Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Autumn in a Cemetery

On a beautiful blue sky day, my husband and I took a drive up into the mountains, to see some of the autumn colors, and came upon an 1865 cemetery upon a hillside outside of Central City. It was the Rocky Mountain Independent Order of Odd Fellows #2 Cemetery. The Independent Odd Fellows is a benevolent fraternal organization that was founded in North America in the early 1800s

(All photos will enlarge for easier viewing when clicked on)

That is a big name for this small, quiet, and changing aspen shaded place of final rest for some of the early pioneer families of this area.

Many of the headstones were in good condition, considering all the weather they have endured over the years. The gravestones' symbolic funerary art designs and inscriptions were very beautiful.

One of the most unusual makers in the cemetery was the small limestone cabin with the name "Walter."  This poignant symbol of home marks the family plot for the children of this family. The sad reality of the times, one hundred and fifty years ago, was that many children died young, from disease, injury, or natural disasters.

So, on this glorious autumn day in Colorado, amid aspens trees of gold, we walked and reflected upon the seasons of the year and the seasons of life itself.  The only sound we heard was the crunching of leaves beneath our feet and the gentle breeze in the air. There is beauty all around us, even in a cemetery--especially in autumn.

Come back in a few days and I'll show you more of Autumn in Colorado. We recently visited two mountain passes where we saw exceptional color,

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Sunday, September 27, 2015

Autumn in Colorado!

Autumn is my favorite season. I lived most of my life on the east coast and enjoyed the multi-hued, autumn palette of the trees every fall. I often took trips to New England and upstate New York just to "leaf peep," as that tradition is called. Autumn in Colorado is a much shorter season than it was on the east coast. It comes quickly in an almost overnight explosion of gold! The shorter daylight and cooler temperatures make the aspen trees burst forth in hues of yellow, gold, and orange.  

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

The distant foothills and mountains become a patchwork quilt of autumn color, as the aspens are tucked in between the evergreens. When seen in contrast against the bright blue Colorado sky they seem to glow.

Autumn splendor begins in September, in both the high mountain elevations of Colorado and in the northern part of the state.

It then flows down, with time, to the lower elevations and plains, and towards the southern part of the state. So for about a month, Colorado is especially beautiful wearing her autumnal dress.

"How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountains"  - John Muir

"Autumn burned brightly, a running flame through the mountains, a torch flung to the trees."  
- Faith Baldwin

"How beautiful leaves grow old. How full of light and color are their last days."  - John Burrough

I have been following autumn in different places in my area this year,  I'll be posting my photos more frequently this month to share their beauty. Check back soon!

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Sunday, September 20, 2015

Parker Oktoberfest! Fun for the Entire Family!

Is there a better way to spend one of the last lovely days of summer than to attend a wonderful outdoor festival? My husband and I attended the 10th annual Parker Oktoberfest this past weekend, held in O'Brien Park, in the beautiful town of Parker, Colorado. We looked forward to a day of authentic German music, dancing, beer, and food. There was a giant Biergarten and entertainment tent set up on the grounds, as well as many umbrella-shaded tables nearby, in which to enjoy the food and entertainment. The Parker Oktoberfest has been an annual fundraising event for the last ten years, to raise money for the Colorado Council of Arts Science and Culture operating budget to support area arts, science, and cultural programs. This year they partnered with the Colorado chapter of the German American Chamber of Commerce to co-produce the event.
The tradition of an "Oktoberfest" started in Munich, Germany on October 12, 1810, as a celebration to honor the marriage between Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese. The party was so popular it became an annual celebration.  It is also associated with the end of harvest and often held at the end of the last Saturday of September to the first Sunday of October.  Many German Americans continue this tradition in their communities. Have you ever attended one?

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

There was free admission to the Parker Oktoberfest festival, and as soon we arrived we went over to the big tent to listen to the Continentals playing a variety of traditional German songs.

Soon afterward, the Denver Kickers Schuhplattler Dance Group was introduced.

They performed many delightful traditional German/Bavarian dances.

It was really fun to watch the skill and the gusto which the dancers exhibited.  I was particularly amused by the cute little daughter of one of the dancers, who was also dressed in costume, and who watched from the sidelines and joined in the dance from time to time.

I took videos of some of the dances which you can watch on my Mille Fiori Favoriti Facebook page on their direct links: here, and here and here.

I could smell the delicious aromas of food in the air, and so we walked around to see what some of the food vendors were selling. There were sausages, schnitzel, spaetzle, chicken, salmon, bratwurst, knackwurst, sauerbraten, sauerkraut, black forest cake, apple strudel...

...giant soft pretzels and a Paulaner beer selection and wines supplied by Purgatory Cellars of Colorado. We enjoyed eating brats and having a beer a few different times during the day!

We also enjoyed browsing and shopping at the 80 or more vendors that were at the Parker Oktoberfest. There was a variety of merchandise, services and information booths available, some of which you can see in the photo collage above.

My husband also enjoyed looking at the features of the two Volkswagen vehicles on display by one of the festival sponsors.

We went back to the large tent to sit down and enjoyed watching the TEV Edelweiss Volktanz Group. They performed a few traditional German dances and afterward invited the audience to join in.

