Strolling Along Sand Creek Greenway

January 20, 2017

I didn’t have much time for a hike today, but it was so nice out, I had to do something.  I decided to go check out Sand Creek Greenway again.  It had been awhile since I had visited the area, and the last time was on a mountain bike.

It’s nice to have wilderness, all be it not the mountains, just a ten minute car ride from my house.  I parked off Smith Road to the side of Bluff Lake Nature Center, gathered Ellie from the backseat, and headed out.

The dirt path was still partially snow-covered from the Monday’s storm as well as somewhat muddy from the snowmelt due mild weather…50 degrees!  I sort of wish the whole path was dirt rather than the intermittent dirt/concrete mix, but just to have an area that feels like wilderness so close to home is awesome.

It didn’t take long to spot wildlife.  Prairie dogs popped out of their holes and Ellie sure wanted a piece of them.  The same went for the bunnies that we came across later.  Fortunately, the ducks and geese weren’t as interesting to her.  I really enjoyed the flock of geese that glided above our heads and then swooped in for a landing on the frozen lake.  Many kept arriving forming a huge group that rested on the ice.

I always find it pleasant to hike near water features, and it was delightful to walk along the creek, though at times it was quite hidden by golden prairie grass and dormant cacti which provided great photos.  The views to the west of snow covered mountains didn’t disappoint on the return.

The trail goes on for miles and intersects with others along the way.  I can only imagine the distance.  With limited time, I think we probably only hiked a few miles, but it was better than nothing!

Afterwards, without Ellie, I made a quick stop into Bluff Lake Nature Center.  This might be my new place to run in order to save my knees from the pavement.  What a delightful adventure before my quick jaunt to Dallas to celebrate my mom’s birthday!  ETB

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Denver Brewery Tour

December 3, 2016

While Colorado may be known best internationally for being the first state to legalize marijuana, it is also very well known for its craft beers.  Breweries have become very popular, and they seem to be on every corner! A few of my friends from Dallas came into town, and of course, they wanted to try out a bunch of breweries.  As such, we created our own brewery tour.

Our first stop was at Great Divide Brewing Company which was opened in 1994 when Denver’s craft beer industry hardly existed.  Over time, Great Divide Brewing Company became one of America’s most decorated craft breweries.  While Eric tried the Yeti Beer which appeared to be pretty popular, Steve and I tried sample flights.  Both of us thought they were good and well priced!  The brewery sells a variety of T-shirts and such, but only popcorn for food.  A guacamole food truck was parked outside the brewery when we left around 1pm, but it wasn’t open yet.

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Our next stop was at Jagged Mountain Brewery just a few blocks from Great Divide.  Here I tried the Cougar Slayer.  With that name, it may have been better suited for a male, but the blackberry saison sounded good to me.  None of us tasted any blackberry in the Cougar Slayer, so that was a bummer, but the boys liked some of the other IPA’s.  Neither had seen a 17.5% alcohol beer, so Steve and Eric ordered it to share.  It tasted almost like molasses…it was very syrupy.  We really liked the vibe at this brewery that had much more seating than the Great Divide.  As with most breweries, it only sold popcorn, so it was time for us to find a place with food.

We headed the opposite direction from where we wanted to end up, but it wasn’t that long a walk…eight blocks or so to reach First Draft Taproom & Kitchen.  This taproom has 30+ beers on tap on the wall along with a few ciders and a few wines.  Most of the beers were Colorado crafts, yet some came from other states as well.  The lightest could be found on the left of the wall and they grew bolder to the right.  Guests can draw as much beer from each tap as they want…a one ounce or eight.  A card connected to our credit card tracked the amount of each pour.  There is a total limit which is probably a good way for the establishment to control guests over-serving themselves!  We all ordered food though I can’t say it was the best.  It was, however, sustenance.

