Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Estes Park Adventures


Looking for some adventure in Estes Park, Colorado?
Here are some ideas for you!


(Jeeping along Old Fall River Road in Rocky Mountain National Park)

1) Rent a Jeep and take the dirt roads!

Backbone Adventures located at 1851 North Lake Ave. in Estes Park has a variety of rental choices from Jeeps, to ATVs, and snowmobiles. Phone: 970-235-5045

Green Jeep Tours located at 157 Moraine Ave in Estes Park provides customized, guided Jeep tours. Phone: 970-577-0034

Wildside 4x4 located at 212 E. Elkhorn Ave. in Estes Park offers a "Top of the World Tour" and "Sunset Tour." Phone: 970-586-TOUR 


(Entrance to RMNP from Grand Lake, CO)


2) Ride high in the sky along the Estes Park Aerial Tramway.

(Looking down over the town of Estes Park, Colorado.)

The Estes Park Aerial Tramway carries you up to the Observation Platform where you will also find a gift shop and tiny coffee shop.  You may have to wait in line a little while, as they run only two gondolas at a time. However, the views at the top are well worth the wait! There appeared to also be a hiking trail at the top.

Check their website for seasonal opening times/dates and prices.


3) Horseback riding in the National Park!

There are several horse rentals in the area. I will only list a few.

Rocky Mountain National Park has two stables within the park: Glacier Creek Stables and Moraine Park Stables. Their site also lists rules and other resources to be aware of.

 (Wildflowers in West Horseshoe Park in RMNP)
 
SK Horses offers several tour options on their National Park Gateway tour. They offer 2 Hour tours, half-day, and full day tours.

Jackson Stables (at the YMCA in Estes Park) has 1 hour all the way to All Day tours available.


RESERVATIONS STRONGLY RECOMMENDED FOR JEEPING AND HORSEBACK RIDING.
All photos posted are the property of this blogger. All rights reserved. 2017.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Dinosaur National Monument: A Secluded Oasis Full of History

 
In May, I took a solo trip to Dinosaur National Monument. It was on my list of places to explore since I first moved to Colorado in 2003. Finally, I was able to make the trek and it was well worth it! I was in a place of needing some alone time, as well as, soul refreshment. The drive from Denver up toward the northwest corner of Colorado took about six hours. I checked in and found my spot at the Green River Campground. It was a peaceful setting, situated next to the river with views of Split Mountain Canyon toward the northwest. It was an idyllic spot (especially since I got there on Thursday night before the weekend crowd). At night, shadows of campers sitting around their campfires reflected above me in the branches of the cottonwood grove. I was quickly reminded of the Fremont people who once lived here, leaving stories carved along rock walls nearby.

(Cub Creek Petroglyphs)
 
In the morning, I drove over to the Quarry Visitor Center and Quarry Exhibit Hall. My eyes widened as I entered the exhibit hall and immediately began to decipher an entire wall of well-preserved dinosaur fossils stacked on top of each other. One of the most intact dinosaur skulls in the world is located here, Allosaurus fragilis.
 
(Replica of Allosaurus fragilis)
 
(Part of the fossil wall located inside of the Quarry Exhibit Hall)
 
This wall was actually a part of a sandstone foothill, where in 1909, Earl Douglass found several dinosaur bones sticking out of the ground. He then continued his research efforts in conjunction with the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh, PA. In 1915, Dinosaur National Monument was created to protect this fossil bed. Today, visitors can view over 1,500 bones ranging from Allosaurus, Camarasaurus, Stegosaurus (the Colorado State fossil), and others.

Later, I spent some time hiking along several of the park trails looking for petroglyphs and wide open spaces. Eventually, I ventured down toward Josie Morris's cabin (pictured below). Josie, an independent woman, built her own cabin here in 1913. She lived off the land, planted vegetables, tended the ranch, and lived and died here over fifty years later. Today, visitors can step inside her humble abode and envision what life may have been like for Josie.


(Josie Bassett Morris's cabin)
 
Dinosaur National Monument is situated so that half of the park is in Utah and the other portion in Colorado. Interestingly, there is no public knowledge of any dinosaur fossils on the Colorado side. So, if fossils are your interest then you must make your way to Jensen, Utah. On the Colorado side of the monument, is where I felt most secluded. The views were expansive and I had the chance to feel like I was the only one on the planet. I found the perfect spot to sit, ponder, and adjust my bearings for whatever life brings next.
(Thank you NPS for preserving such beautiful landscapes and natural history!)
 
