Colorado and the Rockies. May 2019
Helen Rose Outdoor Diary
During the Spring break I made a family visit to Colorado. This was my first visit to the environs of Denver which is a ten hour flight from London. I was aware that it was six thousand feet above sea level and there may be a period of acclimatisation. On the plane I asked what the cabin pressure was set at and the steward advised me it was seven to eight thousand feet so during the flight I had some acclimatisation!
Colorado is a state of the western United States encompassing most of the southern Rocky Mountains as well as the north eastern section of the Colorado Plateau. The estimated population is over 5.6 million, about the same as Scotland. The state was named for the Colorado River, which early Spanish explorers named the Rio Colorado for the ruddy silt the river carried from the mountains. There was a Scottish Ale called Ruddy Silt!
I was based in Longmont a small town to the east of the Rocky Mountains. Longmont is in Boulder County about an hour by road from Denver. It is a quiet little town but has an interesting open space called Roosevelt Park. Roosevelt Park, presumably named for President Theodore Roosevelt after his visit to Longmont in 1900, is one of the original parks planned by the Chicago-Colorado Colony and covers three city blocks. The land was purchased in 1871 by J.M. Mumford. There were small interesting bronze sculptures beside park benches based on the story of Manilda G. Raffe, who came to hear Vice President Roosevelt speak at the park. Her father and Roosevelt were best friends and she was awestruck by the speech. She had moved to Longmont nearly thirty years previously as a wealthy heiress of New Moon Teas. Various sculptures of her most precious possessions like an umbrella are dotted throughout the park. This seems a very imaginative way to display sculptures with a link to history. Nearby, there was the lovely little Luna Café with a library room to browse in over coffee.
No visit to Colorado would be complete without a trip to Boulder at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Boulder is known for its association with American Frontier history and for being the home of the main campus of the University of Colorado, the state’s largest university. The city frequently receives high rankings in art, health, well-being, quality of life, and education. The city of Boulder is in Boulder Valley, where the Rocky Mountains meet the Great Plains. West of the city are slabs of sedimentary stone tilted up on the foothills, known as the Flatirons. The Flatirons are a widely recognized symbol of Boulder. Boulder is expensive for housing but at the same time it seemed to be a hippy and sporty sort of town with many outdoor and quirky shops.
The Rocky Mountains within Colorado contain 53 peaks that are 14,000 feet (4,267 m) or higher in elevation above sea level, known as fourteeners. These mountains are largely covered with trees such as conifers and aspens up to the tree line, at an elevation of about 12,000 feet (3,658 m) in southern Colorado and to about 10,500 feet (3,200 m) in northern Colorado. Above this only alpine vegetation grows. Only small parts of the Colorado Rockies are snow-covered year round. Had my visit been longer and I had prepared with hiking gear, I would have liked to conquer one of the mountains.
Eric very kindly offered to take me up to the mountains at 7,000 feet to do a very small hike just to get the feel of walking on the trails. On the way we passed the University of Colorado, The National Center for Atmospheric Research and various other research laboratories. The hike started from 7,000 feet on Flagstaff Mountain above Boulder. Flagstaff Mountain is a foothill on the eastern flank of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. The trails are well defined and we walked through Douglas-fir forest to the overhang to have a view over Boulder and across the Great Plains. I would have loved to walk higher but time did not allow. The air was pure and fresh at this altitude. In the US, a walk is referred to a hike. When you hike, it means you are walking from a lower elevation to a higher elevation. On the other hand, when you walk, it means that you are only trekking a relatively smooth and flat path, without too many hurdles. Hiking entails a lot more effort than walking since the path in hiking trails is more difficult. Not so in the UK where walking is the term normally used for distance walking and does not define the terrain.
It was a short but enjoyable visit to Colorado and many thanks to my hosts who made it all worthwhile.
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