Leadville Life

Cell Service Connected: Fremont Pass to Leadville

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GOOD NEWS for Highway 91 commuters and travelers!! The new Verizon cell phone tower located atop Fremont Pass at the Climax Mine has been officially “plugged in” to Leadville Today. This communications upgrade will provide cell service from Fremont Pass into Leadville. Yesterday, emergency personnel, including deputies from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office tested the service – with success! Leadville Today readers also tested the new service and reports indicate 4G reception at the top of Fremont Pass. It’s good to know that travelers will be able to communicate quicker, especially since this area sees its share of accidents. Photo: Leadville Today/Kathy Bedell

Sunday Fun Day at the Leadville Fish Hatchery

For many visitors and locals, thoughts of the Leadville National Fish Hatchery are generally ignited during the fair-weather months. Summertime at the hatchery brings new aquatic life with full lakes and greenery along well-worn paths. And the hatchery’s fall foliage is something quite spectacular, bringing thousands back to the area year after year.


From snowshoeing and skiing to roasting marshmallows for s’mores, it’s Winter Fun Day at the Leadville Fish Hatchery this Sunday! Photo: Friends of the Fish Hatchery.

However, this national historic site looks just as good in its winter whites, and this Sunday there will be a special opportunity to enjoy the local treasure. Join the Friends of the Leadville National Fish Hatchery for a guided outing, Winter Fun Day at the Leadville National Fish Hatchery on February 11 at 1 p.m. 

Participants can choose whether to snow shoe, cross country ski, or walk depending on snow conditions. They should have their own equipment, water for hydrating during the excursion, and appropriate clothing for conditions.

Gather in the hatchery parking lot at 1 p.m. to get organized before heading out on the jaunt. Afterwards, meet at a campfire to enjoy hot drinks and s’mores provided by the Friends of the Hatchery. Contact Judy Cole at 719-293-1829 for additional information.

Also Hatchery lovers should be sure to tune in tomorrow for a special post about the new building going up at the hatchery, including some time-lapse images taken along the way. This is a building that the community can really be proud of – wait until you see it! And then make plans to go and see it yourself on Sunday, Feb. 11. The Leadville National Fish Hatchery is located at 2846 Hwy 300. Head south out of Leadville, keep an eye out for the little red schoolhouse and turn right at Saturday’s Discount store onto Hwy 300, taking it straight out to the facility..

New Building Nears Completion at Hatchery

If you’re a frequent visitor to the Leadville National Fish Hatchery then you have probably seen the new building going up out at one of Leadville’s favorite spots. Be sure to tune into Leadville Today tomorrow to read the full report including time lapsed photos and video plus an interview with Ed Stege about what the new structure’s purpose will be – and that’s no #FishTale.

Hatchery New Building

Stay tuned to tomorrow’s post to read the story about the new building being erected at the Leadville National Fish Hatchery. Photo: Leadville Today/Kathy Bedell

Dogs in High Places: How Altitude Affects Canines

By Mary Jelf, Leadville Today Contributor

Mountain enthusiasts are aware of the possibility of altitude sickness for themselves, but how often do we think of this possibility for the pets that accompany us on the journey? 


Dogs, like people can be affected by the altitude. Be aware of the signs your pooch could be suffering from Leadville’s 10,200 feet. Photo: Leadville Today.

It turns out that dogs (yes, cats, too) can be affected by the thinner air and lower oxygen levels in much the same way as humans. Some dogs may show no adverse effects from an ascent, but it is always prudent to keep eyes open for changes in your dog’s behavior and potential signs of distress.

In humans, altitude sickness can cause fatigue, dizziness, headache, thirst, and nausea.  Dogs don’t use words to tell us they are feeling ill, so we must watch them closely for symptoms.  Here’s what to look for:

  • easy tiring
  • excessive panting
  • less interest in food
  • vomiting
  • excessive drooling
  • coughing that sounds dry
  • sudden collapse
  • lack of coordination or stumbling
  • lethargy or an unwillingness to move

In extreme cases, a dog’s gums may be pale or turn blue, he may have a fever, or his pulse may be rapid. His feet and maybe even his face may swell and there may be bleeding from his nose and eyes.

