2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner
  • Disneyland is a goofy place for a petrified tree from Pikes Peak region

    Fri, January 31, 2014 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    Disneyland petrified tree

    This petrified redwood tree stump is an estimated 35 million years old and is on display in Disneyland in California. It was purchased by Walt Disney in July 1956 from what is now the Florissant Fossil Bed National Monument in Teller County. Disney bought the petrified tree stump from Colorado Springs resident Jack Baker, who owned the Pike Petrified Forest Fossil business. The stump was shipped to Disneyland in California where it has been on display ever since. Photo is  courtesy of the Disney Parks Blog.

    If you’ve ever visited Disneyland in California, chances are you walked right by the little slice of the Pikes Peak region that stands as the oldest and most authentic attraction in a place devoted to all things make-believe and figments of wild imaginations.

    Several times over the years I’ve walked right past it, oblivious to this souvenir of an ancient Colorado forest of giant redwood trees that grew upwards of 35 million years ago in an area we now know as Florissant.

    Florissant Fossil BedsBut it’s there . . . a 7½-foot-tall, five-ton petrified tree stump taken from what is now the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument west of Divide.

    The stump sits in Frontierland near the banks of the Rivers of America across from the Golden Horseshoe Saloon. (I’m being admonished to avoid saying things like: What a goofy place for a petrified tree.)

    The stump is all that remains of a tree scientists say stood 200 feet tall amid a sub-tropical forest of giant redwoods obliterated in a cataclysmic volcanic eruption that buried the trees in ash. The region flooded, experienced an algae bloom that created perfect conditions for preserving the trees, as well as insects and plants, scientists say.

    (It’s shocking to think fossils were ever private property for sale on the roadside. But remember that even the Garden of the Gods was private property for years and Balanced Rock fenced from view to protect the tourist/photography business of the owner.)

    Anyway, I wasn’t aware of it until my daughter, Anna, an employee of Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., saw an item about this rare geologic artifact on a Disney Parks Blog and mentioned it to me.

    Santa's WorkshopI knew Walt Disney and his wife, Lillian, had stayed at The Broadmoor hotel and that a former Hollywood artist and Disney Studios animator, Arto Monaco, had designed the Santa’s Workshop/North Pole theme park that opened in June 1956 in Cascade.

    But this was a whole new Disney connection for me to explore.

    And the recent movie “Saving Mr. Banks” about Disney’s struggle to make the movie “Mary Poppins” got me interested to dig deeper.

    Lillian and Walt Disney pose in front of a petrified redwood tree stump in Disneyland in California, in September 1957. Photo courtesy Disney Parks Blog.

    Lillian and Walt Disney pose in front of a petrified redwood tree stump in Disneyland in California, in September 1957. Photo courtesy Disney Parks Blog.

    The Oct. 22, 2009, “Did You Miss It?” Disney blog item provided photos of the petrified stump and a brief history of how it ended up in Disneyland: Disney bought it on July 11, 1956, as a gift for Lillian on their wedding anniversary. She donated it to Disneyland for display.

    Following Internet leads, I learned much more. I found Michael Ausec in the Willamette Valley of Oregon from his idareds.com website where he sells fossils from the Florissant site. Ausec also had historic photos. So I gave him a call.

    Jack Baker, photo courtesy Michael Ausec

    Jack Baker, photo courtesy Michael Ausec

    Turns out Ausec, 56, is a native of Colorado Springs whose family had a close friend, Jack Baker, who owned a tourism business in Teller County selling fossils from the Florissant beds.

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    Jack Baker’s Pike Petrified Forest Fossil business in Florissant. Photo courtesy Michael Ausec

    Baker bought the Pike Petrified Forest Fossil business in the 1950s, Ausec said, and continued doing what folks had done for decades: harvesting and selling amazing fossils.

    Over the decades, tons of petrified trees and smaller rocks rich in fossilized insects and plants were hauled away. Some by the trainload.

    A man and a dog stand amid three petrified redwood stumps in what is now the Florissant Fossil Bed National Monument in Teller County. The photo is from the estate of former Colorado Springs resident Jack Baker, who owned the Pike Petrified Forest Fossil business until 1968. The man in the photo purportedly is Walt Disney during a July 1956 visit to Florissant when he purchased a petrified tree stump from Baker. The stump was shipped to Disneyland in California where it has been on display ever since. Photo courtesy Michael Ausec.

    A man and a dog stand amid three petrified redwood stumps in what is now the Florissant Fossil Bed National Monument in Teller County. The photo is from the estate of former Colorado Springs resident Jack Baker, who owned the Pike Petrified Forest Fossil business until 1968. Walt Disney visited in July 1956 and bought a petrified stump and had it shipped to Disneyland in California where it has been on display since. Photo courtesy Michael Ausec.

