Connecting with nature

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Kids flock to Outdoor Skills Day at Evergreen Lake

By Sandy Barnes

 “Tighten it up. That’s good,” said Tom Pinder of Evergreen Trout Unlimited while teaching 8-year-old Jack Konigsbauer how to cast a line on Sunday morning.


Jack was among a group of youngsters learning the art of fly-fishing during Youth Outdoor Skills Day at Evergreen Lake.

While kids were trying their luck at catching fish on one side of the lake, others were preparing to launch stand-up paddleboards at the boathouse. Dylan Engberg, founder and chief paddler of the Denver Paddle Co., gave pre-launch instructions to a family ready to head out onto the lake.

“It’s always good to paddle on both sides,” Engberg said as he explained the three basic strokes. “If you happen to fall in the water, keep holding onto the paddle,” he added.

Engberg also explained the two-falls-and-you’re-out rule while paddling. After two falls into the lake, paddlers need to come back to shore, he said.

After getting instructions, the paddlers knelt on the boards and made their way offshore. Once launched, they stood up and began paddling, except for two youngsters who were lying down on the boards and paddling with their hands, surfer-style.

“It was good, man; really relaxing,” said David Blackshire after returning from his first two-hour voyage on a paddleboard. 

Stand-up paddleboarding is becoming a popular activity at the lake this summer.

Engberg said that when he arrived at the lake Saturday morning, 30 people were waiting to rent paddleboards. 

“It’s really taken off,” he said.

Plants and bears

“Look at these little white guys. Tell me what the leaves look like,” Vanessa Hayes, executive director of the Evergreen Nature Center, said to a group of youngsters on a nature hike.

Showing them the plant’s soft, feathery leaves, Hayes explained that looking at leaves is a good way to identify wildflowers and other plants.

“This is yarrow,” she said. “This is an important plant. People use this for medicine.”

Walking over to two large shrubs, Hayes said they both are sources of food for bears.

Chokecherry fruit can make up one of the 10 meals that bears eat during the day, she said. The wax current shrub also is an important food source for hungry bruins.

Near the Nature Center entrance, Hayes pointed at mud-packed nests over the doorway, which she said were created by barn swallows.

“It’s actually adorable to watch these nests being made,” she said.

The birds use their mouths to collect mud for the nests, which they pack together with dried grass, feathers and other things, she said.

“There is a fishing line in this nest,” Hayes said while holding up an example of a barn swallow’s creation. 

The fishing line can be dangerous to young birds, which may become entangled in it, she explained.

At the Colorado Parks and Wildlife station, volunteers educated visitors about keeping bears wild. Eating natural food sources such as berries and other plants is ideal for the creatures, said volunteer Clylia Smith. 

“Bears need 20,000 calories a day,” she said.

However, human garbage should not be part of their food supply, said Smith. Bears are smart and easily learn how to get food from garbage cans at people’s homes, she said. Residents should also take down bird feeders during the summer months to discourage bears, Smith said.

Jennifer Churchill, Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokeswoman, said bears can learn to open doors with push-down handles and get inside homes.

To discourage bears, garbage cans should be kept in bear-proof containers or enclosed in an area inaccessible to them. Once bears learn to go to homes for food, they can become nuisances and sometimes have to be euthanized, she said.

Contact Sandy Barnes at sandy@evergreenco.com or call 303-350-1042.