Sunday, November 13, 2016

gratitude


I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual.  --Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)

I took this photo on a Thanksgiving trip to Colorado Springs a couple years ago. I kept waiting for the sidewalk to clear of visitors. It never did. But I realized it was nice to have people in the shot taking in the beauty of the Garden of the Gods with Pikes Peak in the background. Such a stunningly gorgeous place to visit!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Celebrating 150 Years


Do all the good you can, 
By all the means you can, 
In all the ways you can, 
In all the places you can, 
At all the times you can, 
To all the people you can, 
As long as ever you can. 
---John Wesley (1703-1791) minister and theologian.

The First United Methodist Church of Cañon City celebrates its 150th anniversary this year. Located at 810 Main St., the church is a beautiful and prominent fixture in downtown Cañon City. The congregation, founded in 1866, is ten years older than the state of Colorado. Read more about the anniversary celebration here.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Helen Hunt Falls


Helen Hunt Falls from the bridge above
Each year nearly 500,000 visitors venture into North Cheyenne Cañon Park, a 1,320 acre area owned by Colorado Springs. This beautiful area is west of the Broadmoor Hotel and a short trip from downtown.  It's long been a favorite destination of Springs residents for a quick get away. With so many visitors, I recommend coming midweek. On summer weekends it can be very crowded and difficult to find parking. For those new to the Springs, my other piece of advice would be to get there via Gold Camp Road. This rugged drive offers fantastic views and really gives you a sense of being far from civilization.

Cascade above Helen Hunt Falls
Helen Hunt Falls is located immediately behind the visitors center. Named for Helen Hunt Jackson (1830-1885), a writer and activist for Native American causes, the waterfall is 35 feet tall. Depending on the time of year, the falls can be anywhere from a trickle to thunderous.
Silver Cascade Falls Trail

The Silver Cascade Trail crosses over a bridge above Helen Hunt Falls and takes visitors to an overlook of Silver Cascade Falls. This out-and-back trail is 0.3 miles long (each way), with lots and lots of steps.

For a description of the park and other trails in the area, click here.

View from Silver Cascade Falls Trail
Silver Cascade Falls from Gold Camp Road

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Maroon Bells

 
Maroon Lake Looking East
If camera clicks were votes, then the Maroon Bells would likely win in a landslide. They say it's the most photographed place in Colorado, which is really saying something when you consider all of the spectacular beauty the state has to offer. It's been one of my  favorite places in the world since I visited in high school in the 1980s. It's a perfect combination of everything. The drive in heightens explanations and the rising mountains on both sides walls you in and gives an increasing sense of intimacy. The sound of the rushing creek, the calmness and reflections of the expansive lake. The softness and vibrancy of the aspen groves. And then the rugged mountains themselves. Jutting out of the valley they just look too perfect to be real. Powerful, majestic and monumental. The are framed by mountains and slopes on either side, which adds to the drama of these mammoth pyramid-shaped, trio of peaks. It's just all so perfect.

Sievers Mountain to the North
The problem is that lots of other people feel this way, too. So crowds can be an issue. To cut down on traffic in the summer months (From mid-June to early October -- this year from June 11 to Oct 4), visitors must ride the shuttle buses from 8-5 each day. But before and after those times you can drive directly to the visitors lot near the lake ($10 per vehicle fee) and those lucky enough to be camping at the Silver Bar, Silver Bell and Silver Queen Campgrounds are exempt from the busing requirement. To reserve a campsite, click here. The road closes for winter from mid-November to mid-May. More busing information here.

Pyramid Peak to the South
We arrived in the late afternoon, which wasn't the best time for photos. The Bells face east, so I recommend arriving early in the morning (7am) to avoid the bus requirement and the rush of visitors AND to get the best photos.


Maroon Creek
There are many easy trails in the vicinity of the lake. If you are in shape and want a longer hike, then take the Crater lake Trail (3.6 miles roundtrip) to visit another nearby lake. In the past, I have hiked to Willow Pass and Buckskin Pass. These are much more strenuous, all-day hikes for which you will want to be fully prepared and acclimated to the high altitudes.

Directions: The Maroon Bells are located outside of Aspen, CO. From the roundabout on Hwy 82 north of town, take the Maroon Creek spur and drive 1.5 miles to the Aspen Highlands Village for the Bus Tour. Click here for the bus schedule and fees. -- OR if off-season or off-hours, drive 19 miles to the visitors' parking area at Maroon Lake.

 
Crater Lake Trail through Aspens

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Collegiate Peaks


As we made our way to Buena Vista on Hwy 24, we came to a picnic/overlook area outside of the small community of Johnson's Village (pop. 246). It was worth the stop, giving us our first real look at the Collegiate Peaks, a section of the Sawatch Range that were given names after prominent universities: Princeton, Yale, Columbia, Harvard and Oxford. They are among the tallest mountains in Colorado, all in excess of 14,000 feet (see Wiki page).

