Wednesday, May 23, 2018

--- Littleton to Oxford ---

                                                                 [Littleton sign]

The old depot is still there at the Littleton Station. Ogden Utah is only about 525 miles away now. I guess things didn't shrink - the road just takes a shorter route than the train did. This particular train only goes north to Denver and south to Mineral - things change. But the depot is still there.

There are steles out front. They aren't rock like in ancient Greece and Babylon but they do record historic events - the history of Littleton. Inside is a nice coffee shop with really good bakery items and friendly people.

                                                        [Littleton Depot inside]

Littleton is now firmly a part of the Denver Metro area. It's where the Littleton Lockheed Martin aerospace plant is and it's where the infamous Columbine shootings took place. Littleton has been in the news a lot.

It reminds me of small town America with it's crowded store fronts. In town, Arapaho College breaks the spell with it's modern buildings.

Denver Seminary was close by and I wanted to stop in for part of another project but it was on the trail and, after finishing there, I joined the Platte River Trail and Mary Carter Greenway that parallels the South Platte River and the CanAm Highway as they transect the Midwest.

This red winged blackbird was determined that I would not take a picture of his brilliant scarlet and yellow stripes. This is a good place to spot birds - both songbirds and water fowl.


The path is well marked - nobody's gonna get lost here.


These swallows were constantly in motion. I don't know if I could have gotten a decent picture with a telephoto lens.


In the Littleton area, the South Platte has grown to a small river. Rivers grow through time and space. This is a much older river than the one that rushes out of the Rockies at Waterton Canyon. It still runs swift but it has slowed considerably.

                                                                   [South Platte]

Very few of these trees are original to the area. It's easy to forget that Denver is still a desert city.

                                                      [Bridge near Hudson Gardens]

Hudson Gardens is still waking up after a mild winter. I was hoping they'd have all the plants out but, alas, only the tractors are evident.

The wildflowers are certainly awake, though.


                                                             [Euphorbia (spurge)]

                                                               [Prairie Phlox....maybe?]

This collection of brass statues memorialize the cowboy. I gotta say that I like equestrian statues out here more than the bombastic megamaniacal Goliaths of Greece and Rome.

                                                               [Statue group]

Oxbows are features of meandering streams. Water flows downhill and, as it does, it tends to carve steepsided valleys but, as water pushes at one side and then the other, it broadens it's streambed until there's a wide valley. With a little restriction, it's path becomes serpentine. When a bend in the river turns back on itself and reconnects with the main watercourse, that loop can get pinched off to form a marshy or dry gouge called an "oxbow". Oxbows are a regular feature of the streams in the southern United States but I haven't seen that many here in the West (although both Bear Creek and the South Platte River certainly meander), but there is a nice example of an oxbow between Littleton and Englewood. They tend to be long and sweeping and hard to photograph except, maybe, from the air.


I don't see very many things that might be called a waterfall (by some stretch of the imagination) out here. Even the water features that most people here call "waterfalls" are either cascades or man made. This little cascade on Big Dry Creek where it drops down into the South Platte is, at least, picturesque and is comfortably cool on this hot spring day. The trail crosses Big Dry Creek over a bridge and then crosses the South Platte River via a nice example of a suspension bridge.

                                                             [Big Dry Creek area]

The river is beginning to look like a river here. I could still wade across it but it's broad.

                                            [South Platte from suspension bridge and above]

I've noticed that rivers in America become domesticated, harnessed, controlled as they get older. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said that you can't step in the same river twice. Of course, the river you stepped in the first time has gone on down river to be civilized and bound.

                                                            [Downstream photos]

And from the river, I can look up to see my old friend, the bell tower at Colorado Heights.

                                                            [Colorado Heights]

And since this is The Bear Creek Commentaries, I would be remiss  if I did not include the confluence of Bear Creek with the South Platte River. Here, the two form a delta that seems to be a favorite with the water fowl and other wildlife. There is a little overlook park that recommends itself well for bird and wildlife watching.

                                                              [Confluence photos]

The end of Bear Creek Trail, where it joins the South River Trail/Mary Carter Greenway at River Point Shopping Area is where a historic (and notorious) settlement called Petersburg stood. The marker tells it all (well, some of it, anyway. There are webpages where you can find out the rest.)

                                                       [Petersburg marker]

I walked up the hill to see one of my favorite views of the Rockies from Denver.

                                                   [River Point view of the Rockies]

I ate supper at another of my favorite restaurants in Denver - the Huhot Mongolian Grill. It's an experience where you can build your own stir fry from a bar of components and sauces. They also have a menu (from which I selected a rangoon dessert - crunchy cream cheese filled pastries covered by a fruit sauce and served with a bowl of ice cream.)

Then I continued on to Oxford Light Rail Station, back to Englewood Station, and by bus to home. In keeping with Denver's recent appreciation of outdoor art, most of the light rail stations are decorated by local artists. Oxford features tiles painted by school children representing different modes of travel. Here are a few.

