Five Movies with Amazing Trees

Spring is here, in case you haven’t noticed and aren’t sick of us saying it yet. We can’t help it, though—we’re just so happy to be able to walk outside without a jacket hunkering us down! All the blooming trees are a true testament to the fact that the warm weather is here to stay. Pollen is flying through the air, flowers and leaves are blooming, and looking out your office window has become overall a lot prettier. To pay a tribute to the blooming trees, we came up with a list of just five of the many amazing trees featured in movies.

Pocahontas, 1995

Grandmother Willow, an ancient and wise willow tree, offering advice to Pocahontas.

Grandmother Willow [Image:]

This one is pretty obvious, unless you somehow haven’t seen this classic Disney film. The movie may not be historically accurate, but it features the charming and endearing support of Grandmother Willow, which almost makes up for that. As Pocahontas deals with the Jamestown settlers arriving and slowly destroying her home as well as her conflicted feelings for John Smith, Grandmother Willow is there to offer her advice. Grandmother Willow is a gigantic, ancient, and wise weeping willow tree that is consulted as a spiritual adviser and has filled in as Pocahontas’ mother in a way. She’s a fantastic figure to have on your side (other than Pocahontas’ adorable animal friends, of course)!

FernGully: The Last Rainforest, 1992

A tall, twisted tree.

Hexxus [Image:]

FernGully: The Last Rainforest is an animated Australian-American environmental film, which is the kind of film that’s right up our alley! A curious young fairy named Crysta works to save her rainforest home from the lumberjacks and the evil Hexxus who gains strength from pollution. With the assistance of a lumberjack, Zak, who she shrinks down to her size, she rallies the fairies and animals of the rainforest to protect the trees. The fantastic twisted tree from this movie is actually Hexxus who becomes sealed inside, similar to how he started off the movie.

Avatar, 2009

Giant animated trees and vines.

Hometree [Image:]

In this astounding sci-fi film, humans encounter aliens (Na’vi) on their moon planet Pandora when they try to mine it for unobtanium after depleting all of Earth’s natural resources. The humans have figured out a procedure to give themselves the Na’vi genes, calling their hybrid bodies avatars. There is a group of scientists studying the biology of the Na’vi and one military man, Jake, eventually falls in love and becomes initiated into the Na’vi’s tribe. After he learns about their ways of life, he discovers that the Hometree where they live and garner their energy lies on the largest deposit of unobtanium in the area. He has to work with the Na’vi and other avatars to fight off his human cohorts and ensure that the tree remains intact. It’s quite a mouthful to describe, but then again, it’s also quite a film!

Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, 2002

A giant walking, talking tree creature speaking to two humans.

Treebeard, the oldest and wisest Ent [Image:]

The wildly intricate world that J.R.R. Tolkien created through his Lord of the Rings series is complicated, amusing, and overall just a breathtaking and fascinating place. It only makes sense that in the world Tolkien created, there would be walking, talking trees. These Ents are a wise, ancient group that was created to protect the forests from any potential threats. Treebeard, the oldest and wisest of the Ents, brings a few of his group to assist in the war that is waging. These are the kinds of trees you’d want on your side, too.

Harry Potter Series, 2001-2011

A twisted, gnarled old tree on a cliff in front of a castle.

The Whomping Willow [Image:]

The Whomping Willow makes its appearance throughout the Harry Potter series where it is an intense obstacle that Harry and his friends must overcome to complete their various challenges. It sits on top of a secret passage and reacts to intruders by trying to beat them away from its vicinity. Don’t worry, it probably doesn’t want to hurt anyone intentionally—it’s just hexed to be that way!

There are tons of movies that have amazing trees, but nothing can beat the real thing (even if Ents are pretty darn cool). Check out our Pocket Ranger® mobile apps so you can head to a state park near you and see the real deal!

The Nitty Gritty About Survival Kits

Survival kit essentials and backpack [Image:]


Heading into the great outdoors? In addition to your first aid kit, don’t forget to pack a survival kit! While everyone has preferences of what they like to include in their personal survival kit, here’s a list of our 11 must-haves.

