Tuesday, September 25, 2018

--- Eldorado ---

A friend from Montana and I took a hike around the Rattlesnake Gulch Loop Trail at Eldorado Canyon State Park Teusday. The website - https://cpw.state.co.us/placestogo/parks/EldoradoCanyon - recommends visiting the park during the week because weekends are pretty packed there.

This one's a keeper. Our hike was pure sightseeing, so we didn't talk to any of the staff or explore the history. I read some information before we went, so I knew that the Ute made their homes in the rocks of the canyon before gold prospectors came, and that Eldorado Springs later became a resort.

I'm told that the best time to visit is during the week because the park is very popular and becomes crowded on the weekends. It was pretty active on Tuesday. There were a number of climbers on the cliffs. The weather was pleasant for a change, but the canyon evidently is set right for cooler temperatures.

This is the second hike I've been on with a near 1000 foot elevation change (to be precise, 961 feet). This one didn't hurt nearly as badly as the one in the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina.

There were wrens, stellar jays, chipmunks and horny toads out. They were moving too fast and I wasn't set up for wildlife photography, so I didn't get any pictures of those, but I did get these pictures.

                                                             [White clematis]

                                                                 [Canyon views]

                                                  [Continental Divide Overlook]

                                                          [Union Pacific tunnels]

                                                                   [Near the top]

I write here about themed and technical hikes, because this blog is primarily about lifelong learning, but I do go on walks and hikes simply for the enjoyment. Do you have a bucket list? Is there a spot or a trail that you just enjoy going back to occasionally?

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Things to come...

I will be slowing down (but not disappearing) a little through October. I'm planning a trip to the north country (Michigan) and I need to conserve some cash. In the mean time, I'll report on some short excursions close by. For the rest of the year, I'm planning to cap off the southwestern leg of the light rail system by hiking from Osage Station to Alameda Station. I'm looking forward to that because it will take me through the Denver Arts District. Then I'll hike from Auraria West Station to Osage. Afterwards, I plan to explore the light rail terminuses (termini?) starting next year - places like Golden, downtown Denver, and the airport - before I resume the station-to-station hikes.

I will also visit some of the culturally varied areas of Denver, and I want to visit the capital and a museum of law nearby. That should finish up the year.

I have a lot more that I want to do in the social sciences, but I will make occasional excursions there while I continue on into a study of language and mathematics (which, frankly, I take at heart to be a language). Next year, I want to make one more (maybe last) stab at trying to pick up another language (Spanish) and to hike out to Red Rocks and survey the towering Ship Rock. We already know they're 300 feet tall, but it will be fun to check my surveying technique using just a surveyor's compass and a tape measure. There's trigonometry ahead.

Corrections, discussions, questions? Leave me a comment. Email is also welcomed and I'll see you on Nextdoor.

Friday, September 14, 2018

--- Pride of Place: Cultural Artifacts in a Time of Change ---

Cultural artifacts can be practical or artistic, or anything between. Here's that mural at the Alameda RTD station again.

                                                     [Alameda mural]

It's obviously an art piece and the artist, Aaron Glasson, from New Zealand, said outright that it's purpose was to give people something to look at while they were waiting on the trains.

The artist, Aaron Glasson is being compensated through the Denver Urban Renewal Authority - a group that partners with different developers in the city - and helps fund their projects through TIF - or tax increment finance bonds. One percent of the money that goes toward each re-development project has to be used for art. Glasson has created murals around the world. So, this is not a piece of "local art", in that the creator is not "from around here", but I think he admirably captured many elements of the spirit of Denver.

Glasson took about a month, working up to 10 hours a session.

Perhaps the most obvious elements are the trains - here, the reality - there the dream.  Alameda Station here, the mural in clear sight across the street. The mountains west, the painting east, with the mountains, plains and river. Denverites, more than any other peoples that I have lived around, are outdoors people.

One of the birds is a space satellite, or is it a kite, or a wind ornament companion to the pinwheel/windmill?

And the mural expresses the diversity that I love in this area. The people, obviously, but the plants are both native and exotic, reflecting the bold use in local gardens of plants that would never have existed on these high plains - perhaps plants that people have brought from their homelands, like the deities in "American Gods."

The mural depicts a dreamscape of people and things floating through the scenery. At once the dream elements seem mystic, perhaps aboriginal, and also technological, with geometric, tesseract-like constructs. It's as if the high technology of Denver's industries has seeped into the storied heritage of the land.

This is an art object, there for the enjoyment of commuters. It is an everyday object with other world content. I remember seeing the artist at work while I drifted through on the way to a job training session. He used paints in cans and a cherry-picker-like conveyance. He looked like a house painter.

