In the News
Here is a sampling of recent news stories about TOP:
- • Montrose Mirror; March 5th, 2013; by Caitlin Switzer
- Top of the Pines Hopes to Complete Renovations to Camp Facility
The Cimarrons, from the Top of the Pines website. The Ridgway non-profit's board hopes that a GOCO grant will allow them to finish renovations of a camp building and ac-quire yurts for summer guests.
- RIDGWAY – With five energetic new board members, a hoped-for GOCO grant that would bring in additional funding, and the possibility of acquiring yurts for summertime events, Ridgway's rustic Top of the Pines open space preserve and educational retreat may not be the area's best-kept secret much longer. After all, with 175 acres and eight kilometers of regularly groomed ski trails, Top of the Pines has always been a popular winter recreation destination.
“With all of the snow, skiing has been fantastic,” lifetime TOP board member Liza Clarke said. “We generally get a lot of use in the winter, but if we get our grant, we should see a lot of use in summer too.” A former Girl Scout camp, Top of the Pines was purchased in 2002 by non-profit Top of the Pines, Inc. and given as a gift to Ouray County. In the years since, the non-profit has slowly but surely made progress toward the goal of establishing Top of the Pines as a sought-after venue for outdoor recreation, special events, retreats and environmental education.
If grant funds are awarded, Top of the Pines could finally finish a building renovation that began five years ago, and perhaps acquire some yurts for use by groups holding educational and special events at the camp, Clarke noted. Top of the Pines was featured on the Science Channel's “How it's Made” program in December, thanks to Colorado Yurt Company, which pitched the segment to the popular television show.
“The owners of our company are Ridgway people, and they have relationships and local ties,” Colorado Yurt Company marketing pro Ivy Fife explained. “The television crew was just blown away,” Fife said. “They filmed up there in late September; it was one of those days—the Aspens were waning, but they still had plenty of color. There was snow on Sneffels. And then an afternoon thunderstorm rolled in–the full Colorado experience. Beautiful!”
To learn more about hosting events at Top of the Pines or making a tax-deductible contribution, call Ms. Clarke at 970-318-6744.
- • Hagerty Hikes; Grand Junction Daily Sentinel; January 27th, 2013; by Bill Haggerty
- Top of the Pines: Get Up There and Enjoy the Majestic San Juans
- Breathe deep. No, not here. Get out of town. Then, breathe deep.
Fresh air does so much for our health and vitality. It clears the head, clears the lungs and invigorates body, mind and spirit.
Hopefully a little storm action this weekend will blow the haze out of our happy valley, so we can enjoy some fresh air here. In the meantime, get out of Dodge. I met a friend in Montrose this past week, and we headed south to Top of the Pines, a Ouray County open-space preserve and retreat just outside Ridgway. It's where the Girl Scout Camp used to be located.
It was partly cloudy the day we went, but still the air was much cleaner than here. You know it's a weird weather year when temperatures in the Grand Valley range between minus-5 and 20 degrees, and it's 46 degrees at 9,000-feet elevation above Ridgway in the middle of winter.
Because of high temperatures and lack of snow in the San Juan Mountains this winter, the skiing was a little tricky. Bare spots were exposed, and the track was slick. It was a good place for nonwaxable skis. Otherwise, you were using purple wax. Yuck.
Nonetheless, it's drop-dead beautiful here. And did I mention the air is clean?
From Grand Junction, head south on U.S. Highway 50 to Montrose. At Main Street in Montrose, head forward (south) on U.S. Highway 550 and go to Ridgway. Turn right (west) at the traffic light in Ridgway onto Colorado Highway 62, also called Sherman Street. Travel all the way through town, approximately three fourths of a mile, and take the last left (before heading up the hill out of town) onto Amelia Street. Travel south two tenths of a mile on Amelia to County Road 5. Turn right onto the unpaved county road and travel 4.4 miles to Highland Drive.
Turn right on Highland Drive. It appears as if you're traveling into the long drive of a large gray museum/mini-mansion, but you'll continue past that for about three tenths of a mile to the entrance gate at Top of the Pines. A parking area will appear on your right in another one-tenth of a mile.
The Top of the Pines property contains 175 mountain acres at an elevation of 8,580 feet. Spectacular views of the Mount Sneffels and Cimarron mountain ranges permeate the property.
Top of the Pines (TOP) is a unique open-space preserve that “provides a public portal into the wilderness,” according to the TOP website at www.topofthepines.org. It was acquired by Ouray County as a rustic “living-classroom retreat” for use by preregistered and supervised groups, including families, organizations and private or corporate groups.
Use is dedicated to outdoor educational programs, leadership and team-building initiatives, and the enhancement of conservation of our local natural resources through managed public exposure and education. Groups and organizations interested in utilizing Top of the Pines can call 970-626-9788 or email email@example.com.
