Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Nature of Horses Exhibit at the Denver Botanic Garden

My husband and I took a stroll this past week, through the Denver Botanic Garden, to see the special Nature of Horses exhibit by sculptor Deborah Butterfield, which is running through October 18, 2015.

(All photos and photo collages will enlarge for easier viewing if clicked on)

Deborah Butterfield has spent most of her life around real horses and has been able to capture their essence in abstract design and powerful form through her minimalist sculptures. Using found materials, such as driftwood, sticks, twigs, and pieces of metal she was able to craft these sculptures into expressive works of art. The ephemeral quality of these natural materials led her to rework them in bronze casting. The sculptures seen in the Horses exhibit are all bronze cast sculptures from her original wood assemblages! 

The effect is very realistic and certainly a "fool the eye" technique!  Although this looks like wood, the bronze will last a lifetime and makes her sculptures very enduring for an outdoor display. 

The only exception to the cast bronze driftwood effect was this sculpture made of scrap metal. The repose posture of this horse by a garden pond looked so peaceful. 

It was pleasant, even on an overcast and drizzly day, to stroll through the different themed gardens within the Denver Botanic Garden and see the different horse sculptures on display.  They looked as if they had been there forever, each setting for them was so perfect!

I enjoyed looking at all their poses and details.

Look how well Butterfield captured the long eyelashes of this horse!

Of course, we also enjoyed seeing the garden in mid-summer bloom. The weather in spring was cool and rainy this year so many flowers had a late start. 

There are many places within the garden to sit and enjoy the scenery or catch a few cool breezes and escape the crowds.

There are also many gardening ideas for visitors to see.

I took many notes about flowers and shrubs that were thriving in our climate.

Just look at all these beautiful blooms!

One of my favorite walks of the day was through the profusely blooming Birds and Bee Walk. Click on the collage above to read how you can provide a house for bees and insects that help in the pollination of your garden.

I've been to the Denver Botanic Gardens many times in the past. You can read my post about the spectacular Chihuly Glass Exhibit that was there last summer at this link. This sculpture, entitled "Colorado" by the artist, and inspired by the colors of the Colorado sunset, was donated to the garden after the exhibit, by generous private donors, and is now on permanent display. 

You can also see a visit I made in autumn to the garden's large indoor conservatory to see the orchids and bromeliads in bloom on this link. All the seasons in the garden are lovely, and we buy a membership each year so we can visit often.

Before we left, my husband and I indulged in having one of the garden's delicious wood-fired pizzas for lunch. They offer a few different selections of pizza, besides the original Margarita-style pizza of tomatoes and cheese.  We chose a pizza made from a blend of roasted wild mushrooms, roasted garlic, arugula, and taleggio cheese.  It was heavenly!

If you are in the Denver area, make sure to enjoy a beautiful day in the Denver Botanic Gardens!

Before I end this post, I'd like to show you my son's beautiful front yard flower garden. It is full of native grasses and perennial flowers and shrubs. My two grandson's spotted a purple-painted collector's fire truck in front of a house in their neighborhood, so we all took a walk to see it. Enlarge this collage by clicking on it to see the truck in the lower right corner. It was really quite a sight to see! My little granddaughter "E" is now two months old, growing beautifully and now gives us some very sweet smiles. My grandchildren are all wonderful "flowers" in my life and I am enjoying watching them all grow!

It has been a wonderful summer and I have lots to show--come back soon to see a drive we took up   14,115 feet to the summit of Pikes Peak and many photos from our trip to New York City! I'm busy editing them all now.

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Sunday, July 19, 2015

Beautiful Views! Buena Vista!

Is it hot where you are? 

Is the summer heat of July beginning to wear you down, make you perspire, and yearn for somewhere cool?

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I thought I'd share some photos I took while on a car trip, from Colorado to Arizona, last October. My husband and I were driving south along State Highway 285, in beautiful Park County, Colorado. The views we saw of distant snow-capped mountains, that surround this 9,000-foot high plateau, took our breath away!

Snow comes early to the higher elevations of 12-14 thousand foot high mountains! Do you feel the cool breezes coming down from those mountains into the valley? Ahhhhh!

The snow-covered mountains were beautiful backdrops for autumn gold leaf aspens...

...and deep green pine trees.

We continued to drive south until we entered central Colorado's Chaffee County.