1. Lighter

A small plastic lighter can make all the difference in an emergency. Also consider packing a magnesium starter or a book of matches as back-up.

2. Cell Phone

Cell phones are practically mandatory survival items these days. Just don’t forget to bring a charger. For more remote locations, a satellite phone may be necessary.

3. Iodine Tablets

In addition to bringing enough water, fill a small pill bottle with iodine tablets. Iodine tablets are perfect for survival kits because they are way easier to pack than a water filter. These tablets don’t add the best taste to water, but they will get you through those areas where drinking water isn’t readily available.

Two hikers on the trail in the evening [Image: Image:]


4. Flashlight

What you thought was a day hike turns into an overnight affair. That’s when you’re really going to need your flashlight and/or headlamp. Just don’t forget to pack extra batteries!

5. Knife

A pocket knife is good. A multi-tool knife is great.

6. Tinder

Whether you bring along some homemade fire starter or a vial of emergency tinder tablets, dry kindling will be a godsend when you’re looking to start a fire.

If your day hike turns midway into a camping trip, you'll be glad you packed a survival kit. [Image:]

If your day hike turns midway into a camping trip, you’ll be glad you packed a survival kit. [Image:]

7. Energy Bar

Stash an energy bar or two into your survival kit. When the going gets rough, an energy bar will feel like a feast.

8. Compass & Maps

Even the best technology can fail, which is why bringing along a compass and map is so essential. Before hitting the trail, be sure that you are packing the most up-to-date map!

9. Waterproof Shell

Even if the forecast says sunny, pack a light, waterproof outer shell. This shell should also act as a windbreaker.

After a day like this, you'll be so glad you packed extra socks. [Image:]

After a day like this, you’ll be so glad you packed extra socks. [Image:]

10. Water Bottle

If you’ve got the space, bring an extra water bottle. You never know when you’ll need an extra container.

11. Extra Hiking Socks

Knowing you’ve packed a pair of dry hiking socks may be the ticket to getting you through those downtrodden moments on the trail. Thick socks can also double as mittens.

Many of these items and more can be found within our Pocket Ranger® Gear Store! Or take our 2-minute Pocket Ranger® Survey and you could win a $350 gift certificate to!

Leave No Trace

How do you keep the wilderness wild when millions of outdoor enthusiasts visit state and national parks each year? The Center for Outdoor Ethics created a solution to this problem with their national educational program, Leave No Trace. The Leave No Trace program promotes and inspires good ethical practice when in the backcountry. By following these guidelines, you ensure a gratifying and lasting outdoor experience for all.

1. Plan Ahead and Prepare

Like any trip, planning before you arrive at your destination is key.

  • Acquaint yourself with park regulations. You can easily access this information through any of our free Pocket Ranger® apps.
  • Be prepared for extreme weather and emergencies. Pack a first aid kit and a survival kit that includes a flashlight with extra batteries, whistle, multi-tool pocket knife, maps, lighter, fire starters, and iodine tablets.
  • Respect the physical limits of your hiking group by planning a trip that’s compatible with the group’s skill level.
Backpacker in sunlit field [Image:]


  • Careful meal planning and packaging is so important when out in the backcountry. Pack only the food you need to minimize waste while you’re out on the trail.
  • Try to visit the outdoors in small groups. This is especially applicable to backpacking trips. If you are a larger group heading into the wilderness, break off into smaller groups to reduce impact on the environment. Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use on the trail.
  • Refrain from marking your trail with paint, cairns or flagging, and instead use a map, compass or your Pocket Ranger® app. In addition to a compass feature, the Pocket Ranger® apps offer users advanced GPS features that can even be used offline!