    Ausec shared amazing photos of 1950s trucks and cranes used to remove the tree stump Disney bought for $1,650. He even has a photo that Baker said was Disney, in a large hat, with a dog amid the massive stumps.

    “Jack was a charter member of the Colorado Springs Mineralogical Society and my dad and brother were uranium prospectors,” Ausec said, explaining the family connection. “He had an amazing collection of fossils.”

    This photo from the estate of former Colorado Springs resident Jack Baker shows men loading a petrified redwood tree stump into a truck for shipment to DIsneyland in July 1956. Baker owned the Pike Petrified Forest Fossil business. Photo courtesy Michael Ausec.

    This photo from the estate of former Colorado Springs resident Jack Baker shows men loading a petrified redwood tree stump into a truck for shipment to DIsneyland in July 1956. Baker owned the Pike Petrified Forest Fossil business. Photo courtesy Michael Ausec.

    Baker, who lived on South Institute Street near his old family dairy business southeast of downtown Colorado Springs, operated the fossil business until 1968, when the federal government took ownership to protect the fossil beds and created the monument, which opened the next year.

    Ausec said Baker had amassed a huge inventory of fossils before the government takeover.

    Here’s how Ausec described it on his website:

    “Before the U.S. Park Service took over, he spirited away his fossil bed collection and stored it at his home on South Institute in Colorado Springs. It remained there, untouched, until his death in 1994.”

    Walt Disney spelled out terms of his purchase of a 35 million year old petrified redwood in this 1956 letter to Colorado Springs resident Jack Baker, who owned the Pike Petrified Forest Fossil business in what is now the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. The purchase price was obscured by the owner. Photo was part of the Baker estate and is courtesy Michael Ausec.

    Walt Disney spelled out terms of his purchase of a petrified redwood in this 1956 letter to Colorado Springs resident Jack Baker. Photo was part of the Baker estate and is courtesy Michael Ausec.

    That’s when Ausec acquired it. And he described it as an amazing collection surpassing the best fossils on display at the national monument visitors center.

    “After he died, I bought his entire estate,” Ausec said, noting that he sold Florissant fossils for years on his own website, along with antiques and precious stones.

    It’s shocking, and abhorrent, to think we used to routinely buy and sell our prehistoric treasures.

    At least Disney put his petrified tree stump on display for millions of folks to enjoy.

    Or, as in my case, walk past in oblivion on my way to the next roller coaster.

  • Garden of the Gods pond a rare, beautiful, putrid attraction

    Sun, October 6, 2013 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    Garden of the Gods enthusiasts are enjoying a rare treat . . . a reflecting pool created by three days of downpour in September. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Garden of the Gods enthusiasts are enjoying a rare treat . . . a reflecting pool created by three days of downpour in September. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    A once-in-a-generation pond in the Garden of the Gods is creating sensational reflections of the red rocks at  sunset.

    It’s also creating a stink in Pleasant Valley.

    No, I’m not saying neighbors are upset about hordes of camera-toting wannabe Ansel Adamses parking bumper-to-bumper along Chambers Way and trekking up an old dam to capture a shot of the water before it’s gone.

    It actually is creating a stink in Pleasant Valley.

    Seems the 10 inches or so of rain that fell in three days in September resurrected Valley Reservoir No. 1, as it was known after Robert Chambers, using horse-drawn equipment, built the dam in 1874 to irrigate his fruit orchards and other crops at what is now Rock Ledge Ranch.

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    Intense September cloudbursts left a large pool in the bottom of the old reservoir in the Garden of the Gods near Rock Ledge Ranch. It has attracted photographers interested in capturing the rare water feature. And it has generated an obnoxious stench as organic materials like grass decay in its stagnant pool. But these ducks don’t seem to mind the smell as they dive for dinner Oct. 2, 2013. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette.

    (Matt Mayberry, director of the Pioneers Museum, filled me in on its history. In fact, it was the first of three irrigation reservoirs dug in the park and valley and filled with water diverted from nearby Camp Creek.)

    For a couple weeks, the pool was just a beautiful, and rare, water attraction in the park. And it attracted many who made the walk up the hill due west behind Rock Ledge Ranch to see the pool.

    But now, it has worn out its welcome.

    Though the original five-acre pool has shrunk by about half, according to Kurt Schroeder, city parks official, it remains a substantial pool.

    And whatever is in the water has taken on an ugly quality.

    It reeks. We’re talking a barnyard smell. Imagine Greeley on a summer day. And, depending on the winds, it hangs over the area, turning it into Not-So-Pleasant Valley.

    “It’s horrible,” said Valerie McIntosh. “It blows right into us. I think it smells like an outhouse.”

