Friday, March 20, 2020

Terminus: Ridgegate

Ridgegate station is the southern terminal for three lines of the light rail system in Denver: the E, F, R lines. It's just about as far south as you can go and be in the Denver area. Just south of there are the bluffs, a wild grassland.

I hear that there are companies wanting to build there, but there are also concerned citizens fighting them to keep that area wild.

Ridgegate is growing. The light rail extension from Lincoln Avenue to Ridgegate Parkway is new and I haven't been south of Lincoln on it. I visited someone at Sky Ridge Hospital near Ridgegate a couple of months ago.

Currently the terminus is isolated but in easy walking distance of the Ridgegate community, it's shops, and the hospital. My destination was The Bluffs Regional Park.

Like all train and bus stations in the Denver area, this one has been adorned by a known artist, in this case, two artists. The names are Erik Carlson and Erica Carpenter. Decidedly modern, the art incorporates local ranch brands and technological symbols into an exhibit called "End of the Line." I'll let them tell you.

Here's some of the art.

The station is large but sort of lonely out on the plains.

As near as it is to a dense residential area, it's separated by I-25. A short hike brought me there. The entrance to the town is guarded by a brass elk at Cabela's parking lot (I guess it's an elk.)

Long, long ago, in a land pretty darn close by (I live in a suburb of Denver), the Pacific Plate crashed into North America and buckled the continent forming the Colorado Plateau. Except for a few volcanoes that belched a lot of ash into the wind, it was a fairly well rounded plateau, but rains fell and, soon rivers formed (like they do) and the South Platte and Arkansas Rivers started carving out deep gorges and depositing silt and rock east of what would be the Rocky Mountains. Mixed with the mud that formed when the volcanic ash decomposed, there was a deep blanket of gunk sloping out across the plains. To the south of what is today Denver, quartz rich sands got washed down and formed a hard layer over the softer stuff.

Time and rain kept flowing and water flowed both west and east. Tributaries of the South Platte and Arkansas Rivers kept excavating. To the north of Denver, nature wore the land down to a nub, and today we have the gently rolling hills of the western plains. To the south, that hard capstone resisted erosion in places and now we have the mesas and buttes like Castle Rock. Between, the ridge of Palmer's Divide split falling waters apart to run into the South Platte to the north, and the Arkansas to the south. And right on the northern border of Palmer's Divide is this 

I'm sure the little Creek that flows through Lone Tree had something to do with forming the hills in Bluffs Regional Park but they look like wind might have played a big part, too.

The Bluffs are an island of grassland above the surrounding residential areas. The wind was strong and cold and I'm sure there was plenty of wildlife out of sight. Still wintery weather in the Denver area, it's too early for wildflowers to be blooming. The main draw today was the views of the mountains. Only four miles further south from where I live, the bluffs make Pike's Peak seem far closer.

Pikes Peak

Mount Evans and the Front Range

Devil's Head

At the overlook, there's a little circle of stones that serve as a place to sit. It served me as a place to eat my lunch.

A stone disk set in the center of the circle points out some of the surrounding mountains.

After a short hike, I headed back down to the station and took a train back home.

Do you know the geological history of your area? There are surprised there. Check it out and then keep your eyes open for clues to it's past as you hike.

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