Taking a Spin

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For generations Evergreen Lake has been a favorite winter destination for Denver area families. The lake is frozen and open for 2010 winter recreation. There’s plenty of room for hockey practice and pick-up games, beginner and serious skaters as well as those who do more ice standing than skating.

The log Lake House offers lots of benches for lacing up skates, rental skates, hockey supplies, and a snack bar. It’s a great place to warm up or crisp winter days.

beginner1   hockey   spinnerevergreen-lake-skating

When You Go: Skate fees are $5 or less per session depending on age. Season passes and ten punch cards are available. The lake and lake house are part of the Evergreen Park and Recreation District. Their website gives little information;call the skating hotline, 720-880-1391 before heading to the lake.

Map picture

Happy Skating!

Spring has Sprung

chatfield-kayaks2The first Saturday of spring 2009 with temps in the 70s- what other incentive do we need to get outside? A trip to Chatfield State Park  proved we weren’t the only ones wanting to be outdoors and active on such a day. Fishermen line the banks of streams and ponds, fathers wait patiently as offspring cast their lines. Kayakers paddle into headwinds, turn around and leisurely drift back to their starting point. Bicyclists, recreational and competitive, peddle along roadways, bike paths and dirt trails. A string of horseback riders set off from the stables for a trail ride. Trees show the merest promise of budding. We vow to come back in May when ancient cottonwoods shade the banks of Plum Creek.

We are surprised to see how many boats dot Chatfield Reservoir in March. Obviously these were boaters eager to get the season underway, not wanting to waste a day. We didn’t see any waterskiers or jet skis but it probably won’t be long before they’re out too. I did see a black lab enjoying a swim.

In an area set aside for dog training canines of every breed and their owners walk, run and train. Picnickers and campers arrive to relish the weather.

chatfield-plane-and-pilotThe model airfield is a unique feature at Chatfield. With wind gusts up to 33mph only one plane was in the air during our visit. However, seeing the many different designs, prop to helicopters, and watching the guys tweak their aircraft was almost as interesting as watching a flight. I’m sure it’s not a male only hobby but you wouldn’t know it by today’s “pilots”.

Plum Creek and the South Platte River flow into Chatfield Reservoir which was constructed in 1967 for flood control. The state park surrounds the reservoir with terrain varying from prairie to wetlands. More that 300 bird species, migratory and resident, have been identified, including double-crested cormorants, bald eagles, American white pelican and the elusive burrowing owl. A heronry provides nesting habitat for about 80 pairs of great blue herons.

chatfield-bikersProximityto the Denver Metro area makes Chatfield a popular recreation destination. Twelve miles of hike/bike trails in the park link with a number of connecting trails including the Colorado Trail, Centennial Trail and Highline Canal Trail. Water sports draw capacity crowds in summer: boating, swimming, water skiing, jet skiing, sailboarding and fishing.

Today was a perfect day to wander along a pathway and listen to the swoosh of a paddle cutting into water, rhythm of a horse’s gait or the trill of an unseen bird.

When You Go: Chatfield State Park is open year round 5am – 10pm except for overnight campers. The main entrance is located one mile south of C-470 on Wadsworth. Check the website for a list of activities, fees and regulations.

Trinidad by Night

We originally planned to set off on our trip Saturday morning but upped departure time to Friday afternoon. Decided to get 200 miles down the road to have more time for tomorrow’s adventures. Made last minute reservations in Trinidad, Colorado - seven miles from the New Mexico border – and got out of town by mid-afternoon.

Arrived in Trinidad shortly after sunset. After getting into our room we looked in the phone book for restaurant listings. There’s a full service restaurant in the hotel but that would be too easy and predictable. We like the menu for Cougar Canyon Fairway Grill.

Driving through town we see lots of cars at Chef Lui’s, “Chinese, Seafood, Cocktails,” and Rino’s Italian Restaurant & Steakhouse. The historic downtown seems quite alive for eating and drinking. Heading east of town Bob’s sure we don’t know where we’re going – all the more adventure. Cougar Canyon turns out to be a Golf Resort Community under development.