    The stink has been the talk of the neighborhood, which was built amid remnants of Chambers’ old alfalfa fields in the late 1950s and ’60s and boasts 800-plus modest homes, many with one-car garages typical of the era. It even sparked a thread on the Pleasant Valley Connection, an online chat room for the neighborhood.

    Under the heading “Stinky sewage smell,” neighbors speculated about its source. One neighbor even jokingly suggested it was rotting cheese from a neighborhood Green Bay Packers fan.

    The reflecting pool is located due west of Rock Ledge Ranch in the Garden of the Gods. It is most easily accessible from Chambers Way in Pleasant Valley.

    The reflecting pool is located due west of Rock Ledge Ranch in the Garden of the Gods. It is most easily accessible from Chambers Way in Pleasant Valley.

    But neighbors quickly figured out that the beautiful pool in the old reservoir has turned into a septic, stagnant mess that reeks of decay.

    I wandered over Wednesday to check it out. I followed my nose and the smell intensified as I walked up the back of the old dam. When I popped up on top, it was obvious the water had turned putrid.

    It still looked great at sunset, especially with ducks bobbing along and diving for their dinner.

    But, whew, was it rank.

    Eye-watering stinky. Reminded me of some bad diapers I handled after the kids started solid foods. Yikes.

    Neighbor Bob Neilson said the smell intensified with recent heat.

    “It’s worse when it warms up,” Bob said. “A week ago it was pretty strong.”

    Judy Gossage, a 36-year resident of the valley, hasn’t noticed as much as some others.

    “I noticed it when I got out of the car last night,” Judy said. “It smelled like a sewer.”

    DucksTo learn more about the reservoir, I called a 42-year valley resident, Gary Rombeck. He spent 20 years with Colorado Springs Utilities studying its systems and could tell where it was raining in the region by watching the colors in Fountain Creek. (Red meant it was raining in Manitou Springs. Brown meant Norwood, for example.)

    Anyway, Gary has intimate knowledge of the water canals that spread out from pioneer-built diversions on Fountain, Camp, Monument and other creeks to provide water for crops and homes in the Colorado Springs area.

    He’s even seen a photo of the reservoir full and a boat pulling skiers in it. But that was back when a cenutry-old 24-inch pipeline fed the lake from a diversion on Camp Creek at the mouth of Glen Eyrie.

    “That pipeline is not functional,” Gary said. “The water in the reservoir today is natural runoff.”

    And that’s where it will stay until it evaporates or soaks into the ground because Gary said there is no drainage in the area.

    “Whatever drains into it says inside of it,” Gary said. “So what you’ve got is animal feces washed into a closed basin. It’s turned septic.”

    Kurt Schroeder said no sewer lines run through the area, ruling out a rupture or backup causing the smell.

    “I guess it’s just organics, grasses and things, decaying in the water,” he said.

    Gary said the city could treat it with chlorine or run a pump and aerator in the pond if it doesn’t evaporate soon. But he suspects nature will take care of the smell.

    While neighbors aren’t fond of the smell, many are taking it in stride as they do the crowds who come and go on a daily basis to use trails or attended events in the park.

     “We’ve always got different things going on in the valley,” said Judy Gossage. “We get a little of everything and we love it. Pleasant Valley is awesome.”

    Intense September cloudbursts left a large pool in the bottom of the old reservoir in the Garden of the Gods near Rock Ledge Ranch. It has attracted photographers interested in capturing the rare water feature. And it has generated an obnoxious stench as organic materials like grass decay in its stagnant pool. Here's how the pool looked Sept. 19, 2013. Photo courtesy Valerie McIntosh.

    A large pool in the bottom of the old reservoir in the Garden of the Gods near Rock Ledge Ranch has attracted photographers interested in capturing the rare water feature. Here’s how the pool looked Sept. 19, 2013. Photo courtesy Valerie McIntosh.




    Thu, February 28, 2013 by Bill Vogrin with no comments


    John G. Bock in 1909

    John G. Bock in 1909

    Perhaps you love the Red Rock Canyon Open Space for all it offers: miles of hiking trails amid dinosaur tracks and fossils of prehistoric trees and extinct sea creatures.

    Maybe it’s rocks you love in this geologic extension of the nearby Garden of the Gods. Who isn’t inspired by its 320-million-year-old red sandstone lifted from the depths of the earth?

    History buffs like me cherish its history as an Indian camp, a late-19th century quarry, as a site of factories and mills, home to Old West horseback tours, a campground and even a landfill.

    Or you just want to know more about John G. Bock, the cowboy/entrepreneur who pieced together the huge parcel we now enjoy after his arrival here in 1923.

    Then get to the Old Colorado City History Center, 1 S. 24th St., 11 a.m.-4 p.m., Saturday for your only chance to see an exhibit of memorabilia from the pioneering Bock family.

