Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Bear Creek Lake Park, Lakewood, CO


Bear Creek Lake Park is a 1,600 acre park centered around three lakes in the foothills of Lakewood, CO, about 15 miles from downtown Denver. It contains a popular campground, and when I made reservations back in April there were only a few sites open to chose from. We got lucky and picked up a cancellation for last weekend, and it was a very nice, fairly level end site well away from the throngs of weekend tent campers. And very reasonable for the location, $25/night with electric. There is a water fill station and dump but no water at the sites.


Unfortunately the site I reserved for this week, number 14, turned out to be the most unlevel one in the entire campground. Using all of our blocks, and trying to park both backed in and pulled in, we were not even close to getting level. The camp host was right across from us, so Jim went to talk to him and he sent the ranger over to give us our options. With all sites reserved, so nowhere to move to, he told us we could go into the group area until Thursday when a group is coming in.

It’s a great spot, like a private boondocking site with electric, and we have it all to ourselves until Thursday. It’s even gated.


Our reservations were for 6 nights, so we aren’t sure if there will be a site for us for Thursday and Friday, but I have been checking the website and hope to find a cancellation by then. If not, we were planning to go to friends in nearby Littleton on Saturday, and they said it’s no problem if we have to come a couple days early.

There are miles of trails, both dirt and paved, for hiking and biking. We’ve biked every day, quite a workout as it’s very hilly around here.


A view of the golf course and hazy Denver skyline.



Bear Creek Dam was the last of three dams, along with Chatfield and Cherry Creek, built to reduce the flooding risk in the Denver area.


After a lung-busting climb, Jim checked the map and decided we needed to keep going up.



This is called Turtle Pond, but there was nothing but some dead fish floating in it.


On Sunday morning we took a short drive to the famous Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater. It was cool and cloudy so the photos aren’t great, but it is quite a spectacular place.


Here’s a bit of history:

“Since the 1870s, the outstanding rock formations have captivated local residents and visitors. First called the Garden of the Angels, the Park was renamed to Garden of the Titans by John Brisben Walker when he acquired it in 1906. Many, if not all, of the rock features have been given names over the years to attract and intrigue visitors.

In 1909, Walker built a funicular, or incline railway, to the top of Mt. Morrison. Dance pavilions, tea houses, and, of course, the natural amphitheatre itself, were part of his promotional efforts. Sunday concerts were held on top of Creation Rock, and grand public spectacles took place here.

Walker’s vision of an amphitheatre was finally realized in 1936, when the Civilian Conservation Corps began construction. Completed in 1941, the Amphitheatre now hosts concerts and other events throughout the summer.”

It’s become a popular place to work out in the mornings, alone or in groups.



We climbed the 380 steps up to the visitor center and museum, and found this adorable husky puppy. She kept trying to get up but a couple of little girls just kept holding her down and petting her. Too cute!


After checking out the museum and all of the musicians who have played here, we walked back down the stairs and took the popular 1.4 mile Trading Post loop trail, with more red rock scenery.









Red Rocks is definitely worth checking out if you’re in the area.

We had a nice surprise when we pulled into the campground on Friday. Lazy Daze friends Paul and Kay from Washington were here. They have family in the area and were here for a wedding, but they were free Sunday night and Paul built a little fire so we could sit out and visit. Thanks for the wine and  conversation, it was a great evening!

Today we’re off to play tourist in downtown Denver.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Golden, CO


We spent four nights at Clear Creek RV Park, just a few blocks from downtown Golden. The park is run by the city, although they definitely charge private RV park rates, as we are paying $43/night for our water and electric site which is not on the creek. It’s close to $60/night for those sites.


The attraction here is the Clear Creek trail and the short walk to downtown Golden. We’re also just a couple minutes from the Community Recreation Center, where we worked out a couple times. We just love these rec centers in many of the Colorado towns we’ve visited, as they are all affiliated with Silver Sneakers, so Jim gets in free. And the senior rate for me is usually $5 or less. (Here it is $4.50.)

Community park and recreation center next to the RV park.


