Saturday, April 23, 2016

Littleton Museum--a Trip Back in Time

If you read my last blog post, you would see that we received almost two feet of snow last weekend, in a typical weather event that we often experience in spring on the Front Range in Colorado.  Just four days afterward almost all the snow had melted, except for a few patches here and there that were in the shade. In fact ,the weather was so beautiful that my husband and I decided to take our oldest granddaughter to the Littleton Museum, located at 6028 S. Gallup Street, Littleton Coloradocalled one of the top ten local history museums in the United States.  There is an exhibit building full of antique memorabilia and historical documents relating to Littleton's past; newspaper clippings, war stories, technological advances and other artifacts, which are fascinating to view, but we wanted to show our granddaughter the two living history farms--one representing 1860, and the other 1890, located on the museums, 39 acres. (All photos in this post will enlarge if clicked on)

She was very excited to be here for her first visit!

As we walked the dirt paths we could see actual farm buildings that were moved from their original locations to be preserved on the museum grounds.

It's interesting to see the assorted buildings and farm equipment on display, and it felt like we were transported back in time

We knew the farm animals would be the biggest attraction for our young granddaughter.  She spotted the one black sheep in this fold, and began to sing the song: "Baa, Baa black sheep have you any wool? 
The sheep are an old and rare breed called Navajo-Churro sheep, brought to the southwest by the Spanish in the 1500's.  There will soon be a shearing day event  to remove their heavy winter wool coats.

There was a nice amount of animals to see as we walked along the paths.  Many were relaxing in the shade of their stalls, after having eaten their lunch. Great care has been taken by the museum to ensure that plants and animals are historically accurate for the time period they represent.

One of the favorite animals my granddaughter saw was one of the most common--a curled up cat in a chair outside the 1890 farmhouse. We were careful not to disturb his nap

One of the most interesting buildings was a "root cellar," used to keep food supplies at a low temperature and steady humidity. It keeps food from freezing in the winter and to keep food cool in summer months to prevent spoilage.

This is Littleton's original one room schoolhouse, circa 1865. What a rustic life children led back then!  I think many Americans are familiar with the series of books written by Laura Ingalls Wilder, who was born in 1867, of her life growing up in the midwest during that era, but we learned of another author, Ralph Moody, who spent his early childhood in Littleton, and became the "man of the family" when his father was killed in an accident when Ralph was eleven.  Moody wrote a series of books called "Little Britches," in which he describes the ranching and farming life of the early 1900's.

All around the Littleton Museum farms there was plenty to see and do for both children and adults to enjoy! 

A portion of the grounds is situated next to Ketring Lake, which was formed as a reservoir in the 1890's as a water source for the farms and orchards that surrounded it. Now it is a quiet fishing spot and area for water fowl, with geese, ducks, herons, cormorants, and western grebes, visiting it.

My granddaughter really liked this whimsical sculpture of a young boy reading a book, that was outside the Littleton Museum's exhibition hall.  The book has this beautiful quotation by Helen Keller written on its open page: "The best and most beautiful things in the world can not be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart."

There is a delightful little play area inside the museum for children, with a reading nook and books and a replica kitchen with play food, that my granddaughter really enjoyed for quite awhile. However, no photography is allowed inside.

On special days for the museum there are living history interpreters in costumes of the period, who answer questions and share details of early life in Littleton, as well as hands on programs and special events to further enrich the museum experience.  The best part of all is that the museum and grounds are free!  We know we will be returning often to enjoy the beautiful grounds and to take part in the special events with our grandchildren.  It is a true local gem!

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Sunday, April 17, 2016

Gateway to the Rocky Mountains

I live in Jefferson County--one of the 64 counties in Colorado and the one that has the slogan that we are the "Gateway to the Rocky Mountains." It is easy to see how it got this name, when you see the high peaks of the Rockies in the distance in our area!  I can travel the world, but I doubt I'd find any place that can surpass the beauty that is here, and I'd like to tell you a little more about where I live.

My neighborhood in Jefferson County is nestled up to the foothills of the Rockies. The foothills range from 7,000 to 8,000 feet, the Rocky Mountains are higher--up to 14,000 feet high.

We are located in a valley, but at an altitude of over 6,000 feet!  The highest mountain east of the Mississippi is Mt Mitchell in the Black Mountain Range in North Carolina. It crests at 6,684 feet. We are as high as Mt. Washington in New Hampshire, which is 6,288 feet--the highest peak in the North Eastern United States.  It is easy to understand why we often have snow in spring, when one considers those facts.

But we also enjoy many bright blue sky days and mild temperatures, even in winter.  Our climate is changeable on the front range, but for the majority of the year it is very pleasant.

Today, we had another snow storm....wet and heavy snow that brings a lot of moisture, unlike the light powdery snows of winter.  It will melt quickly when the temperature return to normal spring weather.  I am looking forward to a beautiful wildflower season, because in Colorado, "April snow brings May flowers"!   Smile

Just a few days ago we were playing soccer with our grandsons, wearing short sleeves in 70 degree weather....

...and today everyone was shoveling snow!

But there is a quiet beauty to the snow.....

...and it makes our neighborhood look so beautiful!

I always enjoy seeing our neighborhood deer frolicking in the snow....

.....they often come down from the foothills during a storm to look for shrubs to eat. In this storm they enjoyed eating the blossoms that fell from many of the flowering trees.`

I often see deer in my own backyard.

It's nice to look out my windows and be entertained by my visitors.

I love that scenes like this still exist in Jefferson County...

 ...although in the three short years I've lived here I am also seeing Jefferson County grow by leaps and bounds, with much more development in progress. I've watched this nearby neighborhood grow, and grow, and grow in size.

