Sunday, June 28, 2015

Geology Museum at the Colorado School of Mines

Do you see the big letter "M" that sits at 6,900 feet, towards the top side of Mt. Zion in Golden, Colorado? It is made of whitewashed rocks and measures 104 feet X 107 feet.  It was designed by the Colorado School of Mines professor, Joseph Francis O'Byrne in 1908 as a descriptive geometry exercise, and he succeeded in creating this letter that does not appear distorted from any angle. It has become a welcoming sign for the Colorado School of Mines --a prestigious public research university devoted to engineering and applied science. It has the highest admissions standards of any public university in Colorado and is among the highest of any public university in the United States.

All photos and photo collages will enlarge, for easier viewing, if clicked on.

Founded in 1874 the Colorado School of Mines is a world-class research institution and contains a very interesting Geology Museum which acts as the Colorado state repository for its mineral heritage. Arthur Lakes, a world-class geologist of his day, put together the first collection of geological treasures for the school when it opened, and the collections have grown through the years to over 50,000 specimens!

The new museum building was completed in 2003, and displays gemstones, minerals, gold, silver, and copper in their original form, fossils, meteorites, and mining artifacts, in its well-lit clear glass display cases and shelves.

The remarkable mining murals above the collections are by Irwin Hoffman.

There were many display cases of rare and valuable Colorado Minerals, such as the red-colored Rhodochrosite and Tetrahedrite that you can see in the middle of the display above, or the Turquoise that is in the top left.

More Colorado minerals were beautiful pieces of Amanozite and Quartz, like the blue/black specimen in the back center, and Microcline on the back right.

There was also an entire room full of examples of Gold mined from different areas in Colorado and also around the world.  It was easy to see how this element created the Gold Rush frenzy in the middle 1800s both in the mountains of California and Colorado.

There were large specimens of rare minerals from around the world--in order from top left: AmaniziteSchorl on Albite/Cleavelandite, 
bottom left to right:

There were beautiful examples of pink Rhodochrosite, and objects that were made from it.

Two pieces that really impressed me were the "Colorado Fire" necklace and the gem-studded crown that is worn by "Miss Colorado" pageant winners and stored for the rest of the year at the Geology Museum in a protective safe.

There was a walk-through mine exhibit that contained this amazing ultraviolet mineral display! With the flick of a switch, the minerals on the left would glow with their natural fluorescence under short and long-wave ultraviolet light.

We saw many examples of meteorites...

..and also a wonderful fossil collection.

The "Cave Bear" skull, and Mastodon molar and tusk, were fascinating to see. Mastodons once roamed in my area, as teenagers found both a piece of a mastodon jaw and tusk in a stream in my neighborhood.

There was even a fossilized dinosaur bone in the Geology Museum.  This photo of my granddaughter and husband touching it is one of my favorite photos from our visit to the Geology Museum. Our little miss has become quite interested in dinosaurs recently, especially after we visited Dinosaur Ridge--click here to read that post if you missed it. 

The Geology Museum also includes an outdoor geologic trail, that features seven outcrops with various geologic and paleontological points of interest, including dinosaur tracks, logs, and leaves. We did not go to this trail on this visit, but saved it for the future, as we knew we'd like to visit the museum again. The museum exhibits change 20% annually, so there will always be something new to see.

The Colorado School of Mines Geology Museum is located at 1310 Maple Street, Golden, Colorado. Admission is free, but donations are accepted. It is open Monday-Saturday 9 AM to 4 PM and Sunday 1 PM to 4 PM.  It is closed on certain legal and school holidays call 303 273 3816 for information. 

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Sunday, June 21, 2015

Lair O' the Bear Park

Don't you just love the name of this Jefferson County Open Space park?   From the first time I passed Lair O' the Bear Park while driving past it on State Highway 74, in the Morrison area, I've wanted to turn into its grounds and explore it. My husband and I finally had the opportunity to do that last week.  We have been trying to do a few hikes a week for exercise, and also to enjoy the late springtime beauty of the local trails. (All photos and photo collages in this post will enlarge for easier viewing if clicked on) 

Bear Creek runs through Lair O' the Bear Park, and there are creekside trails for walkers and anglers who want to try their luck at fishing for trout. The 1.9 mile Bruin Bluff Trail is slightly more challenging going up to a higher elevation. Bear Creek Trail is 1.3 miles along the creek and is shaded in many areas by Cottonwood and Box Elder trees and some Ponderosa Pine trees. There is also a challenging 12.6 mile round trip hiking trail that encompasses three Denver Mountain Parks to the west. Information about the history of the park and how it got its name can be read on this link.

