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Ranger-led snowshoe hikes return to Rocky Mountain National Park



Ranger-led snowshoe hikes return to Rocky Mountain National Park

After a long hiatus due to the COVID pandemic, ranger-led snowshoe hikes are once again taking place in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Park Ranger Sue Langdon recalled the last time she led a snowshoe hike in 2020 on the day the park was shut down for two months due to the pandemic.

“It was March 15,” she remembered. “By the time I got back down to the Visitor Center, it was closed down. It was a very weird day.”

This month, the ranger-led snowshoe hikes started back up.

“It’s great to be doing it again,” Langdon commented.

I recently joined Langdon and a group of 15 people for a trek around Bear Lake and Nymph Lake on a glorious bluebird- sky day.

We kept six feet apart and started up the moraine by Bear Lake, stopping along the way for talks by Langdon about proper snowshoeing techniques and winter ecology information.

Wendy Rigby, Estes Park Trail-Gazette

Snowshoers enjoy an overlook that provides a wonderful view of Bear Lake and the mountain backdrop beyond.

We circled back around to a tremendous overlook that provided a wonderful view of Bear Lake and the mountain backdrop beyond. Then we started up a much steeper trail up to Nymph Lake.

The temperature at the Bear Lake Trailhead had been 21 degrees. A fierce wind was blowing by the time we got to beautiful Nymph Lake where the ranger said the wind chill was probably hovering around zero. It was, indeed, the coldest hike I have taken in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Ranger led snowshoe hikes return to Rocky Mountain National Park

Wendy Rigby, Estes Park Trail-Gazette

A snowshoer enjoy an overlook that provides a wonderful view of Bear Lake and the mountain backdrop beyond.

On the way back down from Nymph, we stopped at another overhang of Bear Lake and we watched people walking across the glorious frozen landscape.

Total mileage was only about a mile-and-a-half, but it was still enough of a workout to be enjoyable.

“You need to know what you’re doing to go on up to Dream or Emerald Lake,” Langdon said. “You may have been there many times, in the summer, but it’s not the same place in the winter.”

Several of the participants were from Front Range communities.

“I just really wanted to snowshoe,” commented Karen Pirello who drove from Aurora for the experience. “I haven’t done it up in the mountains for so long with COVID. I just love the quite. The national park looks completely different in the winter. It’s just a whole different character in the winter than in the summertime.”

Pirello noted that even though she has been showshoeing for many seasons, she learned new aspects about showshoeing that she didn’t know before.

“I learned a lot I didn’t know about nature, too,” she added. “It was definitely worth it. By the time I go home, it will have been a round trip of 200 miles.”

The park used to offer intermediate snowshoe hikes, but with snow levels are not high enough to offer those anymore.

“This is a beginners’ hike,” Langdon explained. “Sometimes folks want to learn about winter ecology. Other times, they just want to be out there snowshoeing with somebody so they don’t have to worry about getting lost. For others, it is their one winter adventure to go on a snowshoe walk with a ranger every year.”

1643462790 919 Ranger led snowshoe hikes return to Rocky Mountain National Park

Wendy Rigby, Estes Park Trail-Gazette

The view near Bear Lake during a ranger-led snowshoe hike in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Rangers used to lead snowshoe hikes around Sprague Lake also, but the snow is no longer consistent enough there.

“That’s part of the overall climate change,” Langdon pointed out. “It’s just not getting as much snow. On the west side, the Kawuneeche Valley still gets a lot of snow, so that’s a great place if you truly want to be in those flat areas.”

Langdon has worked in Rocky Mountain National Park for the last three decades. She has been leading snowshoe hikes in Rocky since 1996.


Defenders of Ukrainian steel mill declare mission complete



Defenders of Ukrainian steel mill declare mission complete


KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — The regiment that doggedly defended a steel mill as Ukraine’s last stronghold in the port city of Mariupol declared its mission complete Monday after more than 260 fighters, including some badly wounded, were evacuated and taken to areas under Russia’s control.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the evacuation to separatist-controlled territory was done to save the lives of the fighters who endured weeks of Russian assaults in the maze of underground passages below the hulking Azovstal steelworks. He said the “heavily wounded” were getting medical help.

“Ukraine needs Ukrainian heroes to be alive. It’s our principle,” he said. An unknown number of fighters stayed behind to await other rescue efforts.

The steel mill’s defenders got out as Moscow suffered another diplomatic setback in its war with Ukraine, with Sweden joining Finland in deciding to seek NATO membership. And Ukraine made a symbolic gain when its forces reportedly pushed Russian troops back to the Russian border in the Kharkiv region.