If your dog does seem sick, how can you tell if it is due to the altitude or something else?  Think to when the symptoms started. If your dog is generally healthy but got sicker as you travelled higher, the altitude is a likely cause.  Most often, altitude sickness starts above 8000 feet, with problems more likely above the 11,500 feet threshold.

Lundell Memorial Dog Walk 2

Dogs big and tall, and long and small, are affected by high altitude. Make sure that your best friend has everything they need to enjoy that walk or hike! Photo: Leadville Today

What should you do if you think your dog is suffering?  First, encourage your pet to drink water to rehydrate. Some dogs won’t drink more in response to dehydration, so switching from a dry kibble to a wet food can help them get more moisture.  Provide rest time to help with temporary recovery.  Move to a lower elevation, because that is ultimately the only thing that will solve this problem.  Then, keep monitoring your pet’s symptoms and seek veterinary help if they persist.

Dr. Dennis Linemeyer has been practicing veterinary medicine at the Leadville Veterinary Clinic since 1972.  He says he rarely gets calls from dog owners about high altitude sickness, probably because most pet owners recognize the symptoms in their animals and are prepared to take measures to help them get better.  He clarified that fatigue when arriving at high altitudes is caused by the body needing to take some time and extra energy to produce extra red blood cells to efficiently process the thinner air. 

Dr. Linemeyer

Dr. Dennis Linemeyer (center) looks out over the Leadville Ski Joring course where he is the official vet-on-duty for the annual Wild West Show on historic Harrison Avenue. Dr. Linemeyer can be found at the Leadville Vet Clinic down on Front Street.

How can you prevent or lessen bad effects of altitude?  Some effects can be lessened by gradual acclimation to elevation.  Driving into the mountains, instead of flying, can help with a slower transition, as can stopping for a day or two at a mid-level destination.  For example, spending a day nearer to Denver, at 5280 feet, before continuing on to higher elevations can be a great way to take the change more gradually.

After you arrive at your destination, take it easy at first.  If moving to a mountain area, take your pet on easy hikes first, then slowly build their endurance.  Their body’s blood will change in response to the new environment.  Be extra vigilant if you already know your pet has heart or lung problems.  Be aware that if visiting during the summer months, the heat and intense sun can compound the effects of altitude.  Watch over time, because each outing can be different.

It is also a good idea to be very familiar with your pet’s regular habits.  How far and long can they usually walk?  How much do they usually drink?  What color are his gums under normal circumstances?  It is the changes in behavior that will indicate to you something is wrong.

When planning a hike or other mountain adventure, think ahead.  Watch the weather.  Pack enough water and snacks for both you and your dog.  Map and know your route.  Have a plan for emergency action.  Could you carry your dog down the trail if needed? Would you be willing to change your plans to take care of your sick animal?  If you are uncertain about it at all, it might be best to leave your dog at home to be safe.

Dr. Linemeyer stressed the importance of owners knowing their pet’s medical conditions, especially with regard to potential heart problems like murmurs or leaks.  Some dogs (and some breeds of cattle) can be prone to developing HAPE – High Altitude Pulmonary Edema – which can be life threatening.  Animals with those conditions would be best left at lower altitudes to minimize further risks to their health. 

Lead Vet Clinic

Leadville Veterinary Clinic is located at 728 Front Street.

He also reiterated that when an animal is showing distress in this way, the best way to help get them well is to get them down to a lower elevation. 

Dogs love to hike and can be a great addition to a fun mountain adventure.  We owe it to our four legged friends to take as much care for them as we do all of our companions.  The key is to be vigilant and have a plan in case of trouble

In conclusion, if you are concerned about your pet’s health, you can contact Dr. Dennis Linemeyer of Leadville Veterinary Clinic at 719-486-1487.  Emergency care is often available and instructions for contacting Dr. Linemeyer after hours are available when you call the office line.  The clinic is located at 728 Front Street in Leadville, Colorado.  

LT Contributor Mary Jelf practices living joyously in the high country. She relies upon beginner’s luck and the kindness of strangers. Some days she turns thoughts into words to share to make the world a better place.  She would like to attribute the following links which provided great resources for this article. 

