Friday, March 24, 2017

Spring Afternoon at Barr Lake State Park

Barr Lake Entrance Station
So it was a windy, cool day in early March at Barr Lake State Park, about 15 miles NE of Denver on I-76.  My wife and I were here to see the eagles, nesting like they do annually on the lake.  We did see the nest across the lake, but no eagles this time.  We did see quite a few other types of bird here, especially Canadian Geese.
Our visit today brought us to the Visitor/Nature Center first, to watch the birds fluttering just outside the window and to see the nature displays inside.  From there, we walked outside across the canal on the bridge and turned left onto the gravel path/road which encircles the lake.

Lake Barr

Another flock of Canadian Geese

The Welcome/Nature Center near the parking and picnic areas
Barr Lake has had a varied history.  Beginning as a buffalo wallow, the native Americans like the Arapaho and the Cheyenne hunted buffalo, antelope and deer here.  A buffalo or bison wallow is a deflation basin created by strong prairie winds.  By 1876, when Colorado became a state, the once-endless supply of buffalo were now gone, slaughtered by the millions, their migration paths blocked by new railroads and fences.  Taking their place now were the Longhorn cattle.  From 1860, the cowboys rounded up the Spanish cattle in herds and drove them north on the Goodnight-Loving Trail, right through the old Barr Lake wallow.  The Longhorn cattle were shipped east by railroad to feed a growing east coast population.
Tourism came next to the area with the construction of the railroad and Barr Lake Rod and Gun Club. In 1886 a group of wealthy Denverites established the Oasis Hunting Club, available by rail to the recently established Barr Depot at Barr City (first called Platte Summit).  Water was diverted in 1891 from the South Platte River to create the Oasis Reservoir.  Then in 1908, in an effort to meet an increase in water demand for the plains farmers, both Oasis Reservoir and the neighboring Burlington Reservoir were combined to create Barr Lake.  During WWI the US Army stationed soldiers at the lake to prevent enemy saboteurs from poisoning the water.  Following the Barr City railroad depot closure in 1931, the town ceased to exist.

Note the water lines on the tree trunks

One of the many old Cottonwood Tree remains by the trail

Cottonwood Inside

And the elves live here...
The new lakes here provided a constant water supply and attracted an abundance of trees, Cottonwoods and birds.  You can see and hear those birds here today.  Here are a couple of the Canadian Geese that did't fly away today when we walked by them, twice.

Goose 1

Goose 2

Both Geese

Geese aloft  
On the walkway around the lake, we hiked the Niedrach Trail (named for a prominent ornithologist who visited here) and its boardwalk across the water, continued along the gravel path/road beside the canal where we saw a beaver (possibly an otter), saw the Fox Meadow trail, and walked out the boardwalk to the Gazebo where we could see the eagle nest on the southern shore. It took us about an hour to reach the Gazebo with lots of photo stops along the way.
The wind was cool and the sun was setting, so we hiked back to our car from here, checking out the picnic area by the Visitor Center with the wind-walls built onto the picnic tables like we had seen at Badlands National Park.  A couple of bicyclists passed us along the path, making good time even in the wind.

My kind of western picnic table with a wall to keep your plate from blowing onto your chest...

Sign at the Gazebo Boardwalk

View from the Gazebo Boardwalk

View from the Gazebo Pavilion

And the view of Barr Lake looking north from the Gazebo Pavilion

The long boardwalk to the Gazebo across the lake

Barr Lake Map
The park covers 2,715 acres, Barr Lake reservoir is 1,900 acres.  About 350 species of birds have been seen at the lake, making it famous on both a national and international basis for the large amount of birds seen (especially in dry Colorado).  Bring your binoculars!  A bird viewing and check list is HERE.
Fishing is also very good here, just bring your rods and Colorado fishing license.  Waterfowl hunting is also allowed during season, contact the park office for more information at 1-800-846-WILD. Archery, ice fishing and snow shoeing are also popular depending on the season.
Boating is allowed here on the northern half of the lake.  Bring your sailboat, kayak, canoe, or electric/trolling/10 hp or less gasoline powered boat.  A line of buoys separates the wildlife refuge and hunting area.  Swimming, wading and diving are prohibited.  Horseback riding is allowed.

