Colorado Trail record broken

An exhausted and soaked Hal Korner, of Parker, Colo., rolled into Durango last Saturday, Sept. 6, at 4 p.m. One of the country's top ultra-distance runners, Koerner had just spent nine days, 10 hours and 19 minutes running the 468-mile Colorado Trail and now holds the new record.

On Aug. 28, Koerner and Ian Torrence, of Moab, Utah, began their effort to break the existing 11-day, 16-hour and 13-minute record for running the entire length of the Colorado Trail from Waterton Canyon southwest of Denver to the Junction Creek trailhead in Durango. The pair left the starting line with a plan to run virtually nonstop for nine days, covering no less than 50 miles per day. For Torrence, that plan fell apart when he began having knee problems.

"We had made it just over 300 miles and Ian had been battling it a couple days and walking quite a few miles," Koerner said. "He decided if I was going to make the record, I would have go to go alone."

Koerner said that they had been pushing for an 8-day, 10-hour record. "Ian's leg problems cost us one day," he said. "When I carried off by myself, I got lost for about seven hours above Lake City. That day went from about 7 in the morning until 6 the next morning."

In spite of these setbacks, Koerner said the journey went relatively smoothly. In fact, he said that the worst weather of the trip occurred as he made the final descent into Durango.

"On the way into Durango, it was nonstop rain from Kennebec Pass all the way down," Koerner said. "I couldn't even tell I was on the trail."

In 1988, Durango locals Dale Garland, Dave LaFranboise, John McAward and John Wolgamott set the original record of 17 days as they ran from Durango to Denver to "open" the then fully completed trail. Eleven years later, on the 25th anniversary of the trail, Buzz Burrell made it to the Junction Creek trailhead in Durango in 11 days, 16 hours and 13 minutes.

Koerner said he is confident that the new record of 9 days, 10 hours and 19 minutes will stand for some time.

"It's hard to say, but I think it'll probably stand for a while," he said. "It's been four years since the last record had been set, and the work my crew did was incredible. It would be hard for anyone to stage this kind of attempt."

Vallecito experiences giant fish kill

The Colorado Division of Wildlife has announced that a major fish kill has taken place at Vallecito Reservoir. Thousands of kokanee salmon have died in the reservoir since late August, and the DOW said warm weather and run-off from the Missionary Ridge burn area are the culprits."The fish kill primarily affected kokanee salmon, and it was not a complete kill," said Mike Japhet, DOW aquatic biologist in the Durango office. "Catchable rainbow trout, brown trout and northern pike are also present in Vallecito and have not been affected by the depleted oxygen conditions found in the deeper part of the lake."

Japhet said that the die-off is due to low dissolved oxygen content in the deep water that is inhabited by kokanee. The ongoing drought and continuing effects from last summer's Missionary Ridge fire led to extreme reservoir draw down, warmer than normal water temperatures and lower than normal dissolved oxygen content of the water.

"High amounts of organic debris that washed into Vallecito from last year's fire probably contributed to high biological oxygen demand, leading to oxygen depletion in the deeper parts of the reservoir," said Japhet.

The DOW said that the kokanee salmon fishery will be re-established. With help from other kokanee spawning operations, DOW officials are optimistic that loss due to the kill at Vallecito can be recovered. The stocking of Vallecito with kokanee will take place next spring in hopes for better conditions.

Locals tackle Russian Olive grove

A local volunteer effort is working to take on the "scourge of the Animas," tackling what may be the largest concentration of Russian Olives in La Plata County. Barry Rhea, of Rhea Environmental Consulting, and Friends of the Animas River are targeting a private parcel behind the Durango Mall, which is home to more than 1,000 of the invasive trees.

The non-native trees are actually Eurasian in origin and have been sold by nurseries as hardy, attractive, quick growers. However, a lack of natural predators make the trees a threat to everything around them, and unchecked, they spread rampantly from front yards into river corridors, where they squeeze out native species and destroy habitat. In response to this spread, the State of Colorado declared Russian Olive a noxious weed two years ago and last December made it illegal for nurseries to sell the tree. Rhea and Friends of the Animas started a quest against the invasive tree after seeing the damage that has been done in northern New Mexico.

Rhea said he's seen Russian Olives from the property behind the mall all the way to the High Bridge, but that the action was initiated by a private landowner after he read an article on the trees in the Telegraph .

"I estimated that there were probably 200 Russian Olives in there and my estimate wound up being way low," Rhea said. "It's the worst situation I've seen in the area so far. Looking at this property let me know that it's definitely a harsh reality."

Last weekend, Rhea and a handful of volunteers took out 50 of the largest trees on the property. This Sunday, Rhea said he hopes to see more volunteers and would like to take care of another 300 trees. Generally, Rhea and Friends of the Animas are working to get ahead of the spread of the trees. Rhea is looking for volunteers to help with the effort his Sunday. He can be contacted at 247-2388.

"We have an opportunity now to stem the tide in the basin, but that window of opportunity is closing fast," Rhea said.

Fort Lewis earns prestigious ranking

Fort Lewis College continues to earn national acclaim. The Princeton Review has ranked the local four-year school as one of the best colleges and universities in the western United States in the first edition of The Best Western Colleges: 121 Great Schools to Consider .

"We are delighted to receive such recognition," said Fort Lewis College President Robert Dolphin, Jr. "Being included with so many outstanding regional colleges and universities is a reflection of our growing reputation as a public liberal arts and sciences college."

Only eight other Colorado colleges and universities earned places in the book: The Colorado School of Mines, Colorado State University, the University of Colorado at Boulder and the University of Northern Colorado. The United States Air Force Academy, Colorado College and the University of Denver also were listed.

- compiled by Will Sands





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