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    The one-day exhibit will include many items Bock displayed in his own Western history museum before he closed it and put everything in storage in 1939.

    Many items subsequently were bought by avid historian Dave Hughes for preservation.

    The exhibit coincides with the 10th anniversary of the city’s $12.5 million purchase of the 789-acre canyon property.

    “It’s nice to see how the park was established and how it was saved,” said Sharon Swint, president of the Old Colorado City Historical Society board of directors.

    The display will include lanterns, pottery and spurs collected by Bock, who left Philadelphia in 1907 and took a train to Colorado Springs.

    In his autobiography, “In Red Rock Canyon Land,” Bock wrote of a life working on ranches across the West and prospecting before returning to Colorado Springs in 1923 as a disabled World War I veteran to sell real estate.

    He bought a house near the entrance to Red Rock Canyon at 31st Street and Colorado Avenue — where the family home would remain until 1965.

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    He also ran the Roundup Saddle Stables and led guided horseback rides into the canyon. Over the years, Bock collected antiques from his travels.

    There’s a military uniform as well as scrapbooks, family photo albums and books.

    In addition, there will be documentation for what might have been in the canyon if John G. and his sons Richard and John S. Bock had been able to develop the property as they hoped.

    They had big plans. They wanted to build a resort, golf course, homes and businesses.

    Even a world trade center.

    It’s all contained in architect Richard Bock’s nine-volume business plan, which was translated into six languages and distributed around the world in an effort to generate interest.

    His plan called for 800 hotel rooms, 3,600 residential units in three-winged towers, some 36 stories tall.

    There was a shopping center of 1 million square feet, convention center, sports arena, theater, museum, a medical research center, communications tower, industrial park and underground parking.

    The history center will have architect’s drawings and documents related to that and other development efforts.

    After Saturday, the artifacts will be available to researchers through the society’s librarian, Swint said.

    “This is everyone’s chance to see this stuff,” she said.

    This is architect Richard Bock's rendering of a shopping center he had planned as part of a massive world trade center development in Red Rock Canyon.

    This is architect Richard Bock’s rendering of a shopping center he had planned as part of a massive world trade center development in Red Rock Canyon.



    Sun, January 27, 2013 by Bill Vogrin with no comments


    Since 1976, Frank and Barbara Sanders have lived quietly on the northern edge of Pleasant Valley along the banks of Camp Creek, giving them a front-row seat to Rock Ledge Ranch and Garden of the Gods.

    Last June, the Sanders had a front-row seat for the Waldo Canyon fire. They watched in horror as the hills above the valley became choked in billowing black clouds of smoke and the forest glowed a sickening orange at night as trees torched in the spreading wildfire.

    Now, the Sanders may have a front-row seat to the aftermath of that disaster.

    Experts fear the Sanders and much of Pleasant Valley could face devastating flooding from ash and debris-laden water with the next hard rain.

    The inferno that killed two people and burned about 350 homes in Mountain Shadows also scorched upwards of 18,250 acres in the Pike National Forest, especially in Queens Canyon and the headwaters of Camp Creek.

    Experts agree it’s not a question of “if” a hard rain will bring flooding. The question is “when” and “where” the flooding will occur. There are several drainage basins where rainfall, especially a notorious Colorado microburst, could unleash a raging black torrent.

    Flooding could occur in Woodmen Valley, below Peregrine, where Dry Creek runs. Or in Mountain Shadows and surrounding neighborhoods along Douglas Creek. Certainly Manitou Springs and the communities up Ute Pass already have suffered and remain vulnerable from Williams Canyon and Waldo Canyon flooding.

    But perhaps no neighborhood is more at risk than Pleasant Valley,  a 1950s-era subdivision of about 800 modest homes. It’s a likely target because it’s the first neighborhood below Queens Canyon, where the fire raged for days before exploding down the foothills and into Colorado Springs on June 26.

    Any significant rain is expected to carry tons of sterilized soil, rocks and burned timber down the mountainside, through Glen Eyrie and Garden of the Gods before it slams into Pleasant Valley.

    A photo by Frank Sanders shows the washed out culvert and portion of Chambers Drive damaged in a 1999 flood near his Pleasant Valley home.

    The Sanders’ tidy little home would be swamped by the first wave.

    “We are very apprehensive about the next summer or two,” Frank Sanders said. “I don’t know how much mitigation they can do, really.”

    The couple bought federal flood insurance. And they have a new weather radio so they’ll hear any storm warnings.

    But they keep thinking back to April 1999 when a wet spring and late snow caused Camp Creek to jump out of its banks and into their driveway and lawn.

    “The water coming down the street and flowing through our driveway like a river,” Frank said. “It was calf-deep and very swift.

