Pat’s Walkabouts: Pine Valley Ranch Park and The Pagoda

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Looking out from the Pagoda – Photo © 2014 by Pat Ruppel

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:

Sherri Matthews in England at “A View from my Summerhouse” Diana Jackson in Scotland at “A Selection of Recollections” Susan Nelson who writes at “Italy: From St. Peter to Caravaggio

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.

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Pine Valley Ranch Park – Photo © 2014 by Pat Ruppel

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.

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Bridge on the way to the Pagoda – Photo © 2014 by Pat Ruppel

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.

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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.

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The Pagoda on the Platte River – Photo © 2014 by Pat Ruppel

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.

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Pagoda Plaque – Photo © 2014 by Pat Ruppel


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.

Baehrden Lodge

Baehrden Lodge – Photo © 2014 by Pat Ruppel

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.

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Baehrden Lodge Plaque – Photo © 2014 by Pat Ruppel

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Baerhden Lodge – you can see how close the fire came by the burned timber on the slope beyond – Photo © 2014 by Pat Ruppel

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.

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Bye for now – Photo © 2014 by Pat Ruppel

Pat from the ol’ kitchen table

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41 thoughts on “Pat’s Walkabouts: Pine Valley Ranch Park and The Pagoda

    • Thanks, Bob. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Yes, it’s quite a place and it’s so sad to see how the fire torched so many acres around it coming dangerously close. I hope you’ll come back to visit again. 🙂

  1. Hey Pat. You were so lucky with your car keys eh! One of those moments of trust. What a lovely part of the world. Must put it on my ‘dream to go’ list. Many thanks for the mention too 🙂

    • Thanks, Diana. Yeah, had a little bit of luck that day with the car keys, especially with the fob still working. It is a beautiful part of the world and so different from Scotland. Don’t you just love it. 🙂

  2. Wow Pat, what an amazing place you live in. Watching your video was like a meditation in itself – I’m glad you left the natural sounds and took us through it at a leisurely pace – I found it very calming. And some great stories! The lodge is wonderful – it must have been fantastic living in a place like that.

    • Thank you, Andrea. I’m so happy you enjoyed it and could journey with me and feel the energy of the place. I’m glad you liked the stories, too, and that lodge is amazing. I was surprised to learn the history of it and to finally get a chance to step inside.

      My favorite is the Pagoda. There’s nothing like sitting in there and soaking in all the energy listening to nature’s sounds. 🙂

  3. I love this!!! The pictures are gorgeous and I am jealous you have such an amazing place to take a walk so close to your home. I love the stories you told, especially about the keys. I thought for sure the fishermen would get them back. I thought it had to be divine intervention that they showed up. Pat, you really need to write a book. You are a fantastic storyteller!!!

    • Oh man, Wendy, thank you! You don’t know how much this means to me that you liked it so much and coming from a successful writer, such as yourself. It is a beautiful spot and a nice place to steal away from the hustle and bustle. Yeah, the fishermen tried but it was too deep for their poles. It may have been divine intervention that they showed up but probably just to confirm that I needed to call hubby. LOL

      I’ve toyed around with the idea of writing another book — there have been signs pointing me in that direction but I just haven’t found the right time to start. That could be a little resistance on my part (ya think?). Boy, if I was a baby bird, mamma would have to give me a real big boot to launch me out of the nest cause I’d probably be clamped to the edge. hahaha (I just got an image of that.)

      Hugs and thanks for stopping by and giving me your feedback, my friend. I truly appreciate it. 🙂

      • I don’t know about the “successful writer” part. I appreciate the sentiment, but I’m still getting off the ground. You are one of those rare individuals that have that extra something. Just reading something that you were obviously so passionate about was fantastic. You definitely have what it takes to be an author. I love the way you write. Just beautiful!

        • You may not be exactly where you want to be yet, Wendy, but if you’re attracting the interest that I know you are and building a writing repertoire with clientele, I would definitely call that success. I think you’re well on your way, my friend.

