Two free, guided hikes are planned by the the Central Colorado Conservancy to help Chaffee County residents learn about winter wildlife in the Rocky Mountains. The morning hikes will be led by Wildlife Biologist Cindy Lawrence, and run from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on February 9 and again on March 9

The February 9 guided hike will take participants on a trek to Raspberry Gulch. Located west of Nathrop, Raspberry Gulch is a private, protected property within the San Isabel National Forest. The hike on March 9 will head to Cottonwood Lake, which is located west of Buena Vista.

The winter hike (or snowshoe, depending on conditions) aims to educate locals about the winter wildlife that call the Rocky Mountains home, and how they cope with frigid temperatures and deep snow. Lawrence will also be discussing forest ecology, mountain habitats, animal tracks and scat identification, and how important conservation easements are to flora and fauna, and to those who enjoy the wilderness.

“This is our third track and scat class,” said Lawrence. “In the past we’ve seen things like bear claw marks on a tree, and a potential mountain lion kill.”

Participants are welcome to bring their own snowshoes. Snowshoes can also be rented from Salida Mountain Sports.

While the events are free, but the Colorado Conservancy requests that participants register prior to attending. Interested parties can register by emailing the Central Colorado Conservancy, or calling the office. For directions and starting-place information interested participants are asked to email the Central Colorado Conservancy at info@centralcoloradoconservancy.org, or call the Conservancy office by dialing 719-539-7700.

The hike (or snowshoe) will be at a casual pace fit for ages 16 and older, and most fitness levels. Lawrence will often stop the hike to point out landscape features, animal tracks, and to discuss ecology.

“It’s always a surprise what we find out there,” said Lawrence. “Nature is always changing.”

In promoting the free, educational hikes, the Central Colorado Conservancy is reminding all participants to dress appropriately for the weather. It recommends dressing in layers, with a moisture wicking layer closest to the skin. A hat, gloves, sunscreen and carrying your own bottled water is also recommended.