The Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA) 12th annual Rendezvous is scheduled for July 23-25, 2021 (nights of Friday, July 23 & Saturday, July 24). We will set up camp in southwest Colorado’s San Juan National Forest at the Florida Campground Group site near the Lemon Reservoir, where the first (2009) Colorado BHA Rendezvous was held.
For those who may want to camp separately, the Florida Campground also has 20 individual campsites, but none can be reserved in advance. The Transfer Park (TP) Campground (25 sites, also non-reservable) is a short drive/hike uphill from the Florida Campground. Parking for the Burnt Timber Trail is adjacent to the TP Campground. This popular trail accesses the 488,000-acre Weminuche Wilderness, Colorado’s largest wilderness area.
The 1.8-million-acre San Juan National Forest was created by proclamation of President Theodore Roosevelt on June 3, 1905. Some 100 years later (in 2005), Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers—the first BHA state chapter—was founded by David Petersen, a former U.S. Marine Corps helicopter pilot, renowned trad bow elk hunter and writer. During the first (2009) Colorado BHA Rendezvous we had 100 members statewide. As of this 12th Annual Rendezvous and we have some 2,500!
Please be aware that we are asking attendees to follow Colorado and La Plata County COVID guidelines. That said, this will be a relaxed, mostly unstructured “get acquainted” weekend. The event will begin as folks drift in Friday afternoon and evening, with an extended social hour and, weather permitting, a group campfire.
On Saturday morning (early, around 6:00 am) Colorado BHA Southwest Group Regional Director, Dan Parkinson, will lead hikes to local bighorn sheep viewpoints (see details/information below). Later in the afternoon, we’ll have a question-and-answer session (starting at 2:30 pm) with a local CPW District Wildlife Manager (tentative).
At 4:30 pm, we’ll start a general membership meeting, where we can exchange ideas, congrats, frustrations, etc. The membership meeting will be followed by a group wild game cookout, with Colorado BHA supplying sides (i.e., chips/dip) and you (members), hopefully, sharing some of your hard-earned wild game. We’ll begin breaking camp Sunday morning and afternoon.
As explained by Colorado BHA Central West Slope Regional Director Craig Grother, “The traditional format has been really great … and the Saturday evening beast feed/night glow bocci ball/extended happy hour are memorable.” If you plan to attend, please let chapter co-chair David Lien ([email protected]) know a few weeks in advance (if possible). In addition, if you are willing/able to contribute any of the following, also let David know:
- Extra water jugs to assist with extinguishing campfires.
- We always seem to come up short on propane stoves (Coleman, two-burners, will do), for group cooking.
- Again, any wild game you can contribute will be greatly appreciated.
Don’t forget to email David ([email protected]) in advance if you think you’ll join us so we know how many to plan for and let him know if you can contribute some wild game, water jugs, a propane stove or firewood. We will send out reminders as the Rendezvous weekend nears, and we’ll post announcements/notices on the BHA Events webpage, CO BHA Facebook page and on Instagram. We look forward to seeing you in camp!
San Juan National Forest Florida Campground information: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/sanjuan/recarea/?recid=42924; https://www.recreation.gov/camping/campgrounds/232214
Fishing/recreational opportunities in the area:
- Florida River: The Florida River is well known for its rainbow and brown trout fishing, but the river runs through much private land, so anglers should be careful not to trespass.
- Lost Lake and Stump Lake Trails: These trails can be accessed near the campground entrance along the East Florida Road (Forest Rd. 597) offering short, easy hikes to backcountry lakes.
- Burnt Timber Trail (No. 667): This trail begins at Transfer Park Campground, about a mile north of the campground.
- Lemon Reservoir offers great fishing and non-motorized boating opportunities.
Bighorn Sheep Hike Information:
On Saturday (July 24), Southwest Group Regional Director Dan Parkinson ([email protected]) will lead an early morning hike(s) to look for bighorn sheep. Please let Dan know in advance if you want to join the hike(s). There are two local areas to look for bighorns. One is a short half-mile hike. The other is a longer hike that cover 3 miles (one way) at elevations ranging from 10,600-11,600 ft. One or both hikes can be accommodated depending on the group preference(s).
Regardless, the group will leave camp early (6:00 am or earlier if desired) and drive from the Florida River Valley to the Pine River Valley to the north end of Vallecito Reservoir, then up the Middle Mountain Road to an area above the eastern rim of the Vallecito Creek Valley. The drive will take about an hour.
The first/shorter hike will cover about ½ mile to an area where we can glass for bighorns on the eastern edge of the rugged Endlich Mesa, a now vacant domestic sheep allotment in the heart of bighorn country. We’ll take about an hour to look for bighorns, elk and deer. This is a kid-friendly hike and a leisurely way to look for bighorns in big, beautiful country. We should be done here by 9:00 am.
For those interested in a longer hike, we’ll drive to the end of the Middle Mountain Road to the abandoned Tuckerville site (arriving around 9:30 am). From there we will hike about 3 miles on an old four-wheel-drive road to a spectacular overlook area to again glass for bighorns, this time in the heart of the S28 core home range inside the wilderness. We’ll glass while eating a leisurely lunch (you provide) for an hour or so and then hike back to the vehicles by 12:30 pm. We’ll have everyone back to camp by 2:00 pm.
Again, we can do one or both hikes depending on group preferences, weather, etc. Bring along food for lunch, good hiking shoes, binoculars and spotting scopes and dress for a possibly cold morning. Light rain gear is always a good idea (fingers crossed for some monsoon moisture in the area then!). Also, please let Dan Parkinson know in advance ([email protected]) if you want to join this hike(s).
Colorado BHA (and related) information:
- “Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers 11th Annual Rendezvous Recap.” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: 6/17/19.
- Photos from the Colorado BHA 11th Annual Rendezvous (May 31-June 2, 2019).
- “Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers End of Year Report: June-December 2020.” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: 2/8/21.
- “Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers Mid-Year Report/Update: June 2020.” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: 7/20/20.
- Check out BHA’s Take Action Center and follow along with your local chapter to stay engaged on good and bad bills in your area.
- David “Elkheart” Petersen (founder of the first BHA state chapter, here in Colorado, and a former U.S. Marine Corps helicopter pilot) books: www.davidpetersenbooks.com
Founded by Mike Beagle, a former U.S. Army field artillery officer, and formed around an Oregon campfire, in 2004, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is the voice for our nation’s wild public lands, waters and wildlife. With over 40,000 members spread out across all 50 states and 13 Canadian provinces and territories—including chapters in 48 states, two Canadian provinces and one territory, and Washington, D.C.—BHA brings an authentic, informed, boots-on-the-ground voice to the conservation of public lands. Since the Colorado BHA chapter was founded by David Petersen (a former U.S. Marine Corps helicopter pilot) in 2005 (the first official BHA chapter), they’ve grown their boots-on-the-ground presence to some 2,500 dedicated hunters and anglers.
 Directions from Bayfield: travel 9.0 miles north on County Road #501, then 3.0 miles northwest on County Road #240 and 6.0 miles north on County Road #243 to the campground entrance.