Zirkel Circle Group Hike 2019 Recap

After a long wait for the snow to melt this summer, we organized a group hike around the infamous Zirkel Circle, an 11 mile loop located just north of Steamboat Springs in the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness Area. This hike is a bucket list item for Steamboat locals for good reason. I have spent about 6 years in Colorado, and this was by far my favorite hike I’ve done. 

There was a total of seven ladies, and two dogs for this hike. The group was very diverse and included new faces to Rocky Mountain Sportswomen! It was a crisp morning with a stillness in the air. Yet, we were all filled with excitement and nerves.The majority of us had never done the Zirkel Circle. After reading many reviews on AllTrails.com, we had heard about the river crossings, possibility of lots of snow still, and the daunting overall distance. 

Our Zirkel Circle Team: Nicole, Caitlin, Elena, Jaime, Rebecca, Alayna, and Misty

Our Zirkel Circle Team: Nicole, Caitlin, Elena, Jaime, Rebecca, Alayna, and Misty

We arrived at the trailhead just before 9am, and chatted with a lovely Forest Service volunteer who eased our nerves with detailed updates on the trail. She provided us with a map, and suggestions on how to approach river crossings. After a little restroom break and a snack stock up from Altitude Snacks and Sweetwood Smokehouse, we were ready to hit the trail! 

After hearing lots of advice from friends who had done the Zirkel Circle before, we decided to do the loop counterclockwise. There were many benefits to this approach including stopping at Gold Lake for a break on the way up, knocking out the longer stretch of the hike before reaching the ultimate Gilpin Lake, getting the majority of the river crossings out of the way, and also rewarding yourself with the incredible view of Gilpin after hiking up the steepest part of the trail.

The first several miles seemed to fly by. We were feeding off of one another’s excitement while chatting and getting to know one another. The weather was perfect..The day began cloudy and cool. The distant clouds were slightly daunting, yet we were pleasantly surprised when the day continued to be mostly sunny.

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Less than a mile from the trail head we came across the first river crossing. The river wasn’t too wide, but the water was moving pretty quickly. Alayna, our youngest participant (16 years old), walked across the log bridge with the pup, Oakley with no problem. A few of us opted to scoot across. When it was Chevy’s turn (Jaime’s loyal and handsome German Shepherd), he became nervous, shaking and walking unsteadily. Not being much of a water dog, Jaime tried assisting him to cross the river. Chevy lost his balance and was swept under the bridge by the rushing cold water. With nothing but instincts kicking in, Caitlin immediately jumped into the river in an attempt to rescue Chevy. Luckily the water was only about waste. Chevy made it to shore pretty easily, but we were all grateful for Caitlin’s valiant efforts to save him in case the situation had escalated. We finished crossing the river, and Jaime ended up having to beast-mode it and carried poor Chevy across the river, barefoot. We took a quick rest after this exciting event, dried off Jaime and Caitlin’s feet, and carried on. Chevy made it across the rest of the creeks pretty well after the first one. He must have decided it was easier to be brave!

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After talking, and chatting along the way, we were feeling good and the weather wasn’t too hot. Suddenly we had completed several miles and came across Gold Creek Lake. It was a beautiful spot to take a break and eat some Altitude Snacks and Sweetwood Smokehouse jerky sticks. Caitlin brought along her fly rod, and decided to test the waters. Caitlin is a very enthusiastic fisherwoman and will try any method to get one in her hands. This was her first summer with a fly rod, and she has skills! Within 10 minutes or so, she caught a beautiful native brookie out of the lake. She caught two in total, and had one slip off the line. We were all ecstatic for her! After the successful break, we packed up and continued on the trail. 

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With the high we were all feeling from being out together, getting to know one another, and completing a trail a lot of us had been wanting to do for a while, we ended up missing a sharp uphill turn that takes us up to Gilpin Lake, the ultimate destination for the loop. Without noticing we continued traversing along the ridge and ran into some other hikers who alerted us to our mistaken route.. It was a beautiful detour, but it added a couple of extra miles to our already long hike. A few of us got frustrated, but with some encouragement from the rest of the group and another snack break, we continued on with pride.

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The hike up the mountain to crest over Gilpin Lake was the most challenging part of the loop. We naturally spread out a little due to different hiking paces, and took a few rests on the way up. We came across some snow, and trudged across it,nearly missing the path again! However, the last several hundred yards, we could tell we were nearing the top! We were all in awe as we crested the ridge, looking out over Gilpin Lake. One of the most beautiful views I have ever seen. e all caught our breath, and with renewed excitement, continued the hike down towards the lake with the incredible view in front of us the whole way. 

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The trail at this point was mostly visible, but there were several large patches of snow heading down the slope. Caitlin, being the fun, adventurous person that she is, decided to slide down both of the slopes, making it a much quicker way down to the bottom of the bowl. It was very entertaining for the rest of the group watching her slide down!

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After reaching the lake we took a short moment to view its crystal clear waters and feel the fresh water on our hands. Due to our accidental detour, we unfortunately didn’t have much time to spend at Gilpin Lake. But, we certainly took in the view for a while with another snack break. 

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On the way down, we separated out into smaller groups, based on our paces. The hike down the Zirkel Circle was beautiful, and the sun was shining brightly! As we made our way back to the trailhead, we were wondering how long we would have to wait for the remaining two participants who were in the back. But, suddenly we heard something behind us, and Misty and Rebecca were running down the trail to catch up! Misty and Rebecca were our oldest participants, and did an amazing job the entire day! This was the longest hike they had ever done in one day. We were all so proud of them for completing such a long hike, all with a smile!