          I appreciate your kind, encouraging words on my writing. It means a lot and goes a long way with helping me get started on writing my book. Look – I’m already calling it “my” book. Thank you, my friend. You’re the best. 🙂

    • I’m so happy you came along on the walk, Joanne, and you stayed the whole time. When we’re not at the kitchen table exchanging stories, we can always go out on walkabouts. I love that you enjoyed it. Thank you, my friend. 🙂

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  5. I loved this walkabout Pat, and thanks so much for linking back to me, I really appreciate it. What beautiful country you have near you, I felt that I was right alongside you taking this glorious walk. Reminded me of the times when we went walking in places similar to this in California, up in the mountains. How wonderful to see a Bobcat too! And the story about the keys, well, I did laugh as I would do just the same with my hubby and he too would come to my rescue just like yours! So glad you got home home before dark! Beautiful photos, loved the video, so relaxing. Really looking forward to walking with you again my dear friend 🙂

    • Hi Sherri – I’m glad you came along and joined me on this walkabout. It is beautiful country out here and so different from the UK. There are places that take my breath away. I’m happy it reminded you of California and when you lived in the states. I had forgotten about those stories until I started putting this together. It made me realize how special the Park has become to me for which I am thankful.

      Guess I’ll have to get out there and plan more walkabouts so I can take you along. I look forward to your excursions, too, over the pond in the UK. I always enjoy them and love how beautiful it is over there. Take care, my friend, and thank you for stopping by. 🙂

      • I really look forward to it Pat, I absolutely love to see your part of your world through your eyes and your capture transports me there… have a blessed, wonderful and peaceful day my friend… 🙂

        • Me too, Sherri. We’ll have to see what’s next for walkabouts on this side of the pond. From your site, it looks like you’ve been doing some walking about yourself in your garden and last year at the tattoo parlor. This is a beautiful world we live in poised for us to come check it out. Happy Wednesday, my friend. Take care. 🙂

          • Haha! Yes, who knows where are walkabouts might take us next?!! Happy Wednesday to you too my dear friend…and soon your lavender will be in blooming purple majesty for you too 🙂 But meanwhile you have your magnificent beauty spot in which to revel, and I imagine it even now… 🙂

          • Thank you, Sherri. You made my day, my friend. Enjoy your flowers and all the magnificent spots. I’ll see you on the next journey. 🙂

  6. Hi Pat,

    Oh wow, what a beautiful part of the country you reside in. I live in Houston where it’s flat and not so pretty although I love the weather here. No snow and so far not many fires either although we’ve had a few out in the country areas.

    The park is beautiful and I loved your video. The creek, the bridge, I could sit out there for hours but I’m just not use to seeing such beautiful countryside.

    You poor thing dropping your keys in the lake. I just knew those fishermen would rescue them for you. I was surprised they couldn’t hook them for you but sounds like you are married to an amazing guy. I would have hated to be stranded out there too.

    The lodge is really beautiful and that’s surprising it’s never been opened to the public before. I bet you were really thrilled.

    Thanks for sharing this walk about with us, I thoroughly enjoyed it myself.


    • I’m so happy you came over, Adrienne, and you enjoyed it. I’ve never been to Texas but from what I’ve seen I can imagine it holds it’s own beauty. I remember seeing beautiful pictures of flowers blooming in the fields and along the highways due to the initiation many years ago of Ladybird Johnson. I’m glad I could bring you something different and show you another beautiful place in this great country. That’s what’s so amazing across this land is that there is so much diversity and a place that works for everyone.

      I’m thrilled you liked the stories and video and that they captured your interest. In putting this together, I didn’t realize how special those events were to me until I wrote it and how significant the mountains were impacted by the fires.

      The day turned out to be perfect for a walkabout in how it unfolded synchronistically and I got a chance to get in the lodge. I was happy to share it with you. Thank you for stopping by and hope you’ll come back again. 🙂

  7. Great “walkabout” Pat! Love the concept. I’ve been playing with the same idea and then I just thought my blog has been a series of walkabouts throughout so far..hihi
    Peaceful video and I like the pictures of the lodge – the warm colours of the logs pop out nicely. Must have a been a gorgeous place to live out there then.

    • Hi Karin – it’s so great to see you over here and happy that you love the concept. I’ve seen so many of my fellow bloggers — you included — do similar things and I’ve loved it. So, I came up with a feature of my own.

      It is peaceful in the Park — even though it’s pretty active with recreation, there are so many places to get away. It’s a special place to me and now the added bonus of the lodge makes it that much sweeter. I’m glad you liked that. It must have been a hopping place in its time.