Still, Russian forces pounded targets in the industrial heartland of eastern Ukraine known as the Donbas, and the death toll, already many thousands, kept climbing with the war set to enter its 12th week on Wednesday.

Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said 53 seriously wounded fighters were taken from the Azovstal plant to a hospital in Novoazovsk, east of Mariupol. An additional 211 fighters were evacuated to Olenivka through a humanitarian corridor.

She said an exchange would be worked out for their return home. Officials also planned to keep trying to save the fighters who remained inside.

“The work to bring the guys home continues, and it requires delicacy and time,” Zelenskyy said.

Before Monday’s evacuations from the steelworks began, the Russian Defense Ministry announced an agreement for the wounded to leave the mill for treatment in a town held by pro-Moscow separatists. There was no immediate word on whether the wounded would be considered prisoners of war.

After nightfall Monday, several buses pulled away from the steel mill accompanied by Russian military vehicles. Maliar later confirmed that the evacuation had taken place.

“Thanks to the defenders of Mariupol, Ukraine gained critically important time to form reserves and regroup forces and receive help from partners,” she said. “And they fulfilled all their tasks. But it is impossible to unblock Azovstal by military means.”

The commander of the Azov Regiment, which led the defense of the plant, said in a prerecorded video message released Monday that the evacuation marked the end of the regiment’s mission.

“Absolutely safe plans and operations don’t exist during war,” Lt. Col. Denis Prokopenko said, adding that all risks were considered and part of the plan included saving “as many lives of personnel as possible.”

Elsewhere in the Donbas, the eastern city of Sievierdonetsk came under heavy shelling that killed at least 10 people, said Serhiy Haidai, the governor of the Luhansk region. In the Donetsk region, Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko said on Facebook that nine civilians were killed in shelling.

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv was rocked by loud explosions early Tuesday. Witnesses counted at least eight blasts accompanied by distant booms, and the smell of burning was apparent some time later. An Associated Press team in Lviv, which was under an overnight curfew, said the sky west of the city was lit up by an orange glow.

But Ukrainian troops also advanced as Russian forces pulled back from around the northeastern city of Kharkiv in recent days. Zelenskyy thanked the soldiers who reportedly pushed them all the way to the Russian border in the Kharkiv region.

Video showed Ukrainian soldiers carrying a post that resembled a Ukrainian blue-and-yellow-striped border marker. Then they placed it on the ground while a dozen of the soldiers posed next to it, including one with belts of bullets draped over a shoulder.

“I’m very grateful to you, on behalf of all Ukrainians, on my behalf and on behalf of my family,” Zelenskyy said in a video message. “I’m very grateful to all the fighters like you.”

The Ukrainian border service said the video showing the soldiers was from the border “in the Kharkiv region,” but would not elaborate, citing security reasons. It was not immediately possible to verify the exact location.

Ukrainian border guards said they also stopped a Russian attempt to send sabotage and reconnaissance troops into the Sumy region, some 90 miles (146 kilometers) northwest of Kharkiv.

Russia has been plagued by setbacks in the war, most glaringly in its failure early on to take the capital of Kyiv. Much of the fighting has shifted to the Donbas but also has turned into a slog, with both sides fighting village-by-village.

Howitzers from the U.S. and other countries have helped Kyiv hold off or gain ground against Russia, a senior U.S. defense official said. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the U.S. military assessment, said Ukraine has pushed Russian forces to within a half-mile to 2.5 miles (1 to 4 kilometers) of Russia’s border but could not confirm if it was all the way to the frontier.

The official said Russian long-range strikes also appeared to target a Ukrainian military training center in Yavoriv, near the Polish border. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

Away from the battlefield, Sweden’s decision to seek NATO membership followed a similar decision by neighboring Finland in a historic shift for the counties, which were nonaligned for generations.

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said her country would be in a “vulnerable position” during the application period and urged her fellow citizens to brace themselves.

“Russia has said that that it will take countermeasures if we join NATO,” she said. “We cannot rule out that Sweden will be exposed to, for instance, disinformation and attempts to intimidate and divide us.”

But President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, a NATO member, ratcheted up his objection to their joining. He accused the countries of failing to take a “clear” stance against Kurdish militants and other groups that Ankara considers terrorists, and of imposing military sanctions on Turkey.

He said Swedish and Finnish officials who are expected in Turkey next week should not bother to come if they intend to try to convince Turkey of dropping its objection.

“How can we trust them?” Erdogan asked at a joint news conference with the visiting Algerian president.

All 30 current NATO members must agree to let the Nordic neighbors join.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow “does not have a problem” with Sweden or Finland as they apply for NATO membership, but that “the expansion of military infrastructure onto this territory will of course give rise to our reaction in response.”