In the foreground of the lower photo you can see the Buena Vista KOA where we stayed. It's one of the best KOAs I've ever visited, clean, well run, with great amenities. We rented a cabin for the night and didn't want to leave. :)

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Hartsel Jail


Driving through the remote town of Hartsel, we came across this scene. Not exactly sure what this is about, but thought it was funny. Hartsel is known as "The Heart of Colorado" for its proximity to the geographical center of the state. Founded in 1880, Hartsel sits at an elevation of 8864 ft and has a population of 677. Wish I had taken some photos of the flat, wide-open plains (with distant mountain views) in this part of the state. Not exactly what I expected to find in central Colorado. Very beautiful, but remote. Click here to see a Google 'street view' of the area east of town.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Pathfinder Regional Park


The Pathfinder Regional Park is a fairly new addition to the area (2007), with the Cañon City, Florence and Fremont County governments working together to create this 178 acre park. Multiple grants from the Great Outdoors Colorado and the Gates Foundation as well as local donations and the work of volunteers helped to make it a reality. The park has fields for soccer and flag football, miles of trails, picnic pavilion, playground, rodeo arena, fishing pond and Arkansas River access. The name is a reference to the nickname of John C. Fremont, for whom Fremont County is named, because of his expeditions exploring and mapping the West between 1838 and 1854.

At the entrance of the park stands this imposing 20-foot-tall, 4,000-pound statue of Fremont, constructed in 2013 by sculptor Sheldon Roberts.

The park is located on Hwy 115 between Cañon City and Florence, 2 miles east of MacKenzie Ave.

Monday, June 20, 2016

full of character


Talents are best nurtured in solitude, but character is best formed in the stormy billows of the world. 
--Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) German author.

Pictured here are scenes from a stormy day in beautiful Westcliffe, CO. I was just happy the views of the mountains weren't completely shrouded in clouds the day we visited. Pictured here are Hope Lutheran Church (top, built in 1917), a view of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains from the Bluff and Summit Park on the south of town,  and the historic Westcliffe School (below, built in 1891) which now serves as the Westcliffe Museum. Street view here. A rainy day in Westcliffe is better than a sunny day most anywhere else.


Click here for a website sharing other historic buildings of Custer County.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Bishop's Castle


Unreal. This place is absolutely unreal. Insane. Walk around the castle and you'll see looks of complete disbelief on peoples' faces. What in the world... There's also a real sense giddiness in the air. A playful and joyous spirit among those winding their way up and down narrow, spiraling staircases. You can't help to wonder what's around the corner. Jim Bishop, the castle builder, has been constructing this unfinished wonder for the past 47 years and welcomes visitors to wander around his construction site. To me, visiting here was like coming down the stairs on Christmas morning. It's a magical, unbelievable experience.

Eccentric. Nonconformist. Dissident. Other words that come to mind. All around are signs, literal signs, of his ongoing battle with government authorities over stones taken from federal lands, over signs posted on roads, over zoning and licensing requirements, and on and on. Clearly he's had some run-ins with government and there is no love lost. Here is a man who loves freedom and the right to create and think and do and share as he pleases. Entering the property you are told that you are responsible for your own safety and that there are many risks. So different from every other tourist destinations where ropes and caution tape and barricades limit and protect. Here, the rules are simple: sign the guest book, read the signs and agree with me on everything. And no drunks.  With the castle turrets souring 160 feet in the air and mesh-wire balconies with wide-open ledges, it's best to be sober.

What I loved most about visiting was the playfulness of the place. I'm not good with heights but the castle just encourages you to explore, to climb to the next level. Such a creative mind to top the castle with a giant steel ball that you can climb into -- or a fire breathing dragon on the front. It's unfinished and some parts are rough, but it really is a remarkable accomplishment to be the work of one man. It's definitely worth the drive. Admission is free, donations are welcome. I'm told you can find Jim there on the weekends as he continues to build his castle.

Directions: The castle is located in Rye, Colorado -- southwest of Pueblo. The easiest way to get there is to take I-25 to exit 74 (Colorado City) and drive west on CO. 165 for 24 miles (about 30 minutes).

For more on the castle, visit the official website.




Saturday, June 18, 2016

Buena Vista River Park

 
Located at the end of Main Street, adjacent to downtown, is park that is a outdoor and sport enthusiast's dream with river access to a whitewater park for paddling, kayaking and rafting, and miles of trails in the Whipple Trail System on the other side of the river for hiking, biking and horseback riding. Also available are a soccer field, baseball fields, basketball court, volleyball court, skate park, disc course and tennis courts. The park has been recently expanded to the south to include a bicycle track, dog park and climbing area. All in an absolutely gorgeous setting. What a great town!