(View from Echo Park Overlook on the Colorado side)
 
The park is huge. On my next visit I hope to visit the Gates of Lodore area, raft along the Yampa or Green Rivers, and hike a few more trails.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

North County: Seafood meets Mexican (home of Denver's best fish tacos)

 
Denver, the land-locked city that it is, makes it an adventure to find fresh, yummy seafood.
 
But look no further.
 
The North County, according to their webpage offers "traditional ceviches, oysters, mussels, tortas, salads and of course, a collection of the best fish and street tacos around." I delightfully agree.
 
 
I tried both the salmon and swordfish tacos--"Baja style"
They did not disappoint.
 
 
The carne asada fries tasted as good as they look!



They have happy hour every day except for Sunday.
 
So, if you want to feel like you are slightly nearer to the ocean....and partake of some delicious seafood-meets-Mexican fare; check out North County.
 


Monday, January 23, 2017

New Wildlife Drive: Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge

 
 
The Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, located in Commerce City just outside of Denver, has made some noteworthy additions. This past summer they introduced over 30 black-footed ferrets to the refuge, continuing the effort to re-populate the species.
 
Also, within the past month or so they have opened the new Wildlife Drive, a vast stretch of road where visitors can meander through bison habitat, as well as, catch a postcard view of the front range.
 
 
 
Visitors should be advised to drive cautiously as there are a plethora of white-tailed deer often attemping to cross the road. The bison have also been seen on and next to the road. When I saw them they seemed slightly annoyed with the small amount of car traffic near them.
 
 
 (I find that I have mixed feelings about visitors now being able to be so close to them....)
However, the Wildlife Drive definitely opens up the park exposing expansive views and additional opportunities for wildlife viewing.

 
The RMANWR is a quick escape for urban nature lovers. There are "over 330 migratory and regular wildlife" species to behold. So grab your camera and a friend and head on over to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge. Plus, it's FREE!

Wildlife tips:
Bald eagle sightings are most frequent between January and April. They are typically best viewed in the late afternoon as they come back to the trees to roost. However, it is possible to see them at all hours of the day.

Morning is a great time to see a variety of wildlife awake and on the move.

For more blog posts about the refuge click here.




Wednesday, October 12, 2016

HELP SAVE DINOSAUR RIDGE!

Dinosaur track marks (i.e. footprints)

I have written previously about the awesome dinosaur park in Denver's backyard, called Dinosaur Ridge.
The world's FIRST stegosaurus fossils were found in this area.
Along with dinosaur bone quarries (now covered), exposed fossilized bones, dinosaur track sites, and well-preserved slabs of where the ocean once made Denver prime beachfront property (thanks to the Western Interior Seaway)---all of these sites you can see at Dinosaur Ridge.


Dinosaur Ridge is situated on a hogback between I-70 and Hwy-285. The west side of the foothill faces Red Rocks Park and Ampitheatre, while the eastside faces Denver. Most of this ridge is open space, a precious commodity with the continued growth and expansion of the Denver Metro area.

Jefferson County, who owns the surrounding land around Dinosaur Ridge, has made it clear that their only concern is money. Therefore, they are soon to partner with several developers to put in car dealerships and commercial space on what is vastly becoming limited green space in this area (notice the new residential neighborhoods popping up at Alameda and C470?). My concern is two fold: 1) This ridge is a valuable paleontological area. Why not protect the surrounding area for continued research? Not to mention, the degredation that will inevitably take place if zoned for commercial use. 2) The urban sprawl is real. And we are in the midst of it. If we do not put a halt on some of our scenic vistas and landscapes, we will regret it come twenty years from now when literally everything east of Morrison will be a concrete jungle (well, at least until you get to the eastern plains).


Fossilized Dinosaur Bone




Supporters, volunteers, scientists, and local neighbors are rallying together to try to stop this development. How can you help? 1) sign the petition 2) call Jefferson County and tell them your concerns 3) call anyone you know with connections
 4) call anyone you know who might be interested in purchasing the land and giving it to dinosaur ridge or putting it into a land easement.

Here is the link to sign the petition: SAVE DINO RIDGE

Save Dino Ridge: WHAT'S AT STAKE

Here is their GOFUNDME page

Here is the Save Dinosaur Ridge facebook page


PLEASE CONSIDER HELPING TO SAVE DINOSAUR RIDGE
 



Sunday, October 9, 2016

Lamb Spring Archaeological Preserve

Replica of a Colombian Mammoth skull found at
Lamb Spring Archaeological Preserve
 
I continue to be enthralled and fascinated by the prehistory of Colorado.
I recently visited the Lamb Spring Archaeological Preserve in Littleton, Colorado. My friend and I met up with the tour guide at the Douglas County Library in Roxborough. After a thirty-minute slide presentation regarding the history of the site, as well as, a short spiel on prehistoric landscapes we then drove to the site.
 