                                                              [Oxford Station]

Spring is a time for looking for wildflowers. Many of them are tiny but exquisite and you have to pay attention to find them and look very closely to really see them. You might be surprised at the diversity and complexity.

Rivers on the plains and in the southern United States are great meanderers. See if you can find some aerial photographs of them and you might see an oxbow.

Monday, May 14, 2018

--- The Dead Sea Scrolls ---

Coyote and I visited the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. We chose a weekday afternoon so the museum was not packed. Fragments were located under glass in a circular counter. These pieces of paper and parchment are over 2000 years old so special measures have to be taken to keep them from just falling apart. No camera flashes, for instance.

Most of the volume of the exhibit was context - the history and geography of the region. The jars that the scrolls were found in were also amply represented.

The artifacts were presented in their Biblical context, which surprised me. I keep saying that Denver is a secular city and I keep seeing and hearing things that contradict me. Of course, it is secular in comparison to where I came from - the Bible Belt - but religion is quite alive and well in Denver.

For a time, the Dead Sea Scrolls were thought by academicians to have been completed after the first century because of the startlingly accurate depictions of the life and crucifixion of Christ in the book of Isaiah, which was there in it's entirety (with several copies). But when the finds were dated as coming from the intertestamental period, that sorta threw a monkey wrench into the current theories.

If you want to see some highlights, check this site - Overview and Sneak Peek.

Look quickly because this is a traveling exhibit.

If you have a local museum, it likely hosts traveling exhibits. Check one out. Traveling exhibits are there and gone but they usually have special appeal and draw large crowds, so you might want to attend on a weekday if you can.

--- Local religious studies ---

                                                           Iliff School of Theology

There are many religious schools in Denver at every level. I chose two to visit. Iliff School of Theological is convenient, being right down the street from me. It's also large, in size and reputation. The Denver Seminary is also convenient since the next leg of my light rail hikes takes me near.

The Iliff School of Theology is a beautiful campus with the Front Range as a backdrop. It is surrounded by Denver University, which would give the mistaken idea that it is part of the university, but it is its own entity. It has an interesting history. It was founded in 1892 and is one of thirteen United Methodist Church seminaries in the United States as is obvious by the flame-and-cross symbol displayed prominently on the tower out front, but it has broadened it's interests to several other denominations and even has a Buddhist department.

Like many of the religious schools in the area, a current focus - it seems the major focus - is social justice. They are doing a lot of work toward improving quality of life globally. The Iliff Stories section of their website ( makes interesting reading.

It's the end of the quarter, so things are going to be slowing down now, but they invited me to come to some of their events and I might take them up on it soon.

                                                   Evans Chapel at Denver University

Denver University has an extensive program for its students' spiritual life. I've picked up several brochures outlining several resources that I'll be checking out over the next few years. There is a folder listing many places of worship in the Denver area. It emphasizes the great diversity of the region. Some of the resources listed are for many Christian denominations and Sihk, Baha'i, Taoism, Zoroastrianism...this could keep me busy for awhile. I also noticed that the Iliff School of Theology has a labyrinth. I'll be visiting that sometime.

                                                          Denver Seminary photos

The Littleton to Oxford Station hike gave me the opportunity to double up on my projects. The Denver Seminary is just a little south of Littleton Station, so I made a slight detour to check them out.

I spoke to some folks in the administration building. They were friendly and we had a nice conversation. No one was aware of the current research trends but referred me to a faculty member who referred me back to the Seminary webpage.

There is a lot of publication coming from Denver Seminary but the range of topics is broad. I think I sense a trend in apologetics, exploration of the relevance of Christianity in the modern world, and mission work.

They gave me an informative folder about their programs. It looks like Denver Seminary would be a fun place for a person interested in Christian theology to study. There were several groups out in the commons talking and individuals reading.

Are there any institutions of religious study near you? I find them interesting places to visit, especially if you come from a different tradition. The principle of 80% listening and 20% talking generally serves me well in such situations. I never argue my own perspective. I'm a learner.

Friday, May 11, 2018

--- Local cactuses and succulents ---

I grew up and lived most of my life in the southeastern United States and except for ornamental plants, I did not have a lot of exposure to cactuses (lately "cacti"). Just about the only ones that grew wild there were the prickly pears. They grew all over Stewart's Hill in Riverview, Alabama where I spent much of my childhood between the ages of 10 and 15.

I don't know how well the epithet "ornamental" applies to cactuses. Perhaps "interesting" or "weird" is more appropriate, but when they bloom, they have few peers. Together with their relatives, the succulents, cactus blooms are some of the most complex, colorful, and texturally appealing flowers that there are.

Now, I live in a high desert and cactuses are at home here. Even the terrifying cholla finds it's place in local gardens.

I am working on some projects that require multiple hikes and considerable thought and blogs may appear a little slower than usual for awhile but, in the meantime, enjoy cactuses.


Do you have any native cactuses where you live? Treat yourself to a spectacle and catch them while they're flowering.

If cactuses don't grow wild in your area, I bet you can find neighbors who grow ornamental cactuses.

There are many websites that can help you identify cactuses and there are a few good phone apps.