The Mystery Below Dream Lake

 

You cannot help focusing on Flattop Mountain while at Dream Lake. It juts 3,000 feet above you and, for the most intrepid hikers, lures you 4.4 miles to the Continental Divide.

The most impressive aspect of Dream Lake, however, is what lies below. The Ancestral Rocky Mountains were formed 1.7 billion years ago. They are made up of the oldest rocks in North America, which are Precambrian metamorphic rocks. What you know as the Rocky Mountains of Colorado are actually the newer rocks, which were pushed up about 80 – 55 million years ago. Since then glaciers, wind and water have carved the spectacular chain of skyscrapers we know as The Rocky Mountains.

As these modern mountains were forced upwards, they left some rock slabs tilted at steep angles. One popular place to see results of tectonic forces is the Flatirons in Boulder, Colorado.

However, don’t overlook the rare beauty of the Ancestral Rocky Mountains revealed in Big Thompson Canyon. In the narrowest section of this twisted river canyon are black walls of banded gneiss and shiny schist deposited 1.8 billion years ago. Highway 34, from Estes Park, CO to Loveland, CO will open on Memorial Day weekend, 2017. The road will still be under construction for another year. They are reshaping the canyon so the Big Thompson River cannot do as much damage as it did in the flood of 2013.

Take this historic drive to Rocky Mountain National Park and head toward the bus stop to Bear Lake. From Bear Lake, maps and signs will lead you to Dream Lake and beyond.

For further information about the Geology of the Rocky Mountains go to:
20160928_091917wikipedia.org/wiki/Geology of the Rocky Mountains

If you are fortunate upon arriving at exit 254 on Colorado’s I-70, you will be rewarded with a perfect view of The American Bison herd. I say “The” because these animals are descendants of seven of the remaining wild animals discovered in Yellowstone National Park in 1914. Exceptional survivors such as this herd escaped the twenty-year massacre of bison, which took place after the Transcontinental Railroad was completed and the Civil War ended.

Try to excuse the sign, which states “Buffalo Herd Overlook.” The City and County of Denver Parks still use the popular name for bison. If you do not spy the herd immediately, you can drive to the Chief Hosa exit and continue north on a dirt road which is part of the Lariat Loop National Scenic Byway. The bison are also fed here and can actually cross under I-70 to the Overlook.

Prior to being hunted to the brink of extinction, American bison roamed over 40% of our nation. Indigenous people and early explorers thrived on bison meat and were protected by their hides. Since there were millions of bison, it was not unusual for people to come upon a herd of 1,000. They were so numerous that members of the Lewis and Clark expedition stopped mentioning them in their journals.

Why do you think the United States Army, and early pioneers ignored the value of these beasts and did nothing to preserve the species? With no foresight, they concluded that wiping out the bison would make it easier to wipe out the Indians. Were news and historical agencies aware that 50 million bison were being exterminated?

These facts help with our current efforts to right the wrongs.

  • A bison can outrun a Quarter horse over a ¼ mile tract
  • A bison can jump a six- foot fence from a standing position
  • Their curved horns can grow to be two-feet long.
  • Today there are about 4,000 American bison in Yellowstone National Park. They are more dangerous to humans than bears.
  • See The Long Trail of Yellowstone Bison, Defenders of Wildlife.

Westminster Castle: the Big Red Castle

Have you ever wondered about the big red castle at 3455 West 83rd Avenue? It stands out because it was built at Crown Point, which is 5,552 feet above sea level. The sandstone tower is another 175 feet high, well above the Mile-High City, Denver, Colorado.

Even though it is much shorter than the many skyscrapers of Denver, Westminster Castle overlooks precious land. Looking west from the tower, you can imagine a prairie where Arapaho Indians once camped and hunted buffalo.

Stretching your vision towards the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, there are remnants of the Cherokee-Overland Trail. From 1849 until the completion of the Union Pacific Railroad in 1869, Native Americans, pioneers, and gold seekers traveled here between the Santa Fe Trail and the Oregon Trail seeking a better life.

Built in 1893, the three-story castle became a Presbyterian university. In 1915, the Board of Trustees decided to exclude women from the university. Within two years, they discovered they had no students at all. All of the young men had gone to fight in World War I.

Today you can tour the castle, now used by the Belleview Christian Schools. There will be a winter open house sponsored by the Westminster Historical Society on Saturday, January 21, 2017. Prepare to join the Historical Society for $15. per person or $25. per family. Meet at the Westminster History Center, 7200 Lowell Boulevard by 10:30am, then drive to the Castle to take a tour between 11:00 am and 1:00 pm. Wear your walking shoes and plan to climb the steep and narrow steps to the tower for a stunning view.

If you miss this opportunity, check the Westminster Historical Society Calendar for the June Open House or request a personal tour.

View from the Westminster Castle Tower

View from the Westminster Castle Tower

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Harriet Tubman: Heroine of the Underground Railroad

 

 

She was born in 1822 on a slave plantation in Bucktown, Maryland. After suffering a cracked skull as a punishment, she knew she must seek liberty or death. In 1849, she walked at night through Delaware, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,and New York, reaching safety at last in St. Catherine, Canada.

All of the secret places which hid escaped slaves were linked by the Underground Railroad. Unfortunately, no trains helped the runaways and their hiding places were anywhere, above or below ground.

