Windows and Reflections of Bannack

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While visiting Montana’s Bannack State Park I started noticing the characteristics of windows in the deserted 19th-century buildings. They varied from artistic to simplistic. Some of the panes were the original wavy glass while others were 21st-century replacements.

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Whether peeking into a cabin at a potpourri of tools and paraphernalia deserted decades ago or gazing out while seated at an aged treadle sewing machine the windows seemed to frame Bannack’s past and present.

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Then I became intrigued with how the windows reflected the scenes before them – swaying tree branches, the crowd gathered in front of Hotel Meade or the upstanding Masonic Lodge / Schoolhouse.

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Observing and photographing the windows of Bannack added depth and perspective to out visit to Montana’s past.

When You Go:  Bannack State Park is located 26 miles southwest of Dillon, Montana. From I-15 exit #59 head west on Highway 278 for 20 miles. Turn south on the paved Bannack Road, follow for four miles. Turn left onto the graveled park entrance road. Well placed signs point the way.

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Bannack Days

Return to the Old West

 

Morning Coffee The click of spurs on boardwalk accompanies two men down the deserted street, enameled tin cups filled with their morning coffee. Shaded by an old tree in the front yard of Montana’s first governor’s mansion, a spinner adjusts the tension of lanolin rich wool as she draws it into fine strands of yarn. Resting against the front of the combined post office/barbershop the barber and a friend shoot the breeze before the first shave and haircut of the day.

For one weekend each July Bannack, Montana comes to life recalling the 19th-century boom days of gold, growth and government. Frontier live is recreated by hundreds of volunteers for two days theLady with Wool third weekend of July. The wooden boardwalks once again are filled with people, many in period clothing. Bannack Days celebrates the town’s fabled history.

Demonstrations, hands-on activities, music and entertainment fill Bannack Days plus the opportunity to enter dozens of buildings. Start the day with breakfast at Hotel Meade before panning for gold, touring the mill or taking a horseback ride. Simulated shootouts and stagecoach robberies recall the days of highwaymen and a sheriff who ended up swinging from the gallows. Visitors can even rent costumes and become part of the scene. A horse-drawn wagon and Model A Ford truck shuttles tired tourists from one end of town to the other. Food concessions satisfy the hungry and thirsty. Note from Nancy – the hot donuts were the best!

Quilts Today, with designation as a state park, Bannack is preserved as a genuine ghost town not a tourist attraction. During a regular visit tales of the past and a stiff Montana wind may be your only companions.

When You Go: Bannack Days is always scheduled on the third weekend of July. A modest per person entrance fee is charged for the event. Bannack is located 26 miles southwest of Dillon, Montana. From I-15 exit #59 head west on Highway 278 for 20 miles. Turn south on the paved Bannack Road, follow for four miles. Turn left onto the graveled park entrance road. Well placed signs point the way.

A Found Day – New Experiences

Prepared for a full day of jury selection and possible service the day seemed a gift after my name wasn’t called for the selection process. January temperatures in the 50s and cloudless blue skies promised a perfect day to go adventuring. We decided to make our first visit to Eldorado Canyon State Park south of Boulder followed by an informative hour at the Bradford Washburn American Mountaineering Museum in Golden.Rock Climber

The rocky walls and cliffs of Eldorado Canyon holds a worldwide reputation with rock climbers. The park also offers miles of hiking and biking trails, fishing and picnicking. Thirteen miles south of Eldorado Canyon the museum offers a look into many aspects of mountaineering in Colorado and around the world.

 

Mountaineering Museum While we weren’t tempted to become a human spider on the lichen walls of Eldorado Canyon nor stand atop Mount Everest our impromptu activities were a perfect match for a January Day.

Too often we feel the need to venture far from home in our travels when there are many overlooked opportunities worthy of our attention nearby.

Castlewood Canyon State Park

CCSP Sign Castlewood Canyon State Park, once rural and fairly remote, today is nearly embraced by suburbia. As residential development creeps ever closer we gain even more appreciation for natural areas set aside and protected for public enjoyment.

Cherry Creek flows through Castlewood Canyon. In the late 1800s a 600-foot-long dam was complete to store water vital to ranchers and farmers. Almost from the beginning the dam leaked causing concern downstream in Denver. Engineers debated safety issues until the the early morning hours of August 3, 1933 when the dam gave way releasing 1.7 billion gallons of water. The raging torrent scoured canyon walls as it surged towards Denver. A slide show in the visitor center relates the story of Castlewood Dam and the second worse flood in Denver history.

Pasqueflower Castlewood Canyon stands in a transition zone between mountain and plain. Ecologically unique on the rim of the Black Forest plateau, four ecosystems – grasslands, montane shrublands, montane forest and riparian – exists within walking distance of one another. A wide variety of foliage, flowers, birds and wildlife can be found within the park. On our springtime visit we observed mountain bluebirds and photographed pasqueflowers emerging from winter groundcover.

Hiking trails offer access to the dam ruins and Lucas homestead historic sites, the falls area, inner canyon, and rim rock. Several trails interconnect creating loops of two, four or six mile hikes. The paved Canyon View Nature Trail is handicap accessible with excellent canyon viewpoints. To the west the mountain panorama stretches from south of Pikes Peak to Rocky Mountain National Park.

CCSP - Rock Puddle The state park is a day-use park open 8am to sunset. There are two entrances to Castlewood Canyon State Park. The main (east) entrance is off CO83, five miles south of Franktown. Facilities include the visitor center, flush restrooms, picnic areas with grills, group picnic area, amphitheater and paved roads and parking.

The west entrance is accessed off CO86 via Castlewood Canyon Road. This portion of the park is less-developed with gravel road and parking lots, a few picnic tables and pit toilets. Parking at the dam ruins is prohibited, you must hike in (.35-mile trail) from the designated parking area. Rock climbers find challenges in the western section of the park. Biking and horseback riding are limited to the Cherry Creek Regional Trail.

When You Go: Visitors are required to display a current Colorado State Parks Pass, available at the visitor center and self-service dispensers. A daily pass is valid from the day of purchase until noon the following day. Click here for information on an annual pass. Numerous naturalist guided activities,including Canyon Kiddies for ages 2-5, are available each month, call the park at 303-688-5242 for current schedule and registration.

Find It!

Castlewood Canyon State Park
Castlewood Canyon State Park

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.