One, Two, Three Bats at the Fish Hatchery?!

By Mary Jelf, Leadville Today Contributor

On a recent moonlit night, a group of volunteers gathered in the cool air, armed with lawn chairs and clickers to gaze at the wall of the Leadville National Fish Hatchery, to observe and count bats.

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Bat Counters sit at the ready with clickers in hand waiting for the bats to leave their roost in the ceiling of the Leadville National Fish Hatchery building and be counted. Photo: Leadville Today/Mary Jelf

There is a maternity roost of little brown bats in the top of the historic building where bats hang and keep each other warm during the day.  Around twilight, they leave the roost in search of food, which is generally insects.  According to Jeni Windorski of the US Forest Service (USFS), each bat can eat its own weight in insects every night, making them very useful in keeping the insect population in check.

Why count the bats?  To keep an eye on changes in their population numbers.  The Myotis lucifugus species is being affected by a disease called white nose syndrome, which started in the Eastern US, but is spreading westward.  By counting bats at different locations during their summer residency, the USFS can work to identify what factors may change how they live.

Bats tend to roost in high parts of buildings, caves, and mines.  Windorski reported that when places are found to have bats, efforts are made to keep those spaces open for the animals with bat gates and other methods.  When the roof at the fish hatchery building was recently updated, the new design took into account the need for bats to enter and exit from both sides of the building.

Lin Denham participated in a bat count recently at another location where her post only counted two bats.  “I wanted to see more bats,” she replied, when asked why she came back for another round.

In addition to actually counting the bats, Windorski also sets up an SM2 Bat Song Meter, generically known as a “bat detector”, to record their ultrasonic echolocations.  These vibrations are not audible to humans, but can be analyzed in a lab to identify bat species by their unique signature.  If we could actually hear this, it would be loud like a smoke alarm.  During the count, Windorski also uses a device that picks up the ultrasonic waves and translates them into a frequency we can hear as clicks.  There is a ramping up of clicks just before a bat emerges from the roost to help with a successful exit. Windorski says that there is also a rev of clicks when a bat gets close to prey.  They send extra clicks to hone in on an insect, then knock it unconscious with their wings, catch it in the membrane that stretches between their legs and tail (the uropatagium), and scoop it into their mouths.

Bat Detector_Fish Hatchery_Mary Jelf_Leadville Today

Doesn’t everyone have one? The SM2 Bat Song Meter.

When counting bats, one must be vigilant and not count the ones that circle back and roost near the exit for a time.  They come out as singles, or in groups of two or three.  It can also be tricky not to count bats that exit from one side of the building, but then cross over to the other side.  The trick is to keep your eye right on the exit point, then make just one click per bat. 

During the count, observers noted that some bats were exiting sooner than expected, when conditions were lighter.  Windorski noted that sometimes scouts are sent out before the rest of the colony to check conditions and report back.  It also could be caused by hunger, since a big storm the night before may have cut short their feeding time.

The count ends when it is either too dark to see the bats or after ten minutes pass from the last bat seen.  The numbers from clickers at each exit point are added and average to get an accurate number.  The number from this count was 499 bats.  This is lower than the 811 bats counted earlier in the summer, which is normal.

“The babies are mostly grown now, which would mean less total bats here, “said Windorski.  “The cooler weather can also cause an earlier start to migration.”

After an evening paying such close attention to bats and learning about their habits, it was interesting to note that they live this way, each and every day, whether visitors to the fish hatchery – or counters with clickers – are there to notice or not. 

LT Contributor Mary Jelf practices living joyously in the high country. She relies upon beginner’s luck and the kindness of strangers. Some days she turns thoughts into words to share to make the world a better place.advice from a bat



Ranchers Benefit from Conservation Knowledge

By Mary Jelf, Leadville Today Contributor

Ranchers, small landowners, and Rockies Rock school kids recently attended an educational pasture walk sponsored by the Lake County Conservation District and hosted at the ranches of Mary Smith and Ray and Joan Dawson.