The Fairway Grill adjoins the golf shop. It’s obvious we’re the only tourists but we’re welcomed warmly by all of the staff. Next door a 117-room hotel is under construction, scheduled for completion by July 1, 2009. Under the pitch black star-studded skies we see not a foot of the Nicklaus Design golf course but the pictures intrigue with pedestal greens, split fairways and rocky canyon walls. Golf magazine named Cougar Canyon one of the “Top Ten Courses You Can Play in the U.S.” Although I’m not a golfer I have to come back in the daytime to see the course and its sweeping views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

Instead of just passing through I want to make Trinidad a destination some day. The community’s rich history is preserved in the Corazon de Trinidad National Historic District. The Trinidad History Museum encompasses heirloom gardens and three landmark buildings including the Baca House, The Santa Fe Trail Museum and the Bloom Mansion. Just west of town we’ll find Trinidad Lake State Park and, further along the Highway of Legends Scenic Byway, Blue and Bear Lakes. A future Trinidad visit will reward with fascinating history, outdoor recreation and natural wonders.

Explore Southwest Colorado Heritage

Follow in the Trail of the Ancients, explore the San Juan Skyway or the “Shady” side of Southwest Colorado. Start planning  your trip on a new web site, http://www.swcoloradoheritage.com covering  the Southmesa-verde1west Colorado Travel Region.

What a rich heritage you’ll find throughout the region, from the Ancient Puebloan People to Chief Ouray and the Utes; early Europeans coming for fur trapping to railroaders and miners with gold fever. Ride a stagecoach down Mancos Canyon or buy a custom made Western hat. The region’s scenery surpasses expectations and you’ll find recreational opportunities around every corner.

Visitors to the web site find a number of suggested trips, an electronic trip planner to build your own personalized itinerary, lots of information and links for attractions, destinations, events and accommodations. The region includes:cortez-dancer

  • Mesa Verde National Park
  • Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
  • Seven Scenic and Historic Byways
  • Five National Forests
  • Five Wilderness Areas
  • Hovenweep
  • Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
  • Ute Mountain Tribal Park
  • Chimney Rock Indian Ruins
  • Five Major Hot Springs Locations

That’s only ten of the dozens of options available to visitors. Start planning now.

Plan Now for Summer Fun & Learning

ynp-wolf-viewingAdd an element of discovery and learning to your summer vacation plans in America’s oldest national park. Even if you’ve been a tourist in Yellowstone, going back for a field seminar will provide amazing experiences. The Yellowstone Association Institute, the park’s official educational partner, offers summer field seminars, backpacking courses, lodging & learning programs and private tours.

Creative, historic or scientific, there’s a course sure to peak curious minds. “Whether you are ruled by your ‘right brain’ or your ‘left brain,’ we have a class for you,” said Jeff Brown, director of education for the Yellowstone Association Institute. A sampling of the more than 1oo courses offered during the 2009 summer season:

CREATIVEynp-guide1

  • Nature Photography in Yellowstone: The Digital Image
  • Poetry + Ecology =Creative Fusion
  • Writing the Natural History Essay

WILDLIFE BIOLOGY

  • Wolves – Reality and Myth
  • Birding for Beginnersynp-hikers
  • Wildlife Watching in Grizzle Country

PHYSICAL

  • Day Hiking the Beartooths
  • Fly Fishing for Novices
  • Day Hiking the Wild Yellowstone: Northern Range Area

HISTORY

  • Yellowstone’s Northern Roadside Historyynp-hot-pot1
  • Hiking the History of Yellowstone
  • Ghost Hotels of Yellowstone – Northern Loop

GEOLOGY

  • Mammoth: 320 Million Years in the Making
  • Exploring the Lower Geyser Basin
  • Tracking the Heat: Yellowstone’s Hot Spots and Calderas 

Taught by college professors, research scientists, park staff and other experts most courses last one to four days. Participant numbers are limited. Many courses are held at the Institute’s Lamar Buffalo Ranch field office campus, others are based at park lodges.

ynp-old-faithfulADDITIONAL INSTITUTE 2009 FEATURES

  • Backpacking Courses- Wilderness experiences that allow participants to visit remote areas of the park under the guidance of professional outdoor leaders and Yellowstone experts.
  • Lodging & Learning Packages – Mix education and recreation for visitors wanting to learn more about the park, returning to park lodges at the end of each day.
  • Private Tours - Ideal for families and small groups desiring an introduction to Yellowstone wildlife, geology or a guided hike. Eight-hour trips focus on Yellowstone’s Northern Range, Lake Yellowstone and Canyon area or the Old Faithful area.

ynp-bisonWhen You Go: Complete information available from the Yellowstone Association. Reservations for field seminars, backpacking courses and private tours can be made at 307-344-2294, Lodging and Learning reservations at 866-439-7375. Lodging and visitor services in Yellowstone National Park provided by Xanterra.

