We made a day trip up Conundrum Creek to check things out. After twelve cow carcasses were discovered there this earlier spring, a lot of questions arose as to what this season might bring for the area. Considering the issues related to water quality and potential carnivores around the decomposing cattle, and the area’s huge popularity with destination backpackers, we were pleased to report mostly positive findings.
The trail as a whole is in great shape, the area around the hot springs has been very well cleaned up, including the old cabin where the first six cows were discovered. It was very quiet up there, particularly for a holiday. I suppose that makes sense though. There are two reported cow carcasses (we saw one) still in plain sight, but all-in-all, I’d say the ranchers to whom the cattle belonged did a very good job of cleaning up.
That said, our observations were largely superficial. As reported in the Aspen Daily News today (read here), Forest Service Rangers noted that,”Water quality tests on the hot springs pool and tributary stream revealed E. Coli and fecal coliform counts that exceed drinking water but not recreational water quality standards for both sources….”
Not surprising. That was actually the case before this recent issue with the cattle, the massive number of backpackers have lead to serious issues with sanitation and water quality. Maybe it’s possible that this recent situation with the cows might ultimately be a blessing in disguise? In other words, will the news of the cows keep people away long enough to give the area a stretch of time to naturally recover from all of the human impacts? We’ll see.