Sunday, May 23, 2021

The Merry Month of May


The weather in May in Colorado is very changeable and has been displaying some very dramatic skies lately. We have had frosty mornings, large clouds, thunderstorms, a bit of hail, rainbows, some tornadoes on the plains, and swollen creeks everywhere.

The rain has made everything very green. Trees are budding, lilacs are prolific and the deer are well-fed and shedding their winter fur. 

Between raindrops, my husband and I have been busy this past week clearing old leaf debris from our gardens, trimming dead branches, spreading mulch, weeding, planting seeds, potting annual flowers, and cleaning our patios in anticipation of summer fun. 

The spring perennials in my garden photo collage are Brunnera Jack Frost (upper left), Forget-Me-Not (lower left) Daffodil (upper right), Narcissus (middle right) Vinca (lower right).  I look forward to many more perennials blooming in June!

Another wonderful activity we enjoyed in May has been attending the soccer, lacrosse, and little league baseball games our grandchildren have participated in.  On some of the days, we wore heavy fleece jackets, and other days we wore shorts and short sleeves--that's Colorado!

My husband and I took a drive to Rocky Mountain National Park this week before the new reservation system kicks in over Memorial Day weekend.  The park saw a record-breaking amount of visitors the past few years and, because of covid, a reservation system was instituted to control the number of people in the park.  It worked so well it was instituted again this year from May 28th until October 12th, 2021. I'll be posting photos from that trip in my next blog post. 

Meanwhile, stay happy and healthy my friends!

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Monday, May 17, 2021

A Colorado Time Capsule

We've had a lot of cool weather and rain and snow showers this spring but on a warmer day last week, my community's historical society had our first outing of 2021, to visit some sites that are literally almost in our own backyard.

The Colorado Archaeological Society conducted 33 archaeological digs in our community, Ken-Caryl Ranch, beginning in 1973. Our resident archeologist explained that the study identified five distinct periods of occupation of ancient people in our area including two from the Archaic period and three from the Plains Woodland period. The investigations uncovered artifacts such as pottery, projectile points, and hide scrapers. The people were hunters and gatherers with little knowledge of farming since no farming tools were found. The area above is close to a creek so a water source was available and the hogback mountain formations allow for good lookouts for both wildlife and possible enemies.

Our community, and others along with nearby areas of the Colorado Front Range also have large red rock formations.  These south and west-facing rock outcrops of the Fountain and Lyons Formations captured the sun’s warmth and provided shelter. Quartz, granite, and petrified wood were available for toolmaking. Wild plums and chokecherries lined the nearby creeks, which attracted wildlife. All of these factors made this area well used by ancient peoples.

In 2009 two young resident boys stumbled across a mastodon mandible (see above) in another creek in our community that had been uncovered by floodwaters. The Denver Museum of Nature & Science reported that it was the best example of a mastodon ever found in Colorado to that date, and could be 50,000 to 150,000 years old! Further investigation uncovered a tusk as well.  

Discoveries of the bones of Mammoths, camels, horses, and bison have also been discovered nearby at Lamb Springs Archeological Preserve in Littleton, Colorado. You can read about our visit to that interesting site here.   Recently, during an Interstate 70 construction re-route project near Denver, the remains of a prehistoric fossilized camel were found!

Do you remember my blog post "The Secrets Beneath Our Feet" about the archeological dig that was conducted on a foothill in our community in October of 2020? You can click on the highlighted link to read more about it if you missed that post.

Another archeologist who lived in our community happened to find a mano--which is an ancient tool used to grind food by hand--on a trail in that foothill. I'm sure I would have walked right past this stone, but he knew what it was right away. Upon further investigation, he saw that there was an area nearby that had eroded a bit and which contained a large amount of blackened soil that meant it may have been a fire pit at one time. After telling our historical society about this find we decided to have an official archeological dig done. The archeologists removed a lot of soil and small artifacts in the layers they uncovered for analysis and carbon dating. 

The report came back recently and this is what our historical  society archeologist excitedly wrote to us in an e-mail:
"The site yielded a carbon date of some burned tuber from the roasting oven at AD 133-324! This date of almost 2,000 years ago was when Romans still ruled the Mediterranean world, the Classic Maya were just getting going, the Anasazi were still in primitive pit houses, and before the Christian New Testament Canon was formed! It is at what archaeologists call the end of the Late Archaic Era and the beginning of the Ceramic Era."

