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 is 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 switch back trail.  I'm sure it would take hours to do this trail by 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 hill top 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 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 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 snow melt 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 roght: 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.


Happy 4th of July!

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34 comments:

eileeninmd said...

Hello Pat, What a lovely post on the open space in your community. The views are just stunning. I enjoyed learning about the history of the Beacon Hill, lodge, flag pole and ranch. The view of Mt Evans is gorgeous. I am happy that you have come to love your new Colorado community and home. Great post and photos. Enjoy your day and the new week ahead!

Betsy Adams said...

Excellent post, Pat... There are so many gorgeous things and places to see in your area... I too LOVE the mountains ---and our Smokies are equally as beautiful (in a different way). We are not nearly as high in elevation as you all are ---but being 2000 feet UP (here at our home) is better than being at sea level (in the valleys below).... I love our area, called the Cumberland Plateau. We are part of the Appalachian Mountains --and our plateau is the highest TREED plateau in the country... Most plateaus are 'treeless'....

Your trip to Beacon Hill looks awesome and I remember reading your post from Mt Evans. We want to come back sometime and see more of Colorado... Hope you all will come and explore more of the Smokies sometime.

Hugs,
Betsy

From the Kitchen said...

We are quite fortunate to have such wonderful diversity in our country. There is wonder in the uniqueness of NYC and Colorado and in between. How good to hear that so much of your area is being preserved. I hope we are never in danger of losing that which was here before we were. Great photos!!

Best,
Bonnie

Nellie said...

You certainly are in some beautiful country! I wonder how the pioneers ever made it in their explorations and travels! They were a hardy bunch! Happy July! xo Nellie

The Glamorous Gourmet said...

What a wonderful post! I lived in Denver for 4 years while I went to CU Boulder and I do miss the beautiful views and weather. Even when I lived there I never took a tour like this and how nice to delve into the history of the region you live in. I'm now back in South Florida (I'm a native!) and I adore our beaches and consistently warm weather although it's a little toasty now:) Thanks for bringing back some great memories ~ Cheers!

Barb said...

Pat, I enjoyed your hike, the views, and the wildflowers. Do you think the haze over the peaks is from fires in CA? I'm noticing haze here in the mountains, too. I love so many areas of CO and like to visit especially when snow keeps falling at my high altitude. What I enjoy most about where I live at high altitude is the spectacular scenery, the wilderness right outside my door and the wild animals that call these mountains home. I also appreciate the cool nights and the low humidity of summer and the abundant snow in winter so I can ski!

Ciao Chow Linda said...

How wonderful for you that you were able to get up there and see those sights not far from your home. I know it must have been hard to say goodbye to Brooklyn, but with your kids in Colorado, and the gorgeous scenery, it doesn't seem like you'd ever move back to Brooklyn. It's nice to see that you got back there recently for a birthday party.

aspiritofsimplicity said...

I have never been but have heard that Colorado is just beautiful.

Cathy Keller said...

We're hoping to get to go up Mt. Evans this summer. It has been a number of years and I miss it! Thank you for taking me home yet again!!!

xinex said...

Wow! Amazing views! Thanks for sharing, Pat....Christine

Snap said...

Beautiful post, Pat. So much fun to see Colorado through your eyes. What do I like most about where I live? Walking! Almost anything I might need is walking distance and Rice University is so handy -- so much going on. Happy Monday!

Maria said...

Beautiful view of the mountain and nice walking path! I'd also fall in love with this place.

SmilingSally said...

Hi Pat,

You did find some gorgeous views. You asked what I like about where I live. Palm trees. Yep, I love Palm trees.

Isn’t it fun finding blues to share? Thanks for playing today.

Happy Blue Monday!

LV said...

You made the right choice. Colorado in my opinion is one of the most beautiful states. You definitely will love it compared to New York.

Jeannie Marie said...