A beaver or otter swimming in the canal

The sweet songbird who stayed still but not quiet

Log and lake view

2 Ducks in setting sun

The tree near the center has a dark blob near the top that is the eagles nest,
Front Range mountains behind in clouds
Our nature viewing for the day included the Canadian Geese mentioned above, various songbirds, and a beaver or otter swimming by in the canal beside the gravel path we were walking on.  It may have been early for foxes, squirrels and chipmunks, but I bet they are here too.  Eagle viewing is a month earlier in the year, watch for dates next February.
Picnics are encouraged, with 3 different picnic areas with tables and grills plus the Meadowlark Picnic Pavilion for groups.  You can get more information at 303-659-6005.

One of many groups of birds attracted to the lake's waters

The setting sun and Barr Lake

The gravel path/road and the canal beside local farms and homes

By the Niedrach Trail and shoreline
Barr Lake is situated downstream of the Denver Stockyards and the sewage treatment plant, and was receiving infusions of raw sewage constantly.  By the 1960's the lake had earned the horrible distinction of being declared the largest inland sewage lagoon in the United States.  Declared a"menace to health, safety and welfare" by the Colorado State House of Representatives in 1964. The following year, a powerful storm swelled the waters of the Platte River.  Raging water rushed down the irrigation canals and through Barr Lake, effectively flushing the sewage from the lake.  In 1977 the Colorado State Parks created Barr Lake State Park, to preserve this "island of habitat in a sea of urban development".  It has been kept clean since and is quite nice.
Part of the park that is appealing to me is the available nature to study and the Nature Center.  Bird watching was discussed by many visitors and rangers.  Some rangers are naturalists and can explain the park's wildlife.  The park is also the headquarters for the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory and they offer public programs and banding stations in the park.  Their phone is 303-659-4348 and on the web at www.rmbo.org.  The Bird Conservancy of the Rockies is HERE.

I see a tree looking back at me...

The Denver-Hudson Canal beside the gravel path/road looking south

More geese above Barr Lake

Last view back
Another interesting tidbit of information that I learned about Barr Lake is that it is co-managed for irrigation and recreation.  The lake is owned and operated by the Farmers Reservoir and Irrigation Company (FRICO).  The Denver-Hudson Canal on the east side of the lake is owned and operated by the Henrylyn Irrigation District.  Each company owns the respective land under the lake and canal, the water in them and the irrigation control structures around them.  Presently, the water in Barr Lake is stored and used for downstream irrigation projects on the Colorado plains while recreational uses are secondary.  The water in the canal bypasses the lake and fills Henrylyn irrigation projects downstream.  Colorado State Parks opened Barr Lake State Park in 1977 and manages recreational activities through perpetual easements with FRICO and the Henrylyn Irrigation District.  Quite a government/private sector agreement and a it seems to be a successful one at that!
Visiting any State Park in Colorado is pleasant on a spring day, even during windy ones like today.  To get to Barr Lake from I-25, take I-76 North East from Denver.  Follow the signs and exit at Brighton onto Bromley Lane/152nd Avenue and go east to Picadilly Lane where you then go south to the park entrance sign on the right.  A daily pass, or Colorado State Park Annual Pass is required. Sorry, no camping is available here.



Friday, March 10, 2017

First Bike Ride 2017 On Spruce Meadows Trail

First 2017 ride on my 2003 bicycle, still going...somewhat
This week was my first 2017 bike ride, not counting the 1.2 miler I did last week after adjusting my mountain bike after a couple years of neglect.  Not that it was finished or anything, as I found out after starting my ride on Spruce Meadows Trail, an 8.6 mile fairly easy pedal through the Greenland Open Space area, where cattle still grazes on specific plots for weeks each summer.
By the way, this area is one of the widest-open spaces in Colorado, where you can see for miles in most directions and get a real feeling for what "Open Space" really is.