The work looked like a job. The worker looked like he was enjoying himself, as workers, in an ideal world, should. I am fascinated by the work of workers who enjoy their work. I did not get to converse. He did talk to other passersby.

There was a transformation. It was a work. Now it's a confrontation, a statement. People actually sit across the street and look at the mural. I wonder how many know what they're looking at.

In Pride of Place: New Haven Material and Visual Culture - Cultural Artifacts in a Time of Change: Material Culture of Daily Life (http://teachersinstitute.yale.edu/curriculum/units/2008/3 accessed 9/14/18) Pedro Mendia-Landa presents frameworks that can be used to evaluate cultural artifacts and cultural spaces. These are standard tools for the anthropologist. Try them out on a favorite heirloom or an interesting building in your area. Everything, everywhere, everybody has a story and that's what learning is about.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

--- Alameda to Broadway ---

I had a side trip to make to the library, so I took a bus from Colorado and Amherst to Colorado Center Station. That gave me the opportunity of talking to a long time residence of Denver who could remember when South Denver was semi-rural. He lamented the changes. For instance, he remembered when the area where I-25 and the light rail currently runs west from Denver University to Broadway, used to be called "The Narrows". I can see why from the topography. I can't find a major stream in the area, but there does seem to be a depression in the valley wall there.

Colorado Center is a large group of shops and office buildings on Colorado Boulevard and I-25. Here's a shot from the station.

                                                               [Colorado Center]

Colorado Center Station almost turns into a subway here, but it's still open to the sky. Many of Denvers light rail stations are near restaurants and other points of interest and have elevators to make them more accessible.

                                                     [Colorado Center Station]

But my destination, this time was Alameda Station. It has a view of one of the examples of Denver's love of the arts. There are many murals around town and this one is popular.  It was being painted while I was training for a job at a place further down Alameda, and I could watch some of the work.

                                                           [Alameda mural]

Alameda Station is one of the four hubs  (the others being Broadway, Osage Street, and Auraria West) where most of the light rail lines meet. It also has the White Whale Room where I stopped for a cup of handcrafted (it was that good) chai. The man behind the counter was friendly so I had to ask him about the name. There couldn't be a whale within 2000 miles of Denver.

He said that he suggested that it meant that they were obsessed with coffee and cocktails (their raison d'etre - did you catch the literary refernce, there?) but he admitted that it referred to the trains that ran just outside. They do look sorta like white whales.

                                                                [Alameda Station]

                                                             [The White Whale Room]

After a well received rest, I wandered down toward Alameda Avenue past apartments called "The Denizen". I took notice because that's what I call Vincent when he's being rambunctous.

                                                                    [The Denizen]

Another thing caught my eye - a large building on Alameda that reminded me of a Spanish mission. I had to check it out. I found that it was a place called the "Byers School".

                                                              [The Byers School]

The Byers School was an small elementary school that was closed in the 1970s and was left vacant until, in 1982, it was renovated and turned into condomeniums. Still and impressive building, though.

Along Alameda, on the way down to the South Platte is this mural. I didn't notice the camper at the time. I would have stopped and talked to him. I cut him out so as to not risk identification.

                                                               [Mural on Alameda]

This is not a terribly pretty stretch of the South Platte - mostly shop and industrial areas, but there are some interesting points.

                                                          [South Platte at Alameda Ave.]

I noticed this denizen under an underpass on the Platte River Trail. I have no idea what it is but it was interesting, so I took its picture.

                                                                  [The something]

Johnson Habitat Park is a dump-turned-recreational-park between Alameda and Broadway. I wouldn't swim there but it's not nearly as dirty as, say, Bear Creek. In fact, it is a vegetative swale - a plot of land planted so as to filter runoff water before entering the river. There are several educational plaques and exhibits along the trail such as the following explaining the park and giving some information about the river itself. The Colorado state tree. the blue spruce, and the state grass, the blue grama, are displayed there.

                                                                  [Johnson Habitat Park]

This whole area of the Greenway, between Evans and Alameda is obviously intended to be instructive and is a nice hike for the budding naturalist.

Back at Mississippi Avenue, I stopped in at the Breakfast King for a bite. This place is like an old fashion city cafe with a huge menu  (remember Alice?). The waitresses all deserve their tips - really nice people. The food is tastey - especially the breakfast food.

Thoroughly worn out and hot (summer isn't quite ready to give up, yet.), I took the H Line back to University and boarded a bus for home.

Murals are legitimate works of art and often have a lot to say about local culture. Does your area have any murals on display? What do they say about your home?

Often parks are planted to reflect local habitats. How about the parks in your area?