We soon found ourselves standing where Charles Lamb stood in 1960, when he stumbled across bones of some very large prehistoric animals. Who knew that Colorado was once home to not only the Wooly Mammoth but also the Colombian Mammoth? And to date, this site holds title to the largest cache of Colombian Mammoth fossils in Colorado.
 
Other prehistoric fossils such as the Ground Sloth, Mastodon, North American species of camel and a distinctly North American species of horse have also been discovered.
 (Yes, you read that correctly).
   
 
Interpretive signs describing the site history


Wannabe historian (and this writer) holding a collection of projectile points
An issue of contention and topic of archaeological debate, is whether or not paleo-Indians inhabited this site at the same time as such mega fauna. According to our guide, evidence suggests that paleo-Indians may have used this site as a meat processing area (many of the fossils were discovered in piles). However, without the discovery of stone tools some scholars are reluctant to draw such conclusions.
 
Lamb Spring Archaeological Preserve is clearly a significant educational and archaeological site. However, despite the significance of the area, the Lamb Spring Archaeological Preserve has not been able to raise the funds necessary to be able to exhibit their findings.
 
I hope the educational and historic significance of this site can one day be displayed for all to see.
 
 
 
**FREE tours offered seasonally.

 

 

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Fall Foliage 2016: Three Ideas for an Autumnal Excursion

(Taken 8/24/16 in Estes Park, CO)

(Source: News KOAA 5, Sept. 2016)


Ah, the feel of Autumn.
That refreshing touch of crisp, cool air that waffs gently against your face.
You close your eyes, and sense the sudden urge for a pumpkin latte and a roadtrip.

So, here are three ideas for fall leaf-viewing excursions:





MAROON BELLS

(J. Foster, 2011)
(J. Foster, 2011)


There's a reason this is the most photographed view in Colorado....
Simply put: It's just honestly an incredible panoramic view. Evergreen trees mixed in with multi-hued aspens, situated beneath Maroon Peak and North Maroon Peak...and then throw in a mountain lake....and nicely lined photographic angles....and....well...it isn't hard to see why people flock to this area especially during the peak of autumn.

Details: Because of the popularity/traffic/parking issues there are some restrictions in place. Check the Aspen Chamber website for more details on how to drive your car or take bus (from Aspen or Snowmass).

 Lodging: There is lodging in Aspen, Carbondale, Glenwood Springs (and some other places nearby as well). Also, there are some commercial and not commercial hot springs around. 




BOREAS PASS
(J. Foster, 2012)

(J. Foster, 2012)
The Boreas Pass road takes you from hwy 285, up and over the continental divide, and into Breckenridge, CO.

As you enjoy the colorful leaves, you can also revel in the history that surrounds you.
You will be driving where many of the Colorado gold miner's once travelled on their way to and from South Park.
The road was later used for the railroad but the tracks have since been taken up.

Details: Look for the sign that says Boreas Pass, near the town of Como... once you pass Fairplay off of Highway 285.

Lodging: Breckenridge has many lodging, shopping, and dining destinations. The downtown area runs along a scenic river. Check out the Breckenridge Welcome Center that hosts a nice history exhibit. The town of Frisco and Lake Dillon are also nearby.



 
ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK


(J. Foster, 2015)
One of my favorite places to visit in September is Rocky Mountain National Park. Besides being able to see colorful aspen groves sprinkled among the evergreens, it is also mating season for the hundreds of elk in the park. It is an interesting phenomenon to listen to the elk bugling, trying to attract mates. Then to watch as bull elk battle each other for dominance over various harems.

Note: Weekends in September can be even busier than summer days at the park. Please consider taking the shuttle when possible. Also, please be considerate of the wildlife. As you view them, be sure to not get too close and be careful to not interfere with what they are doing or where they are wanting to go.


(August 2016)

Things to do: Besides viewing the aspen trees, listening to and watching the elk, there are many trails you can hike within the park. Today's featured hike: Alberta Falls. About a 3 mile roundtrip hike to a lovely rushing waterfall.


(August 2016)
Lodging: There are many, many hotels and lodges in Estes Park. Along with plenty of shops and restaurants.


Peak to Peak Highway: For even more scenic, fall foliage photos...consider driving from Blackhawk to Estes Park along the Peak to Peak Highway. Click here for more details.


For more ideas, click here and here.



Thursday, August 11, 2016

Ophelia's Electric Soapbox


It's hard to classify Ophelia's Electric Soapbox, there's basically a little something for everyone.