We began our hike on Creekside Trail that leads to Bear Creek Trail. As you can see the creek was running high and hard! The spring alpine snowmelt and the heavy rainfalls that the Front Range has been experiencing this spring has made all the creeks and rivers run near flood levels this year,  This area is closest to the parking area and also contains 28 picnic tables and permanent charcoal, grills, plus a covered educational shelter, where Lookout Mountain Nature Center holds campfire events and programs for groups and the public.

Nearby were some interesting educational placards describing how this area is a watershed.  (Please enlarge by clicking on the collage to read the information) Water from the rain and snowmelt runs down east in this area from the high Continental Divide, to form many streams and creeks. Bear Creek eventually feeds into the South Platte River that then runs through Denver, then northeast through Nebraska, and to the Missouri River.  Eventually, it empties into the Mississippi River and into the Gulf of Mexico!

We continued on the trail and crossed over Bear Creek on one of the bridges.

It is easy to see how high the creek is running in this photo, as it is getting very close to the bottom of the bridge! 

If you'd like to see a phone video I took of fast running Bear Creek you can see it on Youtube above or by clicking on my Mille Fiori Favoriti facebook page on this link.

We enjoyed walking the entire loop of the trail. My husband dipped his hand into the water to feel the temperature of the creek and he said it felt very cool--maybe 40 to 50 degrees.

My favorite part of the Bear Creek Tail was also seeing all the beautiful wildflowers in bloom along the way!

We did not see too many anglers the time we hiked since the creek was running so hard they need to take precautions not to be swept away by the fast-moving current.  There was an unfortunate incident, recently, where a fisherman drowned in Boulder Creek, perhaps caught up by the fast current there.

I loved this magnificent wonderful old willow tree by one area of the creek.  Countless children have climbed up on its welcoming branches over the years.  I felt fortunate to have a few quiet moments sitting on a branch and enjoying its shade.

It's wonderful to be able to connect with nature in such a beautiful setting as Lair O' the Bear Park, and I know we will be returning here many times in the future!

Thank you to everyone for your wonderful comments and best wishes on the birth of our new granddaughter!  We feel very blessed to now have four grandchildren nearby, and have been enjoying her so much!

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Sunday, June 14, 2015

Our New Granddaughter Has Arrived!

Our new granddaughter made her appearance last week!  Baby "E" arrived on her due date and has already filled our hearts with boundless joy! Her big brothers are delighted to have a little sister to play with and we are thrilled to now have a total of four grandchildren. My husband and I were both born in June, so now we have a grandchild who shares our birthday month. Thankfully, our daughter-in-law had an easy delivery and is feeling wonderful. We are all truly blessed!  I will be updating photos of our growing family in the future, as there will be lots of happy times ahead.

(All photos, and photo collages, in this post, will enlarge for easier viewing if clicked on)

We also had friends from Florida staying with us last week. Their daughter was attending a Physician Assistant Continuing Education program in Denver, and as her husband is a Navy pilot on assignment, our friends babysat for her little girl at our house.  We enjoyed their visit very much, and although the weather did not cooperate for a few days. we were able to do some local sightseeing with them. We brought them to nearby Red Rocks Amphitheater--always a beautiful place to see

My husband and I both had early June birthdays, so we celebrated at a dinner, courtesy of our daughter and son-in-law, at The Broker Restaurant, located at 821 17th Street in Denver, Colorado. It is a classic, elegant steakhouse located in the basement area of what was once the Denver National Bank Building. To enter the restaurant's main dining area, you walk through the original 100-year-old old vault door and sit in one of the private cherry wood booths that bank customers once used to view the content of their safe deposit boxes. It was a very unique and romantic setting!  As our appetizer, we shared the signature shrimp bowl, which was a pound of large "peel and eat" Gulf shrimp, and we each had a delightful iceberg wedge salad and shared a side of decadent lobster mac and cheese. My husband had prime rib served with au jus and a horseradish sauce along with a Yorkshire pudding, I had the signature "Tournedos Oscar," which was two beef fillets and a crab cake. with asparagus. We shared a delicious tiramisu for dessert.  It was a wonderful meal and a memorable way to celebrate!

We also attended the U2 concert at the Pepsi Center in Denver as a birthday gift to each other. It was a remarkable concert with many special staging effects.  Bono, the lead singer, had been seriously injured in a bicycle accident in Central Park in New York City, which had delayed the band's concert schedule for over a year. He told everyone that the first two people who had helped him after the accident in the park were two ladies who were visiting NYC from Denver, and they were both in attendance at this concert.

So, as you can see, it has been a happy and busy time for us the past few weeks! I hope the end of Spring has also been a good one for you.