Dawson Pasture Walk_Jelf

Ranchers and community members enjoyed the recent Pasture Walk at Lake County’s historic Mary Smith Ranch and the Ray and Joan Dawson Ranch (pictured here). The tour was led by the the Lake County Conservation District. Photo: Leadville Today/Mary Jelf

Bill Gardiner and Josh Tashiro from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) facilitated the tours and discussion. At the NRCS, their job is to work with private landowners on plans to create conditions for optimal harmony between plants, animals, and the goals of the landowner.  This form of land management involves intentional rotation of grazing animals on small parts of a larger pasture system.  The scheduling controls the disruption of the natural growing of the plants and allows the plants time to regrow and flourish before the next grazing period.  Animals are used as the harvesting system to do the kind of work needed, exactly when and where it is wanted by the landowner.  The advantage of using animals for this purpose is that they end up well fed with just a fence and maybe a whistle, while machines require gas, maintenance, and paid workers to operate them.

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Bill Gardiner from the Natural Resources Conservation Service examines some of the hay in the field.

Pasture management plans begin with going to the fields and finding out what’s there.  A plant species list is compiled, and soil depth and composition are determined.  After this inventory, questions are asked to determine what has taken place to create the conditions for those plants to grow in that way.  Then there are conversations to understand the owner’s time, knowledge, lifestyle, and desires for the land.  Finally, a plan can be made to optimize the natural processes of growth with all of those factors in mind.

Gardiner cautioned against using the word “weed” when discussing any particular plant, because people tend to use that word to name anything they don’t want.  Assigning some plants as “good” and others as “bad” is just philosophical, depending on what someone wants to see or what animals want to eat.  Tashiro also cautioned on removing any particular plant from a system based on a single characteristic, without understanding how that plant works with the others in the system. For instance, some plants might not be highly palatable for animals, but may help with water infiltration or prevent soil erosion.  Removing everything initially thought of as a “weed” could have unforeseen consequences.  The functioning of the pasture system as a whole is more important that any one piece, such as a particular plant species.  It is more useful to work toward conditions that you do want, rather than working to eliminate what you do not.

Participants were able to learn about these practices first-hand from walking the ranches with the owners and the conservationists. On Mary Smith’s ranch, she explained that there are three different pasture areas.  Currently four horses and four burros graze in two of the three areas.  As the group walked the land (and were reminded to stay away from the burros), they noticed differences in the three pastures.  They determined which differences were related to climate factors like moisture, which were related to grazing, and which were related to the work Smith had done in clearing out areas formerly full of debris. Pasture Walk_Barbed WireGardiner explained that since only a few animals had range over a large area with a wide variety of plants, the animals could be very picky about eating only their favorite plants for most of the time they were there.  As the “desirable” plants were eaten down, other plants flourished and made it harder for the desirable plants to regrow well.  Smith learned that by dividing each pasture into even smaller plots and grazing animals on the smaller plots for shorter periods of time before moving them, animals would have to eat down a wider variety of plants and the whole system would regrow differently when the animals were moved.

In comparison, the Dawson Ranch is mostly left to grow on its own until cutting time.  There is also a smaller section where three horses graze for a few months in the summer.  Standing on the fence line between two areas, it was striking to see that the plants on the untouched side were taller and more expressed, and that there were more different kinds of species on the grazed side.  As the curious horses wandered over to the group, participants watched them graze their favorite grasses from in between the other species, which apparently were able to take hold from the continued mowing down of the tastier grasses.  Mr. Dawson was interested in the idea of dividing the grazing portion of his land into even smaller parcels and limiting the time animals spent in each area to see how that would affect regrowth and variety of species.

The services the NRCS offers to land owners are free, and can even include financial assistance in purchasing fencing necessary to implement the plan.  More about their work can be found at their website, www.co.nrcs.usda.gov.

Dawson Pasture Walk_Kids_Jelf

Ranchers, landowners, and Rockies Rock school kids recently attended an educational pasture walk at the Dawson Ranch (pictured) sponsored by the Lake County Conservation District.

LT Contributor Mary Jelf practices living joyously in the high country. She relies upon beginner’s luck and the kindness of strangers. Some days she turns thoughts into words to share to make the world a better place.

One response to “Leadville Life

  1. Nice writeup for Edith Seppi. She was the best “love Leadville” you could have. Dee Roe

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