2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

Trampling down an area’s vegetation can result in some undesirable results, such as barren areas and soil erosion. Help preserve the environment by following these tips:

  • In wilderness areas of high use, stick to established trails and campsites. Established campsites can come in a few different forms, such as raised wooden platforms, rock, gravel, dry grasses and snow. Walk single-file on trails and try to stick to the center of these trails. This prevents the trail from further eroding the surrounding landscape.
Hikers on a trail in the woods [Image:]


  • However, when camping and hiking through pristine or fragile environments, the opposite is true. Avoid making established trails or campsites by dispersing your impact on the environment. Do not camp or travel in places where impacts are just beginning to show.
  • Whether in high use or low use areas, always make sure to camp at least 200 feet from lakes and streams. This protects the waterbody and riparian areas (the land near a waterbody) from damage and contamination.

3. Dispose of Waste Properly

This principle could be the golden rule of the backcountry: Whatever you pack in, you must pack out! This includes all trash, leftover food, toilet paper (both used and unused), and hygiene products.

  • Before leaving a campsite or rest area, check around for any trash or spilled food you may have missed.
  • Solid human waste should be deposited in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep. These catholes must be at least 200 feet from water, campsite and trails. After use, cover and disguise catholes.
Always clean up after yourself when outdoors. [Image:]

Always clean up after yourself! [Image:]

  • Got dishes? Need a shower? To clean either yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lake, and use only small amounts of biodegradable soap. When finished cleaning or bathing, do not dump this dirty water back into the stream or lake! Doing so would contaminate the natural water source. Instead, strain and then scatter the water at least 200 feet (or 80 to 100 strides) from its source.

4. Leave What You Find

Look, but don’t touch! Preserve the past by leaving natural and historic structures and artifacts as they are. This ensures that other visitors to the area will have the same sense of discovery.

  • Leave rocks, plants, feathers and other natural objects just as you find them.
  • Don’t transport non-native species with you! Non-native species frequently become invasive. These invasive species can critically damage the ecosystem.
  • A good campsite is found, not made. Do not dig trenches or build structures, such as lean-tos, tables or chairs.

5. Minimize Campfire Impacts

While many believe that a roaring campfire is essential to a great camping trip, fire is not always permitted in backcountry area. Before lighting a fire, always check with park regulations.

  • If fires are allowed, use only established fire rings, fire pans or mound fires. Keep your campfire small and manageable.
  • Hold off on the huge logs! The Center for Outdoor Ethics recommends using sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
Can you spot the two campfire faux pas in this photo? [Image:]

Can you spot the campfire faux pas in this photo? [Image:]

  • Burn all the wood and coals in your campfire to ash and put out the fire completely. Then scatter the cool ashes.
  • As for cooking outdoors, use a lightweight camp stove. A lightweight camp stove (rather than a bulky camp stove) will also be a blessing for your back!

6. Respect Wildlife

It’s certainly exhilarating to come across wildlife when outdoors. For everyone’s safety and enjoyment, follow these guidelines for wildlife sightings:

  • Always observe wildlife from a distance. Never approach or follow wildlife.
  • Never feed wildlife! Feeding wildlife can make wild animals dependent on humans, creating opportunities for potentially dangerous encounters.
Black bear takes over picnic at campsite [Image:]

Don’t let your favorite breakfast cereal become theirs. [Image:]

  • Protect wildlife and your food by storing food rations and securely.
  • If you bring pets with you, make sure you have control of them at all times. In many places, leashes are required.

7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

While you may head into the backcountry to be alone in the great outdoors, chances are you may come across a few other outdoor enthusiasts.

  • Respect other visitors to the area. Be courteous and yield to other hikers on the trail.
  • Take breaks and camp away from the trails and other visitors. Avoid making loud noises or speaking in loud voices when in the backcountry. Keeping your voice low not only helps others enjoy their time in the wilderness, but also increases your chances of seeing wildlife.
  • If you encounter pack stock in the backcountry, step to the downhill side of the trail.

Any adventure in the outdoors is going to require some quality gear. By taking the Pocket Ranger® State Park Visitor Survey you could win a $350 gift certificate to!

Hop in a Chevy Colorado for Your Next Adventure!