From Weapons to Wildlife

rma-guys-daySuburbia, sports parks and traffic surround the 17,000 acres of Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge. The land has been transformed several times in the last 150 years. The short grass prairie inhabited by Plains Indians became family farms for Western settlers at the end of the nineteenth century. With the coming of World War II the farms were purchased by the government for a chemical weapons manufacturing facility. Post war, Shell Chemical Company produced pesticides and herbicides. Production halted in 1982 with environment cleanup starting five years later.

In 1986 a  communal roost of bald eagles was discovered. Public interest triggered a successful grassroots effort to have the Arsenal declared a National Wildlife Refuge in 1992.  A large prairie restoration project is returning the land to a more natural state. Prairie, woodlands and wetlands support habitat a wide array of wildlife – birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. Bald eagles and American Bison have a protector home on the plains within sight of downtown Denver.

rma-bus“Wild Rides” provide the best opportunity to view and learn about the refuge inhabitants. Led by sharp-eyed and knowledgeable volunteer guides visitors ride a bus to areas normally not open to the public. We joined a tour led by Dennis aboard the brand new, heated and air conditioned bus. Returning visitors will especially appreciate the comfortable padded seats in lieu of the wooden ones on the trolley. I can’t imagine touring the refuge without seeing prairie dogs, a large number of black tailed prairie dogs scurry from burrow to burrow in colonies scattered throughout the grounds.

Ascending the dam at Lake Ladora we watch as hundreds of Canada geese coast in for a water landing. A male and female mallard waddle off an ice island for a swim. Literally thousands of geese are on the lake, ice and bank this morning. The driver spots the rack of a mule deer and stops to that we can focus our binoculars. Just above the blue grama prairie grass we watch a Northern Harrier (hawk) hunt for prey. His flight is beauty in motion. Hawks drift on currents about bare-limbed cottonwoods.

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Majestically watching the scene from a treetop the white head of a bald eagle turns. Lower in the same tree sits a white-speckled immature eagle. Dennis relates that the white head feathers don’t appear until the eagle is about 5-year-old and ready to mate. Further along we see the massive nest of the one resident nesting pair at the refuge. They stay year-round will the others will leave in a few weeks to head north to their breeding grounds. Eagles mate for life and return to the same nest yearly. Nests lined with twigs, mosses, grasses and feathers can reach as much as 2,000 pounds as they are enlarged each year.

Two raccoons dart along a canal bank. Ahead, mule deer stand across the road and on both sides carefully watching the bus. The eight males move off  a short distance to a meadow . We learn that the bounding motion of mule deer is called stotting. Miles away a  herd of females rest in a ticket of New Mexico locust trees. It seems today is guys day out.

Our last stop is near the bison enclosure. A herd of eighteen from the National Bison Range in Montana where reintroduced to the refuge in  2006 along with a pair from North Dakota. Successful reproduction has increased the herd yearly.

rma-owl rma-bee-tree1 rma-eagle

Tours are not up-close and personal with the wildlife; after all we are only observers in this natural refuge. Back at the Visitor Center artfully displayed exhibits gives us the opportunity to observe details. In the Discovery Room visitors watch workers in the Bee Tree. It’s a warm day out so the hive is active. I’m fascinated by observing how the bees stay to the right as they travel through the plastic tube from hive to out-of-doors. We can only wish humans were so well trained.

We need to return to the refuge in each season since many species are migratory. For instance in summer whie pelicans will dot the lake populated with geese today. Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge has become a home for deer, bison and eagles to stay and play.

When You Go: Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge is open from 7 am – 5 pm, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Visitor Center open form 7:30am – 4 pm. Two-hour “Wild Ride” tours begin a 10am, Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Tours are free but reservations are required. For more information or reservations call 303-289-0930. Free nature programs (some specially for children) are presented throughout the year; space is limited and reservations required.

The public is welcome to hike the 8.7-mile trail system when the refuge is open. Catch and release fishing in season from April 15 – October 13, 2009 with Colorado fishing license and a $3/day recreational fishing fee. Check the website for announcements and details of special events.

