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 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 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 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:


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)