Snow covered Pikes Peak, Spruce Mountain to the right
The first leg is an easy pedal 1.9 miles to the southwest, going toward Spruce Mountain.  Pikes Peak glistens with snow ahead, Spruce Mountain rises to my right.  The trail passes 2 ponds along the way, and winds around some drainage's.  The elevation increases 200 feet in this 1.9 miles, but is not difficult unless you are new to bicycling at 6800-7000 feet elevation.  After traversing the property, I crossed under Spruce Mountain Road in a large culvert made for this, and climbed the hill on the south side of the road.

Colorado often uses culverts like this for trails
Here is where I experienced derailleur problems where the gears kept shifting on their own, causing me to loose traction on the hill.  I got off and pushed my bike up to the picnic table beside the Spruce Mountain Trail where I often hike.  By balancing the bicycle frame on the table seat edge, I was able to loosen the tension on the rear derailleur cable to fix the self-shifting problem while changing gears and spinning the wheel.  Then I enjoyed a snack and watered-up.  The wind here was gusting in the mid-30's, and it was a cool 60 degrees if you were not pedaling.
17 years of riding this bicycle and some parts are now worn out.  I keep nursing the bike along until I can replace it.  The derailleurs, shifters and rear cogs may be next.  I bought it in Castle Rock in the early spring of 2004 (a 2003 model) and mostly rode it off-road and on bike trails locally, then mostly paved trails since 2010 when I upgraded the tires, hand grips, chain and added the rear rack.  I like the way the bike fits me, and the way it is geared.  I hope I can make it last a for few more years of easy bicycling.

Spruce Mountain ramparts...
Continuing to the right...
From here, I rode past the Spruce Mountain Trailhead and north up the meadow and past another pond toward Eagle Pass. It was hard enough riding uphill into the wind, but when I passed the cutoff trail, the wind was now blowing from my left, causing me to pitch over to the right, often catching my pedal on the rough and rutted trail.  I finally took my feet out of the toe clips so I could dab the ground to prevent falling while pedaling occasionally on the downhill leg.  The entire Front Range opens to my left, the town of Larkspur is straight ahead with Rattlesnake Butte on the left across I-25. It was a long 1.6 miles of dabbing grassland to Noe Road.  As I neared Noe Road, I got off and walked the bike the last few yards.

From the top of Eagle Pass, looking north toward the town of Larkspur
Noe Road is named for a pioneer farmer/rancher who lived in this area way back when the Native Americans caused serious problems for the settlers.  It is a dirt road, coated with what I call "Dipity-Doo" to keep the dust down, worth every penny in wind like we are having today.  Here I could continue along the trail with another 5+ miles of toe-dabbing through the meadows, or follow Noe Road 1.5 miles back to my car with the wind at my back.  I opted for the wind at my back and pedaled back to my car with no gear problems.

Looking back south to Eagle Pass
The trail is within 20 miles of my home, and I plan to come back when the wind is not as strong, and ride the whole loop at one go.  That may be a couple to three weeks from now as the weather is turning colder and some March snow is forecast.  My experience with these meadows is that a little moisture turns it all into a quagmire for a couple days, until the sun and wind dries it out again.

Trail Sign at Noe Road
To find Spruce Meadows Trail, south of Castle Rock exit I-25 at #167, turn west, bypass the Greenland Open Space Park, unless you need to walk your pet or get drinking water, carefully cross both railroad tracks and turn left into the Spruce Meadows Trailhead parking lot.
If you want to hike or bicycle a mountain instead, continue west to Spruce Mountain Road, turn left (south) and follow less than a mile to the first right, and turn into the Spruce Mountain Trail parking area.

