How not to get eaten by wildlife
•Most Boulder County bears follow a strict fair-trade and certified-organic diet, so slathering yourself in Arby's horsey sauce is a good start to avoid becoming bear food. But to be on the safe side, here are some actual bear safety tips courtesy of the National Park service:
•Make a lot of noise. Bears don't take kindly to being surprised, so be loud, and they will usually move out of the way. Clapping your hands and yelling out "Hey Bear" (I swear, I'm not making that up), or walking in big groups are also good ideas. Anything by Phil Collins should also work but could be construed as animal cruelty by most courts.
•Bear spray is an effective and non-lethal way to deter bears. Don't keep it in your backpack though, because they aren't prone to waiting.
•Don't let bears near your food. If they get a taste for human food, they often have to be relocated or, worse, killed. If you are responsible for a bear getting killed, everyone in Boulder will be super mad at you.
•They are like house cats — the 200-pound version. Know how your house cat always seems like he's just waiting for you to fall down? Yeah.
•It is important to not go hiking by yourself. If you see a mountain lion, don't try to shake hands with it. Tying a fish to a string probably won't work either. If you run into a mountain lion, give it a way to escape. They really don't want a confrontation.
•Don't run from a mountain lion because it might decide you are a deer. Make eye contact and face the lion. Be a man.
•Don't crouch down or bend over. Lions will think you are a four-legged, tasty snack.
•Try to make yourself appear larger. If gaining 20 pounds in the next 30 seconds isn't an option, open your jacket and wave your arms. If the lion attacks you, fight back. Use a rock, sticks, your hands or good old sarcasm.
It's important to remember that these animals live here. You are just visiting. Try not to be a jerk.
It might not be summer, but that's no reason do outdoorsy stuff. Is is Colorado, after all.
Many campgrounds close during the winter, because it's inconvenient for park rangers to rescue people who thought camping on a snowy mountain in January was a good idea. It's important to not end up being an example on a "When Camping Trips Go Horribly Wrong" on basic cable.
If you want to get really hardcore, pitch a tent on the banks of Boulder Creek. This might get you a free ride to Boulder County Jail in the morning, and then you'll have a really cool "This one time in college" story.
CU also has camping equipment available for rentals ( http://bit.ly/1kocW0r), so you don't have to go to a sporting goods store and spend the last of your parents' money just to find out you'd rather stay in and order room service.
Moraine Park Campground
Nestled in a pine forest at 8,160 feet above sea level, this is the only year-round campground in Rocky Mountain National Park — and one that's certain to make you wish you had stayed in binge-watching "Twilight" movies. But it's only $18 bucks a night, so it's actually cheaper than an average movie theater ticket. Plus, it has vaulted toilets.
St. Vrain State Park
3525 Colo. 119, just east of Longmont
This park may be tucked between a highway and an interstate, but they have birds. During the winter it's mostly ducks and geese, but park officials say there are also bald eagles, hawks and great horned owls during the winter months. It's not a rough camping ground, more of a get-together-and-barbecue-then-sleep-outside kind of place. But hawks are unassailably cool and nature's flying death machines. A campsite with RV hookups costs $28 a day plus fees.
Longs Peak Campground
It's closed until spring, but it's located nine miles south of Estes Park on of Colo. 7, close to the Longs Peak trailhead. Longs Peak was recently named one of the most dangerous hikes in the world, so there's definitely bragging rights if you make it to the summit (go early). It is listed along with another hike — Mount Hua Shan in China — rumored to kill 100 hikers a year, just FYI. The campground costs $26 a night and also has vaulted toilets. Seriously, what is a vaulted toilet?
Peaceful Valley Campground
It's called Peaceful Valley, so leave your stereo at your dorm. They also have vaulted toilets (I have got to get myself one of these.) It's situated in a glacial valley next to middle St. Vrain Creek north of the town of Ward. Right now it's closed for the winter, but it usually fills up on weekends when it opens in the spring, so go early or make a reservation. It costs $19 a night.
Heaton Bay Campground
The campground is located on the shores of Dillon Lake between Frisco and Dillon in the White River National Forest. The United States Department of Agriculture says Lake Dillon is surrounded by mountains including Tenmile Range, Gore Range and the Continental Divide. The area also has opportunities for biking, hiking, fishing boating and picnicking. It costs $21 a day. It opens for business on Memorial Day weekend.
John Bear: twitter.com/johnbearwithme