Listen up adventure seekers—we have some thrilling news that we couldn’t be happier to share! ParksByNature Network recently partnered up with Chevy Colorado, and we can hardly contain our excitement over this new sponsorship. Not only is this amazing news for us, but it’s even better for you. With its roomy interior and ability to excel in all types of terrain, the Chevy Colorado ensures you’ll have a fantastic outdoor experience and makes driving to your favorite state parks and wildlife areas a lot more enjoyable. From the time you situate yourself in the comfy seats to when you get to your destination and use it’s convenient 4G LTE high-speed Wi-Fi (especially helpful for using your Pocket Ranger® apps!), there’s no doubt that the Chevy Colorado is an outstanding choice for all adventurers.

Chevy Colorado vehicle in the mountains near a tent

Get to your destination and use it’s convenient 4G LTE high-speed Wi-Fi.

Picture this: It’s a gorgeous weekend. Maybe you’re heading into the breathtaking mountains of Western New York, exploring one of Ohio’s picturesque state parks, or hitting the surf in Virginia Beach. Whatever your passion, it’s time to get out and head for the hills. Of course you’ll want to bring your favorite fishing rod, lucky running shoes, beloved bicycle helmet, or treasured tent in tow. With the Chevy Colorado, fitting your gear is easy, so you can spend more time exploring the outdoors and less time packing your truck.

When you’re all set, weave through the city and then seamlessly head off into the mountains. Its four-wheel disc brakes and Duralife™ brake rotors reduce the wheel shutter while assuring overall durability. The electric power steering makes driving along a slick or icy street virtually the same experience as riding on a bone-dry road. It’s built to withstand all the elements, whether you’re feeling adventurous on a rainy day, looking to explore a snowy peak, planning to head off the beaten path, or just want to have the perfect picnic.

After you decide on your adventure, you’ll be elated by how spacious and accommodating the Chevy Colorado is. The two-tier loading and bed divider makes packing up your gear an easy task; you’ll find yourself trying to fill all the extra space rather than looking for room to squeeze in one last thing. A multitude of accessories are available to accommodate any type of adventurer as well, such as bike racks, ski racks, hitches for trailers, GearOn™ bed dividers, and much more.

Man hitches bicycle to his Chevy Colorado

The Chevy Colorado makes adventuring easy with room for all your gear.

Not only is the Chevy Colorado roomy, but it provides a cozy, intuitive drive as well. The truck is immensely sturdy, so cruise along in luxury and security as your favorite jams stream out of the impeccable Bose speakers. Meanwhile the thick windows and triple-sealed doors reduce the whistling wind and outside road noises—you might have a bit of trouble convincing yourself to get out of the car once you finally reach your destination!

The Chevy Colorado doesn’t stop there with its impressive features. Charge up those electronic devices along the way in any of the four USB ports because you’ll be using them once you park. The truck can be turned into a hot spot with 4G LTE high-speed Wi-Fi, courtesy of OnStar. The signal is even stronger than what your devices regularly receive. The best part of this feature is that you’ll be able to use your Pocket Ranger® mobile apps to enhance your explorations!

With all the mind-blowing benefits, investing in a Chevy Colorado is a must for any outdoor enthusiast. Bring all of your favorite gear, stay connected to other explorers near you, and stay up-to-date about any information at nearby parks. It doesn’t really get much better than that! 

Head over to our Gear Store to add to your collection, then download our mobile apps to find a park near you!

Kick Off Summer at National Kids to Parks Day

Get the whole family outdoors at the upcoming 5th Annual National Kids to the Parks Day! On May 16th, America’s state parks partner with the National Park Trust to host this nationwide day of outdoor play. Just a week before the official start of summer, this is a perfect day to explore and discover favorite local, state and national parks and public lands. From scavenger hunts to bird-watching, these state parks are hosting great Kids to Parks Day events:

Nature Hikes & Scavenger Hunts

A family goes hiking in Shenandoah. A great place to go for National Kids to Parks Day [Image:]


Specifically designed with the whole family in mind, the James River State Park’s Scavenger Hunt has 20 items participants have to track down. Winners will get a ride on the park’s Tye Overlook wagon for free that evening! Or learn about Leave No Trace Principles and hunt out all things that shouldn’t be on the trail on Shenandoah State Park’s “Unnatural Hike.”