Whether you are in the mood for a seamier-sided happy hour, live music, or eclectic dining experience; Ophelia's has it all--with some interesting local history as well. As my waiter described, "The owner went from death to sex."

 
What he meant was, the owner of Ophelia's also operates Denver's popular Linger restaurant.  Before it was a trendy dining room/rooftop bar, it was Olinger Mortuary but they literally took off the "O" and kept the Linger. (I guess you could say the "O" became Ophelias). Located at 1215 20th Street, this site was first a brothel and later an adult video store. Several of the art pieces are reminiscent of its sensual past.

Now, with an updated interior and dance floor on the lower level, Ophelia's makes for a nice cozy dining experience during the week. Then, on certain weekends, the space functions as a music hall. Recently they hosted a sold out 90s dance party.

 

Eclectic drink menu
If happy hour is your jam, the couch area next to the bar is super cute and great for people watching. Their happy hour specials are cost-effective, as well as, tastebud approved.

Tip: Parking is mostly by meter. 
 

Beef slider, jalapeno cornbread, fries



Friday, July 29, 2016

Lair O' The Bear


If you've lived in Denver for any length of time, chances are you have probably hiked in an area of open space called Lair O' The Bear. This recreational area is located just past the towns of Evergreen and Kittredge, about 45 minutes directly west of Denver.

This park offers a handful of hiking trails, as well as, multi-use trails. So, bring your mountain bike and enjoy the beauty of the foothills! There are several picnic areas and there is also a stream that flows the entire distance of the park. What I like about this area is that you have the option of either hiking along more of a flat terrain, or hiking along more inclined trails. It's nice to have the choice of either a leisurely stroll versus an intensive hike.

When you're done here, you can head into Evergreen and grab some refreshments and/or live music at a place called Little Bear Western Saloon and Restaurant. Little Bear seems to be the place where most of the locals hang out. The town of Evergreen has a huge lake to enjoy as well as some cute shops. So, come on--go explore!



*Originally posted: 9/11/07.
* Updated 7/29/16

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Denver: Historic Walking Tours

(The Daniels and Fisher Tower, built in 1910 and once the tallest building West of the Mississippi. The top floors were recently put up for sale and therefore tours of the upper levels may only last for a limited time).


The city of Denver is currently undergoing a surge in population growth, making way for a new wave of businesses and infrastructure adjustments. As these changes continue, let us not tear down all of the old for the new.

On the contrary, Denver's foundations (like all cities) are layered with pieces of the past.

As you walk along the sidewalks, drive along the streets, or sit among the city parks....you are treading where Amerindians, gold seekers, homesteaders, and early entrepreneurs have already walked.

And let's not forget about the architecture.

Many of early Denver's buildings line the streets of downtown, as well as, surrounding neighborhoods. It is apparent the quality of design and thoughtfulness that went into early 20th century construction (especially in contrast to many of the new, fast and cheap designs going up right now).

Denver is the cool place that it is because of the way it has preserved its historic elements. However, whether it be forests or urban jungles, preservation usually takes place because of bold, passionate individuals. (Lower downtown Denver is no exception. See: Dana Crawford).

So, whether you are a Colorado native (and there seem to be fewer and fewer) or perhaps you recently moved here ....and all the rest of us in between....come explore Denver's past.

There are several historic walking tours offered seasonally or year-round.... And at least one that is even dog-friendly! Take a look and then book a tour today!
 

Historic Walking Tours!
 
 
View of the 16th Street Mall and downtown
 
1)  History Colorado offers historic walking tours. A new and exciting program they are offering is their History Hounds program. Tours consist of dog-friendly historic walking tours of Cheesman Park, City Park, and Mt. Falcon Open Space Park. Join expert guides, Shawn Snow or State Archaeologist Holly Norton for a guided tour! Sign up today!
2) Historic Denver initially began as a way to protect the Molly Brown House. Now, they are guiding the way, helping to preserve Denver's architectural treasures and historic past. They have several historic walking tours.
3)  The Crawford Hotel offers tours of Union Station.
4) Walk and sip, anyone? Check out a Denver microbrew tour.
5) Another option is Historic LoDO Walking Tours.
6) And, of course, there are several house museum tours (I have mentioned most of these before): Denver's oldest house, known as the  4 Mile House, the 17 Mile House, Molly Brown House Museum, and the Byer's-Evans house to name a few (there are many more).
7) Here are some ideas if you would rather make up your own walking tour.



So, put your walking shoes on and get out and explore! 

View from behind the clocktower of the Daniels-Fisher Tower

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge



When I first visited Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, I wondered why they called it an arsenal. Come to find out that during World War 2 the arsenal was a chemical weapons manufacturing plant for the United States government. Later, the site was used for agricultural chemical development by Shell Chemical Co. In the 1980's, a cleanup of the area was initiated.