Putin launched the invasion on Feb. 24 in what he said was an effort to check NATO’s expansion but has seen that strategy backfire. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said the membership process for both could be quick.

Europe is also working to choke off funding for the Kremlin’s war by reducing the billions of dollars it spends on imports of Russian energy. A proposed EU embargo faces opposition from some countries dependent on Russian imports, including Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Bulgaria also has reservations.


McQuillan reported from Lviv, Ukraine. Yuras Karmanau in Lviv, Mstyslav Chernov and Andrea Rosa in Kharkiv, Elena Becatoros in Odesa and other AP staffers around the world contributed.


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Trudy Rubin: Save Odesa to save the world from hunger and high food prices



Trudy Rubin: Save Odesa to save the world from hunger and high food prices

When Russia sent hypersonic missiles into a shopping center in Ukraine’s elegant port city of Odesa last week, it was literally attacking the world.

Ukraine is known as the “breadbasket of Europe” and a global grain exporter. Eighty percent of its wheat used to ship from Odesa until Russia began blockading this major Black Sea port and targeting its civilians. Russia’s assault is the cause of soaring wheat prices that threaten starvation for many of the world’s poorest people, especially in the Middle East and Africa.

Moscow has already seized control of most of Ukraine’s coastline, including Mariupol’s port on the Sea of Azov. Smashing Odesa would virtually land-lock the country and destroy its international economy. With its maritime blockade of Odesa, Russia now controls nearly the entire northern coast of the Black Sea, contrary to international conventions.

“We didn’t have a plan for Mariupol and it fell,” retired U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, a former NATO commander, told me recently. “We still have time now to ensure Odesa doesn’t fall, leading to a landlocked Ukrainian nation. What is our plan?”

The answer to that question — what is the plan to save Odesa? — is essential to much of the world.

I put this question by WhatsApp to Oleksiy Goncharenko, Ukraine’s parliamentary representative in Kyiv, who is an Odesa native. It is essential, he said, to understand Vladimir Putin’s hypocrisy when it comes to Odesa.

“Vladimir Putin thinks the aim of his life is to protect Russian-speaking people,” Goncharenko told me, “but after Hitler, no one has killed so many Russian speakers as Putin has in Mariupol, Kharkiv, Odesa, and other Ukrainian cities.”

Never mind that the Kremlin leader seems willing to destroy Odesa — a stunning city of glorious architectural jewels — which was founded in 1794 on the orders of Russia’s Catherine the Great, who is a heroine of Putin’s.

“He realizes he can’t take Odesa by land (Ukrainian forces have successfully resisted), so he tries to destroy the infrastructure,” said Goncharenko. “Even as Putin was laying flowers on May 9 in Moscow, in honor of Odesa as a World War II hero city, he was putting a dagger in the back of Odesa with missiles.”

It boggles the mind that Putin still seems to believe some Russian speakers will welcome him in Odesa. The Russian leader attempted the same approach during his first invasion of Ukraine in 2014, when he tried to provoke unrest in Odesa. I was there at the time and witnessed the Russian-speaking inhabitants repel provocateurs from Moscow.

This time, said Goncharenko, it is the world’s moral responsibility “to secure the Black Sea (and Odesa) in order to secure world food supplies.”

“More and more people are suffering from hunger because of the Russian blockage of the Black Sea,” he continued. “It will get worse, along with prices. Hunger leads to unrest and riots.

“Russia has mined the Black Sea,” he also noted, causing insurance rates on commercial ships that enter the Black Sea to soar prohibitively.

The solution? “We need to have convoys under the flag of the United Nations which can take grain to those who need it,” contended Goncharenko. The best option “would be an international declaration of guarantee of safety for Black Sea ports.” He suggested that China (a big purchaser of Ukrainian grain), India, NATO, or a group of willing countries could guarantee the safety of the Odesa port and its export of agricultural goods.

Is this idea a pipe dream? No, said retired U.S. Adm. James Stavridis, a former supreme allied commander of NATO. “A good model,” he said, “was Operation Earnest Will, when the United States conducted escort convoys to merchant ships in the Gulf during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s.”

This time, Stavridis said, the idea would be to establish “a corridor from Istanbul across the Black Sea to Odesa.” He added he thinks “the Russians would hesitate to interfere, particularly if it was done by the U.S. or by three NATO members or put together by the International Maritime Organization.”

But in the meantime, it is essential to protect Odesa from Putin’s callous efforts to destroy the city from the air.

