The AAA Companion
July | August 2004
Volume 78 Issue 4
Rocky Mountain National Park Keeps Us Coming Back
Earlier this year, the National Park Foundation (NPF) listed Rocky Mountain National Park as one of its "Best of the Parks" picks. The park was singled out for "Best Access to Breathtaking Beauty—Wheelchair accessible hiking in the heart of the country's most rugged mountain range."
Long-term Colorado residents already know the special qualities of this park, which encompasses more than 414 square miles of snow-capped mountain peaks, pristine lakes and streams, and meadows carpeted in wildflowers. It's a perennial favorite for introducing first-time visitors — children, extended family, friends — to Colorado's scenic wonders.
And then there's the wildlife. The craggy mountain slopes and verdant meadows are perfect for sighting bighorn sheep, mule deer, elk and moose. The authors of Colorado's Best claim the park has the best wildlife viewing in the state.
More than 3 million visitors find their way to the park each year. The two entrances — Estes Park and Grand Lake — are connected by Trail Ridge Road, the country's highest continuous paved road. Crossing the Continental Divide, the drive gives visitors a great look at many of the park's 78 mountain peaks over 12,000 feet.
Driving Trail Ridge Road also demonstrates the park's two distinctly different sides created by the Continental Divide. The Estes Park side from the east is more desert-like, with spare vegetation and craggy rock formations. The Grand Lake side from the west is more lush, with meadows and wetlands. Hiking trails, with varying degrees of difficulty, abound on both sides of the Divide.
There's something for everyone at Rocky Mountain National Park, especially for families and children. And, as the author of this issue's "My Colorado" discovered, a visit to the park can change your life.
Different look at the familiar
Colorado's historical roadside markers — "Stop the car!" No longer do amateur historians have to yell this when they see one of Colorado's 220 markers. On June 1, the Colorado Historical Society added a new section to its website where you can search for markers by location (county) or historical topic. www.coloradohistory.org, 303-866-3682.
Durango/Silverton train's new program — The venerable steam train has initiated a half-day educational train to Cascade Station, where Smokey Bear and other guides will talk about native flora, Colorado wildlife and fire ecology. "Mountain Express," Monday-Friday until August 5. Toll free, 888-872-4607.
JW Marriott Denver at Cherry Creek — Chic shoppers never had it so good. See Denver's upscale Cherry Creek shopping/dining district through the eyes of a luxury hotel, the first to open in the heart of Cherry Creek. Included in the
11-story, 196-room Marriott is the intimate, fashionable Mirepoix restaurant and bar. Hotel, 303-316-2700; restaurant, 303-253-3000.
Taking better photos
Dynamic photos, even
with point & shoot cameras
Composition is one element of creating better photos that is available to everyone, no matter what level of technical sophistication your camera has. One simple improvement is to move the main subject out of the center of the frame-position the subject strong right or left, or near the top or bottom of the frame. By doing any of these things, you create an imbalance in composition that avoids "bulls eye" composition and leads to more dynamic photos.
Most photos would also be improved, literally, by one simple step or two-take a step or two closer to your subject. Loose composition, in which too much is included in the photo, is one of the most common faults I see in student photos. Move in and include fewer elements or less of the overall scene.
Read the camera manual to learn about your camera's limitations. What is the minimum focusing distance? Disposable or fixed focus cameras often focus no closer than three feet. If your subject is closer than that, it is not in focus. What is the effective range of your camera's flash? Putting your subject past the distance of your flash will yield a dark subject. On the other hand, placing your subject too close will result in an overly bright or a pasty white face.
Jerome Shaw has been a professional photographer for 25 years and teaches workshops for beginner and intermediate photographers; www.jeromeshaw.com.
Colorado Street Stories
Who's That Lady in Crested Butte?
By Ron Rudolph
One story around Crested Butte has it that Red Lady Avenue got its name from the bordellos that used to line the old mining town. There were so many red lights in the district, the story goes, that a glow was cast on Mount Emmons, just west of town.
But not everybody buys that account. Could those old-time lamps really have thrown enough light to bounce off a mountainside?
Another oft-told story is that the Red Lady shows up when the setting sun hits the south face of Mt. Emmons just right. In fact, many refer to the mountain as the Red Lady. That might come from how the mountain holds snow into early summer, when alpenglow creates a distinct distaff image. Late-season backcountry skiers leave tracks all over the face of Red Lady.
Whatever her origin, the Red Lady has made her presence known around town. Red Lady Avenue extends into the Crested Butte Bike Path, 5.4 miles of pavement that connects with the area's world-famous network of mountain bike trails. Cross-country skiers glide along the path in winter. Red Lady Real Estate has been trading in land and houses around town since 1977. And many a thirst has been quenched with the Crested Butte Brewery's Red Lady Ale.
Ron Rudolph has driven through all contiguous states except Arkansas and Oklahoma.
New Mystery Photo
This unidentified photo appears to have been taken after a contest between fire departments. The image was labeled "Fire Depts"; handwritten on the back was: "Reception of the winning team 1,000 feet/Time 44 3/4 seconds."
Send your thoughts about the specific event, town and year of the photo to the editor, EnCompass, 4100 E. Arkansas Ave., Denver, CO 80222; email, email@example.com.
The photo is courtesy of the Colorado Historical Society, which has an extensive photo collection available to the public. 303-866-2305,
Cañon City or Malta?