Join the Lake Bistineau State Park’s Nature Hike for a memorable wilderness experience in the park’s upland mixed hardwood forest, open waters, and stands of cypress and tupelo trees. Stay the night in one of this Louisiana state park’s cabins or campsites, so you can get out on the lake in a canoe or kayak the next day!

At Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site in New York, walk the towpath trails on a nature walk, and learn more about native species of birds, animals, plants and flowers. We recommend packing a lunch; there’s nothing better than having a picnic by the Aqueduct Boat Launch or the Yankee Hill Lock!

Bird-watching & Gardening

Kids birdwatching with binoculars [Image:]


Go birding at the beautiful lagoons and shoreline of Louisiana’s Grand Isle State Park. Resident bird species include a variety of songbirds and shorebirds, such as shearwaters, pelicans, herons, and cormorants. At Leesylvania State Park in Virginia, check out the Osprey Observation. Rangers will be on hand to answer all your questions about these magnificent birds of prey.

The Bristol Bird Club of Virginia will lead a special family birding session at Natural Tunnel State Park. From old growth forest to grassy area, discover all kinds of birds that live in the park’s four different habitats. Or spend the afternoon in the park’s community garden! Alongside the Scott County Master Gardeners, learn more about gardening while weeding and planting.

In Missouri, get down in the dirt at Mudpie Magic at Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park! Make mudpies, dig in the dirt, explore rotten logs, and catch crawdads. There are many natural water park features at this state park, so take a dive into the river to rinse off! Or test your birding skills and so much more at Trail of Tears State Park. Join the Birder ID hike and scavenger hunt, and stick around for the “Eggstravaganza” egg hunt and egg quiz challenge at 7:30PM.

Arts & Crafts

Kids flying kites in park [Image:]


Learn the fascinating art of letterboxing at Shenandoah River State Park’s Letterboxing Workshop! Originating in England, letterboxing involves puzzle-solving and is a bit like geocaching. At this workshop, make your own rubber stamp and then go on a hike to discover your first letterbox.

Go fly at kite at Harry S. Truman State Park’s 3rd Annual Kid’s Kite Day! Park staff will show kids (and kids at heart!) how to assemble and decorate their very own kite. While the glue dries, settle down for a picnic or take some of the park’s example kites for a test flight.

Bluebirds are returning to Missouri on their great migration north. At Pomme De Terre State Park, learn how to build a bird house for Missouri’s state bird. All materials and tools will be provided at this event. Just bring your creativity!

5K & 10K Runs

Looking to keep a brisker pace on National Kids to Parks Day? Join families at Eugene T. Mahoney State Park’s Run Wild – “A Run for Wildlife!” Proceeds raised from the 10K, 5K, and Kids Run all benefit Nebraska’s wildlife. Both the 10K and 5K take runners through a scenic, naturally challenging trail. The 1-mile Kids Run is perfect for kids ages 12 and under, and parents can run alongside young children. Since none of the events are timed this year, everyone is a winner! Dressing like a wild animal for this event is strongly encouraged. Afterwards, celebrate the day with a picnic, face-painting, fishing, and touring the live animal exhibits.

Families that visit the state and national parks on Kids to the Parks Day are encouraged to submit photos of their adventures to for possible inclusion in the National Park Trust’s commemorative map. Download your state’s free Pocket Ranger® app for more information about trails, campground reservations, and more!

Wildlife at risk: Prothonotary Warbler

Why is the Prothonotary Warbler considered rare? It seems every time someone utters the magic word, Prothonotary (pro-THON-eh-Ter-ee), everyone goes a little bird crazy. The Prothonotary Warbler is a life bird for many birders; some have seen it only once or twice in their lifetime. Warblers in general are hard to spot, and have been known to cause serious next strains due to their minute size. The Prothonotary Warbler is no different, measuring at 14 cm, it’s especially hard to distinguish among branches and leaves. But more so, these warblers are threatened by habitat destruction, declining food resources, weather variations, and parasitic species. This warbler is listed as endangered in Canada. An estimated 2,000 pairs live in South Carolina’s protected, Francis Beidler Forest.