    “It gives you a really helpless feeling. All you can do is watch the water rise. It was pretty bad.”

    Frank ordered a pallet of sandbags from a hardware store and the city arrived with a long rubber bladder that workers filled with water to create a dike to divert floodwaters around the house.

    In this photo courtesy of the Sanders family, Frank Sanders, right tries to remove water from his Pleasant Valley property during a 1999 flood.

    “We had an inch of water in the basement,” he said. “We’d have had it a lot worse if the city hadn’t showed up.”

    That relatively small flood was bad enough to wash out two corrugated steel drainage pipes that carried the creek under the intersection of 31st Street and Chambers Way. Asphalt hung like a rolling, black tablecloth across the void.

    The road was closed nearly a year as crews rebuilt a concrete culvert to carry the creek under the intersection.

    “You just wondered how it would ever get back to normal again,” Barbara Sanders said.

    Already, they’ve had a frightening hint of what they might expect. Last July, a moderate rain brought swirling black water choked with ash and gravel down Camp Creek.

    “It was black as tar,” Frank said. “And it smelled like fire.”

    Fortunately, city crews had cleared dead trees at the mouth of the culvert before the rainfall so there was no repeat of 1999. In fact, Kurt Schroeder, of the city parks department, said crews removed hundreds of dead trees and even more live New Mexico locust trees from the creek as it winds through Garden of the Gods.

    In addition, he said city engineers are looking for ways to slow any floodwater as it pours through the city park, reducing its possible impact on Pleasant Valley.

    El Paso County Commissioner Sallie Clark said the Sanders were smart to buy insurance and get a weather radio.

    And she urged the Sanders and their neighbors to attend public meetings like one scheduled Tuesday being sponsored by the city to discuss flood risks and mitigation efforts.

    “I don’t mean to scare people, but they need to be aware that this could be very serious,” Clark said.

    The Sanders are sufficiently aware, if not downright scared.

    “We’ve gone to several meetings,” Barbara said. “We’ve gotten maps of the floodplain and read everything we can.”

    In addition, they volunteered their house for taping of a video to teach volunteers how to fill and place sandbags as the city and county trains for possible flooding.

    They’d prefer to return to enjoying their quiet old life. But they are preparing for the worst, with a scrapbook full of Waldo Canyon fire photos handy to remind them why they need to worry.

    “Our only saving grace,” Frank said, “is that it is going to be a dry summer. There’s not much more to say. We just sit and wait. The more mitigation work they can do on the burn area, the better. We just hope it doesn’t rain hard.

    Last August, Camp Creek ran black with ash and soot from the Waldo Canyon fire burn area far above the Pleasant Valley neighborhood in Queens Canyon.



    Sun, August 21, 2011 by Bill Vogrin with no comments


    The big project for the city's trail staff in 2011 is completing the 3.5-mile Midland Trail from America the Beautiful Park to Manitou Springs. A $2 million grant from Great Outdoors Colorado paid for the project, due to be completed in October.

    Perhaps the most exciting three-day sports weekend in Colorado Springs history culminates Monday when 135 or so pro bike riders launch themselves from Garden of the Gods and race downtown at upwards of 50 mph.

    It’s the prologue of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, and it follows the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon over the weekend.

    I’m totally psyched!

    And it reminds me how lucky I am to live in a community that embraces cycling and encourages it with a network of neighborhood trails.

    Side Streets columnist Bill Vogrin prepares to bomb down a ski run at Breckenridge.

    The trail system isn’t perfect. I’ve done my share of bushwacking when a trail abruptly ended. And I’ve gotten lost a few times trying to find connections.

    But I’ve also lived in cities where I wouldn’t dare commute 10 miles on a bike, as I do from my Rockrimmon home to downtown.

    Check out a video I made of my commute.

    Hang on as you climb onto the handlebars of my old Stumpjumper and rocket along with me at 60 mph — thanks to the magic of time-lapse editing — down the Pikes Peak Greenway along Monument Creek, over to the Shooks Run Trail and finally to The Gazette.

    Or take a longer, full-length 40-minute trip with notes inserted to point out landmarks and street-crossnigs.

    It was a blast making the video. And I’d love to see videos of your commutes.

    Signs like these help trail riders find their way through the city's network.


    Some signs are in better shape than others.





















    Here's another map in the Patty Jewitt Neighborhood



    It got me wondering about the status of area trails, especially with the severe budget cuts experienced by the parks agency.

    Actually, a lot is going on.

    Kurt Schroeder, manager of the city’s parks, trails and open space, said his staff remains committed to developing trails and piecing together missing links that sometimes frustrate folks on two wheels.

    “It’s a slow process,” Schroeder said. “We have little money for rebuilding old trails. But we can still get money for new trails.”