The 2015 Miss Oktoberfest, Lily Goetze, also joined in a dance with the group and other audience members!

The Parker Oktoberfest is geared towards family fun, and the family entertainment area had lots of children activities, games and rides to enjoy. There was a "competition tent" in the family center, and we watched a junior cherry pie eating contest...

...as well as an adult Stein Hoist!

Other competitions of the day included a bubble gum blow up contest, a yodeling contest, a bratwurst eating contest, chicken dance-off, and others!

Back in the big tent, we listened to the music of the Average German Band.

They played some wonderful traditional polka songs which had the crowd dancing, as you can see on this video on my Mille Fiori Favoriti Facebook page, as well as the fun "Chicken Dance" with costume characters that enhanced the young children.  Soon the rooster and chicken had everyone up and "flapping their wings" along to the music.  If you'd like to see a video of the chicken and rooster dancing to another German folk song, click this Facebook direct link.

The Denver Kicker Schuhplattler Group also had repeat performances of new dances. They also invited the audience to join in and the tent was filled with music and dancing.

Young, or old, or in-between, everyone had a good time at the Parker Oktoberfest!

My husband and I also enjoyed walking back through a part of the historic town of Parker, to where we parked our car. It is a very pretty town, and I know we will return in the future for a longer visit someday.

Autumn tree color has arrived in Colorado at the higher elevations, and will soon arrive in our portion of the Front Range. It is my favorite time of the year!  It is a short season in Colorado so I hope to enjoy every minute of it.  Is fall showing her pretty face in your area?  Have you been enjoying any fall festivals as yet?

* In full disclosure I was invited by the German American Chamber of Commerce to attend the Parker Oktoberfest and treated to vouchers for free brats and beer at the festival.  All opinions about the Parker Oktoberfest expressed in this post are mine, and were not influenced by the GACC or the free vouchers.

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Sunday, September 13, 2015

Roxborough State Park

Roxborough State Park is a 3,339 acre Colorado State Park located in Douglas County. Known for its dramatic red sandstone formations, in 1980 it was recognized as a National Natural Landmark because of its ecological systems and geological formations, as well as a State Historic Site and National Cultural District, because of the number of archaeological sites on its grounds. (All photos and photo collages in this post will enlarge for easier viewing if clicked on)

After parking our car at the entrance there is a short walk to the visitor's center.

We were already amazed by the giant rock formations we passed along the path.

This welcome sign on the path describes it well!

The Roxborough Visitor Center has a book store, interpretive displays, restrooms, and an auditorium where you can see an introductory DVD called "Footprints of Past and Present," which explains the trails, flora, and fauna of the park.  The auditorium can also be rented for meetings and small events.

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I enjoyed looking at all the interesting interpretive placards about the geologic formations in the park...

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...and also the fascinating past history of the area.

There are 15 miles of trails in the park that take hikers to some incredible views of giant hogbacks and red rock formations, red sandstone ridges, and spires. The trails range from an easy half mile on the Fountain Overlook Trail to a challenging 6.4-mile trek up 7,160 feet Carpenter Peak, where you can see the surrounding countryside for miles and catch a glimpse of downtown Denver, 25 miles away. Hours vary each month, but generally, the trails are open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in summer and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the winter. No pets, bicycles or horses are allowed on the trails.

We headed out on the Fountain Valley Trail loop that winds through the Fountain and Lyons rock formations at an elevation of around 6,100 feet.

The trail winds through picturesque areas...

...and has overlook areas with spectacular views!

A few close-ups of the magnificent rock formations.

We continued on, enjoying the views both large...

....and small.

We passed gentle criss-cross slopes of the hogbacks.

We then climbed up the steps towards the Lyons Overlook Trail. There we walked on a sandy path surrounded by scrub oak, sunflowers and wildflowers. I was amazed to see pine trees growing out of the rocks.

At the top of the trail is a platform to stand on to view the Lyons Formations.

You can see the beautiful and unusual rocks and the trail as it continues to loop around.

Another view...

...and a close-up.

We continued back on the Fountain Trail...

..passing the formations again from ground level...

...until we returned back to the visitors center.  

Mountain Lion exhibit in the visitor center.

We did not see any mountain lions, black bears, mule deer, red fox, eagles, hawks or rattlesnakes the time we visited the park, but they are frequently sighted in the natural areas

A view of the Dakota Hogback on the way back to our car.

As we drove out of the park, back towards our community, we could see the buildings of Denver in the eastern distance. It is nice to think that Roxborough, and many other wonderful Colorado state parks, are an accessible drive west from this city, and even closer to where I live.  We are very fortunate to have so much natural beauty nearby.

The Friends of Roxborough nonprofit organization was formed in 1996 by volunteers to support nature education and stewardship of Roxborough State Park, and to protect its boundaries.  They hold fundraiser events throughout the year such as moonlight hikes and concerts.  They also have a scholarship fund that provides transportation funds that allow income disadvantaged school children to come to Roxborough for naturalist-guided educational experiences.

Roxborough State Park is located at 4751 Roxborough Drive, Littleton, Colorado. Map and directions can be found on this link.  Add it to your list of places you will want to see if you are in the Denver area one day--it's well worth a visit!

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