Prothonotary Warbler in Prospect Park, New York.

This Prothonotary Warbler was taking a stroll around Prospect Park, NY in April. Image Credit: Marc Brawer

See my colors

Among a sea of green leaves, the Prothonotary Warbler’s deep yellow head and underparts stands out. The prothonotary has greenish upperparts, and unmarked bluish-gray wings, white belly and undertail. This helps distinguish it from other yellow warblers. Adults females and immature birds are of a similar shade but with a duller composition. Plumage stays the same throughout the year. If you hear a series of high-pitched tweet-tweet-tweet, sharp and loud, you’ve found it!

Where I call home?

The Prothonotary Warbler is a bird of the southern woodland swamps with a high concentration along the floodplain forests of Lower Wisconsin, Mississippi, and the St. Croix rivers (common to abundant). In the summer they range from southern New Jersey to north-central Florida, west to east-central Texas to southern Michigan. It’s also a visitor of the Appalachian Mountains, sparingly distributed in the northern parts of the states. Their winter range extends from Southern Mexico to Venezuela, and sometimes the warbler plays the role of the island bird in Puerto Rico and Bermuda.

This species breeds in moist bottomland forests either permanently or seasonally flooded with standing water such as sloughs, oxbow ponds and slow-moving backwaters. It tends to find safety above flooder water, which has less risk of nest predations by raccoons— their main nest predator. To defend their territories the tiny male warblers snap their bills and chase away intruders. Males keep watch while the female builds the nest and lays eggs—what a gentleman! To flourish these birds must find breeding habitats in overstay trees with the right kind of cavities for nesting. Typically low cavities such as old Downy Woodpecker holes. Some of the trees they flock to include the swamp white oak, silver maple, green ash and river birch, among others.


Why I’m considered rare?

The Prothonotary was included in the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List, due to its vulnerable nature and niche habitat. Prothonotaries are prone to suffer from unpredictable ecological changes. For example loss of wetland habitats affects both breeding and wintering grounds. Logging practices are specially harmful to these warblers, since it removes cavity trees. Also some plants like the Reed canary grass, which can dominate the ground layer, impede new trees from growing, thereby turning the bottomland hardwoods unsuitable for Prothonotaries to survive. They also face parasitism from Brown-headed Cowbird, who are known to abandon offsprings in foreign nests. This behavior ruins the warbler’s chance at hatching success, further increasing nestling mortality. In southern Illinois parasitism rates are as high as 50 percent for Prothonotaries.

Climate change is causing a decline in soil moisture, reducing the growth of bottomland hardwood forests, and in turn decreasing available habitat for the birds.  Frequent summer storms and flood events also have a negative impact; they destroy low nests, as it occurred in the Wisconsin River in recent years. Extreme droughts dry backwater sloughs and ponds essential for the warbler’s survival against predators. The overall population is projected to dwindle as the southern part of its main range suffers.


Help a bird out

Now that you know about the wildlife at risk: Prothonotary Warbler, plan out some simple ways you can help out this species. During winter, prothonotaries live in mangrove forests; if you have one near you, be sure they’re kept healthy. One sure way to lure these sweet, yellow warblers is by offering a safe habitat for nesting in your backyard. They typically thrive in nesting huts and nest boxes, and are especially drawn to living near water, such a large garden pools, ponds, and marsh. Their favorite trees include willow oak, sweet gum, black gum, bald cypress, tupelo, elms, and river birch. Offer them fresh fruits like apples, oranges, and bananas to keep them around. As everyone knows with warblers, one minute you see them, and the next they’re gone!