    In fact, the city expects to finish in October most of the 3.5-mile Midland Trail from America the Beautiful Park to Manitou Springs, thanks to a $2 million lottery grant from Great Outdoors Colorado, or GOCO.

    Trail is being built along Sand Creek out east as well as from North Nevada Avenue to Dublin Boulevard near Cottonwood Creek, said Sarah Bryarly, the city’s trail guru.

    Her wish list includes expanding the Rock Island Trail, punching Shooks Run Trail south to Fountain Creek and expanding Cottonwood Creek Trail from Vincent Drive.

    It all sounds great to me. I can’t wait to ride them.

    And I can’t wait to see your photos and videos!

    Here’s some of the sights you’ll see on my video:

    On my commute, I enjoy crossing the bridges over Monument Creek and its tributaries.


    Going under bridges can be spooky like this crossing under Pikes Peak Avenue.


    Stay alert. You never know when you might encounter wildlife . . . even the prehistoric kind.


    The city has placed mile markers along the Pikes Peak Greenway to help you keep track or your progress.


    This is one of my favorite spots popping up from under the Garden of the Gods Road bridge and seeing the sunflowers along the edge of Pikeview Reservior and Pikes Peak in the background.


    I like this overpass that carries you over Cache La Poudre Street and into Shooks Run Park.


    Down along Monument Creek near Roswell neighborhood.

    Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department has a trails page with tons of useful information.

    Check out this

    trails page: http://www.springsgov.com/Page.aspx?NavID=1881
    pikes peak greenway trail: http://www.springsgov.com/units/parksrec/maps/pdfmaps/24x36ppgy.pdf
    midland trail map: http://www.springsgov.com/Page.aspx?NavID=2289




    Wed, July 13, 2011 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    Andrea Brown, former Gazette columnist

    My former colleague, Andrea Brown, wrote a piece in 2007 about how her family kept the ashes of her mother-in-law, Grandma Brown, in a cardboard urn in a linen closet.

    It was a funny piece. Read it here. Of course, Andrea often made me laugh. Even when she didn’t mean to.

    Anyway, I thought of Andrea and Grandma Brown when I learned what other folks do with the cremated remains of their relatives.

    Turns out, lots of folks spread ashes around Colorado Springs parks, trails and even golf courses.

    Playing through!

    In fact, back in 1995, maintenance crews at Patty Jewett Golf Course, found a strange-looking substance spread on the 17th green.


    Patty Jewett Golf Course boasts spectacular views.

    Dal Lockwood, manager of the city’s golf enterprise, tells the story:

    “There was a fair amount of stuff spread all over the greens. One of our old guys, an old sage, tasted it. He said it tasted salty. We had it tested. It was cremated remains.”

    Wonder if it tasted like chicken?

    Anyway, it’s a pretty common practice, as I learned. City parks, trails and golf courses get used for a lot of things besides the obvious.

    Of course, weddings are a common activity especially during spring and summer. Some places must be reserved for a fee. Learn more here.

    Garden of the Gods Park

     Topping the list are the Garden of the Gods and Grandview Overlook in Palmer Park, says Kurt Schroeder, parks, trails and open space manager for the city parks department.

    Both parks offer inspiring views and spectacular backdrops for ceremonies and photos.

    Some prefer getting hitched atop Pikes Peak with the panorama of the city as their backdrop.

    Others like the American Mothers Chapel at Rock Ledge Ranch or the

    Heritage Garden in Monument Valley Park.

     The gazebo and pond at Nancy Lewis Park is a favorite spot for tying the knot. The splashing waters of Helen Hunt Falls in Cheyenne Cañon attract some for their nuptials while others exchange vows at the Red Rock Canyon Open Space pavilion.

    And there have been plenty of wedding receptions of Patty Jewett.

    But I was surprised how often the same venues are used to spread cremated remains.

    “The Garden of the Gods is probably the place the most ashes are scattered,” said Paul Butcher, retired parks department director. “We’ve always had hearsay stories that people scatter ashes in Garden of the Gods, Palmer Park and from the top of Pikes Peak. It happens. We never encouraged it. But I’m 100 percent sure people have done it.”

    In fact, Native American groups tried unsuccessfully to stop construction of the visitors center in 1994 by claiming the garden was a sacred burial ground of the Kiowa, Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes.

    Here’s a link to a video about Patty Jewett Golf Course.



    Sun, June 12, 2011 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    Pikes Peak rises behind the Kissing Camels rock formation, on the right, in this file photo by Mark Reis of The Gazette

    Kissing Camels Estates is one of the most affluent and prestigious neighborhoods in Colorado Springs.

    It is a gated community overlooking Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak.

    It represents old money, wealth and power – a place where 80 people were invited to join if they passed a series of interviews with founders Al and Margaret Hill and their associates.