In the May/June issue, readers were asked to help identity a town in a historical photo that had been donated without identification to Fort Collins. (The photo can be seen online in the EnCompass section at aaa.com.)
Two readers speculated that the town in question was Cañon City, based on geneology records. Another guessed St. Elmo, but offered no rationale.
By far, the most comprehensive research was conducted
by Mark Niemeyer, who visited the History & Geneology Department of the Denver Public Library. He speculates the town was Malta (near Leadville) in about 1880, based on a Dec. 14, 1880 article in the Rocky Mountain News about Paul Perlinsky (his store is visible in the photo) moving his business from Malta to Denver. Additional research could not verify this as fact, but did support the possibility.
We thank all those who took the time to respond to our request.
Cat hostesses, chasing
dogies and buying history
By Linda DuVal
and worth it
When was the last time you visited a bed-and-breakfast inn and were greeted by a cat? Expect it at the Apple Orchard Inn in Durango. But that's far from the only reason to visit. Since it opened in the mid-'90s, the inn has won numerous accolades — "Colorado's Best Bed & Breakfast" by the Denver Post in 1999, followed by honors from Sunset magazine, Fodor's and Frommer's travel guides.
Romantic cottages with fireplaces surround a charming pond. Hosts Celeste and John Gardiner also offer an extra amenity: With advance notice, chef Celeste will prepare your gourmet dinner. And Teddy the kitty absolutely purrs a warm welcome. 970-247-0751 or 800-426-0751.
Boulder's Flagstaff House is the first Colorado restaurant to be inducted into the National Restaurant News' Fine Dining Hall of Fame. Meals start with the likes of sauteed foie gras and smoked duck breast, and it gets more elaborate from there. 303-442-4640.
Briarhurst Manor in Manitou Springs is 2004's top vote-getter for Colorado cuisine by editors and readers of The Gazette in Colorado Springs. The menu features Colorado rabbit and lamb, elk, quail and bison, as well as wildflower honey, herbs, pinon nuts and wild mushrooms. 719-685-1864.
Want to own a piece of history? Buy it at Western Hardware Antiques & Variety store in Leadville. The cavernous two-story building is packed from entry to attic with antiques. If it were a museum, you'd happily pay admission. Open every day but Christmas. 719-486-2213.
If you're bunking at Chico Basin Ranch on the eastern plains, don't expect to sleep in, pardner. Guests help herd cattle and mend fences. This unique property is owned by the Colorado State Land Board but operated by Duke Phillips and his family as a "working'' guest ranch. OK, you don't work all day. Guests also can fish or hike if they get tired of chasing dogies.
The mission? To teach visitors about Western heritage and ecology.
"You don't come to watch; you come to participate," Duke says. 719-683-7960.
You don't really know Grand Junction till you've shopped its quirky old downtown. There's no Gap here. Instead, there's Colorado's oldest shoe store-Benge's — for shoes you won't find in any mall. Unique Expressions lives up to its name with one-of-a-kind women's clothing. Or watch toffee being made at Enstrom's Chocolates.
Linda DuVal is the former travel editor of the Colorado Springs Gazette.
See & Do
top 10 golf
By Linda DuVal
and worth it
Crested Butte's Wildflower Festival, July 12-18, focuses on the state's extraordinary flora, from science to art. Bountiful blossoms inspire folks to photograph and paint, as well as take flower walks — even cook them! 970-349-2571.
Fore! Golf magazine has rated Red Sky Golf Course in Beaver Creek as one of its Top 10 Courses You Can Play. But there's a catch. You have to stay at one of the resort properties to play there. 970-477-8400 or 866-873-3759.
On the other hand, Fossil Trace Golf Course in Golden was ranked one of the top 10 best new courses in the country by both Golf magazine and Golf Digest. And anyone who can pay can play. 303-277-8750.
Also check out the 19th annual golf International at Castle Pines Golf Club, Aug. 2-8.
Views don't get any more spectacular than at the top of Independence Pass, open only a couple months each year. Stop at the 12,500-foot summit for a short scenic stroll to the overlook. Don't forget your jacket!
Next time you're driving
I-70 east and need to stretch your legs, do it at the Limon Heritage Museum. It opened two new exhibits last year-a mock-up of a 1930s farmhouse and a replica of the town's old Gates Mercantile.
If it all sounds very "Little House on the Prairie," that's exactly the point.
Co-director Tony Weinsman, who moved to Limon two years ago, says the first time he walked into the museum, he said "Wow!" Chronicling life on the plains, exhibits include a one-room schoolhouse, native American artifacts and an original weather station. "I promise, you'll be amazed," he says.
Open daily through Labor Day. 719-775-8605.
Melon mania rules at Colorado's oldest continuous fair-the Arkansas Valley Fair in Rocky Ford. Also on tap at this event, established in 1878, are a rodeo, livestock shows and horse races. On Watermelon Day, you can eat all the free watermelon you want. Fiesta Day celebrates the area's Hispanic heritage. 719-254-7483
Ride your hog to Cripple Creek for its Salute to American Vets, the state's largest motorcycle rally (and 7th largest in U.S.), Aug. 19-22. More than 10,000 motorcycles roar into town and participants shop for motorcycle paraphernalia, ride in a huge military parade and party at a black-tie gala honoring military veterans. 719-487-8005.
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