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Adventure Rockies

“Untitled” by Matt Guymon, Utah

On the Southfork of the Ogden River last week. To view more of Matt's work, please visit his Flickr page. or freestonephotography.weebly.com.

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High-Speed Runoff

Born and raised in Boulder, Colorado, I’m a bred-in-the-bone mountain girl. The word camping conjures up for me nothing but images of frigid alpine lakes and crumbling granite talus fields—and always a brilliant purple columbine flower for a true Rockies feel. But earlier this summer, I had my first experience backpacking the canyons of Utah’s Escalante with my father, and I witnessed an incredibly cool hydrologic event.

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Fiddlers and Fish

The sounds of yesteryear rang out July 23, primarily from the instruments of Montana fiddlers but also from some equally talented musicians from several neighboring states, when the Montana State Old Time Fiddlers Association (MSOTFA) held its 43rd Annual Fiddle Contest. And when the competition was complete, high-quality fishing could be found less than a half-hour away. For the first time, this event was held in beautiful Choteau, Montana. Anyone who can’t appreciate the beauty of “Charmaine” and the peacefulness of a gurgling creek is no one I care to associate with (and maybe is someone who shouldn’t be trusted).

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Rafting Gets Back to Normal in Colorado

A sustained high water season on rivers in and around Summit County, Colorado, is coming to a close, and that means less juggling for local outfitters. “It was a challenge, for sure,” Arkansas Valley Adventures owner Duke Bradford said. AVA, like other companies, transferred trips based on flows to put ages and abilities on appropriate stretches. Someone who booked a Brown's Canyon trip in the Arkansas River Valley may have gotten short notice that they'd now be running the more consistent Blue River, though it still ran quickly, about an hour north in Silverthorne. Those with youngsters aiming to hit Clear Creek may have been shifted to the farther away Upper Colorado River, because as the water flows increased, consequences were more severe — so companies raised their age limits on certain stretches.

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A Swim in Great Salt Lake: Hold the Salt, Please

During a decade that brought fear, Black Tuesday, the Dust Bowl, food riots, and thousands of closing banks, there was a magical event that gave swimmers hope. The hope and the fortitude to cross the finish line, to accomplish something most wouldn’t even try and to believe in the human spirit. It all started in 1927 with a local swim legend named Orson Spenser. He swam the Great Salt Lake Marathon Swim in 1927, 8.12 miles from Antelope Island to the old Saltair. Through the years the finish line moved from Saltair to Black Rock. The races were grueling and swimmers often dropped out of the competition due to fatigue and poor weather. Spencer won this race six times before the water levels lowered to the point they discontinued the race in 1940. Ever since, some thought this strange tradition should be brought back to life. Gordon Gridley (Gords for short) and Josh Green, both marathon swimmers, were so inspired by what Spencer had accomplished they decided to revive the Great Salt Lake Marathon Swim and added a one-mile swim from the Great Salt Lake Marina to Black Rock. Being a past-time triathlete I thought I knew the effort this swim would take. Only the salt scared me.

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Flash Floods in Slot Canyons: Avoid Them

Slot canyons entice you to reach in and "taste' -- just like the food bins at the supermarket when no one’s around. The narrow slivers of space sandwiched between twisted stone walls make for an adventure of skill, guts and athleticism. And it’s all fun and games until one black cloud creeps overhead. Slot canyons, like those you find in the southwest and throughout southern Utah, are formed by surges of water over thousands of years that grind away the limestone or sandstone surfaces. If water can do that to rock, imagine what it could do to poor fleshy you if you were caught off guard. When those storm clouds rumble and threaten to drench the ground, it’s a stellar idea to be far away from any slot. Heavy rain over a short period of time in arid areas equals deadly flash flooding. Imagine a torrent of water, sediment, sticks, logs and debris charging down the narrow opening. That kind of power can lift and drag a car for miles.

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How Much Should Hunters With ATVs Be Regulated?

The hunters stalked their game for hours, carefully taking note of scat and tracks the herd left behind. They hunted on foot through the West's backcountry wilds, through brush and over mountains. A rumble in the distance sounded like the characteristic clap of a Rocky Mountain thunderstorm. It spooked the elk. Over the hill emerged a firearm-clad off-road vehicle rider. Many hunters contend they should be protected from noisy, ungulate-frightening machines when out seeking their prey. And in numerous states they are, with rules keeping hunters on ATVs tied to major roadways instead of backcountry paths. But ATV advocates want those restrictions changed, and across the West lawmakers continue to propose bills favoring motorized uses for hunting. In Idaho, the issue is coming to a head, where a back-and-forth on whether hunters can use ATVs to access wilderness is under way.

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Top Five National Forests Within a Stone’s Throw of Civilization

Not everyone “enjoys” the outdoors and when it comes to pitching a tent, slapping on bug spray and going three days without a shower, even fewer sign on for the adventure of packing into backcountry. Sometimes roughing it simply means a queen instead of a king and no walk-in closet but, that shouldn’t exclude the West's perhaps less-adventurous from experiencing the outdoors. Try these five woodsy destinations within reach of a top-tier restaurant and plush (non-inflatable) mattresses.

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This Year’s Big Water Makes for Big Stories

The big water season of 2011 is wrapping up. The roar of the rapids doesn’t cover the canyons like it did a month ago and the weekend warriors are venturing back onto their favorite stretches again. I expect, though, that we’re just starting to hear the stories from this year. I’ve been running people down rivers throughout the West for 10 years now. Since I first started to listen to the ol' timers shoot out their stories of the glory days -- of high water that "could rip a man to shreds" -- I’ve wondered if I’d ever get a few stories of my own.

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Helping Out the Bob: Volunteering in Montana’s Largest Wilderness Complex

Pull, don’t push! When you’re working in the Bob Marshall Wilderness with a crosscut saw, this is the rule. For five days in July, “Pull, don’t push!” became my mantra. Without the whine of the chainsaw or the stench of two-cycle engines to burn your nostrils, it is the sing of the blade, powered by two people, that makes trail crew work possible in Montana’s largest wilderness complex that said no to roads, vehicles and motorized anything in the late 1960s, largely thanks to one man, Robert Marshall. Six of my friends and I signed up with the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation (BMWF) for one of their many volunteer trail crew projects. Our goal was to free a section of downed telephone line on the Historic Phone Line along the South Fork of the Flathead River in the 1.5 million acre complex. For 15 years the BMWF has placed volunteers deep within one of the country’s largest and most remote wildernesses to help maintain and preserve the many trails, cabins and artifacts that encompass a place affectionately referred to as “the Bob.”

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