There we saw more high snow-capped mountains in the distance!

We were entering the Buena Vista area, where we had a view of Mt. Princeton.  Mt. Princeton is 14,204 feet high mountain and is part of the Collegiate Peaks of the Sawatch Range of the Rocky Mountains. The Sawatch Mountain Range contains eight of the twenty highest peaks in the Rocky Mountains, including Mt. Elbert, which is the highest mountain of the Rocky Mountain Range in North America, at an elevation of 14,440 feet. One would really cool off if they climbed that mountain!

The town of Buena Vista is at an elevation of 7,965 feet, in the Arkansas River Valley. It was founded in 1864 by settlers who felt the abundant water sources made the land suitable for agriculture.

Buena Vista means "beautiful view" in Spanish, which is the perfect name for this area, don't you think?

You might even see elk (or an elk statue) grazing in one of the meadows!

I hope these snow-capped mountain views made you feel a little cooler this summer day and filled you with a little awe at the amazing beauty of the state of Colorado!

I also recently enjoyed some amazing views in New York City, as my husband and I visited the top of the new One World Trade Center Observatory, on a trip we just returned from. More about that trip in a future blog post!

What is your favorite way to stay cool in the summer?

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Sunday, July 5, 2015

Beacon Hill and Little John's Chimney

Pure and simple, I now live in a beautiful place. As much as I adored Brooklyn, and the rest of New York City, for its wealth of diversity and interesting places to visit, I have fallen in love with Colorado and the beautiful valley in which we live. Our valley is snuggled right up against the foothills of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. Denver is the mile-high city to the east of us, at 5280 feet, but we are at an even higher elevation of over 6,000 feet. That would be the equivalent of a high mountain height on the east coast, which is basically at sea level. That explains why our weather often brings us snow in May, but since we are also considered "high desert," we also have very hot sunshine that often brings us 70 degree days in the middle of winter and low humidity year-round! 

(All photos and photo collages will increase in size if clicked on)

The Front Range foothills are about a thousand feet higher in elevation.  I often look up at them as I walk in my neighborhood and wonder what is up there? They have been preserved, for the most part, as "open space" in our community. Our community rangers are in charge of overseeing their preservation and use. There are some trails that crisscross through them, and those trails are private and for community use only.  There are many other trails and parks available along the Front Range of Colorado for use by the public, but our private trails are a big attraction to living where we do.  Some of the trails date back to paths that were used by the Native Americans that once lived here, and others are paths and roads that were made by early settlers and pioneers that traveled west and some who settled here.

I often wonder about the courage it took those early pioneers who traveled west over the high, and almost never-ending, Rocky Mountain range! Their journeys must have been slow and arduous. They saw wild animals and a changeable climate that they never saw before. Even in summer, the mountains could have deep snow on them, and there could be severe thunderstorms with hail and lightning.

Happily, for me, I recently had the opportunity to be driven up into one of the foothills in a large and powerful truck, with one of the community rangers, to see some historical sights on top! Members of our community's historical society had arranged an outing to Beacon Hill, elevation over 7,200 feet!  We went up on a major trail that the rangers use to do maintenance work but are otherwise off-limits to vehicular traffic other than bicycles and hikers.  It was a very rustic and bumpy ride.  Come along, and hold on tight as we ride up!

We passed amazing fields full of wild purple Penstemon flowers! The ranger explained that these probably migrated from gardens in our community, and while beautiful, they were considered a noxious weed, as they were not native to our open space. Since the butterflies and bees were enjoying their blossoms, they were letting them grow for now. Our ride continued up and our community began to shrink in size the higher we climbed along the switchback trail.  I'm sure it would take hours to do this trail on foot, and one would have to be a hiker in good shape to do it!

After about 20 minutes we finally reached the trail terminus near the top of the hill. 

Our group gathered from the two trucks that brought us up, and the rangers began telling us about the historical sights we were about to hike to.  They both dated back from the early ranch history of Ken Caryl Ranch, which you can read more about on this link and on this PDF filethat also contains historical photos.

We were going to end our Beacon Hill hikes with a picnic under this shelter--a nice surprise for me to see here, as I never imagined such a structure so high up in a foothill!

As we started our first hike I was also very pleased and excited to see this view!  Look closely at the horizon. It was a warm and hazy day, so my photo is not that clear, but there in the distance is Mount Evans!

