Monday, August 14, 2017

The John Denver Sanctuary in Aspen, Colorado

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We had friends visiting Colorado from New York for a month this summer. Their first grandchild was born to their son and daughter-in-law, who live in a suburb in the Denver area, and they were excited to spend time with the new parents and grandbaby.  While they stayed nearby, we had a lot of fun showing them some of our favorite Colorado sights, and also some sights that were new to us.  One of those new sights for us, that I had heard about and wanted to see, was the John Denver Sanctuary in Aspen, Colorado.  (This photo, and all photos in this post, can be enlarged for easier viewing by clicking in them.)

Our drive west to Aspen took a little over 3 hours. We took the beautifully scenic Independence Pass to cross the Continental Divide. (See a prior post--click here--we made over the pass in June)  When we entered Aspen we could see the ski runs in the mountains.  Aspen attracts people from around the world for it's year round recreation and renown festivals, and it has some of the highest real estate property in the nation.

Aspen is also known for its high end restaurants, boutiques and landmarked buildings dating back from its Gold Rush days. We had a nice time walking around the town to look at the sights and to have lunch.

I always wanted to see the John Denver Sanctuary, so after lunch we headed towards the eastern end of downtown Apen near Rio Grande Park, where it is located along the Roaring Fork River.

John Denver, whose real name was Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr., was one of the most famous best selling acoustic singer/songwriter of the 1970's in the United States. He, and his first wife, Annie, moved to Aspen in 1971, just as his recording career was beginning to be a success.  Although they divorced in 1982, they both continued to live in Aspen.  Sadly, at age 53, John Denver was killed when the small experimental plane he was flying crashed on October 12, 1997 near Pacific Grove, California.

Walking into the sanctuary area we were greeted by this stone, surrounded by flowers, which stated:  
John Denver Sanctuary
 Earth, Water, Mountain, Sky, Pause, Reflect, Enjoy

 The sanctuary path was lined with both boulders and flowers and accented by the sound of water and ...

...small gentle waterfalls.

It was serene and beautiful.

We approached steps that had a boulder on top that announced "John's Song Garden."

There, arranged in a circle formation, were large and small boulders that were inscribed with song lyrics that John Denver wrote.....

...and included this tribute stone to his life, which stated: "I am a song, I live to be sung, I sing with all my heart.'

One of John Denver's most popular songs was "Rocky Mountain High."  

 Please click on to enlarge.

Other boulders contained other song lyrics.  I think bedsides Rocky Mountain High, "Annie's Song" is one of my favorites, as well as "Take Me Home, Country Roads."  Do you have a favorite John Denver song?  

I'm sure I missed a few boulders with lyrics, as we spent quite a bit of time reading the ones we saw, and enjoying the tranquility of the area. All too soon it was time to head back to the garage where we parked our car, as we had a long drive back.

I was glad to have spent part of the time I had in Aspen at the John Denver Sanctuary. Every year in October, there is a remembrance celebration held here and in other areas of Colorado, for John Denver. This will be the 20th anniversary of his passing and with the area's surrounding aspen trees turning autumnal colors it must be very beautiful to visit at that time.

Driving back east on Interstate 70, with mountains on the horizon--a sight that still fills me with awe!

It is hard to believe that summer will be coming to a close soon and my grandchildren will be heading back to school. It will be a busy time for my family and I am anticipating that I may take a little blog break, but I will be back soon!

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Sunday, August 6, 2017

Mount Goliath and Ancient Bristlecone Pine Trees

As I promised in my last blog post--click here-- which was about Mount Evans--another one of my favorite places to visit in Colorado is the Mount Goliath Natural Area We always stop and visit this beautiful and interesting area on our ride down from the Mount Evans summit.

Please click on to enlarge

This 160 acre area is home to over 250 species of alpine and subalpine wildflowers as well as a grove of bristlecone pine trees that are 900 to 2,000 years old!

The Mount Goliath Nature Area is managed in cooperation between Denver Botanic Gardens and the US Forest Service.  The Dos Chappell Nature Center on this site contains exhibits that interpret the plants, animals and trees that live at this extreme high mountain environment, as well as information about the history of the Mt Evans road construction, tourism and wilderness. The center is open daily from 10am to 5pm, weather and season permitting.

The bristlecone pine trees grow at the subalpine altitude of 11,540 feet (3,517m).  Bristlecone pine trees are the oldest living things on earth.  The oldest bristlecone pine tree is over 5,000 years old and is located in the White Mountains in California.  

Bristlecone pines only grow in the southern Rocky Mountains-they are not found in Rocky Mountain National Park. Their needles can live twenty to thirty years, and their bark is dense and highly resinous.  

Bristlecones can remain standing for hundreds of years after they die--it is only erosion or the decay of their supporting roots that allows them to fall.

Please click on to enlarge

The M. Walter Pesman trail that is in this area was established in 1962, also as a joint venture between the Denver Botanic Gardens and the US Forest Service. 

The trail begins in the subalpine zone and extends up into the alpine tundra at 12,152 feet and is accessible at the nature center and from the Mt. Evans road towards the top. 

We did not walk the entire trail on this visit, as there was snow at the higher elevation when we visited in June, but we have done so in the past. 

The views from the summit of the trail are beautiful and...

...along the way there are many wildflowers to be seen

Please click on to enlarge to read

In fact, the Mount Goliath Nature Area is full of wildflowers, which can been seen all along its trails.

Some of the many wildflowers we saw on our visit in June....

Please click on to enlarge

...and a helpful placard on the site with the names of some of the more common wildflowers in bloom. This fragile natural garden only lasts for about 40 frost free days a year!

Even the spruce and fir trees in the Mount Goliath area display characteristics of  the German word "krummholtz," which means "crooked wood." The trees grow in clusters, and low to the ground to survive the fierce winds and snow that winter brings to this altitude.

It is amazing to touch the trunk of a Bristlecone tree and think of the hundreds, to thousands, of years that have passed while it has been alive! I almost feel transported back in time when I am near them.

Mount Goliath is a very special place to me and I hope you will feel the same if you visit it one day. 

Please remember the rules of the wilderness: "Take only photos, leave only footprints."  With the increase of visitors to Colorado, I am seeing more and more trash being left along trails and mountain tops, bags of dog excrement left behind, and even graffiti. Sadly, these acts of vandalism are also happening in the National Parks all across our land. 

It is up to all of us to be the stewards of these beautiful places and to protect and preserve them for future generations.

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