Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Eek! There's a Bear in My Yard!

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Well, truth be told, the bear was not exactly in my backyard, but it was very close!  

As you may know, if you regularly read my blog, my husband and I moved from New York City to the greater Denver area this past winter, and we bought a home in a community very close to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. It's a beautiful area, full of public and "resident only" nature trails. In fact, we share this neighborhood with many wild animals that reside in the foothills; I have seen mule deer, coyote, and red fox pass through my backyard. They usually pass by quickly, on their way towards open land, and I don't feel threatened by them at all. Seeing a bear in my yard, however, would be another matter, entirely!  

We get weekly warnings every garbage collection day in our community to put out our garbage cans at the last possible moment and to remove bird feeders and keep our garage doors closed. In fact, our community has a web page with the same title as this post, telling us what to do if we do see a bear in our yard!   I never thought I'd really see an actual bear, however, unless I was on a trail in the foothills. I was mistaken!

Very close to our house is a paved, resident only, trail that loops around the open space in the center of many resident subdivisions. It's a wonderfully scenic walk and I like that it has some hills along the way that make it a challenge, for me, to walk.

As soon as my husband and I entered the trail one early evening, we were met with this very excited group of bicycle riders who told us they heard a bear was spotted in a tree along the trail!  I was happy I had my camera along for the walk.

Just a few yards down the path we saw it! Look closely toward the middle right of the tree--do you see it? I admit I would never have noticed this bear if I hadn't been told about it.

A closer look, taken with my zoom lens!

I read that bears often climb trees for security when they feel threatened, but this bear was sound asleep.

Not only was there one bear in this tree--there were three!

It was a sow and her two cubs! Seeing this made me more nervous, as a mother bear will become more aggressive if she feels her cubs are threatened.   They were all sound asleep, however, and oblivious to the people they were attracting on the ground--for now!  

Bears are active in our area in the spring and autumn seasons as they are looking for water and food--an average black bear needs to consume 20,000 calories a day! According to another community web page called "Living With Bears":

"Black bears eat almost anything. They will eat human food, garbage, hummingbird food, and pet and livestock food when available. Once a bear has found the easily accessible, consistent food source that human settlements can offer, it may overcome its wariness of people and visit regularly, increasing the chance of a human/bear encounter. You and your neighbors can make a difference. Your actions may prevent the unnecessary death of a bear!"

The policy for the Rangers and Colorado Parks and Wildlife Department is not to intervene for bears sighted in our community, unless they are injured, sick or have lost the fear of people because they have been introduced to human food sources. The latter fact is sad, as the bears might then have to be destroyed, as they become more dangerous to humans. Most bears will leave on their own and return to their lairs without incident. We as homeowners in this beautiful place must be responsible to make sure that the bears don't find a food source on our property or in picnic areas. My husband and I hurried away from the bears in the tree, and I doubt that they knew we were there.

We feel fortunate to co-exist among wonderful wildlife, but one thing for sure-- from now on I'll be looking up into the trees whenever I walk on a trail!

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Friday, June 21, 2013

The Buckhorn Exchange - Denver's Oldest Restaurant

The Buckhorn Exchange Restaurant, located at 1000 Osage Street, in Denver Colorado, was established in 1893 and is Denver's oldest restaurant. Since I celebrated my "double thirty" birthday by staying in one of Denver's oldest hotels, The Brown Palace Hotel and Spa (click here to read that post), where I was also treated by my husband to an elegant afternoon tea, we decided to have our children meet us at the Buckhorn Exchange that evening, for another true old-time Denver experience.

The Buckhorn Exchange was designated a historical landmark in 1972.  If you click on the photo above, it will enlarge so you can read the fascinating history of the restaurant that is on a plaque that hangs on an outside wall.

Walking into the restaurant, I felt as if I was transported back in time, to an era when Denver was a hustling gold and silver mining town, just beyond the years of the "wild west."  The walls of the restaurant are a museum of western and Native American artifacts, collected by the original owner, Henry H. "Shorty Scout" Zietz.  At age twelve, Henry was a full-fledged member of the hard-riding, straight-shooting band of scouts that rode with Buffalo Bill Cody. The great Indian leader, Chief Sitting Bull, dubbed him "Shorty Scout" due to his diminutive stature.

Other interesting historical information from the Buckhorn Exchange's website:

"President Theodore Roosevelt ate here in 1905 when his Presidential Express train pulled into the Rio Grande rail yards. Roosevelt strutted in presidential style, asked old Shorty Scout to be his guide and hunting partner, and after dinner and drinks, the pair took off by train to hunt big game on Colorado's western slope.