Now, Harriet Ross Tubman’s home, in Auburn, New York, is a National Historic Park. To learn more about it go to: www.harriethouse.org

It was not enough for her to start a new life in Canada. She made thirteen more trips to Maryland to lead slaves to freedom. She was helped by a famous man, William H. Seward, of Auburn, NY. He became Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of State. Not only did his family and staff hide runaways, but he also sold Harriet Tubman her first home which included 7 acres of land. The brick home in the picture, was built after the original wooden house burned down. Harriet always welcomed those who needed a place to live, sometimes keeping 20 or more people in the four-bedroom space.

Her message to all of us both simple and profound, “Children, if you are tired, Keep Going; if you are scared, Keep Going; if you are hungry, Keep Going; if you want to taste freedom, Keep Going.”

What challenges have you faced, that Harriet Tubman’s motto can help to solve?20160831_120218?

 

 

 

John Wesley Powell

John-Wesley-Powell

I am revising a nonfiction picture book for children ages 5 – 8 about the famous explorer, John Wesley Powell. My story must stand out from the plentiful literature about his extraordinary courage, sense of adventure, leadership, and thirst for knowledge.

The title I was using is, John Wesley Powell, a Can-do Man. Please help me by voting for alternate titles, which might grab the attention of early readers, their teachers, and parents. How about Wes Goes All the Way: The first person to explore and map the Grand Canyon, OR A Life of Daring and Success: John Wesley Powell, OR A Thirst for Adventure: The Man Who Opened the West, OR Never Give Up on Your Plans: A Lesson from John Wesley Powell?

The more I read about the history of America, the more I seek to understand how people like John Wesley Powell overcame criticism, hardship, a handicap, sacrifice, and doubt. He was the kind of leader youngsters will come to appreciate as they face their own challenges. I also hope to answer my own questions about how he grew to be so determined despite a lack of respect from family and government.

Stay tuned for news of Grand Canyon experiences, which will enhance my descriptions and translate into a lively book.

Virginia Dale Stage Station

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Virginia Dale Stage, built in 1862

The Overland Trail Mail route was established in 1862 to assist passengers in avoiding Indian uprisings that were occurring on the Oregon Trail further north. It followed the Cherokee Trail until it split between LaPorte and Virginia Dale. Virginia Dale was the westerly route, eventually rejoining the Oregon Trail at Ft. Bridger, Wyoming. About 20,000 pioneers traveled the Overland Trail each year from 1862 – 1868. Indian attacks became more common as more emigrants arrived.

Virginia Dale was the most famous of the Overland Trail stage stations. The notorious stationmaster, Jack Slade, named it after his wife Virginia. Slade was reported to ride wild mustangs and shoot up the countryside when he was not drunk. He may have been responsible for a stage hold-up one mile from Virginia Dale during which $60,000.00 disappeared.

When the station was abandoned as a stage stop, settlers were attracted to the area by the streams and meadows, which were exceptional for grazing cattle. Although the original building has been preserved, the school and church are not standing.

Once the Central Pacific Railroad and Union Pacific Railroad were joined at Promontory Point, Utah in 1869, much of the traffic was diverted from Virginia Dale.

Mark Twain added to the lore surrounding Virginia Dale in his novel, Roughing It.

You can visit this historic site by traveling 45 miles north of Ft. Collins, Colorado on Highway 287.

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Outhouse from Virginia Dale Station

The Wigwam Teahouse

Anna’s Cabin                                        The Teahouse

 

 Anna WolfromWhat might motivate a single female teacher from Kansas City to move to the Rocky Mountains in 1907? The Homestead Act of 1862 required an individual to stay on the land, build a structure, raise crops or animals and pay $10.00. Once the homesteader spent five years ‘proving up’, they still needed two neighbors to testify before they owned 160 acres.

Look back to 1907-1912, when Anna was working to improve her claim. There was not a National Park in the vicinity of Anna Wolfrom’s claim. She needed help clearing trees and hauling supplies to a steep site in a wheel barrow. Women were still fighting for the right to vote in U.S. elections, despite Coloradoans passing women’s suffrage in 1893. In fact, stories about the west were mostly about male pioneers, explorers, miners, missionaries and soldiers.

Anna Wolfrom was well-educated, studying in the United States and France. She may have known, she was making herstory. At age 35, she decided not to pin her hopes on marriage. Instead, she chose to become a landowner and independent woman.

Her property was between the YMCA in Estes Park and Lily Lake, three miles from the road to Lyons. She put herself on the map by building a teahouse and curio shop for people traveling along this rugged trail. Construction continued for two years, 1913 – 1914. Rocky Mountain National Park was dedicated on September 4, 1915. Serving tea and cakes in the wilderness was quite popular. She added on to her teahouse in 1921. One of her visitors was Dr. Orville Dove of Kansas City who fell in love with the mountains and the first woman homesteader in Estes Park. At age 51, Anna Wolfrom married Dr. Dove. When asked how she liked being married, she replied, “It beats teaching school.”

You can still hike to the site of the Wigwam Teahouse from Lily Lake, but you’ll need a current map and time to complete a 4.7-mile hike. Bring your own snacks and water, since the teahouse has been closed for close to a century. You can also see more photos and artifacts at the Estes Park Museum, at 200 Fourth St. which is open seven days a week.

Anna Wolfrom was too busy to write a book about her life. Fortunately, Marcia Meredith Hensley wrote Staking Her Claim and included the story of a neighbor who was inspired by Anna Wolfrom. Katherine Garetson moved to the area near Allenspark in 1914 and built the Big Owl Teahouse. She left details of a single woman’s life in the Rocky Mountains which paint a vivid picture of the time and place.