Saturday, August 29, 2015

Golden Gate Canyon State Park

Golden Gate Canyon State Park is one of the 42 Colorado State Parks, and is located in Gilpin and Jefferson counties, around 30 miles west of Denver. This 11,998 acre Front Range Park has 36 miles of hiking trails-- Horses and bicycles are allowed on 22 miles of those trails. It includes facilities such as a visitor center, over 100 campsites, 5 furnished and heated cabins for rent, 2 yurts, and the upscale 4 bedroom Harmsen Guest Ranch, stocked fishing ponds, and over 100 picnic sites. (All photos, and photo collages, in this post will enlarge for easier viewing if clicked on)

The Golden Gate Canyon Visitor Center is open daily, year round. Outside is a placard that tells about wildlife that is in the area and gives hiking tips.

We headed up to the Panoramic Point Scenic Overlook, where we saw a view of 100 miles of the Rocky Mountains Continental Divide in the distance! (Click on to enlarge!)

Some close ups of the mountains we saw along our 100 mile view.

The elevation at Panoramic Point is approximately at 9,400 feet.  Here, the picnic table area was under a shady canopy of trees.

This little chipmunk was waiting for us to leave so he could search under the table for crumbs.

After eating our picnic lunch we headed out on the 2.3 mile round trip Raccoon Loop Trail.  This trail passes through Golden Gate Canyon's upper-montane and lower subalpine forests.  Along the trail we saw lodgepole pine trees, Engelmann spruce, blue spruce, white fir and aspen trees. Do you spot my husband standing next to a giant lodgepole tree on the trail?

Along the trail we had more glorious views of the Rocky Mountains. 

We also saw an array of beautiful wildflowers, more chipmunks, and various fungi along the trail.

We also saw moss and lichens growing on some of the boulders along the trail.

We really enjoyed the beautiful views and the cool mountain air while walking on the trail. 

I was excited to see the 14,259 foot high Longs Peak, located in Rocky Mountain National Park, in the distance.

When we saw this fresh scat, however, we knew it was time to turn back and head home, as we were not carrying bear spray with us.  The black bears have been very active this time of the year along the Front Range, bulking up for their winter hibernation. They need to consume over 20,000 calories a day! Unfortunately, the very rainy spring Colorado had this year, among other weather conditions, caused a decrease in the acorns and berries they like to eat.  They are roaming further into civilization, in search of food, including one cub that was recently found roaming on a street in Denver! Click here to read a Denver post story about that.  We are careful not to have bird feeders hanging in our backyard this time of the year, and to keep our garbage can inside our closed garage and only leave it curbside the morning of pickup. I've also learned to look up into the trees when I walk on a trail, as it is very possible a bear could be up in a tree! Click here to read my blog post where I learned that lesson!

Here is a short Youtube video about winter activities in Golden Gate Canyon Park produced by Colorado State Parks:  (click here if video is not visible)

I feel very fortunate that this beautiful state park is just a half hour drive from my house! It is a place I'll be returning there often in the coming seasons and years. Who knows, I might even buy some snowshoes and hike in winter!  Do you participate in winter activities? What is your favorite thing to do?

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Sunday, August 23, 2015

Central City Opera

This is the view my husband and I saw as we drove on Interstate 70, headed up into those Rocky Mountains in the distance, towards, Gilpin County, where we had tickets to attend an opera at the oldest operating Opera House in the United States.  (All photos, and photo collages, will enlarge for easier viewing, if clicked on.)

At exit 243 we entered Central City Casino Parkway, and took a 12 minute scenic drive up to the 8,510 foot elevation of the old gold mining town of Central City, founded in 1859 during the Pikes Peak Gold Rush.  Central City was once called "The Richest Square Mile on Earth" due to the many gold mines that once operated in the area--over 17,000 claims were made in this part of Gilpin County.

As soon as you approach Central City, many of its historic buildings become visible....

...and its pretty Main Street.

The town is very picturesque and interesting, and my husband and I both would like to come back one day to explore it more.  The fortunes of Central City declined after gold mining diminished, but in the 1990's casinos were open here, and in the adjoining town of Black Hawk, to form the Central City/Black Hawk Historic District.  Black Hawk has developed casinos at a faster rate than Central City, and therefore has more revenue, but the town of Central City is more quaint and historical.

Many of Central City's buildings have historical markers that tell interesting and colorful stories about their history, such as the one above.  Click on to enlarge the photo to read about the Rose Haydee building.

The Central City Opera House was built in 1878 by Welsh and Cornish miners who had brought the rich tradition of music with them from their home towns. Prominent Denver architect Robert S Roeschlaub designed the elegant stone building and San Francisco artist John C Massman added elaborate trompe l'oeil murals to the interior.

Unfortunately, productions of this 550 seat opera house soon closed as the mining industry left the region and the population dwindled, and sadly the opera house fell into disrepair. In 1932, some interested opera patrons restored the Opera House to its former glory, and legendary actress, Lillian Gish, came to play her role as Camille, in the production of the same name, which launched an annual tradition of summer festivals that continues to this day. This National Historic Landmark has hosted performances of the nation's fifth oldest opera company since this 1932 re-opening, hosting such famous artists as Mae West, Beverly Sills, Helen Hayes, Denyce Graves, among others.

We saw one of our favorite operas at Central City, Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata. Directed by Elise Sandell, and conducted by John Baril, this production starred Ellie Dehn as Violetta, Ryan McPherson as Alfredo, and Troy Cook as Giorgio Germont. No photos are allowed during the opera, but I took this photo of the final bows to the audience's enthusiastic standing ovations.  

You can see some scenes for La Traviata at this Central City Opera youtube promotional trailer

We enjoyed this sell out opera very much and seeing it in this historical building made me feel as if I was also viewing a part of our nation's history. We will definitely return next summer for not only an opera but also a musical, or two. It is wonderful knowing this treasure box gem is in close proximity to us, and an additional theater along with those in Denver, in which to enjoy the arts. We saw many operas when we lived in New York City, both the Metroploitan Opera and City Opera, and we are happy that we have choices here in Colorado to continue seeing live performances.

Do you enjoy visiting performing arts complexes around the country and the world? What places have you visited and performances that you would recommend? 

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