Sunday, September 24, 2017

Glorious Autumn in Colorado!

Thank you all for your comforting comments to me on my last post. Losing my brother-in-law was such a shock and my entire family is heartbroken. My husband and I were in Italy when he was ill and we did not know of his battle with cancer. We were relieved that he did not suffer long and is now at peace receiving his heavenly rewards for living a good life. His death made us aware even more than ever that we have to cherish every day we are granted here on earth. That is one of the reasons that when I realized that autumn color had already arrived in Colorado, especially in the higher elevations, I needed to take a drive to enjoy it's peaceful beauty.

As you can see in these photos, Colorado's aspen trees began to turn from summer's green to varying shades of gold and orange in September, progressing first from the north of the state down to the south and the highest elevations to the lowest. We could have waited a few more days but knew that this weekend was going to be raining at our lower elevation, and possibly snowing at elevations over ten thousand feet, so much of the autumn leaves might fall from the trees. It is always a guessing game to know when perfect peak color occurs, and I think we were fortunate to catch it very close to prime. (All photos in this post will enlarge for easier viewing if clicked on)

We drove first to the Kenosha Pass area which, at 10,000 feet (3,000 m) always has beautiful aspen groves full of color in autumn.  It certainly did not disappoint us!

We also happened to see many Painted Lady Butterflies enjoying the wildflowers and flowering weeds along the pass trails. This year was a bountiful year for these butterflies and they have been seen in great numbers as they migrate south towards warmer weather.

We then decided to take a drive along one of our favorite scenic byways--Guanella Pass. It is such a favorite drive that I've blogged about it on other occasions--click here and here to see those posts. This 22 mile scenic and historic byway underwent renovations recently and is now completely paved.  New restrooms are being installed at different locations, as well as many viewing area pull outs and interpretive signs. It is a two way road that leads from Georgetown to Grant and visa versa. We like to ride from Grant to Georgetown, as we often stop in Georgetown to shop and dine.

Guanella Pass is such a pretty ride any time of the year, but especially in autumn.

There are many places to stop and view the golden aspen trees both from a distance and...

...up close for a better view!

There are places to watch waterfalls...

...and places with footbridges to walk over to see creeks flow by.

To see a video of the scene above of Geneva Creek please click over to my blog's facebook page at this link,  or watch below--the sound may have to be turned on the video:


Guanella Pass is one of Colorado's 26 Scenic and Historic Byways and began as a logging and wagon supply road during the gold rush time in the 1850's. It was designated a Scenic and Historic Byway in 1990 and National Scenic Highway in 1991. It was named in 1953 after Byron Guanella, who was a road supervisor and commissioner in Clear Creek County for nearly 50 years. His great grandfather began ranching in the area in the 1860's. Even now there are parcels privately owned property along the pass, such as the beautiful home and horse pasture seen above.

Much of the land around the pass is wilderness, however, with many opportunities to hike and camp and enjoy nature.

The summit of Guanella Pass is at 11,669 feet (3557 m). Higher mountains surround the summit with a trail to the top of Mt. Bierstadt at 14,065 feet (4,287m). It is incredible to be above the tree line and view these jagged peaks so closely.

I found a spot along the road where one side had this view of Clear Creek.  

You can watch a video of this scene at this facebook link or below--the sound may have to be turned on the video:

Directly across from this view was this view...

Mountains striped with bands of pine trees and aspen trees.

It is truly a glorious sight to see!

Our drive on Guanella Pass ended in Georgetown. This was the first glimpse of the town as we descended down the Guanella Pass byway. Georgetown is one of our favorite historic mountain towns and we always enjoy a visit here. We stopped and shopped in a few of the stores and had an early dinner. It was the end of a perfect day and a true spirit lifter.

I plan to share some photos from our trip to Italy in my next post and of course more Colorado stories in between.  It is good to be back to blogging!

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Sunday, September 17, 2017

I'm Back from a Trip to Italy, but.....

Hello to all my faithful readers, and to all that stumble onto my blog today.  I'm so sorry I have been away from blogging for awhile.  I took a planned blog break, as life was busy with back to school activities for my grandchildren. My husband and I then went on a dream vacation to Italy, where we celebrated a saint feast day in my husband's hometown in the Calabria region of Italy. We also visited many of my husband's aunts, uncles cousin that live in Calabria, and also in Genoa and Bologna in northern Italy, with a few visits to nearby scenic towns. I had hoped to share some of the amazing sights from this trip this week on my blog, but we sadly learned of a death in my family that has overwhelmed us with grief. Please be patient with me as I take another week off to mourn.  Thank you for your understanding.  I hope to get back to a regular blog schedule again soon.

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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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