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From First Draft we walked a bit to Wynkoop Brewing Company, located across from Union Station.  Wynkoop was started by John Hickenlooper (Colorado’s current governor), Jerry Williams, Mark Schiffler, and Russell Schehrer in the 80’s when LoDo (lower downtown Denver) was a ghost town.  Now, Wynkoop is a Denver institution in a hopping downtown.  Wynkoop brews its own beer, features guest beer, and has a full menu.  We tried one beer quickly before we took a break from breweries to go to the hockey game at the Pepsi Center.

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It only took about ten minutes to walk to the venue where the Dallas Stars were taking on the Colorado Avalanche in a division rivalry.  My Dallas friends were happy to see the Stars win…3-0!

Our final stop of the night was at Union Station.  Union Station was recently renovated, and is spectacular.  The building includes an expansive lobby with the Terminal Bar and a few shops surrounding it.  There are also a few fancy restaurants and a nice hotel.  The Terminal Bar is great!  We just joined the line at its window to order a beer and then headed to the shuffle board tables.  Some other folks joined us for some friendly competition.

Just as we were about to call it a night, I ran into my friend Marissa and her friend Catherine.  We caught up for awhile and then headed home.  We hardly made a dent in the breweries.  There were several more in the same vicinity.  My friends planned on trying more breweries tomorrow.  I opted for something a little more healthy tomorrow…a hike in the Rockies.  What a fun day though! ETB

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Crown Hill Park…A Hidden Gem

December 1, 2016

What a great way to start December. I wanted to find a short hike near Denver that still felt like I was in the wilderness. Believe it or not, Crown Hill Park, located on the busy street Kipling a few miles south of I-70 offered just that! A variety of paths criss-crossed and looped through high prairie grass.

There was an option for paved or dirt paths. Walking the dirt paths feels far less commercialized than the paved, so I was very happy to have this choice. In addition, with all of the interconnected trails, it was easy to pick a variety of hiking distances. The outer loop around the park is 2.5 miles and the inner loop around the lake is 1.2 miles. Ellie and I weaved in and out to different parts of each loop, trying our best to stick with dirt paths.

The northwest corner of the park is home to a wildlife sanctuary. Ellie and I couldn’t enter this area since dogs weren’t allowed, but we could stand on the view platform and look at the geese. There were several ducks and loons on the lake as well. While the temperature was hardly above 40 degrees, several people were out enjoying the sunny skies. It really was a nice day and a relaxing way to get a 3.2 mile walk. ETB

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Loved Eldorado Canyon State Park

March 10, 2016

Rattlesnake Gulch Trail
Location: Eldorado Canyon State Park
Fees: Day Use = $8, Annual = $70
Website: http://cpw.state.co.us/placestogo/Parks/eldoradocanyon
Elevation: 6,000-7,200 feet
Distance: 4 miles roundtrip
Hours: Sunrise to Sunset daily

Today I joined a meetup group for a hike in Eldorado Canyon State Park. I just had to get out as I don’t think I have enjoyed such glorious weather on an early March day in Colorado. The temperature was nearing 70 degrees beneath bluebird skies!

What added to the lovely weather was this spectacular park. I was pleasantly surprised by the landscape surrounding Rattlesnake Gulch Trail. We followed the 1.4 mile trail up to the ruins of Crags Hotel which burned in 1912 after operating for only four years. It’s hard to imagine this park used to be a resort, but in the early 1900’s visitors arrived by train from Denver to enjoy the hotel which even had an incline railway to transport guests in and out of the canyon.

From the hotel ruins, we turned toward the left and continued our climb along the loop that leads up to the railroad tracks. The tracks pass through two tunnels on the ridge owned by Union Pacific Railroad and continues through the Moffat Tunnel beneath the Continental Divide. Technically, we were not supposed to hike all the way to the tracks, but they were easy to reach. We were just mindful of train traffic…none to speak of while we were there.

