Opt to spend more time outside this summer

Friday, May 25, 2018 2:58 PM
People get outside in a San Juan Mountains Association backpacking trip in 2014.

There are many ways to be healthy. Eating right, exercising, even doing crossword puzzles. Did you know that being outside is actually another way to be healthy?

Being outside improves your physical, as well as your psychological, health in many ways. It helps everything from combating depression to increasing your brain function, to helping your eye health.

Now that you know the benefits of getting outside, I hope you can join San Juan Mountains Association for some of our amazing outdoor summer programs.

If you haven’t yet been on one of our free, guided nature hikes at Purgatory during the summer, you’re missing out. They are offered Tuesdays and Thursdays, starting June 5, and we ask people to meet at the Purgatory ticket office at 9:45 a.m. The program goes until about noon. Guests ride the chairlift to the top, hike around with a knowledgeable nature guide pointing out wildflowers, geology, trees, tracks, etc., then ride back down to the bottom. It’s a wonderful way to see our beautiful mountain environment and learn something new. No registration is necessary.

One June 16, SJMA will be joining other organizations in Montezuma County for the first Get Outdoors Montezuma! event. We’ll have fun, educational, outdoor-related activities set up in Parque de Vida in Cortez from 1 to 5 p.m., all geared toward getting young people outside. Come check it out with your kids, grandkids, friends’ kids and have fun.

SJMA is offering two teen backpacking trips this summer. The first is June 20-22 and will go along the aspen and spruce trees of the Gold Run and Bear Creek Trails north of Mancos. Deadline to register is June 17, and there will be a mandatory meeting June 18. Our second backpacking trip will be Aug. 8-10, and will follow a semi-loop encompassing Coal Creek, Engine Creek and Cascade Creek trails. Certified interpretive guide MK Gunn will lead the group into the woods for both of these hikes with plenty of time for side hikes, ecology lessons and self-reflection. Free gear rentals may be available. Suggested donation for both hikes is $75; however, no one will be turned away for inability to pay. Contact MK Gunn to sign up at

Do you like plants and critters? On July 14, Gunn will lead a Butterflies and Blooms hike near South Mineral Creek outside Silverton, and on Aug. 22, there will be an Edible Plants hike in La Plata Canyon led by Katrina Blair of Turtle Lake Refuge. If rocks are more your thing, join SJMA on a glacial geology hike at Highland Mary Lakes in Silverton on Sept. 23. There is a suggested donation of $10 for these hikes; contact Gunn.

Looking for ways to give back to your public lands? SJMA will be celebrating National Trails Day on June 16 along with Southwest Colorado Cycling Association and the BLM Tres Rios Field Office by working on the new trails at Phil’s World near Cortez (contact Kathe Hayes at July 17-18 will be our Ice Lakes Leave No Trace Focus Days. We’ll need volunteers for various duties at Ice Lakes near Silverton both these days. This is our chance to make sure every trail user understands the fragile nature of these iconic and wild lakes (contact Gunn). SJMA will host National Public Lands Day on Sept. 22 in Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, project to be announced (contact Hayes).

These programs are offered in partnership with the San Juan National Forest and BLM Tres Rios Field Office, and are supported by our members and donors. Please consider becoming a member of SJMA today. Visit for more information about benefits and donation levels.

See you on the trail!

Gabi Morey is education outreach director with San Juan Mountains Association, a nonprofit dedicated to public land stewardship and education.