 
 Now, Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and used as a wildlife refuge. The refuge boasts as home to bald eagles (seasonal), burrowing owls (seasonal), bison, coyotes, prairie dogs, and many other species of fauna and flora. There is a lake for catch-and-release fishing (fee required) and several trails for hiking. There is a newly built visitor center with a mini museum of the site's history and wildlife. There are also guided naturalist tours and programs. Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge is a close, urban escape into nature.

* I recently found out that the best time to see bald eagles at this site is from Dec. to March. Also, the best time to see burrowing owls is from May to August.

**(Updated: 7/20/16.  Original post was 9/13/11) The arsenal recently introduced 32 black footed ferrets into the refuge. In addition, they have a new outdoor exhibit featuring a resident black footed ferret. However, the little guy was hiding underground while I was visiting. Black footed ferrets are a keystone species and have been endangered. Several States are trying to reintroduce the species in hopes of population growth.




Saturday, July 16, 2016

National Parks Are for the People and for the Protection of Our Natural Resources.

 
As I stopped in to grab a cold beverage while on my way to Rocky Mountain National Park recently, the clerk behind the counter started talking with me about the park.  At one point he stated, "I don't think you should have to pay to see God's creation." He then shared that he has lived his entire life in a town just outside of the park but has never once entered the park.


At the time, I was a bit caught off guard. Wanting to get this guy to visit the park despite his hang-up, I suggested a couple of locations where I knew he could still be technically "in" the park but without having to pay. He seemed pleased with this news and so I headed on my way.


But his statement has rattled around in my brain for several weeks now.


There are so many things I wish I would have shared with him.


For instance, I do not necessarily enjoy having to pay for entrance either. I have a tight monthly budget and it took a big chunk to pay for my annual park pass.
However, what I wish I would have reminded him of is that each time you and I pay to enter our National Parks (and also State Parks) we are paying to keep them OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.
Otherwise, they would go the way of the land....and become privatized....no guarantee that people like you and I would be able to enjoy the views, the trails, and the wildlife.


Heck, in the 1800s before RMNP or Estes Park existed as such, people were already trying to buy up all of the land and hunt out all of the wildlife. Well, specifically one man....called the Earl of Dunraven. Were it not for Enos Mills, F.O. Stanley, John Muir, and others....I guarantee you that the area now known as Rocky Mountain National Park would have been sold to the highest bidder and  turned into vacation home property for the wealthy.


But now, everyday of the year, people from all walks of life can enjoy the views and the various flora and fauna.


So, while we would probably all wish that such places of beauty and unspoiled resources were always free......in America it just doesn't seem to work that way.
However,  you can have peace of mind that every time you pay to enter one of our incredible National Parks, you are helping to protect our parks for future generations.


And when you hear on the news or see me posting petitions against the privatization of public lands....this is why....public lands such as National and State Parks are for the benefit of the people. Perhaps someone doesn't want to pay $20 bucks for a day pass.....I can understand.....but the amazing thing is.....for $20 bucks ANYONE can have the chance to hike to Emerald Lake, to drive to the Alpine Visitor Center, to sit beneath a lodgepole pine and watch for grazing elk, etc. Were it not for our public lands (and some ARE actually free) these regions might be bought up and sold for private property.


So, yeah, perhaps we shouldn't have to pay to see God's creation....but at least we get to see it, is the point.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Paddle Boarding Around Denver


 
 
Still a relatively new outdoor watersport for Colorado is stand-up paddle boarding (also known as SUP). There are numerous places to rent your own board or to take lessons. Some companies even offer SUP Yoga.
You can start out on your knees or on your bum...and then as you feel comfortable can progress to a standing position while paddling.
 
Like all water sports...have fun and be safe!
 
 
 
Places for Stand Up Paddleboard Rentals:


Colorado SUP Sports partnering with Chatfield State Park.

The Marina at Cherry Creek State Park

The Boat Marina at Aurora Reservoir.

Rocky Mountain Paddleboards at Boulder Reservoir.

Paddle Boarding at Evergreen Lake.

Big Soda Lake at Bear Creek Lake Park

SUP at City Park and Washington Park with Wheel Fun Rentals.
 (although the water is not as clean as the above mentioned locations)


Independent SUP Rentals and Lessons:

Surf'SUP

Altitude Paddleboards (inflatable rentals)

5280 Paddle Sports

Confluence Kayaks



Other articles/blogs who have posted about where to SUP in Colorado:

Rocky Mountain Health Plans have some great ideas.

Tips from Alex Mauer (pro SUP athlete)