We circled the loop and detoured off the path in a few places to admire the snow-covered continental divide before we headed back down to the parking lot. The creek that ran along the road to the parking area was also lovely. I really liked this park…so much so, that two days later, David and I took Toby for hike in another area nearby the park. ETB

http://cpw.state.co.us/placestogo/parks/EldoradoCanyon/Documents/EldoradoAreaBrochure.pdf

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Wigwam Trail in Lost Creek Wilderness

February 28, 2016

Wigwam Trail
Location: Lost Creek Wilderness
Fees: Free
Website: http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/psicc/recarea/?recid=13004, http://www.fomelc.org/lost-creek-trails
Elevation: 8,160-10,170 feet
Distance: 22.6 miles roundtrip
Hours: Best for Spring, Summer, Fall

We were caring for a young German Short-hair Pointer this weekend, so to help him expend some of his energy, we decided to go to a trail that seemed a little less traveled than others in the area. Originally used to drive cattle from Webster Park to Lost Park, the Wigwam Trail heads northwest along Wigwam Creek.

The trail isn’t terribly accessible in the winter months without a high-clearance vehicle. We followed the dirt road sporadically covered in snow in my 4-wheel drive sedan, but it was a little dicey, and we were thankful that it hadn’t snowed for a while. My bumper didn’t fare too well.

Our hike on the trail turned out to be shorter than we had hoped. The granite path crossed the frozen creek a few times before we reached deep snow which was just too hard to maneuver with Dante in hand. He needed some additional leash training and off-leash, he would have long gone!

We made the most of our venture, however, and headed to the Buck Snort Saloon for an interesting atmosphere and quick lunch.

I think we will come back to this trail in the summer as it connect to three other trails (Rolling Creek, Brookside-McCurdy, and Goose Creek) and climbs to granite domes. ETB

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The Denver Zoo by Day and Frasca and Hotel Boulderado by Night

February 14-15, 2016

Denver Zoo
Address: City Park
Website: http://www.denverzoo.org
Hours of Operation: Winter Hours, 10-4 daily
Fees: Adults $13, Seniors $11, Children 3-11 $9, Children Under 2 – Free

Frasca
Address: 1738 Pearl St., Boulder, CO
Website: http://www.frascafoodandwine.com
Phone: 303-442-6966
Hours of Operation: Dinner Only, Closed Sunday

Hotel Boulderado
Address: 2115 13th St., Boulder, CO
Website: http://www.boulderado.com
Phone: 303-442-4344

For Valentine’s Day, we decided to do something different. After playing tennis at City Park, we stopped in at the zoo. We thought it would be nice to visit on an unseasonably warm day this winter. Loads of other folks thought the same thing, though with the sun behind the clouds, our 1.5 hour visit wasn’t as warm as we expected.

Neither David nor I are big zoo fans, but given it’s less than a mile from our house, and I haven’t been for the four years I lived nearby, I thought it was time. I believe the Denver Zoo focuses heavily on rescue animals like the rhinos without horns which is good. Having said that, I’d prefer animals to have a larger more natural habitat.

Our first stop was at the cafe for lunch. After that, we made a quick loop passing by mountain goats, lions, tigers, giraffes, monkeys, polar bears, grizzlies, peacocks, elephants, and more. Occasionally, we go indoors and enjoy the heat, and then we’d keep strolling.

After visiting the zoo, we headed to Boulder and checked into Hotel Boulderado which opened on New Year’s Day in 1909 and is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Little did I know, my distant cousin, Erin, was working at the front desk! It was fun to see her.

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We had an early dinner reservation at Frasca and enjoyed a lovely meal…scallops, lobster pasta, halibut, steak, and chocolate dessert. After dinner we stopped at the hotel bar for a night cap. It was a nice evening!

I thought I would have more pictures on Monday as we planned to enjoy the holiday snowshoeing near Nederland, but the snow was coming down sideways! Since I don’t like the cold, we skipped that and took a leisurely drive home. ETB

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Things to do in Denver