Today a photo of the train and a flag from its engine are among hundreds of pieces of museum-quality memorabilia on display in the Buckhorn Exchange which today is as much a museum as a restaurant and bar.

Another historic moment and most incredible scene was recorded in 1938 when Sitting Bull's nephew, Chief Red Cloud, and a delegation of thirty Sioux and Blackfoot Indians rode slowly down Osage Street in full battle regalia, and ceremoniously turned over to Shorty Scout Zietz the military saber taken from the vanquished General George Custer in the Battle of Little Big Horn. The sword remains in the Zietz family today.

The Buckhorn Exchange brims with historic artifacts, legends and notable moments. Five Presidents - Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan - dined at the Buckhorn. Hundreds of Hollywood legends, too, have savored our fare, including Bob Hope, Jimmy Cagney, Charleton Heston, astronauts Scott Carpenter and Jack Swigert, Great Britain's Princess Anne, Roy Rogers, and Will Rogers. The list is virtually endless."

The walls of the Buckhorn detail its illustrious history. Its walls hold a rare 575-piece collection of taxidermy, including deer and moose, giant buffalo, mountain goat, and bighorn sheep, dozens of indigenous fowl, and even a two-headed calf and a legendary "jackalope." In 1949, Henry Jr., acquired the restaurant, perpetuating its rich history and d├ęcor by adding many animal displays from his own hunting expeditions. In 1978 ownership of the restaurant passed to a group of local investors known as Buckhorn Associates, who have preserved its history.

Upstairs, there is a bar and lounge area. The Buckhorn's original ornate white oak bar was made in Essen, Germany in 1857,  and brought here by the Zietz family.  Its Colorado Liquor License No. 1 is still on display on the wall behind the bar.

There is also live entertainment four nights a week in the lounge.

Our table was located downstairs, in a quiet little corner, under the giant Elk head. I have to admit it was a unique feeling to be surrounded by so much taxidermy, but I was comforted by the fact that most of it were at least eighty years old, if not older.

Our unique centerpiece was a hand-painted flower pot my two and four-year-old grandsons made for me! Unfortunately, we dined past their bedtimes, so they were home with a babysitter that evening.

The Buckhorn Exchange's menus are in the form of a newspaper.

Again, if you click on the photo above, it will enlarge so you can read the menu with ease. As you can see, the restaurant is famous for its wild game offerings such as buffalo, elk, quail, rattlesnake, etc. They also offer lamb, steak, salmon, Cornish game hen, and seasonal specials.

Some of us were adventurous and had the triple platter of buffalo, elk and ostrich steaks, while others went the more mundane route and had regular beef steak. We also tried an assortment of a rattlesnake, fried crocodile, marinated duck breast and elk sausage as appetizers. The soups were bean and bacon and buffalo vegetable.  Everything was absolutely delicious!

Although the grandboys were home asleep, my baby granddaughter was able to be there, as her bedtime is more flexible. For fun, I put on my celebratory "60" crown for the occasion, and I'm sure sitting among all the distractions of the walls, none of the other restaurant guests even noticed!

We were so stuffed, that the thought of dessert after dinner was too much, but a birthday can't be celebrated without blowing out at least one candle, so I was treated to a cup of pink raspberry sherbet "birthday cake."

Thank you all, for all your best wishes on my special "landmark" birthday! I enjoyed turning 60 Denver style, in our new adopted city!

As usual, life has been very busy for me between babysitting my granddaughter Monday through Friday and summer activities.  I'm still catching up, but I hope to visit you soon!

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Monday, June 17, 2013

A Landmark 60th Birthday at the Brown Palace

Photo Source: clip art

"If you must look back, do so forgivingly. 
If you must look forward, do so prayerfully. 
However, the wisest thing you can do is be
present in the present, gratefully."

~ Maya Angelou

It isn't every day that one celebrates a special birthday! I've turned 60. Or, as I prefer to call it, "Double 30." That is why my birthday this year has been more than one day of celebration, with more to come!  Birthdays make me happy. I don't mind growing older, as I've found life gets more interesting the older I get. My one wish is for my good health to continue so I can keep enjoying it all. 

As you may already know, my husband recently treated me to tickets to see Andrea Bocelli at the Pepsi Center in Denver (click here) for my birthday, and my older brother and sister-in-law treated me to two pizzas (click here) flown in from NYC. But as a very special treat for my "landmark birthday" of 60, my husband fulfilled a dream I had of staying a night in one of Denver's oldest, continually running hotels--the landmark Brown Palace Hotel and Spa, which is located at 17th Street and Broadway in Denver, Colorado.