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50th Anniversary

Colorado State Parks

One of my New Years resolutions was to purchase an annual state park pass and visit at least one different park a month. Sometimes we need to break out of our routine and explore in our own backyard. Colorado offers so many opportunities for travel and adventure it had been several years since we had an annual state park pass on the windshield.

annual-state-park-passSince it was the last day of January it was time to get in gear with the resolution. With the forecast of a warm sunny day we headed to Roxborough State Park south of Denver.

The Annual Parks Pass sells for $60. As Colorado residents admittedly over the age of 64 we qualify for the Aspen Leaf Pass costing $30 per vehicle.  Passes are good for 12 full months, not the calendar year. No matter what time of year you purchase the pass it’s good for a full year. Disabled and income eligible Colorado residents pay $12.50. Disabled veterans and those born in 1922 or before receive passes at no charge.

state-parks-brochurePasses allow unlimited access to all 42 Colorado State Parks. Pass holders should be aware that entrance to Cherry Creek State Park requires an additional annual $3 water basin authority pass. The free 2009 Parks Guide is 32 pages filled with useful information: brief description of each park, directions, facility charts and fun facts.

Until yesterday we didn’t realize that 2009 marks the 50th anniversary of Colorado State Parks. Cherry Creek was the first park in the system, opening to the public in 1959. It must be great serendipity that we chose 2009 to become reacquainted with Colorado State Parks.

Passes may be purchased at any state park, online or by calling 303-866-3437.

South Platte Park & Carson Nature Center

Shhhh! – Don’t tell all those dealing with frigid temperatures, knee-deep snow, ice storms and power outages that Denver recovered from its cold snap earlier in the week. The last couple of days have seen sunny blue skies and temps in the 60s. The Denver area experiences a “Storm of the Century” about every decade and faces snow and cold each winter but between storms we bask in beautiful clear days perfect for outdoor recreation.

snapping-turtle2   carson-nature-center-sign-2  white-pelican1   trout1

 Friday was one of those days that called for getting outside. After -2° Tuesday morning it was pure joy to walk in the park in shirt sleeves and soak up at least our 20 minutes of vitamin D. We headed to South Platte Park and the Carson Nature Center in Littleton. The park extends along the South Platte River approximately 2.5 miles north of C-470. The riparian zone of cottonwood forests and wetlands provides habitat for a diversity of wildlife – song birds to bald eagles, cicadas to coyotes.

platte-river-trail-users3The paved Mary Carter Greenway Trail was busy with bicyclists, in-line skaters and walkers. The trail is part of the South Platte River Trail that covers 28.05 miles from Chatfield Dam to 104th Avenue in Northglenn and links to a half dozen urban trails that criss cross the Metro Area. Four miles of natural surface trails lead to lakes and a wildlife viewing blind. Five lakes and the 2.5-mile stretch of the river are open to fishing. There’s limited access to two other lakes within the park that provide water storage and wildlife habitat.

water-table-21Exhibits and live animals in the Carson Nature Center provide a good orientation for budding naturalists. The water table room attracts all ages. A river channel flows through the sandy “ground,” visitors can place rocks, block houses and scrubs along the banks and watch the affects of flood waters. Some of us are old enough to remember the 1965 devastating flood along the South Platte. Rental “Explorer Packs” filled with supplies and activities are a fun way to add discovery and learning to a park visit.

The center offers a calendar of programs, some specifically for kids, some adults only and family focused activites for all ages. Naturalist guided moonrise walks, winter scavenger hunt, Native American stories are a few offered during the winter months.

When You Go: The park and nature center are free, a modest fee and registration is required for programs. South Platte Park is located north of Mineral Avenue and west of Santa Fe Drive. Park open daily from sunrise to sunset, Carson Nature Center open Tuesday – Friday 12-4:30pm, Saturday and Sunday 9:30am – 4:30pm.

 

Taking a Spin

evergreen-lake21

For generations Evergreen Lake has been a favorite winter destination for Denver area families. The lake is frozen and open for 2010 winter recreation. There’s plenty of room for hockey practice and pick-up games, beginner and serious skaters as well as those who do more ice standing than skating.

The log Lake House offers lots of benches for lacing up skates, rental skates, hockey supplies, and a snack bar. It’s a great place to warm up or crisp winter days.

beginner1   hockey   spinnerevergreen-lake-skating

When You Go: Skate fees are $5 or less per session depending on age. Season passes and ten punch cards are available. The lake and lake house are part of the Evergreen Park and Recreation District. Their website gives little information;call the skating hotline, 720-880-1391 before heading to the lake.

Map picture

Happy Skating!

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