This was not the first archeological dig that we witnessed. In 2014 we were invited to one in a cave area in another county which also led to interesting discoveries, including a spearhead that was 8,000 years old! You can see that post here. 

All of Colorado is rich in ancient artifacts and there have been many serendipitous discoveries of ancient tools such as the Mahaffy Cache that we saw on display at the University of Colorado, Boulder, Museum of Natural History exhibit.  You can read about the discovery of this large amount of ancient stone tools found buried in a garden on this post.

Stegosaurus dinosaur tracks

Even older evidence of life can be found in our area. The Morrison Formation, named for the town of Morrison to the north of Ken-Caryl Ranch, is notable for the number of dinosaur fossils that have been found. Giant reptiles roamed this region for a few million years until the seas again returned to form the beaches of the Dakota Sandstone, 100 million years ago. Evidence of the dinosaurs walking these preserved ripple marked beaches can be seen in Dinosaur Ridge National Historic Site. Dinosaur footprints and bones are preserved there in stone. I blogged about this historic site here and here.  

A dinosaur exhibit in the Denver Museum of Nature and Science

Construction sites in Colorado have also unearthed rare torosaurus dinosaur bones and a triceratops dinosaur in recent years. There have been many other dinosaur discoveries made in Colorado, and they are on display throughout the state. You can see a list of where to see these dinosaurs and fossil sites on this link.

It is certainly interesting to take a look back into time and think about all the forms of life that lived in our area from the dinosaurs to ancient civilizations to more recent Native Americans, pioneers, and now us as suburbanites. I wonder what traces our era will leave behind for future generations to discover?

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Monday, May 10, 2021

A Walk Around Evergreen Lake

 My husband and I took a short drive west to Evergreen, Colorado, last week to take a walk around the lake that is located there.  Evergreen is at an elevation of 7,220 feet (2,200m) and was named for the plentiful pine, spruce, and fir trees that grow at its location.

The area which is now Evergreen Lake was originally the scenic mountain ranch of 1860s pioneer Julius C. Dedisse.  His 420 acres of land were purchased by the City & County of Denver in 1919.  In 1927-28 Denver constructed the 35-foot (11 m) high Evergreen Dam as a flood control measure on the notoriously flood-prone Bear Creek, creating the 55-acre (220,000 m) Evergreen Lake. The surrounding area is now part of Denver Mountain Parks and is called Dedisse Park after the original landowner.  The lake has become a favorite recreational part of the Evergreen Community with ice skating and hockey in the winter and boating and paddleboarding rental opportunities in the summer.  The beautiful rustic Evergreen Lake House, seen in the photo above, is available for rental and many weddings have been held there.

Please click on to enlarge to read the information.

Bear Creek runs through the Bear Creek Watershed that extends from Mount Evans Wilderness to Morrison and it is a tributary of the South Platte River in central Colorado.


Parts of the land surrounding the lake have become marshlike with the seasonal ebb and flow of the creek.

A portion of the lake perimeter consists of a boardwalk over the marsh.

The lake attracts many migrating birds and the Evergreen Audubon Society volunteers help observe and keep records of the birds sighted along Evergreen Lake and Bear Creek, as well as completing other studies. Click on the photo above to enlarge it to see a list of some recent bird sightings. The day I was at the lake I saw mainly geese and red-winged blackbirds.

The lake is now open to boating and paddleboarding and rentals are available at the lake boathouse.

I thought the marsh reeds made a pretty pattern in this area!

One of our favorite restaurants--Willow Creek--is located across the road from the lake. We look forward to being able to dine on their outdoor patio once the weather gets warmer.

Another favorite place to dine can be seen in the distance--Keys on the Green. It is located in the original octagonal clubhouse of Evergreen Golf Course, which was the first public golf course in the state of Colorado, constructed in 1925.

After our hike around the lake, we took a drive up Bear Creek Road to admire all the big beautiful houses in the area.  Can you see this one across the creek and behind the towering pine trees? 