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

--- Freedom galleries ---

In the South, many schools, libraries, shopping malls, city halls, museums, and other public buildings had a wall where they displayed patriotic documents - the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address, etc. Selma is known for it's connection with civil rights so important statements of political equality were often included such as Dr. King's "I have a dream" speech and the Emancipation Proclamation. I'm sure other areas had their own versions. We called them "Freedom Galleries".

I don't think I've seen one since I moved to Denver and I'm wondering if it was just a phase that the South was going through. I'm puzzled that, when I do a web search for "freedom gallery", I can't find any general information. I do see articles about specific exhibitions.

Do you have freedom galleries in your area? Do they all contain the same documents or are there specific differences from place to place? Do the differences seem to point to differences in locale?

--- Pride of Place: Breaking Down Fences ---

Mending Wall

Robert Frost, 1874 - 1963

 Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs.  The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
‘Stay where you are until our backs are turned!'
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of outdoor game,
One on a side.  It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.'
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
'Why do they make good neighbors?  Isn’t it
Where there are cows?  But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.'  I could say ‘Elves’ to him,
But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
He said it for himself.  I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.'

Connery, Edward (1970) The Poetry of Robert Frost. Leslie Frost Ballantine.

I always imagine Robert Frost with an ironic twinkle in his eyes. In The Road Less Taken, most people read ,"Go ahead! Be adventurous! Take the road less taken!" I, on the other hand, get the sense that, after taking the road less taken, he wondered, "And what did I miss? Who did I miss?"

People are important. I like trails during the workweek because they are less crowded, but I still like the community of people that are there.

Over time, we have distanced ourselves from our neighbors, and I see that as a social ill, not a freedom. I don't feel comfortable being independent to the point of isolation. Even 50 years ago we realized that real security was a cooperative venture with our neighbors. After church on Sunday (and several other times during the week), we would "visit" friends - sit on the porch and sip coffee - talk politics and business.

Today, if we connect at all, it's through our technology - FaceBook and Twitter. We are self-sufficient and we need no one else - well, except our technology. I worry that our technology is not nearly as reliable as we think.

When did we begin building fences? I don't know. Probably before the first cities. I don't think that fences isolate, that is, keep other out, nearly as much as they differentiate. A person who comes through our gate is acceptable (or, at least, appears at first to be acceptable. There are those tricksey folks.) The person who climbs over our fence is an intruder.

Look at the pictures of Four Mile House, the oldest standing structure in Denver, actually a little older than Denver.


There are many fences around but most of them are very low. They are obviously there to keep cattle...and flowers, from getting out. Also, most of them are wood.

Fencing material is an indicator of socioeconomic standing. Wood is not expensive. Pioneers could get wood from surrounding trees. Board wood was a little harder to fashion, but the common split rail fences of old only required a good hand with an axe.

In contrast, look at the cut stone around the Brown's summer home in what is today Bear Valley in Lakewood, Colorado. It was country in 1897 when it was built. James and Molly Brown were wealthy and could afford the stone and stone workers.

                                                                  [Avoca Lodge]

Stone walls are not terribly uncommon in some places, like New England. Stone is rather plentiful there, and many of the stone borders of properties are stacks of rounded boulders coughed up by ancient glaciers. Robert Frost's poem vividly portrays how people maintain these stone walls. There's something self-validating about picking up a 20 pound, weather/water/ice rounded stone like a basketball and setting it in it's place on a mound.

When I was a child, people who had fences usually had inexpensive chain link fences.

                                                              [Chain link fence]

Most did not have fences between them and their neighbors.

In my neighborhood, everyone has fences. The most common fences are around back yards, but some yards are completely fenced. We have a large, wooden-slat fence around most of our backyards, but some is chain link.

                                                                          [Our fences]

The "Beware of Dog" sign is from an earlier tenant. We do have a dog, but intruders should really be much more concerned about the two-legged occupants. Did you know that there were "Beware of Dog" warning found in the ancient remains of Pompeii?

Here is the wall around the gated community across the street. I wonder if the steel fenced gaps in the stone wall are attempts to make the wall seem less an imprisonment.

                                                          [Gated community wall]

Here are some more pictures of fences taken on a recent walk to the library.

And a few other fences in my area.
[Pretty....and sharp]

[Kent Place Apartments...I'm sure these fences aren't to keep people out.]

[Stone fences aren't all stone]

Fences are material structures, but they are also psychological and social.

I wonder if Robert Frost, perhaps, sees in his brutish neighbor a reason that good fences make good neighbors. Frost seems to me to be a fence straddler on many issues - to good effect.

Do you have a fence? What is its  purpose?

Take a walk around your neighborhood, or around an area of a  town you are visiting, and notice the fences, walls, and gates there. Are they different from what you're used to? How are they different and what do the differences mean?

There's an art to fences, walls, and gates. Even chain link fences have structures that are intended to be attractive. What do you think about the appearance of fences you see?