    The lucky elite charter members — legend says the list included Walt Disney and John Wayne — were granted access to the regions most exclusive golf, tennis and social club.

    Behind its guardhouse off Mesa Road are 550 custom homes and townhomes along a sprawling, wooded 27-hole golf course. It has a 108-room club complex and recreation center with 13 tennis courts, pools and a fleet of golf carts.

    But all is not as placid as it appears in the community the Hill opened in 1951 .

    Below is a photo of construction of the Garden of the Gods Club in May 1950, taken from the club’s Web site, showing developer Al Hill, third from left, overseeing work on his project. He conceived it as a luxury summertime-only tennis and social club with guest rooms.

    Developer Al Hill, third from left, is seen in this May 1950 photograph on the mesa where he built the Garden of the Gods Club and the Kissing Camels Estates and golf course.

    The Kissing Camels Estates housing development began at the same time but, according to the Web site, it was years before Hill was convinced to include a golf course. The original 18-hole course opened in 1961, 10 years after the club.

    Here’s how it looks today.

    I saw this photo on the Garden of the Gods Club Blog. It shows the Kissing Camels Golf Course in 1969.

    Margaret Hunt Hill in a 1994 file photo

    According to its history, Al and Margaret Hill bought the 1,600-acre mesa in 1949 and the club held its grand opening in June 1951.

    It soon rivaled The Broadmoor as a retreat for the rich and famous.

    This 2007 obituary for Margaret Hunt Hill gives more detail of the couple and their vision for Kissing Camels. Al Hill died of complications from hip surgery in 1988, four months shy of the couple’s 50th wedding anniversary.

    I wrote about Kissing Camels and problems with its homeowners associations back in 2007. This is a link.

    I also wrote a blog in 2007. It was one of my first. See it here.

    Read all about the lawsuit filed by the Kissing Camels Property Owners Association against the 49 members of the Kissing Camels Townhomes.

    You can read Judge Timothy Schutz’s complete ruling here.

    Here’s a link to the covenants and governing documents for all the Kissing Camels neighborhoods.



    Sun, May 22, 2011 by Bill Vogrin with 1 comment

    Chances are, you have heard about the mysterious Keithley Log Cabin National Historic District in Manitou Springs but you’ve never seen it much less toured its cabins, which date to 1919.  

    Well now is your chance to see it.  

    It’s a living history museum. Hand-built log cabins in a hilly valley and on a ridge with spectacular views of the Garden of the Gods.  


    Everard Keithley in a photocopy of a 1937 newspaper clipping.














    The district was created in 1983 because folks deemed valuable the collection of cabins built by legendary Pike National Forest superintendent Everard Keithley.  

    After working summer jobs for the Forest Service, Keithley came to Colorado and took a fulltime appointment in Durango in January 1912.   

    He moved to the Pike in 1913 to oversee planting trees among other duties.  

    In 1919, he paid $1,700 for 10 acres on the eastern edge of Manitou Springs and started building a cabin.  

    Eventually he would own 16 acres and by 1956 there were seven cabins on the property.  


    Nancy Galles Bower owns 8.6 acres and six cabins that make up the bulk of the Keithley Log Cabin National Historic District in Manitou Springs. They were built by her grandfather, Everard Keithley, over a span of 1919 to 1956. Keithley was supervisor of the Pike National Forest for 20 years who became a legend for his efforts to plant trees, build roads and protect the forest.


    He became Pike superintendent in 1925,  three years after the Forest Service had moved its headquarters to Colorado Springs.  

    By the time he retired in 1946, Keithley was credited with overseeing the planting of 30 million trees across the Pike. It was a massive job to reclaim the land, which had been stripped by loggers, miners, homesteaders and wildfires.  

    In addition, he is credited for building the Rampart Range Road, fighting to open Gold Camp Road to the public and developing tree nurseries used to reforest mountain ranges.  

    Keithley practiced what he preached. Besides building cabins on his land, he created a tree nursery and planted trees all over his land, which had been a goat pasture.  

    Each cabin was named for a type of tree, such as Blue Spruce.  

    In this image from GoogleEarth, the Keithley Log Cabin National Historic District can been seen. On the north end is a tree nursery planted by Everard Keithley, legendary Pike National Forest supervisor. Millions of trees were planted in the forest during his 33 years with Pike National Forest, the last 20 as supervisor. His efforts reclaimed land descimated by logging and wildfire. He also built seven cabins from 1919 to 1956 designated a historic district in 1983.


    Keithley died in 1973 and the homestead passed to his son, Joseph.  

     However, his son didn’t have the same passion for trees and the property was neglected, says his daughter, Nancy Galles Bower

    Still, in 1983 the property was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.  

    Joseph Keithley loved trains and built a small-gauge track around the property. He even built an exact replica of a coal-fired steam engine which he rode around the tracks.  