Another house along the road had this exhibit outside for the holiday Cinco de Mayo, celebrated on May 5th.

As we headed back home we passed the historic Little Bear Saloon and restaurant in the town of Evergreen.  They have live music six nights a week, and a few years ago we attended a concert there with friends which you can see in this post. It is such a fun venue!

A drive back east down Bear Creek Canyon and we were home again, happily refreshed after a nice day out. I'm really looking forward to going on more local hikes now that the weather is improving.  We feel fortunate to be able to enjoy the outdoors again after such an unusual year. 

I hope everyone had a Happy Mother's Day!

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Sunday, May 2, 2021

The Return of the Bison

Colorado bison

Years ago, after moving to Colorado, my husband and I would see a road sign driving west along Interstate 70, at exit 254, that said "Buffalo Herd Overlook." One day we traveled off that exit to finally see the herd.  I did a blog post about it then--click here--to read that post.  The road sign is incorrect as it is bison, not buffalo, that live protected at this Denver Mountains Parks preserve location. Though the terms are often used interchangeably, buffalo and bison are distinct animals. Old World “true” buffalo (Cape buffalo and water buffalo) are native to Africa and Asia. Bison are found in North America and Europe. Both bison and buffalo are in the Bovidae family, but the two are not closely related.  Bison have large humps at their shoulders and bigger heads than buffalo. Bison also have beards, and thick coats which they shed in the spring and early summer.  You can read more about the characteristics of the American bison at the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute website here.

Before 1800, it is estimated that 30 to 100 million bison roamed the Great Plains of North America from Alaska to northern Mexico. By the 1980s, fewer than 1,000 remained. Sadly, many were slaughtered by the U.S. government in an organized effort to destroy the major food source and livelihood of Plains Native American tribes in order to weaken the tribes and allow western expansion pioneers to take over their lands. Today about 30,000 American bison survive in conservation herds. Another approximately 500,000 are managed commercially as livestock. The largest herd of free-roaming bison today is in Yellowstone National Park, with approximately 3,500 bison. Although their population has since recovered, the species is still considered near threatened, and these animals depend heavily on conservation efforts for survival. 

Happily, the state of Colorado maintains bison conservation preserves, many of which can be visited.  You can see a list of some of these bison preserves on this link.

This year, by unanimous approval by the Denver City Council, Denver Parks and Recreation will begin donating bison from its herds to tribal nations and tribal nonprofit organizations. This first-of-its-kind gift provides 13 American bison to the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, located in Oklahoma, and one bison to the Tall Bull Memorial Council in Colorado. All are female bison and many are expecting calves which will increase their herds.

This marks a change from the traditional surplus auction Denver held to keep its Genessee Park and Daniels Park bison herds at a healthy population and promote genetic diversity in managed herds across the nation. Now, instead of an auction, surplus animals will be donated to enhance the conservation of bison herds that also exist on tribal lands. The donation of bison will continue through the year 2030, in consultation with Denver Parks and Recreation's tribal partners, the Denver American Indian Commission, the Tall Bull Memorial Council, and the InterTribal Buffalo Council. 

The bison may never roam freely, as they once did, but it is nice to think that their numbers will increase through these conservation efforts and that they will again flourish with the native people whom they sustained from the beginning of time!

An update to what is new in our days...

All my grandchildren are playing spring sports and we have been having fun watching soccer, lacrosse, and Little League baseball games.  I saw this unusual cloud formation while at one of their games, and it reminded me of a "smoke signal" from the times of old. How far the world has come since then!

 My husband and I had our first get together in over a year at a friend's house last week, along with other friends who are all fully vaccinated against covid.  It was so good to see everyone in person and not to have to "gather" virtually on Zoom! My book club also had its first meeting in over a year that was not on Zoom.  Thankfully, life is beginning to feel more normal again, and I know being able to go to outdoor activities in summer will help. I'm still remaining a bit cautious, as I know there are very contagious virus variants in many areas.  Being vaccinated, however, has made me feel so much more at ease that I have some protection against hospitalization and death. 

It has been such an unusual year but there is hope on the horizon. In the meantime, I hope you all stay happy and safe.  Thank you for your visits to my blog and your comments--I appreciate them all!

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