The Boulder Hat Trick: Three Peaks In One Day

Contributed by Michael Restivo of Mike off the Map

Panoramic view of mountain range [Image Credit: Michael Restivo]

Image Credit: Michael Restivo

Set on the western edge of Boulder, Colorado, the Boulder Range rises above the plains, silhouetting the city behind forested, rocky peaks, rolling foothills, and the city’s iconic Flatirons. The traverse between Mt. Sanitas to the north and South Boulder Peak, the last of the range, spans over 16-miles of rugged trails, steep ascents, and scrambling across pointed ridges. While some are content with bagging one of these peaks and calling it a day, my hiking companion Tony and I decided we wanted to bag three – in less than 12 hours. We would start with Bear Peak, traverse to South Boulder, and then finish on Mt. Sanitas. While we decided to skip the other two peaks, Flagstaff and Green, for the sake of time, the climbs were a stout, calf-testing ascent that saw us walk the northernmost and southernmost edges of the range. This is how we bagged the Boulder Hat Trick.

Bear Peak

Summit in the Boulder Mountain Range [Image Credit: Michael Restivo]

Image Credit: Michael Restivo

We started at 7:30 from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) parking lot, sitting on a hill at the heart of Boulder Mountain Park. Our plan was to combine the NCAR, Table Mesa, and Fern Canyon Trails which would lead us to one of the steeper sides of Bear Peak. The morning was magnificently clear and we only encountered one other party and several trail runners as we exited the forest into a grassy valley just under the pointed summit. Though it was well into spring, the summit still had patches of visible snow.

The path gives way to a vast landscape of hills, troughs, and ridges, leading up to the twin summits of Bear and South Boulder Peaks, connected by a saddle. As soon as we turned into Fern Canyon, a passage surrounded by moss-covered boulders and rocky ledges, the climb became progressively steeper, hiking turned to scrambling, and the trail became uneven and rudimentary. After ascending to the saddle where Rocky Mountain National Park spread before us in the distance, the last quarter-mile bee-lined above the trees in a march that was reminiscent of Washington’s Mailbox Peak. Just before the summit, a low-class-3 scramble had us on hands and feet, clambering up a windy exposed ridge, which lead to the exposed pinnacle. We had bagged peak number one.

South Boulder Peak

Summit at Boulder Mountain Range [Image Credit: Michael Restivo]

Image Credit: Michael Restivo

Just behind Bear Peak, South Boulder Peak rises above a charred wilderness, capping the southern side of the Boulder Range. The two peaks connect by half a mile, however South Boulder exceeds it’s sister by just under 100-feet, making it the highest of the five peaks. From Bear, a downward scramble joins the trail, which connects the saddle between the two mountains. With the burned remains of a forest at the start of its regrowth, the saddle becomes a steep uphill across a barely defined trail, blackened branches, and mesmerizing views of the Rockies on one side and the Boulder plains on the other. A swift scramble across a rust-colored ridge arrives at a sharp pinnacle, which overlooks the range all the way to Sanitas. Now midday, we rejoined to Bear, and swiftly descended back to the car. We got peak number two.

Mt. Sanitas

Summit at Boulder Mountain Range [Image Credit: Michael Restivo]

Image Credit: Michael Restivo

While Mt. Sanitas should have been the easiest, our already tired legs made this last peak the physically toughest of the three. An afternoon storm was descending and we had to move fast to beat the rain and bag our last peak of the day. Mt. Sanitas is a family-friendly trail that’s moderately steep in sections, but not as exposed as Bear or South Boulder. The small mountain makes up the northernmost point of the range and has a mesmerizing view over Boulder. The climbing started right away from the trailhead, ascending over rock ledges, spaced wooden beams, and short flat sections that gave way to minor scrambles. Our fatigue was obvious as we fell behind other hikers, but pushed through a final ascent that led to the marker pole at the summit. While others reveled in climbing the easiest peak in the range, we opened our two beers and sat against a rock, too exhausted to sit on the actual ledge, and looked back towards the south. Excluding the time we took for lunch, we had done the three peaks in just over six hours, a time that could see room for a faster finish. We just finished peak number three.

Hiker summits Boulder Range [Image Credit: Michael Restivo]

Image Credit: Michael Restivo

While we’re proud of our hat trick, we still have many more up our sleeves. Next we’re going to try connecting all five in a massive 9-12 hour push which will see us connecting several trails from South Boulder across Flagstaff to Sanitas. Here in Boulder, big adventure is just minutes from my doorstep.