Clear Creek History Park is also along the trail, containing many original buildings from the old Pearce Ranch, originally located about 15 miles away in Golden Gate Canyon.


The M on Mount Zion was put up by students from the Colorado School of Mines in 1908. It was lighted in 1931, quite a visible landmark.


Some interesting history: “This is the world's largest lighted letter, signifying its allegiance to the Colorado School of Mines. It is a large letter "M" atop the face of Mt. Zion overlooking Golden, made of whitewashed rocks, and measures 104x107 feet, each leg measuring 10 feet wide. Every fall incoming freshmen bring new rocks up here to add to the M, whitewashing the rocks and themselves, and every spring graduating seniors come up here and get to take one of the rocks with them. The M was designed by CSM professor Joseph Francis O'Byrne in 1908 as an extremely difficult problem in descriptive geometry, and he succeeded in creating a letter that does not appear distorted from any angle. It is the second-oldest college letter monument in the nation only to the University of Utah's "U". It rests at 6,900 feet above sea level, on a slope of 23 degrees. CSM rivals have attempted to destroy it but they were not as well versed in explosives as the Miners. In 1931 the M was lit for the first time, and it has been continuously lit since March 19, 1932. Every holiday season since 1935 it has lit in red. Today its lighting system can turn the M into all sorts of creative color and shape arrangements at night, controlled from campus via telephone modem. It even counts down the days until the end of the semester.”

It’s been record-setting hot here, but we’ve biked and walked the trail a few times, and wandered around downtown with a stop at Golden City Brewery. Jim wasn’t crazy about their darker beers, but I really liked their IPA.


Our bike ride took us along Clear Creek and past the Coors Brewing Co, the largest single-site brewery in the world. We don’t care for their beers so we didn’t take the tour.

We rode along this portion of the trail for several miles and the brewery just went on and on.



One day we drove up to Lookout Mountain where we did a couple of short hikes and visited the Buffalo Bill gravesite. We got a little drop in temperature as we went up but it was still 86 degrees at 7,300’.

Looking down into Clear Creek Canyon.


Gravesite. There is also a museum but we had no interest.



Jim was not impressed, but we did enjoy the views.



We also checked out the Boettcher Mansion, which is free to visit but was closed due to a private event. It was built in 1917 as a summer home and hunting lodge for Charles Boettcher. It now belongs to Jefferson County and can be rented out for weddings, parties, memorial services, etc.


Wish we had been able to see the inside.



Our main reason to come here was to be close to Denver so Jim could visit an orthopedic surgeon to get his hip checked out. It’s bothered him off and on for several months but hiking has been more uncomfortable lately and he wanted to be sure he wasn’t causing more damage by continuing to hike. We really liked Dr. Dennis Chang, who diagnosed the problem as arthritis with a small bone spur. Since Jim can’t take NSAIDs like ibuprofen because he takes a blood thinner,  Dr.Chang recommended a cortisone injection, which Jim declined at this time since it is only a temporary fix. He did give him some exercises to do that might help, and said he should continue hiking and biking, as it was actually good to keep moving. I’m not sure that was what Jim wanted to hear. Winking smile  Since we’ll be in the area a little longer he can always get the injection if he changes his mind.,

Our plan was to spend this weekend at friends in Estes Park, but due to a family emergency they had to leave town. Luckily I was able to get one more night here, and found a cancellation for Friday and Saturday at nearby Bear Creek Lake Park where we already have reservations starting Sunday.

We had cooler temps and thunderstorms yesterday, and it will only be in the 60s and 70s this weekend, a welcome change. Once we leave Denver we definitely need to go higher or farther north.

Monday, June 19, 2017

A Night by the Poudre and on to the Fairgrounds

It was 134 miles and two passes from Stagecoach State Park to our next destination, the Cache la Poudre River Canyon. We didn’t hook up the car since we would be doing high elevation climbing, first 9,200’ Rabbit Ears Pass, and then 10,276’ Cameron Pass. What a beautiful drive it was! The Poudre (pronounced poo-der) is Colorado’s only nationally designated “Wild & Scenic” River.  Highway 14, which follows much of the river, is designated a Colorado Scenic and Historic Byway between Fort Collins and the town of Walden.