Like you, I have made a big change from Midwest to Tropical living, you also have moved into another world. I really enjoyed your pictures, especially those of Mt. Evans. Happy Blue Monday!

carol l mckenna said...

Beautiful places and photography ~ You definitely are enjoying your new 'home.'


Happy Week to you,
artmusedog and carol

Judith @ Lavender Cottage said...

Pat, I have been telling my husband about the beauty of Colorado where you moved to. There seems to be so much to do for hiking and sight seeing, particularly when you show the view from this hike.
Not to mention the restaurants...:-)
Thanks for linking to Mosaic Monday.

Lorrie said...

Hello Pat,
What wonderful scenery and history you have so close at hand. Colorado is a beautiful part of the USA. I enjoy your posts.
I love the proximity to nature in my part of the world - the ocean, the rivers and forests. Hiking is something my husband and I enjoy - we go out on our boat and stop at various islands for hikes. Nature is so beautiful.

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

A lovely post Pat... And you are so right about the natural beauty of your adopted state! And what a fascinating historical tour! I will send a link to this post to my CO family !

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

I always marvel at your amazing photos and it makes me want to pack the car and drive out West! You always do the research to let us know about the places you visit too. Thanks so much! Enjoy your week sweet friend. Hugs, Diane

Andrea said...

Hi Pat i guess i am new here. Being unfamiliar with countries and climates like yours, it is amazing, interesting and fascinating for me to see. I can visualize and imagine the feeling of being on top of the world, cold and seeing the snowcaps on nearby mountains. I've seen them a few times only in my very few travels abroad, but i will be very privileged if in this lifetime i can reach a place like that. I will definitely delight on taking the landscape photos there. And those penstemon, thought those are lupines, i love them so much.

ladyfi said...

Wonderful scenery!

Tanya Breese said...

beautiful views, i love those purple flowers and i like that you added the history of the chimney...i often wonder what happened when i see a chimney like that.

Rajesh said...

Beautiful shots of the place. The landscape is amazing.

Donna said...

I agree...you live in a beautiful and historic spot...love these amazing views!

Judy ~ My Front Porch said...

You DO live in a beautiful place...and I'm glad that you love it! And thank-you for showcasing it here on your blog for all of us to see.

Ann Y said...

Pat thanks so much for the wonderful pictures! You make every adventure something not to be missed.

The Gathering Place said...

What a lovely day for you! Those mountains are so magnificent in the background and the lovely wild flowers are so pretty. I can see how you are loving the west. There are so many beautiful things to see and do.

Cheryl @ TFD said...

I know I say it each time I visit you, but the scenery there is just so beautiful! I loved this post and all of your wonderful photos, Pat. I enjoy seeing things that I may never get to see, so I really appreciate the time you take to write these special posts and share your photos. I'm behind on blog reading, so I'll be back to catch up on some posts I've missed.

About Little One, the kitten we lost. You might be right about a hawk picking her up. I've seen some flying very close overhead from my window recently.

Take care and enjoy the rest of this week!

Claudia said...

Isn't it amazing where life takes you? Love this "Brooklyn woman" waxing poetical about Colorado and you share the charms of that gorgeous state so graciously. I periodically tell my kids we should all move to Colorado! You have me convinced!

Cathy said...

Colorado is such a beautiful state. Thanks for taking us on your walking tour, Pat.

diane b said...

You sure have lived in the best of two worlds, NYC and the mountain state. The ride up to Beakon Hill and the scenery is amazing. I often wonder why both your children moved to Colorado. You are lucky to be near them both. I like living in our community because it is close two State Conservation parks with hiking trails, it is close to the city and the fabulous beaches. I also prefer warm weather for most of the year but it is cold now.6°C to 18°C which is probably not cold for you but we feel it.

Vee said...

Goodness! I really have been remiss...loved the collage of wildflowers and seeing your beautifully framed mountain views. They truly are spectacular!

Photo(Geo)grapher said...

Stunning photos and some really interesting post