Trail north of Noe Road, lots more grass, Rattlesnake Butte on right


Friday, March 3, 2017

Trail Model Sweater Review

My sweaters all seemed to fail on me during the winter of 2016-17.  I had bought an inexpensive $20 fleece sweater that over 1 year, shrunk two sizes and left fleece shards everywhere; so much that it was shrunk way up above my waist and I couldn't wear it anymore.  Similar things happened to a couple old wool sweaters I had too.
I was down to only one V-neck fleece sweater, and wearing it every day in Colorado's winter begins to look old real quick and laundry becomes a scheduling problem.
So I bought a new LL Bean Trail Model Fleece snap pullover.  Instead of black or gray, I bought blue for some color in my life!  It arrived yesterday (2 days early) and trying it on last night it fit well and kept me warm.  It is quite comfortable and with the collar snapped, keeps my neck very warm (missing from my V-neck).  The 4 snaps are made of nylon and are set in a black placket.  It also has zipped hand-warmer pockets which can hold items, keep my hands warm and ventilate the sweater when it gets warm outside with mesh behind the tunnel pocket.  It is a medium size for me and the fit is good, falling just below my thighs and loose across the shoulders.  It is made from Polartek 200, my favorite warm clothing material for hiking and playing outdoors. The LL Bean Trail Model Fleece Sweater cost about $50 online with free shipping.
When I backpack, I carry a Polartek 200 jacket, sweater and now hat in all Colorado weather, and have used LL Bean products to keep warm for decades.  The LL Bean Polarplus Polartek 200 jacket (a liner from a Gore-Tex field jacket) from the mid-1990's accompanied me on all 3 Colorado backpack trips in 2016, plus a 4th trip where I car camped at a pass on the West Spanish Peak.  It is starting to get ratty at the cuffs after wearing outdoors and camping in for over 22 years.
Yes, I like REI and EMS products too, and mix them while outdoors, but many outdoor companies have gotten away from Polartek 200 to go with thinner fabrics and less actual fleece.  I still like the feel of the plush fleece texture against my body.  I also like that if it gets wet, I just take it off, wring it out, shake it and put it back on where my body usually dries it quickly.  I have been wearing fleece (Madden Mills or Polartek 100/200/300) since I bought that first PET Recycled jacket in 1984 from Campmor.
I purchased this sweater with my own funds and do not write about it for anyone except myself.


Friday, February 17, 2017

Visiting American Pickers Store in Nashville, Winter 2016 Florida - Road Trip



We stopped in Nashville on our return trip to check out the popular American Pickers Store.  We occasionally watch the American Pickers program and enjoy the actors and the things they find. Mostly we see re-runs on our computer now.
Well, finding the store was not as easy, but after following web site directions, find it we did.
The large and old Marathon Automobile factory is quickly filling up with cool new small businesses, places to get a crafted brew, and lots of art.  The American Pickers store fits in well here, with its collection of old musical instruments, vintage motorcycle engines and other antique and dusty items from the world of automobilia.



I liked the first corner on your right as you enter the store, where musicians can sit and jam by the window, under an antique radio sign and guitars on the wall.



Finding an old Fender Deluxe amp was interesting (note the cigarette burns), as was very old broadcast microphones, the old VW motorcycle (yes, a Volks Wagon motorcycle), an Indian Motorcycles store sign, a Hohner Harmonicas spinning sales device, old cameras, antique movie posters, the rusty, the crusty, and otherwise forgotten old stuff.







The store also sells the book, tee shirts and hats promoting the American Pickers program and some small collectible items.  At the checkout they were discussing someone buying a true, hand-picked item seen on one of the shows.




I noticed a couple items from the show presented inside the store as well as some hand-crafted chain lamps where the chain links were welded to stand to make them hold an Edison lamp.
Outside in the parking lot I spied one of the American Pickers trucks used for hauling pickings with the logo on the side just as we were leaving.


Nice visit, wished I could have picked!