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Overall, our Zirkel Circle hike experience was certainly unforgettable. It is officially my favorite Colorado hike, and I can’t wait to do it again. Our slight mishaps were a great learning experience for us all, pushing each of us out of our comfort zones.The support that women bring to each other is unstoppable, and this is what I love about Rocky Mountain Sportswomen. Now, who’s ready for Zirkel Circle Hike 2020?!

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Special thanks to both Sweetwood Smokehouse and Altitude Snacks for supporting our cause and providing us with trail fuel for the day!

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Fly Tying Pint Night 2019 Recap

In May, Rocky Mountain Sportswomen held a Fly Tying Pint Night at Storm Peak Brewing Company in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. After several weeks of preparation, we were excited for this collaboration event. The response it received was overwhelming.

The idea sparked from an Instagram post from Colorado Women Flyfishers, sharing their recent fly tying night. I reached out to them and had a wonderful conversation with the woman whom helped organize the event. I told her I had been wanting to do something similar here in Steamboat. She helped me come up with some ideas to put together our own Rocky Mountain Sportswomen fly tying night. Colorado Women Flyfishers is based out of Denver and has been around for many years! We hope to do an event together in the future. Check them out!

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I connected with a few Colorado Chapter Leaders from Project Healing Waters, a National organization that helps heal wounded veterans and active military through fly fishing. We developed the idea to donate all the flies that are tied at the event to Project Healing Waters, more specifically for their annual women’s trip. I am really excited to have partnered up with them, and hope to do more events with them in the future. Read more about what they do here!

Wes from Steamboat Flyfisher was a major help in bringing all the gear together. we were able to borrow 25 fly tying vices from the Steamboat Springs Middle School Fly Fishing Club. Wes also donated materials from the shop and his own time to help teach us the art of fly tying. Alice Tesar, a guide from Steamboat Flyfisher, and April Lassiter were also gracious enough to donate their time to help teach us ladies how to tie zebra midges and San Juan worms.

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On the night of the event, Storm Peak Brewing was a bustling place.we had three tables reserved for us. Our bartender, Abby, was incredibly nice, and handled the busy night very well. She is now a Rocky Mountain Sportswomen fan, and hopefully, soon-to-be participant! The beer tasted great as we got the materials set up for our ladies. Overall we had twenty six participants. There were a lot of new faces that hadn’t participated in any of our events yet. We all started off with San Juan worms, which is a pretty basic and easy fly to start with. They are fairly effective too! After getting some practice in, we moved on to the zebra midge, another popular, yet simple fly. It was incredible to see the sense of pride on everyone’s faces at their ability to tie their own fly. Overall, I believe there was a lot learned during this clinic, considering the majority of the ladies who attended, including myself, had never tied flies before.

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With donations from Steamboat Flyfisher, BAP, Straightline Sports, and Umpqua, we were able to do some fun giveaway prizes for the ladies who came out! With so much support and positive feedback,  This event has me feeling excited for future Rocky Mountain Sportswomen events. Each event seems to be better than the last.

As we all get ready for summer, Jaime and I have a ton of ideas for Rocky Mountain Sportswomen events. Stay tuned for announcements of our upcoming events. If you have any ideas, or may know someone who would like to connect and help put on an event, please reach out! We are always open to new ideas and connections, and want to continue to provide this outlet for women to get into fishing and/or hunting.

Ladies on Ice! 2019 Ice Fishing Outing Recap

April 7th, 2019 was a day to remember! It was the day of our very first outing as Rocky Mountain Sportswomen. With the ice fishing season quickly coming to an end I wanted to make a solid effort on squeezing this event in before it was too late. This was also the perfect time to renew fishing licenses since the 2019 season started on April 1st. The rangers at Stagecoach State Park were generous enough to reserve 20 rods, a couple of gas augers, and some bait for us to use. The week of the event, I was starting to get nervous about the amount of ice on the lake, and the accessibility for getting out there safely. However, the ice remained about 18-20 inches thick, with some slush on the top. Thankfully the weather was beautiful, warm, and sunny, and encouraged us to tough it out and trudge through the slush with our high top water boots. Thank goodness for those.

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Walking onto the ice was a little bit nerve racking with the surprise of stomping through slush, but we managed to find some hard spots to set some chairs up and start drilling holes. We were even able to stomp through some holes that had been made before and froze over again. Shout out to our buddies Mike and Jarrett for drilling some extra holes for us with the augers! After the nervousness and anxiety of walking onto the ice wore off a bit, we handed out some rigged up poles and started fishing! The young girls that joined us with their mothers were superstars and had a blast scooping out the ice chunks in the holes. A few of them even felt the thrill of a fish biting the bait. It was so amazing seeing these girls sharing this new experience with their mothers. They were hands on the whole time and even braved holding some of the fish that were caught throughout the day.

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The first fish caught was by Lauren! This was her first time ice fishing as well, and you could see the excitement in her face! I was so happy to see she was the first to catch one. That moment, in my mind, was what made me feel like the event was a complete success. Caitlin, one of our most experienced ice fisher out there, caught several, and was a huge help teaching different techniques and tying rigs. Several of us went empty handed, but still had an amazing time sharing the company of new friends, enjoying the sun, and experiencing this adventure together. Jaime even caught a crawfish!

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We are so excited about the community we are building among us Sportswomen here in the Colorado Rockies. The goal is to encourage each other, teach and learn together, and have fun! This was a great event, and we are looking forward to many more summer activity outings this year, and for a winter full of more ice fishing together! If you ever have any ideas, suggestions, or would like to help host an event, please contact us. We are open to all ideas, and are always looking to grow.

I would like to give a special thanks to Stagecoach State Park for their support in this new journey as a sisterhood we are taking on!

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