Happy Birthday America
This spring nature has created beauty that is unparalleled in my memory. As we drive through the countryside on our calls we marvel at the magnificence of this great land, of America the beautiful. This being the month of the birthday of this great country, it seems only fitting to spend a little time reflecting on what we as Coloradans have right in front of our eyes.
A very familiar description of our view out the truck window is presented in the song “America The Beautiful”. Katherine Lee Bates, an English professor at Wellesley College, a liberal arts college located just outside of Boston, composed the words to this famous tune. In 1893 Ms. Bates had come to Colorado to teach a summer course at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. While in Colorado Springs she took a trip to the top of Pikes Peak. The trek was made first in a horse-drawn wagon and for the summit by riding mules. One can only imagine the wonder she must have felt upon reaching the top. A resident of Boston certainly was not used to the panorama stretched out before her, not to mention the pure glee she must have felt having survived a ride up this great peak on a mule! Upon her return to the Antlers Hotel in Colorado Springs she is said to have penned the familiar words in this song.
The view Professor Bates had to the north and east on that day in 1893 was an early view of the same land Kathi and I have driven for the last thirty-five years as we have practiced veterinary medicine. So in tribute to the beauty of this year and the birthday of this great nation, I would like to describe for you the 2015 Veterinary America The Beautiful Road Tour as is created by yours-truly. These are only a few of my favorite “Scenic Overlooks.” So I will recount my “Best Of” list.
Daniels Park Road
The first is my “Best place to watch a sundown”. Take Highway 86 south of the clinic past Sedalia a couple of miles and turn left on Daniels Park Road. Continue on Daniels Park up the hill and follow it to the left. There is a parking area and picnic area on the left side of the road. This facility is located on Wildcat Point, a part of Denver’s Daniels Park. This park was founded in the 1920’s, and includes some 800 acres. Wildcat Point had earlier been called Riley’s Hill and had been an overlook for many folks who have gone before us including Native Americans, outlaws stalking stagecoaches on the road below, and the frontiersman Kit Carson. Kit Carson is said to have built his “last campfire” two days before his death in this park. This last campfire came to be known as a symbol of the end of expansionism into the west and is memorialized by a monument in the park.
Once you reach the parking area you will see a picnic pavilion made of large stones.
Walk past the pavilion and proceed to the to the edge of the steep decline. Prepare for a gasp as you discover the panorama before you. You can see beyond Long’s Peak on your right to Pikes Peak on your left. This year the shades of green pastures and forests below are truly magnificent. To the left of your overlook is The Sanctuary Golf Course where the cart paths are so steep extra-powerful golf carts must be used. Also, the castle at Cherokee Ranch is visable on the left. The castle was built in 1926 and was originally named the Charlford Castle. The castle was designed using details of both British and Scottish castles. Tweet Kimball purchased the property in 1954 and changed the name to the Cherokee Castle. The property is now a part of a Conservation Easement. Kathi and I have had lunch and dinner with Tweet Kimball at the Castle during the time we worked on the ranch animals.
Mother Nature furnishes the big show at the park. Plan to arrive in time to enjoy the view, but be sure to be present for the sunset. As the sun passes behind the mountains, shadows slowly creep up the ridges and valleys until the bright light is replaced with purple hues. This purple hue is the origin of Katherine Bates words in America the Beautiful, “purple mountains majesty.” The origin of those words was only a few miles south of where you are sitting, from a view seen from the top of Pikes Peak.
West Cherry Valley
The second overlook is “The best place to watch an afternoon rain shower.” From the town of Sedalia, go west on Highway 67, then left on Perry Park Road or Highway 105. After you travel around eleven miles, watch to the west. Just beyond Dakan Road, you will be able to see the Front Range with West Cherry Valley between you and the mountains. You can also see the rocky spires jutting skyward as they surround Perry Park, the same type of rock formations seen in the Garden of Gods Park in Colorado Springs. Find a safe spot to pull your car to the side of the road and prepare to wait.
The storms march across West Cherry Valley from west to east. The clouds are often at or below your level on or near Perry Park Road. Most storms produce lightning and liquid curtains of rain. During the winter, snow showers replace the rain. The shear marvel I see displayed by Mother Nature in this beautiful valley is very special to me.
The third scenic overlook is “the Best place to imagine being a cowboy or cowgirl.” Drive south of Castle Rock on Interstate 25 about ten miles. As soon as you drive past the Larkspur exit, start paying attention to the view on the east side of the highway. The terrain switches to magnificent mesas surrounded by scattered trees and heavily grassed areas in multiple valleys. Exit I-25 at the Greenland Exit. Greenland Road is appropriately named with large meadows of native grass perfect for cattle grazing. Drive down the road about a mile and pull over at a safe spot.
As you look to the north and east, you are treated to the view of a carpet of perfect native grass leading your eyes to picturesque tall mesas. Scattered about the grass meadows are black and brown dots that actually are cattle grazing. This scene brings to mind the immensity as well as the great beauty of western America.
Best For Last
The last overlook represents “the Best place to start a new life.” This is a personal one, and strangely enough it is a cemetery, the Spring Valley Cemetery. Drive south from Franktown eleven or twelve miles to East Lorraine Road. Turn to the right or west. Travel about a mile until you see Spring Valley Road. Go north less than a mile to Spring Valley Cemetery on the right. There you will find a small community cemetery and a small chapel. Kathi and I attended a country church organization that held services in this chapel. So when we got married, we held the ceremony in this small chapel, and thereby started my Travels with Kathi. Based on our experience, I can’t imagine a better place to start a new life. If you walk along the roads in the cemetery to the southeast corner you will pass by several of our former clients’ graves, one a member of my list of heroes. And if you look to the south and west you see a great view of Pikes Peak, the origin of observations that led to the words in America the Beautiful. All these facts coming together at a cemetery, although seemingly unlikely, define the special nature of this place to me.
Every day I recognize how lucky I am to live here in Colorado. Luckily I am able to travel this land and observe it in its seasonal changes. Take the opportunity this year provides to see this country and its unparalleled beauty, America the Beautiful.
Don’t you wish you could see this land as Katherine Lee Bates saw it in the 1800’s? I sure do.