The Jefferson County's Government headquarters is located in Golden, Colorado, and the building design is based on President Thomas Jefferson's home called Monticello.  Jefferson County is adjacent to a section of Denver County where Denver is located--the capital of the state of Colorado. There we have access to world class museums, state of the art health care facilities, arts and entertainment, sports, fine restaurants, and also recreational facilities.

One of the best things about living here is the Jefferson County Open Space Recreational Areas, which covers more than 54,000 acres, includes 28 regional parks, and boast a trail system that spans 230 miles!  The beautiful South Valley Park is within walking distance to my home, and I have walked its trails many times. My husband and I are slowly exploring as many of the other parks as we can, finding beauty in each one. 


This short Youtube video tells you more about Jefferson County.  

I think you can see why we enjoy living in the Gateway to the Rocky Mountains!  I'd love to know what you love about where you live--tell me in the comment section below.

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Sunday, April 10, 2016

New Mexico--the Land of Enchantment

If you have been following along on my blog recently, you will know I've been chronicling about a trip my husband and I took in the fall, when we drove from our house in the Denver area to a family wedding in a suburb of Phoenix Arizona.  We first visited Mesa Verde National Park in SW Colorado, then the Four Corners Monument, also in SW Colorado, on through the Navajo Nation in Northern Arizona. While in Arizona we visited Saguaro National Park and the Petrified Forest National Park and the Painted Desert.  When we left the Petrified Forest National Park we headed right into the state of New Mexico by Interstate 40. It was late afternoon, and we knew we had many miles to drive before we reached the hotel where we had reservations in Las Vegas, New Mexico, for the night, which would be about halfway home.
(All photos and collages in this post will enlarge if clicked on)

New Mexico's motto is "The Land of Enchantment," and it is easy to see why. The landscapes we passed along the road were spectacular!

The late afternoon sun gave the landscape a beautiful glow.

It seemed as if we could see for hundreds of miles all around us, and we watched as rain clouds gathered before us.

Finally, it began to rain in one area while a big beautiful rainbow formed in the sky in another area!

Mother Nature put on a beautiful show while we drove...

...and the rainbow followed us for many miles.

The rain stopped, but the large cumulus clouds remained on the horizon.

Such glorious scenery...

...we knew we would be back one day to explore more of New Mexico.

The sun began to set and it lit the sky with gold and crimson. 

As we approached Albuquerque, New Mexico, we drove NE onto Interstate 25, where we saw this tour bus in a gas station rest stop. Unfortunately, that is all we saw for the rest of the night, as the sunset and we drove the rest of the miles in darkness.

The next morning we checked out of our hotel and took a ride to the nearby Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge. This 4,200-acre refuge and conservation area promotes the protection of private working ranches via conservation easements. Las Vegas is Spanish for "the meadows," and this is the perfect place to personify much of what this area topography consists of, both short and long grass prairie. The refuge has nature trails, scenic drives and an overlook observation deck to observe migrating birds and land animals.  If you click on to enlarge the collage above you can read more about the preserve and the animals that depend on the land. It was raining when we visited the preserve so we did not walk any of the trails, nor did I get any good photos of the wildlife, but it was still an interesting place to visit.

We also took a drive through the town of Las Vegas, New Mexico, that was established in 1835 by the Mexican government. During the Mexican America War in 1846, Stephan W. Kearney delivered an address at the Plaza of Las Vegas, claiming New Mexico for the United States.  Las Vegas became part of the Santa Fe Trail and its popularity grew,  A railroad came to the town in 1880 and the town continued to grow. Along with the development, however, came many new residents some of which had an unsavory element of the "wild west."  Notables were Doc Holliday, Jesse James, Billy the Kid, Wyatt Earp, Mysterious Dave Mather, and Hoodoo Brown.

Click on the photo of the placard above which shows a map of the Santa Fe Trail, that led from Independence, Missouri to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and describes its significance to the American West.

Just by serendipity, my husband and I happened to stop for gas for our car at the last grand landmark on the Santa Fe Trail called Wagon Mound.  The nearby butte was said to resemble a Conestoga Wagon, very much like the early settlers used to carry all their belongings and families west.

Wagon Mound butte was the last great landmark on the westward journey across the plains of northeastern New Mexico, and the guidepost seen by all travelers on the High Plains section of the Cimarron Cutoff of the Santa Fe Trail.  Click on the placard above to read more about this spot.

We continued driving north through the plains area of New Mexico.

There was not much to see in this area besides the beautiful clouds and sky.

We reached the border between New Mexico...

....and entered our home state of Colorado, where we would travel over more of the Santa Fe Trail over Raton Pass.

Raton Pass, at 7834 feet elevation, is a mountain pass and also a National Historic Landmark. The pass is located on the eastern side of the Sangre de Christo Mountains between Trinidad, Colorado and Raton, New Mexico, approximately 100 miles northeast of Santa Fe. The pass crosses the line of volcanic mesas that extend east.

If you click on the photos above and below you can read more about the pass and a brief history of the nearby town of Trinidad, Colorado.

Trinidad became a large coal mining town, and also became a melting pot of many ethnicities due to the abundance of mining jobs.  The coal mines closed over the years, but since the 1980s companies have been drilling gas wells here to extract coal bed methane gas.

Knowing we were a couple hundred miles from home we did not do any more stops along the way. As much as we love to travel, it is always good to return to the familiarity of home.

As we pulled into our driveway, we were welcomed home by a deer in our next-door neighbor's yard. I'm sure she also had a nice time eating my flowers while we were away--smile.  It was good to be back, with many happy memories and photos, that I have been delighted to share with all of you!

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