Thursday, October 13, 2011
by Julie Johnson
Last weekend I found myself standing a few feet away from real dinosaur prints, about 100 million years old. There were big ones, and little ones, and I reached over to put my hand on top of one. Wow, I thought, this is fabulous – these are the first dinosaur prints ever found in North America! I walked up to the top of the hill and around the corner and saw the beautiful Red Rocks Amphitheatre, a naturally acoustic theatre created about 250 million years ago. I remembered the first time I stood on the Red Rocks stage, right where Bono, B.B. King, Elton John, the Beatles and so many of my favorites have performed. The valley between the amphitheatre and where I stood was lined with ranches, some as old as 1860. And as I turned back to my walk on Dinosaur Ridge, I got really excited about the prospect of showing all this to The Wayfarers’ in 2012 for the first ever Wayfarers’ Colorado walk. I put together an itinerary that would be amazing, filling our week in Colorado with my favorite spots.
Colorado is a vast state with lots to offer, so it wasn’t easy to whittle the trip down to one week. Here’s what I decided. First, we go to the beautiful Evergreen area to hike in one of the locals’ favorite trail systems in Jefferson County Open Space. The trails are lined with aspen trees which should be bright yellow in the fall, contrasting nicely with the view of the Continental Divide. Evergreen is one of the first spots in Colorado to host tourism – we’ll be staying in the oldest (and sweetest!) lodge in town, the Bears Inn. On our way to our next town, we stop at Red Rocks Amphitheatre and Dinosaur Ridge to get an up close view of one of Colorado’s prettiest and most interesting areas.
Then we head to my home turf, Boulder, where I am the cultural resource manager for the city’s Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP). Boulder is graced with one of three of the nation’s remaining Chautauquas, a cultural and educational complex from the 19th century in continuous use in it’s original structures. We’ll hike from the National Center of Atmospheric Research (NCAR) along a beautiful mesa into the Chautauqua, where walkers will stay at the Mission Lodge. This is truly a special place – I can’t wait to show it to my guests! OSMP has preserved 45,000 acres of land around Boulder, including mountains and plains with about 145 miles of trails in the system. We’ll hike in this glorious location with a naturalist who will tell us about the ecology of our unique ‘ecotone.’ We’ll also meet some ranchers whose families have been farming in the Boulder area since 1860. (We’ll probably even meet some horses and kittens while we’re at the ranch….).
We end the week at the beautiful Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, where we will hike one of my favorite trails at my favorite time of year. It doesn’t get any better than hiking in the fall near Estes Park, unless, of course, you find a ghost during a ghost hunt at the Stanley Hotel.
It will be a wonderful week -- I can’t wait to share it with you!
Join The Wayfarers in Colorado - September 30 - October 6, 2012