“We still need anti-ship missiles,” said Goncharenko. Yes, talented Ukrainians took out the Russian flagship Moskva with their own improvised Neptune missile, “but it would be very good to have Harpoons, a NATO missile.” Promised British anti-ship missiles will hopefully arrive soon. Yet there is no excuse for continued U.S. delay in helping Odesa fend off the Russian fleet with Harpoons.

And long-range anti-missile systems — either old Soviet systems or, even better, U.S. Patriot batteries, which Ukraine has begged for for months — are still not arriving. Nor are Poland’s MiG-29 planes or more modern aircraft.

The moment is now. Does the West want Odesa’s infrastructure to be destroyed, its food supplies blockaded? Or not?

Read the tweet of Charles Michel, president of the European Council, who was visiting Odesa the day the missiles hit: “I saw silos full of grain, wheat and corn ready for export. This badly needed food is stranded because of the Russian … blockade of Black Sea ports. Causing dramatic consequences for vulnerable countries. We need a global response.”

Where is the plan?

Trudy Rubin is a columnist and editorial-board member for the Philadelphia Inquirer, P.O. Box 8263, Philadelphia, Pa. 19101. Her email address is [email protected]

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Magic looking for luck to turn their way in NBA’s draft lottery



Magic looking for luck to turn their way in NBA’s draft lottery

The Orlando Magic know as well as any other team the luck and misfortune that can come with the NBA’s draft lottery.

They’re hoping luck will turn their way for the first time in over a decade during Tuesday’s 38th installment of the lottery. The lottery will start at 8 p.m. in Chicago and will be broadcast on ESPN.

The Magic were on the receiving end of a lot of luck in their infancy, winning back-to-back No. 1 picks in 1992 and ‘93 — selections that led to Orlando drafting Shaquille O’Neal and acquiring Penny Hardaway, the linchpins of the Magic’s early success in the mid-90s.

The Magic later won the ‘04 lottery, leading to the drafting of Dwight Howard, the backbone of six consecutive playoffs appearances, including the 2009 Finals.

Since then, the Magic have either stayed at or fallen from their pre-lottery positioning.

While it isn’t known if this year’s draft class will have the kind of franchise-changing prospects that could propel the Magic to similar success they’ve experienced in previous decades, better positioning in the lottery — or even winning it — would help set them up for greater success after finishing the 2021-22 season with their worst record since 2012-13.

“Our goals remain the same, which are to develop these young guys,” Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said during an interview on FM 96.9 The Game’s Open Mike with the Orlando Sentinel’s Mike Bianchi. “Everybody says you need stars in this league. Sometimes stars don’t always reveal themselves instantly.

“There are still evaluations to be made. There are still a lot of improvements that our guys have to make and that’s going to take a lot of work. And it’s going to take time. I don’t really think we recalibrate our goals going into the season. We ramp them up, we challenge our guys to get better, and from a team-building standpoint, obviously, we’ll look to add more. We’ll [soon] find out in about a month where we sit in the lottery and it’ll be an exciting offseason.”

Here are three things to know ahead of Tuesday:

Magic’s lottery odds

The Magic are tied for the best odds (14%) of winning the No. 1 pick in the draft.

With the league’s second-worst record at 22-60, Orlando has a 52.1% chance of securing a top-four pick in the June 23 draft. The pick won’t fall below No. 6.

The Magic’s odds for landing in spots No. 1-6: No. 1: 14.0%; No. 2: 13.4%; No. 3: 12.7%; No. 4: 12%; No. 5: 27.8%; No. 6: 20%.

How they’ve fared in the past

After early success with the lottery, the Magic haven’t had success moving up the draft order in their last nine tries. Here’s Orlando’s history with the lottery:

2021 — 5th (3rd in pre-lottery positioning); 2018 — 6th (6th); 2017 — 6th (5th); 2016 — 11th (11th); 2015 — 5th (5th); 2014 — 4th (3rd); 2013 — 2nd (1st); 2006 — 11th (11th); 2005 — 11th (11th); 2004 — 1st (1st); 2000 — 5th (3rd); 1998 — 12th (12th); 1993 — 1st (11th); 1992 — 1st (2nd); 1991 — 10th (10th); 1990 — 3rd (4th).

Lottery format

Drawings are done to determine the draft’s first four picks. The remainder of the lottery teams will get draft picks in spots 5 through 14 in the inverse order of their regular-season records.

Under the format that started with the 2019 draft, the team with the worst record (Houston Rockets) will receive no worse than the fifth pick.

The Magic, along with the Rockets and the Detroit Pistons — the team’s with the three-worst records — all have a 14% chance of winning the lottery under the current format.

During the previous format, the team with the worst record had a 25% of getting the No. 1 pick.


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