Sarah and I camped a couple weekends ago on Rollins Pass west, or the Winter Park side of Rollins pass. It was a spot we’ve visited before. Easy to get to, absolutely beautiful and a great way to beat the heat in a particularly scorching Colorado July. This shot is taken from our campsite, which I reckon was about 500 feet below treeline or so.
We hadn’t been up there in a couple years, and despite being aware of the widespread pine beetle problem throughout Colorado, I was shocked at the extent of the damage in Winter Park. I’m no expert, but from the look of it there will be no pine trees left in the whole park within a few years (I’m using the word “park” here in the Colorado mountain sense, as in “South Park”. Look it up). Just about all of the trees at Winter Park ski resort are dead, for example. This means that there were several areas of Rollins west that were being clear cut to get the dead trees out (no doubt to avoid a wildfire). There are photos on my flickr site which illustrate this.
Again, I’m no expert, but my understanding is that the pine beetles are native to Colorado but have historically been kept in check by the winter cold. Since the winters aren’t getting as cold, the toll on the pines has been extraordinarily heavy. Aspens will probably come in to take the place of the pines, but that process will take decades. In the shorter term, Winter Park (and vast swaths of the mountainous part of the state) are going to look as though a wildfire hit. This means that we probably only have a few more years to enjoy this campsite in its current state.