We were hoping to find a site along the river at one of the campgrounds, and first drove through Mountain Park since there were hiking trails there, but all of the river sites were taken. Just a couple miles farther was the smaller Dutch George campground, and we managed to get a pull-off site with the river about 50’ from our door.



There is a short trail along the high, fast flowing river.






Our site had a nice sitting area right next to the river. Being such a narrow canyon all of the campgrounds in this area are close to Hwy 14, but the rushing water was so loud it drowned out most of the traffic noise.


Although I checked the weather forecast a couple days before and saw it would be in the mid 70s, it ended up being in the low 80s, so we waited until around 5 to drive the 2 miles back to Mountain Park campground for a late afternoon hike. There are two trails, a 2 mile nature trail and a 5 mile trail to Mt. McConnell. Since we were just looking to stretch our legs, we headed out on the Kreutzer Nature Trail.

Although there were frequent interpretive signs telling about the trees, plants, animals, river, history and geology, that was the only similarity to any “nature trail” we’ve ever hiked on before. We assumed the trail would follow the river, but from the start it began climbing through the forest full of dead trees from beetle damage and fires.


At least the climb eventually brought us up to views of the mountains and river.




We were having doubts that we were really on a 2 mile loop, as the trail became steeper, very rocky, and had a lot of exposure along the edge of the canyon. At one point I had a minor fear of heights panic attack, but Jim said no way was he turning around, so I got ahold of myself and made it across.  We felt a little better when we finally came to a couple of signs and knew we were on the right trail. Going back down was not easy, either.


We were pretty happy to finally see the bridge to the campground since it meant we were almost back to the car. We were out on the trail for an hour and a half so I just knew the sign was incorrect about the mileage, but we both were tracking on our phones and only walked 2.2 miles with 600’ of climbing. It was the most challenging nature trail we’ve ever been on, so be warned. On a positive note it was a great workout with good views.


We had planned to spend the weekend along the river but with the heat and knowledge of what the trails were like (not all that interesting and everything goes up) we decided to leave on Friday morning and head to the Boulder County Fairgrounds in Longmont, CO, home to a couple of Jim’s favorite breweries, Oskar Blues and Left Hand. Both make excellent beers, and we liked pretty much everything we tried. And Left Hand is right along the St. Vrain Greenway trail, so we were able to stop on our way back from a bike ride. Luckily it’s only about a mile and a half from the fairgrounds so we didn’t have a very long ride back home.

Our dusty site at the fairgrounds was not very scenic but it’s in a great location and only cost $25 for water and electric. They also have a dump station.



A crowded Friday afternoon at Oskar Blues, with live music.


Jim is a big fan of Old Chub, and I really liked the Gubna IPA.


At Left Hand we got a flight of the 4 beers they had on nitro and they were all very good, but our favorite was the Imperial Coffee Milk Stout.


We didn’t take any photos from our bike ride, but it mostly goes along the St. Vrain River and is still closed in places for repairs from a devastating flood in 2013. We were able to detour around and made it to the end for a pleasant 14 mile ride.

Yesterday we drove 12 miles south to Boulder for some shopping at Trader Joe’s and REI, and a walk along the South Boulder Creek trail, starting at the Bobolink trailhead. It’s a nice dirt trail along the creek, and if we come back here we would take the bikes and ride, as there are miles of trails, both paved and dirt that intersect it at various points.

Flashback to the 60s van in the parking lot.


Colorado is so green right now.







This robin was having fun fluffing up his feathers in the middle of the trail.


Lazy Daze friends Ed and Carol live in Longmont, and the other day Ed came over for a nice chat. He has a lot of information on dispersed camping opportunities in CO and elsewhere on his blog. And last evening we sat out and had a drink and good conversation with our neighbors Dave and Sharon and their cute dog Maxi, from Rochester, New York, whom I happened to meet at the farmers market Saturday morning. Today we’re moving a short 33 miles to Golden, where there are more breweries and bike trails.