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Today is Sunday, September 25, 2016

Get out and enjoy the national forest

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Photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service Family fun abounds in the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forest. From the lakes on the Grand Mesa (pictured above) to the high mountain passes -- Ophir, Imogine, Engineer and Cinnamon -- there are plenty o

The Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forest is vibrant with colorful fields of alpine wildflowers -- this is peak season for nature viewing, photography, hiking, riding and learning more about the amazing natural features that surround us.

Interested in experiencing a nature connection? Start with a "summer intensive" -- a one-hour interpretive program offered for all ages at the Grand Mesa Visitor Center every Saturday. Throughout the summer, guest speakers with expertise in specific natural resources provide an engaging presentation on topics from mushrooms, to birds of the Grand Mesa.

The Aug. 8 program is all about Smokey Bear. It's his birthday and the celebration at the Visitor Center runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Forest Service hydrologist Ben Stratton will explain the West Salt Creek landslide, and the monitoring data on the slide to date.

Subsequent programs include Fantastic Fungi on Aug. 15 at 3 p.m.; wildlife on Aug. 22 at 6 p.m.; birds on Aug. 29 at 6 p.m.; star gazing on Sept. 5 at 8:30 p.m.; Ute Indians and edible plants on Sept. 12 at 6 p.m.; and culminating with Color Sunday on Saturday, Sept. 27, with a full day of activities on the Grand Mesa and in surrounding communities.

Interested in photography? Grab your camera and experiment with color palettes and scenic backdrops. The mountain passes (Ophir, Imogene, Engineer and Cinnamon) are outstanding routes to get up high and enjoy the lush alpine landscapes contrasted with jagged mountain ridgelines. For the more ambitious and hardier visitor, there are many miles of hiking or biking trails that lead alongside some breathtaking meadows full of columbine, paintbrush, lupine, penstemon, mountain bluebells and more. Check out our popular wildflower viewing areas and suggested hikes at http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/gmug/wildflower.

Need to escape the heat or enjoy a family gathering? The GMUG National Forest offers 56 campgrounds, eight cabins for rent, day use/picnic sites and many areas for dispersed camping (outside of developed campgrounds). Set up a convenient base camp to enjoy miles of mountain bike, OHV, horseback riding or hiking trails or just stroll down to the lake and throw a line in. There are currently no fire restrictions on the GMUG -- so start the campfire and make those tasty s'mores. (http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/gmug/recreation)

Summer is waning quickly -- make the time to go outside and experience the national forest! Kick back and relax, or challenge yourself to a new physical endeavor -- either way your national forest is the place with opportunities just waiting for you!

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Surface Creek
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