     By the time he died in 1999, the nursery was overgrown and most of the fruit trees on the property were gone.  

    Nancy Galles Bower and her son, Doug Edmundson, stand on the porch of a cabin built by her grandfather, Everard Keithley.

     Today, Nancy Galles Bower is matriarch of the property. When Joseph died, she was able to keep 8.6 acres and six cabins.  

    She and her 44-year-old son, Doug Edmundson, live in cabins on the property and they rent the other four. They also share a passion for restoring the property and preserving the legacy of Everard Keithley. 

    Nancy Galles Bower looks at the coal-fired steam locomotive and tender her father, Joseph Keithley, designed and built as an exact replica of an actual train. He used to ride it around the family homestead.


    Doug Edmundson stands on the old narrow-gauge railroad tracks built by his grandfather, Joseph Keithley. He hopes to restore the train.


    One of the first cabins built by Everard Keithley, supervisor of the Pike National Forest from 1926-46. He built a group of cabins that were placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.


    This is a photo of a plaque erected on a boulder near Balanced Rock in the Garden of the Gods honoring Nancy Galles Bower's grandfather, Everard Keithley.


    The U.S. Forest Service brand is visible in the logs of the cabins.




    Wed, September 22, 2010 by Bill Vogrin with 5 comments

    Indians are returning to their ancient holy land in the Garden of the Gods on Saturday for their first traditional powwow there in 32 years.

    They were run out of the park in 1978 by the city after their annual cultural celebration attracted large crowds and caused trampled grass, damaged plants and noise, the city said.

    Worse, the city claimed neighbors were upset at the drumming during the powwow.

    The Indians, whose presence in the garden is traced back 3,400 years, were told to find a new home for their annual, day-long events.

    In subsequent years, they were relegated to rodeo grounds, community centers and gymnasiums — barred from the place they consider their spiritual hub.

    They’ve spent more time protesting in the Garden than celebrating their culture, dancing and praying in gratitude.

    In the 1990s, Indians became upset about the commercial exploitation of the Garden. Some objected to Indians who danced for tourists. Others were upset at Indian trinkets and souvenirs sold in the park.

    Then came the controversy over construction of a new visitors center.

    A group of about 60 Indians returned to the park in 1997 for a World Peace Day event. They prayed. Danced. Drummed. No problem. But the powwows didn’t return.

    Until now.

     On Saturday, the Colorado Springs Indian Center is sponsoring a powwow that is expected to draw a large crowd to the Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site in the park.

    It starts at 10 a.m. and ends at 5 p.m.

    It will feature traditional dancers, craft vendors, fried bread.

    And drums.



    Wed, June 16, 2010 by Bill Vogrin with 2 comments


    Back in the day, horses were a common sight in Colorado Springs.

    This was the West, after all.

    Not anymore.

    Unless you live on Columbia Road. Here’s a look at it from FlashEarth.com:

    Folks who live on that street on the far west edge of Colorado Springs have lived with constant horse traffic. That’s because they live between Academy Riding Stables and the Garden of the Gods.

    The stables were established in 1928. Since 1934, the stables has been leading trail rides into the Garden, using Columbia as its main route.

    Here, wranglers wait to lead a trial ride.

    Academy Riding Stables general manager Walter Hampel, below, cinches up saddle as a trail ride heads out of the corral, onto Holly Street and up Columbia Road on the way to the Garden of the Gods.

    The riders stay to the far west edge of Columbia to let cars pass.

    An Academy Riding Stables wrangler brings up the rear as a trail ride leaves Columbia and heads into the Garden of the Gods.

    Even folks who complain about the horses acknowledge that Hampel and his wranglers do a good job controlling their horses and cleaning up after them.

    And they acknowledge that Academy tries to be a good neighbor by offering each resident of Columbia two free passes every summer for a trail ride. That’s an $86 value, at $43 per hour ride.

    A wrangler in a golf cart buzzes up and down the street all day with a shovel, scooping up manure.

    The horses have made so many trips up and down Columbia over the years that their hooves have worn a groove in the blacktop pavement.

    Hampel said the longest string of horses allowed is 21, including three wranglers. They never ride closer than 200 yards apart. He said horses and wranglers are trained to avoid emergency vehicles.

    Resident Bruce Lindsey complains  about the horses and worries they might prevent emergency vehicles from quickly reaching a victim.

    But most cherish the unique quality they lend the neighborhood. They view it as a daily celebration of our Wild West heritage. They enjoy the “clomp, clomp, clomp” of the horses.

     And some suggest they make the neighborhood safer because they slow speeding drivers.

    Instead of inhibiting emergency care, Hampel said his wranglers have called ambulances when they’ve noticed neighbors in distress.