      Thank you for stopping by and sharing this walkabout with me. You made my day. 🙂

  8. Pat, what a treasure you have so close to home. Can I say I’m jealous of your mountains and that park? I miss the Rockies so. Your story of your keys had me cracking up! The pictures of your walkabout were stunning but it was the moving water that caught me instantly, and that lodge….amazing.

    • Thank you, Lois, it truly is a treasure and I’m so glad you enjoyed it. I can’t tell you how grateful I am to live here now for over 30+ years. I never would have dreamed I’d be living in the Rockies, a Philly girl, coming from the east coast so many years ago. It’s a different world.

      I’m glad you got a chuckle out of the stories. I had to laugh, too, in remembering them and how it all played out. If only you could have seen how sweet those keys came out and danced on the deck and jumped over the edge. It’s like they were alive. It would have been funny to see our faces, with our mouths open, as we looked at each other in disbelief.

      I’m glad you came along on the walkabout with me and saw the lodge and felt energy of the moving water. It’s perfect that you were caught up in it. It’s exactly what I was trying to capture for you all.

      • You captured it perfectly, Pat. I can just imagine your faces when those keys did their dance into the water. As I was reading I kept thinking, “tell me she didn’t go in the freezing water” Your hubby was brilliant.

        • Thanks, Lois. Yeah, it was a double-take moment, for sure. You know, the thought crossed my mind to go in, but quickly left as soon as I thought it and you’re right on being brilliant. Hubby sure came to the rescue that day as he has on many occasions (LOL). 🙂

  9. I would love to go to this amazing place and you are so lucky to be living there. I loved the video and how it shows the beauty and serenity of it all. The lodge is simply stunning. You are vey lucky to have such a wonderful place to visit and to walk. I’m so glad your keys were rescued, what an adventure. 🙂

    • Hi Susan — it’s so nice to see you over here. I’m glad you enjoyed the walkabout and the video. It is beautiful and I love it. The lodge was like icing on the cake as I had only seen it from a distance. It’s blocked off from the public for so long. I just happened along on one of their first trial tours. I was amazed and excited to hear the history about it. Thank you and hope you’ll join me again on another walkabout. 🙂

  10. Lovely stroll in words and pictures: thanks for sharing. I’ve never seen a bobcat, so I envy your good luck. I’ve never dropped my car keys over a bridge, though, so I guess I’m less envious of that part. 🙂

    • Hi Lorianne – I’m glad you had a chance to stop over and happy you enjoyed the walkabout and pictures. Yes, it was a surprise to see a bobcat out in broad daylight. He looked just as surprised to see us, too, appearing to be a little comfortable out of his element. And, the keys — oh, the keys — what can I say. It was one of those freak things that happen that takes you by surprise. I’m glad it all worked out in the end.

      You’re welcome to come back anytime and sit at my kitchen table. I hope you do and maybe share a tale or two. Thank You!

  11. Pat, what a fabulous area to visit! There is so much to comment about on this post so I will choose a couple of stories that caught my attention…it must have been frightening to think about a fire closing in on your beautiful mountain home! And that bobcat…you are much braver than I! I once spotted a bear while hiking…he was well ahead of us and we were down wind of him, but we turned and headed in the other direction as quickly as our feet would take us! Beautiful photos Pat!

    • Hi Bev — I’m so happy you enjoyed the walkabout. It was fun to do and hope to do more as time allows and takes me on more adventures. Yes, the fires have been frightening and too close for comfort at times. I’m hoping this year will be better as we’ve had a lot more moisture and there’s a lot of snow melting in the mountains. Just have to get more people aware of the fire danger when camping and for the smokers when traveling through.

      I know what you mean in spotting the bear. Like our bobcat, you just want to keep your distance and let them do their thing. Wildlife is all around us and it’s a privilege to share this place with them with respect to their space and habitat. 🙂

    • Hi Psychologist Mimi — I’m happy to meet you and liked that you enjoyed my post. I’m not sure how you found me, but I’m glad you did. I see that we have quite a few things in common like travel, drinking caffeine, cocktails and exploring the unique and weird, like ghosts and goblins.

      Thank you. It looks like a perfect blend and I look forward to learning more of your explorations. Hope you’ll come back and sit at my virtual kitchen table and share them with us. 🙂

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