I’d like to introduce a new feature called “Pat’s Walkabouts”. For a change of pace, I will occasionally post photos and videos of places I visit around these Colorado Rocky Mountains of mine and wherever our travels may take us. You’re invited to join me on these adventures where we can walk about, explore and see the sights. I hope you’ll enjoy sharing these beautiful places with me.
Some of my fellow bloggers have featured similar stories and they’ve inspired me to do the same. Maybe, you’d like to check them out as well:
So, here we go with my first walkabout:
One morning, a little over a week ago, I felt like getting out of the house and drove to a little place, I love, not far from home. It’s serene and the perfect place to be alone with my thoughts and reflections. I brought my laptop and camera so I could capture the beauty and allow the day to unfold as it wished.
The day was young and the air was still cool and crisp. The birds were singing and the squirrels were chattering. I could hear the sounds of the river, as I soaked in Nature’s sights and sounds and took advantage of the fresh new day. Here’s a video giving you a glimpse of what I was seeing that morning. I haven’t included any music except for the natural sounds.
Over the years, I’ve come to this Pine Valley Ranch open-space Park for hikes with my girlfriend or just to take our grandsons out to explore the mountains. We were grateful when it was spared back in 2002 in the Hayman fire, though you can still see the charred scars where the flames lapped violently close to the edges of the Park.
It was only a couple years before, in 2000, when the Hi Meadow fire came dangerously close to our home, as well ― less than 5 miles. Black smoke was bellowing high in the sky and we could see the flames on the ridge. We were fortunate the wind blew in the opposite direction; otherwise, it would have been on top of us. We were evacuated for 3 days.
Now, over 10 years later, spring has officially arrived and it’s still as beautiful as ever, yet a bit early for the mountain’s slow-waking vegetation to green up. In the summer, we have hiked many times on some of its trails. It’s a popular place for family/company picnics, canoeing and fishing. If you take one of trails along the river, you can hear frogs croaking and high on one of the hills there’s even a small observatory.
One time on a hike, my girlfriend and I saw a bobcat, as we rounded a curve on the opposite side of the river and pagoda. He saw us, too, and quickly ran up ahead to take cover and hide under a bridge. We were a bit apprehensive, approaching the same bridge to cross over, as we didn’t know how vicious bobcats could become if threatened. He soon made distance between us and we never saw him again. We later learned how rare it was to see a bobcat, especially during the day.
I remember another time when my daughter and I came to the Park to hike and spend some time together. It was fall and the air was brisk and cold, even though the sun was shining. We took a short walk around a small lake in the Park stopping occasionally to watch the ducks.
As we walked out on one of the small decks on the lake, I reached in my coat pocket to get a tissue. When I pulled my hand out, my car keys came flying out, too, took one quick bounce on the deck, over the edge, and plopped right into the lake. We looked at each other stunned with how quick and precise the event had just happened. We couldn’t believe it and couldn’t have repeated it if we tried. It was late in the afternoon and we were at least 8 miles or more from home and several miles from people where we could get help. It would be getting dark soon and the Park was almost empty.
If we looked over the edge, we could barely see the keys shining below under the cold, lake water that was at least up to our necks. Now what ― as we pooled our thoughts for a solution, in between resisting the thought of calling hubby. He wouldn’t believe another one of these ‘incidents’ had just happened and I could hear him say, “You did ― what?”
It wouldn’t have been the first time when strange things have happened to me or I’ve done something and he’s come to my rescue. (Just check out a post I wrote a couple of years ago called “Fruitcake Moments” or a story about a ditzy event in, “What’s Wrong with This Picture” in my free e-book.)
Hanging it up for the day, a couple of fishermen walked by, with their rods in hand, and we asked if they could help. They checked it out and tried to hook the keys with their poles but didn’t have any luck leaving us to place my dreaded phone call to hubby.
As expected, he answered with, “You did what?” and, after some explanation and a few exchanges, he drove over for the rescue with the solution ― poles and a magnet. I love, love, love that man ― it’s such an adventure living with me (Oh boy!). It didn’t take long and he pulled my keys from the lake by the magnet on a couple of poles bound together. I was fortunate that my fob still worked and we were soon home, within 20 minutes, warm and safe as dark settled in.
Now, on this morning as I continue to walk and reflect, I come to a small island hidden in pine trees and shrubs. A bridge marks the entrance to a Pagoda surrounded by the Platte River and isolated from the rest of the Park. It was here, years ago, when I conducted a day-long workshop for 10 women. It was an ideal setting to talk and pass around the talking stick exchanging stories ― a perfect beginning for the group’s weekend excursion to the mountains.
This ranch was once owned by the wealthy Baehr family back in the roaring 20’s. In the summer, occasionally you’ll see wild daisies sprout up along the walkway when there have been perfect weather conditions and enough moisture. I suspect they’re from seedlings Mrs. Baehr once had planted long ago.
Built in 1939 as a picnic shelter, this oriental pagoda is one of the ranch’s few original structures which is still standing. The curved tile roof has been replaced. The pagoda was originally painted gold and red, and featured Chinese characters on each side panel which represented, good wishes for those seated within Conrad Johnson, the Pine Valley Ranch foreman, and his friend, Chris Efflandt, constructed this quaint structure for Mrs. Baehr.
Many a summer afternoon would see Mrs. Baehr in the pagoda sharing tea with friends. The Johnson family is credited for planting and maintaining all the trees around and on the island, as well as the vegetable garden which grew near the lake. The decorative flower beds which once encircled the pagoda complemented the natural beauty of the ranch.
As the morning expired, I made my way back to my car to leave, when I noticed people walking up the steps to the lodge. As long as I’ve been to this Park, this lodge has never been open to the public. It piqued my curiosity and I was excited for the possibility to finally get a chance to see what this modest mansion looked like and learn more about it.
The County’s open-space has been renovating Baerhden Lodge and was having one of their first trial tours and I was able to get in on the tail end of it. I learned it has been closed for 40 years and exchanged ownership a number of times before Jefferson County finally acquired it, the ranch and surrounding acreage in 1986.
In the late 20’s, William A. Baehr, a Chicago utilities millionaire, hired a famed architect named J.J.B. Benedict to build his rustic Colorado Alpine Lodge. Here are some of the pictures of this magnificent place both inside and out. Can you imagine what it would have been like, back in the day, entertaining in a place like this high in the Rocky Mountains? If only the trees could talk.
Thank you for going on this walkabout with me. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did sharing it with you. I look forward to having you join me again, when I go on another adventure to see what’s down the road and around the next corner.
Pat from the ol’ kitchen table