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This week’s Fun & Free highlights include guided hiking, the chance to eat hotdogs and climb on fire trucks, a movie about a the slightly crazy idea of kayaking off of Niagara Falls and the chance to learn more about mushrooms.

Learn more about mushrooms at the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens exhibit Mushrooms, Keys to Kindom Fungi. Featuring 30 photographs of mushrooms (the fruiting bodies of fungi), taken by Northern California naturalists, John Whittlesey and Jennifer Jewell, this informative exhibit is open daily from 11am to 4pm through August 30. For more information call 970-476-0103

Nature and its flora and fauna also takes center stage on Friday, August 19, at Vail gallery Art On A Whim, which hosts a 6pm open house in the Vail Village location at 227 Bridge Street on how wilderness influences the work of local artists. This will also be an opportunity to learn about the campaign to secure permanent protection for over 58,000 acres of public lands near Vail.

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On Saturday, August 20, leave the art and the exhibitions behind and head into a personal encounter with nature yourself with a guided hike starting at 9am hosted by the Continental Divide Coalition that takes participants in the proposed Spraddle Creek Wilderness area. This moderate hike begins in an aspen forest and climbs up to an absolutely stunning meadow with views of Vail Resort. Hikers who complete the 7 mile loop will have a better understanding why this landscape is deserving of Wilderness designation. To register for this free hike and for more information, go here.

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Also on Saturday The Eagle River Fire Protection District hosts an 11am open house. Join Eagle River Fire Protection District firefighters for a fun day of kids activities, preparedness and safety information, and free hot dogs at their 195 Pine Street location in Minturn.

Wrap up your Saturday and this week’s Fun & Free things to do with a free showing of Chasing Niagara. This engrossing movie documents professional kayaker Rafa Ortiz’s dream of paddling over Niagara Falls. His odyssey spans three years, and takes him and his team from the from the rainforest rivers of Mexico to the towering waterfalls of the U.S. Northwest. This free show is hosted at Little Beach Park in Minturn, with the doors opening at 7pm.

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