Monday, March 26, 2012

I have my eye on you

Owl with chicks, Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge, Commerce City Colorado

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

An odd phone call

I received an odd phone call last week. The caller asked me about a stone house our family once owned. Good golly Miss Molly! I started dredging up faded and fragmented memories from over 50 years ago—they might not be very reliable.

Dad didn't buy the house from the original owner. Someone else lived there before Dad bought it. I wasn't old enough to go to school then, but I can remember the people who lived there were very old. When we moved in we found the attic full of "stuff" including: old clothing, actors makeup, lots of ledger books from the local bank, a 2-barrel Ice Cream storage freezer, a couple of pieces of broken furniture, and 100's of 4x5 glass photographic negatives (but no camera.)

The caller asked about an old diary my parents had donated to the museum. I couldn't remember anything about a diary, but I vaguely remember the adults finding something interesting in a dresser drawer. It was written in cursive, but I could barely read and couldn't read cursive at all. Maybe that was the diary he was asking about.

The stone house and surrounding area represent a classic period of U.S. history. It was built in 1909 on property that had been homesteaded. Swedish stonemasons, who had come west to build the railroad, did the construction. The old Bozeman Trail had passed two miles east of the house. During its brief existence the trail was protected by a near by cavalry fort. The area saw more than one battle between native Americans (Indians) and the U.S. Cavalry.

The property adjacent to the house operated as a dude ranch until it closed in the early 1950's. As children we use to play in the old lodge, hay barn, sawmill, and generator house (it had a waterwheel.). The dilapidated lodge and hay barn were torn down in the early 1960's, but the waterwheel and sawmill still remain. It was heartbreaking to let go of the stone house, but with aged parents and the rest of family scattered to the four winds, it wasn't practical to keep. The family sold the property in 1994. The new owners are taking very good care of the house and have made many improvements to the property.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Come fly with me

Going to Barr Lake, Cherry Creek reservoir, and Chatfield have been on my to do list for a long time. I visited Barr Lake last week and finally visited Chatfield this week; I haven't been to Cherry Creek yet. All three are part of the State Parks system and practically in the city. I don't have a reason for not visiting these parks before, just a list of lame excuses—too busy, too late in the day, too cold, too windy, or too tired.

Chatfield opened as a state park in 1976. The park gets its name from Isaac W. Chatfield, a veteran of the civil war, who first owned the land. Chatfield dam was constructed in 1967 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers following the destructive flood of 1965. Chatfield State Park is well known as a spot for birding; the Audubon Society of Greater Denver has facilities in the park. Chatfield State Park is surrounded by the Botanic Gardens at Chatfield and Hildebrand Ranch Park on the west, Roxborough State Park on the south, and South Platte Park on the north.

A friend and I rode our motorcycles to Chatfield Saturday afternoon. We didn't take the direct route preferring to motor around the western suburbs first. We stopped for lunch at the Hunan Dynasty Restaurant—9882 West Belleview Avenue in Littleton. The service was good, the food was excellent, the portions generous, and a very reasonable price!

At the park we circled the still frozen lake stopping a couple of times so I could snap some pictures. There were a lot of bicyclers and hikers in the park. We watched people fly model airplanes at the Chatfield Aerodrome, then circled the southern end of the lake along Rampart Range road and Waterton road. South Wadsworth ends at Waterton road on the south end of the lake. We took Santa Fe Drive (US-85) back into Denver.

I nearly dumped the bike a couple of times when I slipped on loose gravel. After 13,700 miles it's time for new tires. That's a lot of miles on one set of motorcycle tires—3 to 6 thousand miles is typical. With new tires I'll be ready for new adventures this summer.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

The old buffalo wallow

Sunday and Monday was great motorcycling weather—blue skys, 70F temperatures, and calm winds. I needed to get outside so I grabbed my camera, hopped onto the motorcycle, and rode to Barr Lake north of Denver. There were a lot of people visiting the park Sunday, so I wasn't alone.

I was told an owl was sitting on a nest a short walk north of the visiters center. I took the camera and went looking for the owl. I met several other photographers and bird watchers along the way. I never found the owl, but I took several pictures of trees, tree stumps, and ducks. Only a couple of those shots turned out to be keepers.

What is now Barr lake use to be nothing but a buffalo (bison) wallow prior to 1880. In the late 1800's a dam was built across the north end of the wallow, and canals were built to fill the reservoir with water from the South Platte river. Unfortunately, by 1960 Barr lake had become the biggest sewage lagoon in the United States. Clean-up efforts began on the South Platte and Barr lake after the 1965 flood. Barr Lake opened as a state park in 1977, and in 2004 the lake was declared a source of drinking water.

I went back to the lake late Monday afternoon. I took my big telephoto lens and a tripod with me. I headed south from the visitors center shortly after 4 O'clock. There is an eagles nest at the south end of the lake. After walking 1 1/2 miles I finally spotted an eagle in a tree; it didn't appear to be siting on a nest. I took several photos of the bird even though it was too far away. I continued south to the end of the trail before turning around. I never found the nest. I learned later the best view of the nest is from a pier that is close to where I saw the eagle. I took several photos of the setting sun on my way back. It was twilight when I got back to the motorcycle, and I rode home in the dark.

My feet really hurt by the time I got home. I discovered large blisteres on the bottom of both feet ! I've hiked in those boots before without problems; it may have been the socks I wore that caused the problem. Next time I'm taking a pair of walking shoes with me.
Click pictures for larger view.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Just in passing

Davy Jones of the Monkeys was my first crush. Family who are under the age of 55 might not understand why, but rest assured in the sixties Davy Jones was a real cutie-pie, and at 66 he wasn't exactly a troll. His untimely death prompted me to compile a list of the crushes and unrequited loves I've had. The list includes Davy Jones, David Cassidy, and Donny Osmond to name a few.

Not all of my crushes and unrequited loves have been celebrities; some have been people who I actually knew, hung out with, and worked with. In high school I fell in love with my best friend next door. He knew I wanted to be more than best friends, but wasn't able to reciprocate. He married right after high school, had a couple of kids, and is still married.

A lot has changed since then. We are no longer the same people we were then. I'm not the bossy know it all I use to be, I don't have the bad temper I use to, and both of my parents are gone. He has a successful buisnes, has lost a father and two brothers, and I think he's lost more hair than I have.

There are some things I wish could have been different back then, but I still have pleasant memories of walking to the drive-inn theater to fill up on candy, popcorn, and Coka-Cola. Those days, the drive-inn theater, and my first crush are only memories now.