To get there, turn east on Main Street at the only stop light in town, and drive through the quaint downtown to the river.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Buena Vista Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center


The Chamber of Commerce of Buena Vista, CO is located along Highway 24 in this quaint, old church, known as Park Chapel.  When it was built in 1880, it was St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church and served that congregation for many years until a new church was constructed. In 1969 the structure was spared demolition and moved to its current location where it was rehabbed for use as the Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center of Buena Vista. Such a beautiful place to welcome visitors to this quaint and scenic mountain town.

For a website sharing other historical buildings of Chaffee County, click here.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Hogbacks Open Space Recreation Area


What a unique place! The term hogbacks refers to the land formations just east of Skyline Drive. They consist of a series of geologically unique, large mounds of earth -- and thus the name. For years this area was not protected or developed. ATV and dirt bike paths went everywhere, causing vegetation loss, erosion and noise pollution for nearby residents. In 2007 residents and city leaders began envisioning something better. Today, the Hogbacks area has been developed into a wonderful recreational area for residents and visitors with miles of trails for hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking. The area stretches north to south on the west side of the city, providing direct access to recreational opportunities to many neighborhoods.

The trails are of varying difficulty. The main trail (Greenhorn Trail) through the area is wide and fairly level. The newest trail (Dakota Ridge - photo right) is narrow and steep, running from the top of Skyline Drive to the main trail far below. No trees or shade to be had here, so if visiting I recommend early morning or late evening during the summer months.

Click here for a trail map of the Hogbacks area. There are two parking areas: One on Floral Street (this is where Skyline Drive ends) and the other on Washington St.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Garden Park School


The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires. 
--William Arthur Ward

If venturing north of Cañon City, perhaps driving out to Red Canyon Park or Shelf Road Recreation Area, you'll pass by this old school house. Built in 1895 this one-room schoolhouse served the rural ranches north of town. When it opened, 48 students attended. It didn't have electricity until 1951. It closed in 1961 when school districts were consolidated and has sat vacant ever since. Efforts continue to try to save and repurpose the school.  For interesting details regarding the building and school, click here (PDF, 1.2 mb)

For a list (with photos and descriptions) of other historic places in Fremont County, click here.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Canyon Rim Trail


In life, one has a choice to take one of two paths: to wait for some special day--or to celebrate each special day. 
--Rasheed Ogunlaru

Visitors to the Royal Gorge Bridge could be forgiven for hurrying past the sign pointing the way to Canyon Rim Trail on their way to the spectacular main attraction -- but this short (2 mile, one way) trail gives visitors a chance to explore the park further and experience what may be a very different kind of terrain than they are used to.  The trail head is located on the road to the bridge across from the main picnic area. The Canyon Rim Trail is a wonderful addition to the park and worth exploring. You won't see the bridge from the trail, but you will have overlooks of the river and incredible views of the Wet Mountains and the Sangre de Cristos in the distance.  Coming from Appalachia, the plants and southern Colorado terrain fascinate me, it's all so different. It was HOT the day I went -- very glad to have a wide-brimmed hat, water bottle and sunscreen! There's not much in terms of elevation gain, so that part was helpful. While much of the trail is inland from the actual canyon gorge, there are many overlooks you come to along the way. No fences or guard rails ... so be careful with kids and pets. The trail ends at the Eastridge camping and picnic area. Plans are in the works to eventually expand the trail to the top of Fremont Peak and then have it meet up with the Tunnel Drive Trail far below.

Thanks to members of the Mile High Youth Corps who built the trail in July 2014.

Directions: From Cañon City, take US Hwy 50 West to the turnoff for the Royal Gorge (County Road 3A). Turn left and continue on 3A for ~3.5 miles until you reach a picnic area on the right side of the road, park here. The trailhead is across the road.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Sangre de Cristo Arts Center


It is the function of art to renew our perception. What we are familiar with we cease to see. The writer shakes up the familiar scene, and, as if by magic, we see a new meaning in it.
--Anais Nin (1903-1977) French born American Author.

The Sangre de Cristo Arts & Conference Center and Buell Children's Museum have as their mission to create artistic learning experiences for everyone. The exhibits seek to educate and inspire visitors through art exhibitions, performing arts, dance arts, an award-winning children’s museum,  educational programming, and an artistic space for meetings, performances and events. There is a fee to enter but the Center does have numerous 'free days' throughout the year. When I visited, an exhibit of 72 of Ansel Adam's most famous photographs were on display along with paintings and prints from local artists. The Children's Museum contains two stories of interactive artistic opportunities for children to create and play.

Visit their website and plan your visit!