Monday, August 14, 2017

The John Denver Sanctuary in Aspen, Colorado

We had friends visiting Colorado from New York for a month this summer. Their first grandchild was born to their son and daughter-in-law, who live in a suburb in the Denver area, and they were excited to spend time with the new parents and grandbaby.  While they stayed nearby, we had a lot of fun showing them some of our favorite Colorado sights, and also some sights that were new to us.  One of those new sights for us, that I had heard about and wanted to see, was the John Denver Sanctuary in Aspen, Colorado.  (This photo, and all photos in this post, can be enlarged for easier viewing by clicking in them.)

Our drive west to Aspen took a little over 3 hours. We took the beautifully scenic Independence Pass to cross the Continental Divide. (See a prior post--click here--we made over the pass in June)  When we entered Aspen we could see the ski runs in the mountains.  Aspen attracts people from around the world for it's year round recreation and renown festivals, and it has some of the highest real estate property in the nation.

Aspen is also known for its high end restaurants, boutiques and landmarked buildings dating back from its Gold Rush days. We had a nice time walking around the town to look at the sights and to have lunch.

I always wanted to see the John Denver Sanctuary, so after lunch we headed towards the eastern end of downtown Apen near Rio Grande Park, where it is located along the Roaring Fork River.

John Denver, whose real name was Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr., was one of the most famous best selling acoustic singer/songwriter of the 1970's in the United States. He, and his first wife, Annie, moved to Aspen in 1971, just as his recording career was beginning to be a success.  Although they divorced in 1982, they both continued to live in Aspen.  Sadly, at age 53, John Denver was killed when the small experimental plane he was flying crashed on October 12, 1997 near Pacific Grove, California.

Walking into the sanctuary area we were greeted by this stone, surrounded by flowers, which stated:  
John Denver Sanctuary
 Earth, Water, Mountain, Sky, Pause, Reflect, Enjoy

 The sanctuary path was lined with both boulders and flowers and accented by the sound of water and ...

...small gentle waterfalls.

It was serene and beautiful.

We approached steps that had a boulder on top that announced "John's Song Garden."

There, arranged in a circle formation, were large and small boulders that were inscribed with song lyrics that John Denver wrote.....

...and included this tribute stone to his life, which stated: "I am a song, I live to be sung, I sing with all my heart.'

One of John Denver's most popular songs was "Rocky Mountain High."  

 Please click on to enlarge.

Other boulders contained other song lyrics.  I think bedsides Rocky Mountain High, "Annie's Song" is one of my favorites, as well as "Take Me Home, Country Roads."  Do you have a favorite John Denver song?  

I'm sure I missed a few boulders with lyrics, as we spent quite a bit of time reading the ones we saw, and enjoying the tranquility of the area. All too soon it was time to head back to the garage where we parked our car, as we had a long drive back.

I was glad to have spent part of the time I had in Aspen at the John Denver Sanctuary. Every year in October, there is a remembrance celebration held here and in other areas of Colorado, for John Denver. This will be the 20th anniversary of his passing and with the area's surrounding aspen trees turning autumnal colors it must be very beautiful to visit at that time.

Driving back east on Interstate 70, with mountains on the horizon--a sight that still fills me with awe!

It is hard to believe that summer will be coming to a close soon and my grandchildren will be heading back to school. It will be a busy time for my family and I am anticipating that I may take a little blog break, but I will be back soon!

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Sunday, August 6, 2017

Mount Goliath and Ancient Bristlecone Pine Trees

As I promised in my last blog post--click here-- which was about Mount Evans--another one of my favorite places to visit in Colorado is the Mount Goliath Natural Area We always stop and visit this beautiful and interesting area on our ride down from the Mount Evans summit.

Please click on to enlarge

This 160 acre area is home to over 250 species of alpine and subalpine wildflowers as well as a grove of bristlecone pine trees that are 900 to 2,000 years old!

The Mount Goliath Nature Area is managed in cooperation between Denver Botanic Gardens and the US Forest Service.  The Dos Chappell Nature Center on this site contains exhibits that interpret the plants, animals and trees that live at this extreme high mountain environment, as well as information about the history of the Mt Evans road construction, tourism and wilderness. The center is open daily from 10am to 5pm, weather and season permitting.

The bristlecone pine trees grow at the subalpine altitude of 11,540 feet (3,517m).  Bristlecone pine trees are the oldest living things on earth.  The oldest bristlecone pine tree is over 5,000 years old and is located in the White Mountains in California.  

Bristlecone pines only grow in the southern Rocky Mountains-they are not found in Rocky Mountain National Park. Their needles can live twenty to thirty years, and their bark is dense and highly resinous.  

Bristlecones can remain standing for hundreds of years after they die--it is only erosion or the decay of their supporting roots that allows them to fall.

Please click on to enlarge

The M. Walter Pesman trail that is in this area was established in 1962, also as a joint venture between the Denver Botanic Gardens and the US Forest Service. 

The trail begins in the subalpine zone and extends up into the alpine tundra at 12,152 feet and is accessible at the nature center and from the Mt. Evans road towards the top. 

We did not walk the entire trail on this visit, as there was snow at the higher elevation when we visited in June, but we have done so in the past. 