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Saturday, June 6, 2015

Dinosaur Ridge

My daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter invited my husband and me to take a trip with them to Dinosaur Ridge in Morrison, Colorado last week. Dinosaur Ridge is located almost in our backyard--only a short 10-minute drive from our homes and is part of the Dakota Hogbackwhich you can see in the top left of the photo collage above. It is one of the world's most famous dinosaur fossil locations! In 1877 the bones of many dinosaurs were found here, including Apatosaurus, Diplodocus, Stegosaurus, and Allosaurus. Full-size models of some of the dinosaurs can be seen around the grounds of the Dinosaur Ridge Indoor Exhibit Hall.  (All photos and photo collages in this post can be enlarged for easier viewing if clicked on)

As soon as we entered the exhibit hall and my granddaughter saw this skeleton head of a Tyrannosaurus Rex on the wall, she declared"Dinosaurs too scary!" and asked to go back outside with her Mommy and Daddy. Meanwhile, my husband and I took a quick look around the hall.

There were many interesting exhibits, murals, and maps to read with information about the topographical and weather conditions of this location 150 million years ago when dinosaurs roamed the earth. It was quite different from today!

During the late Jurassic time, this land was flat and tropical with the shoreline of a vast sea that sat in the middle. Over the millenniums, earthquakes and volcanoes raised the topography of Colorado to what it is today, and in the process raised the fossils and dinosaur tracks to be in an almost vertical position.

The Dinosaur Ridge Trail (map above--click on to enlarge) is approximately two miles long and has interpretive signs along the way that explain the geologic and paleontological features. The rocks on the east side of the ridge are part of the Cretaceous Dakota Formation. When Alameda Parkway was being constructed in 1937 to provide access to Red Rocks Park, road workers discovered hundreds of dinosaur footprints. along the exposed ridge. The west side of the ridge is called Triceratops Trail and is part of the Morrison Formation of Jurassic age and it is where Arthur Lakes discovered the dinosaur bones in 1877.

The Dinosaur Ridge Trail can be walked......

...or one can take a shuttle bus tour that makes a few stops along the way with a guide for a nominal fee.  We took this option since this was our first visit and we wanted to see the highlights.

This is an example of the multiple layers of rock and sandstone along with the exposed areas.

Our tour guide (man in the hat) would stop the bus at certain points. We would get out of the bus and sit on seats while he described the history of the area and what we were seeing at each point.  My granddaughter was looking for dinosaurs to appear (smile), as we heard about the footprints they left behind, 100 million years ago, that were fossilized in the rock.

She even had the opportunity to step into some of the tracks, with the aid of her Daddy.

This is a good view of some of the dinosaur tracks.

We learned that these trace fossil tracks were left by the Eolambia and the Acrocanthosaur dinosaur.

On these sandstone rocks, preserved ripple marks can be seen that were made by gentle waves and currents in an intertidal zone along what was the western seaway.

Multicolored sandstone rock showing the remains of ancient vegetation and volcanic activity, which has left coal and clay deposits.

A large distribution of dinosaur bones, from 150 million years ago, was found at one point in the sandstone rock wall. At one time this was the sandy shore of a stream, and you can read how they were deposited on the placard in the collage above if you enlarge the photo by clicking on it. We, and other visitors, were able to touch the bones and feel their smooth coolness.

I took a few moments to look around at the view from Dinosaur Ridge and saw this perspective of the Red Rocks Amphitheater in the distance. It was a grey and misty morning but this shows the beautiful natural setting of the amphitheater.

Our tour guide pointed out indentation bulges in the ridge rocks that were the footprints of large dinosaurs, like brontosaurs or Apatosaurus. From studying footprint patterns paleontologists are able to learn much about how dinosaurs lived,  such as they traveled in herds, accompanied by their young.

When we returned to the visitors center we took the time to read more of the interesting informational placards about the geology and background of Dinosaur Ridge.

We also learned that Dinosaur Ridge is a favorite area for scientists and volunteers to do an annual "hawk watch" of migrating hawks. The Red Tail Hawk is most often seen living in this area.

My granddaughter enjoyed the gift shop and digging in the "Backyard Bone Pit, " and identifying more dinosaur footprints on the ground. Dinosaur Ridge is a fascinating place to visit no matter what age you are!

Parking at the visitors center and self-guided walks up Dinosaur Ridge Trail and Triceratops Trail and the gift shop are free. There is a fee to enter the Exhibit Hall and to take a guided tour/shuttle bus ride up Dinosaur Ridge.  The full fee schedule can be seen on this link.

Do you find the days of the dinosaurs fascinating? Come visit Dinosaur Ridge!

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