Forum Index » Philosophy & Technique » Bear safety, Colorado San Juan NF


Display Avatars Sort By:
Mina Loomis
(elmvine) - MLife

Locale: Central Texas
Bear safety, Colorado San Juan NF on 06/06/2012 14:18:43 MDT Print View

We have a Camp Fire trip going out to the eastern part of Weminuche Wilderness in CO in the latter part of July. Eight people on the trip—5 teens and 3 adults. Plan is to be on the trail for 6 nights, probably Turkey Creek Trail to Continental Divide, maybe drop down to Goose Creek, eastwards to come down Hope Creek. We have two Bearikade Weekenders that belong to me, no other bear-resistant containers (BRC's). I called the San Juan NF and Rio Grande NF. They said hanging food is allowed. We have practiced the PCT hang here in Austin. Last year we had a group do a shorter trip in the same country (Archuleta Trail) and they reported having a very difficult time finding trees suitable for hanging, since the trees are all snow-adapted and have branches that point down and hug the tree.

Our budget doesn't really include 5 or 6 more BRC's, even if I get cheaper ones. And unlike in the Sierras, the Colorado FS offices don't seem to lend them out. (Which in itself makes me suspect they may not have a huge problem in that area. Plus their web site has nothing about bears and food, which surprised me.)

For many years we have taken groups for 4 nights into Pecos Wilderness in New Mexico, which is similar country, using neither BRC's nor hangs, and have not seen nor heard of bear activity, although it is surely black bear habitat.

Question for forum members familiar with the area in question—is there a lot of bear activity such that (comparable to the Sierras for instance) we would be putting the trip and ourselves at great risk if we are not able to find effective hangs? I asked the FS and they just reiterated that they recommend BRC's.

Thanks,

Mina

Mina Loomis
(elmvine) - MLife

Locale: Central Texas
P. S. on 06/06/2012 14:25:51 MDT Print View

Or if you are in the Central Texas area and you have a BRC you would like to lend us, we would take good care of it and be most appreciative!

Mina

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
Weminuche bear hanging on 06/06/2012 15:12:49 MDT Print View

I went last year and was advised by others that bears are not very prevalent near tree line where you might have trouble hanging. We saw no bears. But lots of goats, marmots, etc. The goats can be aggressive. It was obviously important to hang food and any salty gear to avoid those animals if nothing else. It took a little looking, but we were able to hang, even near tree line. I think you can find workable trees at the lower elevations.

Brendan Swihart
(brendans) - F - MLife

Locale: Fruita CO
"Bear safety, Colorado San Juan NF" on 06/06/2012 15:17:05 MDT Print View

I've backpacked quite a bit in the Weminuche and usually just use an odorproof bag inside a cuben drybag and clip it to a tree or pile rocks on it. Never had a problem. I usually camp above treeline. Below treeline you shouldn't have a problem hanging.

John Harper
(johnnyh88) - M

Locale: PNW
Re: Bear safety, Colorado San Juan NF on 06/06/2012 16:48:52 MDT Print View

Thanks for posting this question, Mina, as I aim to head to the San Juans some time this summer too.

Would an ursack work?

Mina Loomis
(elmvine) - MLife

Locale: Central Texas
solutions on 06/06/2012 16:59:32 MDT Print View

I am relieved to hear that it shouldn't be too hard to find hanging trees. Last year's trip (I was not on it, so I have only the trip leader's report to go on) was our first foray into that area so the trip participants may not have looked hard enough for suitable trees, I don't know.

I am thinking we should take some OPsaks despite the mixed reviews. We don't want smaller critters finding our hung food either.

Ursacks would be lighter than BRC's but not cheaper. In the long run if we are going to offer more of these trips I should probably look into finding the funds for such equipment, but that is not in the offing for this summer for us.

Thanks for the experiences and suggestions.

Mina

Brendan Swihart
(brendans) - F - MLife

Locale: Fruita CO
Re: solutions on 06/06/2012 17:41:13 MDT Print View

Mina, there's been a couple recent threads for group orders of nylofume bags, which are odorproof bags used in fumigating homes. Way cheaper than opsacks and no zipper to worry about failure. You might post a wanted post for a few bags (or if you are wanting a bunch, I think the min order is 100).

Kimberly Wersal
(kwersal) - MLife

Locale: Western Colorado
Re: Re: solutions on 06/06/2012 21:41:32 MDT Print View

The San Juans are my backyard, too. I used to bring an Ursack, but the last year or two, I, like Brendan, have gone to an odorproof bag (Opsack), inside a cubenfiber sack, which I hang on a branch, just to get it off the ground. I have never had it molested.

Daniel Cox
(COHiker) - F

Locale: San Isabel NF
Re: Re: Re: solutions on 06/12/2012 16:20:07 MDT Print View

"The San Juans are my backyard, too. I used to bring an Ursack, but the last year or two, I, like Brendan, have gone to an odorproof bag (Opsack), inside a cubenfiber sack, which I hang on a branch, just to get it off the ground. I have never had it molested."

I'd say that this is adequate for most all of CO's wilderness areas. I've been all over the state using the above technique (with no cuben sack) and never had a problem.
OPSak, durable bag, 5+ feet up, and as far out as you can get it on the branch.

Inside an odorproof bag animals will smell you and your stinky gear long before your food, and want no part of that.

Dean F.
(acrosome) - MLife

Locale: Back in the Front Range
habituated bears? on 06/18/2012 08:54:11 MDT Print View

I would imagine that the bears in the Weminuche are NOWHERE NEAR as habituated as the Sierra bears that I keep hearing about. Those Sierra bears sound like the commando ninja elite of food snatchers.

I imagine that hanging would be perfectly sufficient. Heck, that's all I do here in the Front Range where, presumably, the bears would be more habituated. Never had a problem.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: habituated bears? on 06/18/2012 09:13:53 MDT Print View

"... 5+ feet up ..."

ummmm, how about 15' up?

Daniel Cox
(COHiker) - F

Locale: San Isabel NF
Re: Re: habituated bears? on 06/18/2012 14:03:13 MDT Print View

I once hung an old thanksgiving turkey from a steel cable strung 20' up between two trees 40' apart, normally used for a 50gal corn deer auto-feeder. It was missing after 36 hrs. If a bear can take that and leave the cable intact, it doesn't matter if my food bag is 5 or 15 feet up.

5 feet thwarts cats and squirrels. Based on my experience the last decade camping in CO, an opsak makes me way more smellable than my food. Bears will leave my camp alone.

Kimberly Wersal
(kwersal) - MLife

Locale: Western Colorado
Re: Re: Re: habituated bears? on 06/18/2012 20:46:31 MDT Print View

There is no 15 ft. up at 12,000+ feet.

Brian Lindahl
(lindahlb) - MLife

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Re: Re: Re: habituated bears? on 06/21/2012 13:26:54 MDT Print View

Above treeline, A piece of climbing pro (like a nut), wedged in a crack off the ground will work. You just need to find a wall. Bears can climb trees, but they can't climb rock. At that elevation, though, bears are pretty rare. Marmots would be my major concern.