The views from the summit of the trail are beautiful and...

...along the way there are many wildflowers to be seen

Please click on to enlarge to read

In fact, the Mount Goliath Nature Area is full of wildflowers, which can been seen all along its trails.

Some of the many wildflowers we saw on our visit in June....

Please click on to enlarge

...and a helpful placard on the site with the names of some of the more common wildflowers in bloom. This fragile natural garden only lasts for about 40 frost free days a year!

Even the spruce and fir trees in the Mount Goliath area display characteristics of  the German word "krummholtz," which means "crooked wood." The trees grow in clusters, and low to the ground to survive the fierce winds and snow that winter brings to this altitude.

It is amazing to touch the trunk of a Bristlecone tree and think of the hundreds, to thousands, of years that have passed while it has been alive! I almost feel transported back in time when I am near them.

Mount Goliath is a very special place to me and I hope you will feel the same if you visit it one day. 

Please remember the rules of the wilderness: "Take only photos, leave only footprints."  With the increase of visitors to Colorado, I am seeing more and more trash being left along trails and mountain tops, bags of dog excrement left behind, and even graffiti. Sadly, these acts of vandalism are also happening in the National Parks all across our land. 

It is up to all of us to be the stewards of these beautiful places and to protect and preserve them for future generations.

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Monday, July 31, 2017

Mt Evans--One of My Favorite Places In Colorado!

Every June, around the first day of summer, my husband and I anxiously await word that the road leading to the summit of Mt. Evans is re-opened for the season.  As soon as we can, we take a drive up this beautiful mountain to see its sights and renew our spirits after a long winter.   We first visited Mt Evans the year we moved to Colorado--to see my post about that click here.  My husband and I found the drive up a little scary then, but happily now my husband is an experienced mountain driver and I leave that task to him while I take photos!

Mt, Evans is not Colorado's highest mountain--that honor belongs to Mt Elbert at 14,400 foot altitude (4401.2 m), but at 14,260 feet altitude (4,346.5 m) it is the highest mountain in the Denver area. It also contains North America's Highest Auto Road.

We made our trip up this season on June 21, and there was still quite a bit of snow along the drive. Click on all photos and photo collages in this post to enlarge them for easier viewing.

As always we were excited to arrive at the auto summit parking lot. There we could look up at the true summit at 14,271 feet.  It is easy to see why these mountains are called the Rocky Mountains when you see the summit it is entirely made of boulders and rocks! The ruins of a visitor center that burned down, except for the stone facade is near the parking lot, and also restrooms. The round domed Meyer-Wombe Observatory is an astronomical observatory owned by the University of Denver, and is not open to the public,

The views from the parking area are spectacular--we could see for many miles! Mountain range upon mountain range loom in the distance.

This view was looking toward the Denver area. 

As we started to walk the switchback trail to reach the true summit my husband could not resist making a few snowballs!  The temperature in Denver the day of our drive up Mt Evans was over 90 degrees, but at the mountain summit it was only 55 degrees.

We found that the trail up to the top was blocked by snow. We saw some people scurrying over the boulders to climb up, but we did not want to take a chance to try doing that.  It might be dangerously slippery going up and down that way, and we also remembered a person was severely injured this past spring when a boulder moved and fell on her on North Table Mountain and crushed her legs.

So, instead of climbing we just admired the view a little longer..,

...and had fun watching Mt Evans Mountain Goats....

...and Bighorn Sheep.

The Mountain Goats are alpine and sub-alpine species and are well protected by their thick double layered woolly white coats.  If you visit later in the season you will see them molting the extra layer of fur. They can withstand temperatures at minus 50 F (minus 46 C) and 100 hundred miles an hour wind!

I especially love watching the newborn goat kids!

We began to drive down Mt Evans and stopped at a pull out slightly below the parking area, so that I could take this photo of 14,065 foot (4287 m) Mt Bierstadt in the distance.

I also saw many delightful alpine flowers beginning to bloom here!

 These Alpine Forget-Me-Nots wildflowers were so teeny tiny and so beautiful!

 Click on to enlarge to read the sign.

We went further down and stopped at Summit Lake which is a natural formed glacial lake at 12,836 feet altitude (3,912). Summit Lake Park is the highest Park in the country and Denver's only treeless park. I love walking around the trails in this area.

On our visit on June 21, much of the lake was still frozen.

Even so, when we walked to the edge of  Summit Lake....

...I saw wildflowers in bloom right next to the icy cold water!

The wildflowers along the tundra trails of Summit Lake are prolific, and many are varieties that are not seen anywhere else outside the Arctic Circle!

The "Alpine Spring Beauty"--Claytona Megarhiza-is one of my favorites. It is from the purslane family.  It can have a tap root that is many feet deep in order for it to get the water and nutrients it needs.

After leaving Summit Lake we continued to drive down to a lower elevation of Mt Evans, but we were still above the tree line.

We were approaching another favorite area, Mt. Goliath, where the trees are all "krummholz," which means twisted, bent deformed.  The trees at sub-alpine weather are exposed to severe snow, wind and freezing temperatures, and must be very strong to survive.  In my next blog post I'll show the Bristlecone Pine trees in this area that are over 1,600 years old!

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