‘Wild at Heart’ the definitive local guide | AspenTimes.com

‘Wild at Heart’ the definitive local guide

Snowmass author Janis Huggins has written a natural history and nature guide, Wild at Heart, about the Upper Roaring Fork Valley. Aspen Times photo/Mark Fox.

Anyone who has ever wished they could identify the plants and animals on a hike around Maroon Lake without lugging a library of guide books around in a backpack might want to pick up a copy of “Wild at Heart.” Longtime local botanist/naturalist Janis Huggins, with backing from Snowmass Village, has compiled the ultimate guide to the local backcountry. She calls the tome a bridge between a coffee-table book and a technical field guide.In 460-some pages, “Wild at Heart” offers a comprehensive guide to the plants, birds and mammals of the upper Roaring Fork Valley. “It covers a lot of territory,” Huggins said. So did she.”I wore out a couple of pairs of hiking boots and my knees,” she joked. Four years in the making, “Wild at Heart” will be the focus of a reception, talk and book signing on Friday at 6 p.m. at Schermer Meeting Hall at Anderson Ranch in Snowmass Village. Huggins will offer some tips on how to use the guide, which includes detailed descriptions of 423 plants, 112 birds and 49 mammals that are found in the upper valley – essentially from 7,000 feet to the high country, above timberline.

The book, weighing in at 2 pounds, contains 670 color photographs, many taken by Huggins, along with a plant color key, mammal track drawings, plant sketches and an extensive appendix. It’s hardly a dry textbook, though, with tidbits like the explanation for why mountain bluebirds are blue, though there is no blue pigment in their plumage (see page 346). “There’s just incredible history and stories about the species that surround us,” Huggins said. “Whatever you find in ‘Wild at Heart’ is here. You’re not carrying around a lot of species that are elsewhere in Colorado or the Rockies,” she added.”I think it’s a terrific resource for the valley. I think it’s incredible that Snowmass would fund the book.”It began as a simple a guide to the flora and fauna on Burnt Mountain in Snowmass, required by the town as part of the development approval that led to a pair of new residential subdivisions, Two Creeks and The Pines. The concept then expanded to encompass all of Snowmass Village, and then the upper Roaring Fork Valley.

“The more we got into it, we found we couldn’t just stop with the species you’d find in Snowmass,” Huggins said. The town’s Wildlife Fund – money extracted as part of the approval of the ski area expansion onto Burnt Mountain – paid for its publication. Proceeds from the $30 purchase price will go back into the fund. The guide is meant to be helpful to anyone who sets foot on a local trail, from a first-time visitor to a longtime area resident or a professional in the field, according to Huggins. “You can put it in your daypack and you’ve really got all you need to explore,” she said.”Wild at Heart” is available at bookstores, drug stores and outdoor outfitters throughout the valley. This article was originally published in The Aspen Times on Feb. 24, 2005.

Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com

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