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Interpretive programs elevate your outdoor experience

After a year of canceled in-person events, social distancing and isolation, San Juan Mountains Association has restarted its free, outdoor interpretive programming.

Over the years, SJMA has offered a variety of events for adults, children and families to elevate their outdoor experiences by learning something new about the area while connecting with nature and like-minded people. To ensure the best experience and opportunity for learning, we partner with local experts in forest health, botany, ecosystems, archaeology, history and more.

This spring, SJMA kicked off the first interpretive events of the 2021 season. Thanks to our partnership with Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, we hosted two separate hikes in Sand Canyon.

Al Schneider, a local botany expert, led a group of hikers through abundant spring wildflowers, sharing his extensive knowledge of their names and uses. Under a full moon, Mike Bienkowski, a SJMA educator, along with a Canyons of the Ancients ranger, took a group out to learn about the history of the people and archaeological sites of Sand Canyon.

We celebrated Colorado Public Lands Day by teaming up with Anne Dal Vera, a retired San Juan National Forest wilderness ranger, to conduct a training course about crosscut saw use, an equally effective method for cutting through downed trees as chainsaws.

In addition, we partnered with Dolores Watershed Resilient Forest Collaborative, Rocky Mountain Restoration Initiative and the San Juan National Forest to provide our first interpretive mountain bike ride. Rolling through ponderosa pine forests of Boggy Draw, attendees learned how these forests adapt to wildfire, the goals and effects of management activities such as prescribed fire and thinning, and the large-scale efforts underway to protect and restore these forests.

Al Schneider, a local botany expert, led a group of hikers through abundant spring wildflowers in Sand Canyon this spring. The outing was one of two interpretive programs organized by San Juan Mountains Association in Sand Canyon. (Courtesy of San Juan Mountains Association)

New to 2021, SJMA is hosting two free, family-friendly campground concerts featuring the San Juan String Band, whose members have combined their passion for the environment with their love of music to provide conservation education and environmental awareness messages to all.

The first concert was held this past week, and the second concert is being held Saturday, June 12, at Horse Creek Campground’s new group site.

A SJMA forest ambassador, as well as a representative from the San Juan National Forest, will be on hand to discuss the role of fire in our forests and to answer questions about how this powerful force shapes our mountain ecosystem.

Upcoming events

If you missed the events this spring, don’t worry, SJMA is providing more opportunities this summer, and we’d love to see you out there!

  • June 12: Campground concert at House Creek Campground.
  • June 22-Aug. 19: Purgatory nature hikes. Get outside and enjoy the mountains on a guided nature walk! The tours take place every Tuesday and Thursday at Purgatory Resort. Arrive early for a 9:45 departure and be done around noon. No need to register; just meet at the ticket office ready to explore the wonders of nature.
  • Aug. 21: Full moon hike. You don’t want to miss our summertime full moon hike along the Colorado Trail above Little Molas Lake. We will watch the moon rise over the peaks nestled deep within the Weminuche Wilderness. SJMA educator Bienkowski will discuss what wilderness areas are and why they are important to all of us. Spots are limited and registration is required.

In addition, SJMA is in the planning phase for more events focusing on photography, edible plants, glacial geology and more. Stay up to date with all of our free, interpretive programming by visiting www.sjma.org/events or sign up for our e-news at www.sjma.org.

We are always looking for new, inspiring ideas to elevate your experience in the San Juan Mountains! If you have an expertise you would like to share with others, please contact us at info@sjma.org.

Rachelle Fish is the visitor information and communications specialist for San Juan Mountains Association.