The hotel was built in 1892, by Henry Cordes Brown, (no relation to another famous Coloradan, Molly Brown). Brown had made his fortune in real estate and was one of the wealthiest men in Colorado at the time.  He hired Frank E. Edbrooke to design the new hotel, which was built by the cost of an unprecedented $1.6 million dollars in the Italian Renaissance style on a triangular piece of property.

The hotel featured the nation's first atrium lobby, with balcony floors rising six floors above the two-story lobby.

The balcony railings are all constructed of cast iron grillwork.

A close up of the panels in the balconies. A bit of trivia: two of the panels in the floors of railings were mistakenly installed upside down.

The atrium ceiling is constructed of a skylight made of stained glass.

The 2,800 square foot stained glass skylight is original., and it is currently being maintained by the fourth generation of its creator, Clarence Watkins.

The stone used throughout the hotel lobby is Mexican Onyx.

The hotel's original artesian well is located 750 feet deep beneath the floor, and still provides water to every faucet in the hotel!

I just love all the nooks and crannies of older hotels, especially when their decor and artifacts make me feel like I am visiting a previous era. The Brown Palace did not disappoint! The Brown Palace has been visited by every President since Teddy Roosevelt (1905) with the exception of Calvin Coolidge and has had many other famous and historic guests.

A glass of champagne is offered at check-in, and upon hearing that I was celebrating a birthday, the desk clerk had delicious chocolate truffles sent to our room, accompanied by a birthday card! 

Looking down at the main floor of the hotel the next day, you can see the main seating area was set for afternoon tea, which is served daily, between 12 and four, based on availability. Reservations are strongly encouraged. Scones, tea pastries, and tea sandwiches are artfully prepared by the hotel's culinary staff each day, while the Devonshire cream is shipped directly from England.

My husband treated me to tea, and we chose the "Royal Palace" selection from the menu, which included a glass of Kir Royale.

Just look at all the wonderful selections on our tea tray! (This photo and all photos in this post can be enlarged by clicking on them, and then again when they open on a new tab) When we finished our first selection of tea sandwiches, they were replaced with another platter of the same.

My husband chose the organic Masala Chai tea, while I chose the Organic Brown Palace Crown Jewel tea, which is a blend of  Assam and Ceylon teas. While we sipped our tea and enjoy the treats, we were listened to live piano music being played during the tea service... It was truly the most lovely experience, and one I'd love to repeat very soon.

My birthday celebrations are not completed, however, as later that night my family gathered at another Denver landmark, where we had the most unusual dinner. More about that in my next post!

I also thank all who commented on my post about the devastating Black Forest fire near Colorado Springs that claimed two lives, destroyed almost 480 homes, and many acres of ponderosa pine. The fires have been better contained after some much-needed rain and hopefully, they will be completely extinguished very soon. Thank you for your concern and prayers!

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Friday, June 14, 2013

The Black Forest Fire--the Most Destructive Fire in Colorado History!

This has been a fun birthday week for me--it is not every day that one turns 60! Unfortunately, my attention has also been riveted on the terrible Black Forest fire near Colorado Springs, in El Paso County, Colorado.  Two people have been confirmed killed and over 360 homes have burned to the ground.

The voracious 24 square mile fire is being fed by unusually hot temperatures, gusty winds, and the lack of rain for many months. The Black Forest was one of the largest contiguous stretches of ponderosa pine in the United States and is located NE of Colorado Springs, Colorado's second largest city

Due to a surging economy and rapid growth in the region, the Black Forest had been developed over recent years with million dollar homes

Now, one by one, those homes are being totally destroyed, which is also fueling the scope of the fire.

I pray that there will be no further loss of life in this historic fire and that the brave firefighters and first responders will remain safe.  I am also praying that the front range of Colorado gets a much needed drenching rain--rain without lightening so that no further fires are ignited in other areas!

While we live about 35 miles from this fire, it is ever constant on my mind that the risk of a fast-spreading fire like this could also cause extreme damage to our area. The hot, dry high desert climate of Colorado puts everyone on the front range in danger. No matter where one lives, nature can destroy all we worked hard for --tornadoes-floods-earthquakes-hurricanes--fires. The most important thing to do is be ever vigilant and evacuate when told to by the authorities. No material possession is worth your life, or those of your loved ones. Just as I was prepared to live in New York City after 9-11, for another terrorist attack, and again after I saw Hurricane Sandy destroy many homes around me, I now am making sure my "Go" bag is ready with all the items I may need if I ever have to evacuate our home quickly.

What is your region's greatest weather threat? Do you have a "Go" bag ready just in case?

Please keep Colorado in your prayers--thank you!  All Black Forest photos in this post are from the Denver Channel 7 News

I'll be showing you more about how I celebrated my special birthday very soon...stay tuned, and thank you for all your best wishes!

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