A close-up view of beautiful Mt. Evans, which is over 14,000 feet high and visible from Denver, about 60 miles east.  Even at the end of June, when I took this photo, the mountain was still covered with snow!  If you missed the post I wrote about our drive and hike up to the very top of Mt. Evans last summer, click here to read that post.  It was a very exciting drive and hike, and the mountain was filled with amazing beauty!

The road that leads almost to the top of Mt. Evans, the Mount Evans Scenic Highway, is the highest road in the United States!  It made my heart swell to think this view is right behind one of the foothills in my area--almost as if I could reach out and touch it!  I spent a long time just gazing at this sight, appreciating where I live even more.

The hilltop was filled with tall and stately Ponderosa Pine trees, Colorado Blue Spruce and Fraser Fir trees, Gambel Oak trees, and Aspen trees. The rangers do a lot of work up here to ensure the trees prosper and that there is a proper fire break among them for safety's sake. We saw the marker to the trail that would lead us to one of the historical sights we were there to see, "Little John's Chimney."

On our hike towards the top of the hill, through a meadow......

...until we came across the stone remains of the lodge chimney that was found still standing after a fire that destroyed it's surrounding structure in the early part of the 20th century.

The chimney was once was a part of this hunting lodge, that was built on the top of Beacon Hill by the owner of the property and the entire Ken Caryl Ranch property below, John C Shaffer. Unfortunately, the lodge burned to the ground a few years after it was built. 
Shaffer was 

the editor and publisher of the Chicago Tribune as well as the owner of the Chicago Post and The Rocky Mountain News. Shaffer purchased 3,500 acres of land now known as Ken Caryl Ranch, named after his two sons, Kent and Carroll. Over time, Shaffer added on more property until his cattle ranch was over 10,000 acres. His beautiful Manor House still stands in the community and was the site of frequent entertainment in the Shaffer years. including visits by President Theodore Roosevelt, and President William Howard Taft, as well as industrial chieftains from around the world and celebrities of the time.

For nearly a century, the house passed on to be the private residence of other ranchers and was a continuing gathering place for Denver's society. To see more historical photos of the Shaffer family and The Manor House look on the Manor House website -click here.

There was a 100th-anniversary community celebration to mark the beginning of the ranch last summer (click here to see photos from that celebration, where the historical society all dressed up in period clothes.)

Our group gathered for a photo around the chimney.  In the distance, I saw a fox that was watching us with interest and captured his photo behind the fence!

We walked another trail to the summit of Beacon Hill...

...where we saw another historical sight from the Ken Caryl Ranch--the flag pole that was constructed by John Shaffer on the summit.  He would signal his friends when he was in residence at the Manor House or the hunting lodge, by hanging a large American flag from the pole.  It could be seen all the way to Denver, and his friends knew they could count on having a good time if they visited.  This is how the foothill became known as "Beacon Hill." The flag became the beacon attracting people to the ranch!

From this spot, we had an excellent view of our valley, so much so that I could see my house! In the distance is Chatfield Dam and Reservoir (click here to read my blog post about that important body of water that was built to control the flow of the South Platte River.) The reservoir has been flooded all spring from the excessive rain and mountain snowmelt that has occurred this year. 

It was time to head back down the trail to the picnic area to enjoy our lunch.

I could see US Route 285 from this vantage point, which leads up into Clear Creek and Park Counties and on towards New Mexico. Mt Evans was also on the hazy horizon

One last close up of this magnificent mountain peak! The cloud cover was beginning to grow in size, which signaled that a late afternoon thunderstorm was probably on the way.

Some of the pretty wildflowers I saw in the meadows on Beacon Hill.  Top left: Coreopsis, top right: Penstemon, bottom left: Blue Flax and bottom right: Golden Saxifrage

After lunch, we began the ride down the hill. Our community grew closer...

...and closer...

....until I recognized the Manor House, and the beginning of the trail where we began our travels this morning.  On the horizon is one of the hogback hills that secludes our valley between it and the foothills.  
It is a wonderful place to live! We have natural beauty, a historical past, many wonderful trails to hike, and many new places to explore. Of course, the best part of living here, for my husband and I, is the fact that our children and grandchildren also live nearby. We could not think of a happier way to live these days of our lives!  
I'd love to hear in your comment what you love the most about where you live? It's a beautiful world and every place has its special features.

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