In the meantime, you can ski there for free, although donations are encouraged, and there's a donation (tool) box at the trail head. It's well worth a few bucks to help this fine nonprofit group, Top of the Pines Inc., who took over management of the area for Ouray County in 2002. That's when the Grand Junction Chapter of the Girl Scouts decided to divest of the camp, which had been held under a BLM special-use permit.
With tremendous public support, TOP Inc. raised the funds, purchased the preserve from the Girl Scouts, gifted it to Ouray County and continues to manage the property today.
The group provides eight kilometers (about five miles) of winter trails groomed for Nordic skating and classic flat-track skiing. A snowshoe trail also exists from the parking area to the meadow.
The group notes donations are essential to its operation. Tax-deductible season passes ($50 individual/$ 100 family donation) are available by calling 970-626-9788. No pets are allowed. The only tracks on the trails are skiers and wild animals. Also, the area is surrounded by private property. Stay on the designated trails.
Vehicle access and parking are allowed only within the designated parking area at the trail head. Do not drive up the Highland Drive roadway past the trail head parking lot. Skiers and snowshoers only; no mechanized vehicles of any kind — ATVs, snowmobiles, etc. — are allowed.
A rustic warming hut is available, located upslope of the main pavilion building in the campground area. Please stay off and away from all structures other than the warming hut. Only use the stove and fireplace for fires. Kindling and cut firewood is located outside the hut. No campfires or firearms are allowed. A stove is available for warming water, tea or coffee. And you can breathe deeply here — at least for a few hours.
- • Ouray County Watch; November 15th, 2012; by Peter Shelton
- Top of the Pines Skates Toward Its Future
- RIDGWAY – Top of the Pines (TOP) used to be the coolest Girl Scout Camp. My daughters slept out under the stars there, beneath the big, sweet-smelling ponderosa pines, in the 1980s. After the Scouts moved on, the county took over the property, and for the last few years, the non-profit TOP, Inc., has run the 175 acres at 8,580 feet on Miller Mesa as an “open-space preserve/living-classroom retreat.”
At least that is the intent, as stated on the TOP webpage.
A lot of work has been done to spruce the place up. But a lot of work remains, before the grand vision can be realized.
For the time being – and for the winter season upcoming – TOP will be best known to local Nordic skiers as the superb, if underappreciated, trail system just five miles from town up CR 5.
This coming Saturday, Nov. 17, TOP is asking for volunteers to gather for a workday. There's not enough snow to groom skate lanes yet, according to TOP board member and volunteer groomer Chris Haaland. But he did walk the trails last weekend during the most recent storm to place flags to guide him, and his Polaris snow machine, when the snowpack is deep enough.
The workday is planned, according to Paula James of Transition OurWay, to remove construction debris left over from the Girl Scouts' ruined tent platforms and from the remodeling of the pavilion, the property's central lodge/gathering place, which was begun with help from a Great Outdoors Colorado grant.
“Let's put our heads, hands and shoulders together to help fashion this dream,” James wrote in an email to Transition volunteers. “With many hands, we should be able to do it all in a day.”
James imagines endless possibilities for the property in future. Everything from a “place to experiment with alternative energy and building methods,” a “retreat for meditation, think tanks, youth programs and education seminars,” to “an outdoor camp and wildlife habitat,” and “a cross-country ski center,” incarnations it is and has been.
In summer the property is an ecologically rich example of the ponderosa zone. Blue lupine dot the forest floor between carpets of pine needles. Seasonal West Lake fills and becomes a sky-reflecting, frog-croaking, cool-dip pond. The big trees sigh in the wind and give off their warm-vanilla scent.
In winter West Lake is the beginners' loop, or a great warm-up for more adventurous touring. Haaland regularly grooms about 6k of track, both skate lanes and classic grooves. (Snowshoers are also welcome.) It's a labor of love for Haaland, a civic contribution. Although, as an elite athlete himself, he admits there is nothing finer than getting first tracks on the corduroy he has just laid down.
In past years, TOP's Miller Mesa neighbor John Kuijenhoven has volunteered his snowcat to groom the open track in the lake and meadow areas. This equipment leaves a beautiful, wide track in a single pass. But it's not possible in the fascinating, and more challenging, terrain known as the North Forty. The big cat won't fit between the trees. So Haaland grooms the rollercoaster, ridge-and-gully North Forty with his Polaris, giving it two swipes where he can. It's still skatable, but narrower than the tracks out in the open.
Haaland is happy to do the work. He and other volunteers do summer trail work and even hand shovel snow onto bare spots during lean years, like last winter.
He's happy to do it. He just requests users add what they can to the contribution box (an old metal toolbox with a slit in the top fixed to a fence post at the trailhead). "Gas money. For the Polaris."
Haaland said he hopes the cleanup crew this weekend will leave at least some of the scrap lumber behind. He'd like to pile it up in one place out in the open. “It'd be nice to have a big community bonfire up there this winter,” he said.