips down the Mill Creek Trail on June 14 on Basalt Mountain. The trail has everything from apocalyptic stretches to unsinged meadows after being in the middle of the Lake Christine Fire last summer.
Scott Condon/The Aspen Times

There were between 175 and 200 downed trees last fall on the 2-mile stretch of Cattle Creek Trail in the fire zone. It’s certain that more trees fell over the winter.

The upper gate on Basalt Mountain Road, Forest Road 524, typically opens for motorized travel June 21, but that was delayed due to repairs and removal of trees across the road. The work will begin in early July and is expected to be completed by the end of the month, Forest Service officials said.

The gate to the Cattle Creek Road, Forest Road  509, opened June 21 but was scheduled to be closed again on July 1 for approximately two weeks for safety repairs.

“While the gates on Cattle Creek and Basalt Mountain roads are closed, non-motorized use on foot, or by bicycle or horseback will be permitted,” the Forest Service announced. “Visitors should be prepared to encounter heavy equipment as well as falling trees and other hazards as a result of the Lake Christine Fire.”

There are numerous dead but standing tree trunks along the trails and road. Nelson said trail users must be aware that they might encounter deadfall in places where there was none just the day before.

The U.S. Forest Service has advanced a forest health plan southwest of Glenwood Springs and is working on a plan for Basalt Mountain, pictured above. The agency wants to salvage timber burned by the Lake Christine Fire.
Scott Condon/The Aspen Times

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