Spring break in Colorado

This past week we’ve been in Colorado enjoying a short holiday. Well, it was a holiday for Julie and Harrison as I had to attend a 2.5 day economic course at the Colorado School of Mines. As it was Spring break, it offered the perfect opportunity for a holiday in and around Denver and Colorado Springs, places Julie and Harrison hadn’t been before. As Harrison had a half day on the Friday before the week break, we took the opportunity to drive to Salt Lake City that afternoon and have dinner in the hotel restaurant as a sort of early birthday treat for Harrison. He turned 13 on the following day (Saturday) which was the day we flew to Denver. Upon arrival in Denver just prior to lunch, and after waiting nearly an hour for our hire car (due to lots of people travelling for the break), we headed to our favorite family restaurant, Applebee’s for another birthday treat. I could see this was going to turn into a birthday week! From there it was a short 30 minute drive south to Golden (via the Apple Store so Harrison could spend some of his birthday money). Golden is a suburb of Denver on the south-western outskirts of the city in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. As the name suggests, it had a lot to do with gold, with many of the buildings dating to the gold rush era. Whilst I was on my course for the following 3 days, the Golden Hotel situated on Clear Creek was going to be our home.

But we had Sunday free to spend looking around before it was time to get down to business and attend the course. We decided to visit the Denver Zoo since the weather looked the best on Sunday, with the following days getting colder and snow predicted. The main reason for the zoo was to see the two-toed sloth which had recently given birth to a new baby only a few weeks prior. We walked the length and breadth of the zoo, which looked like many other zoos we’d visited around the world, but there was no sign of the sloth. We thought given the baby was big news, it’d be featured in a display on it’s own. Not the case! So, we asked someone where the sloth was and were told in the indoor bird section. Of course! How stupid of us. Must be a flying sloth! After walking all the way back to the other side of the zoo, we found the sloth perched on the upper-most branches of a tree in a tropical setting. After watching for many minutes, the sloth didn’t move. Disappointed, we moved on to the next display, but couldn’t help ourselves and had to sneak back and see if the sloth was going to move. After a few more minutes of waiting, we were treated to movement and a glimpse of the baby holding onto mum. Of course being a sloth she didn’t move very far or fast, but just enough to see what we’d come to see. We left the zoo feeling content (complete with a stuffed sloth from the gift shop, of course).

Monday saw me off to my course at the Colorado School of Mines which is a large university set in the hills around Golden. The campus is quite large and covers about 30 hectares, and contains 30 or so buildings that make up the facilities. Some 6500 students are normally on campus, but as it was Spring break, they were having a few weeks off. During our course there were numerous tour groups of prospective students walking the streets of the campus, no doubt wondering if a degree from Mines (as it’s known in academia) was for them. Mechanical Engineering was the most popular degree with about 60% of enrolments favouring the discipline, though they’ve just started offering a general engineering degree for those who don’t know which discipline they would to enter. During the few days I was at the course, Julie and Harrison did things around the local area which included a visit to the Buffalo Bill Museum and his grave site in the hills above Golden.

On Wednesday after the course finished we headed to Colorado Springs where I dropped Julie and Harrison off at the Mining Exchange hotel, then I headed to Cripple Creek so I could spend Thursday at the mine meeting with various people in Operations and Asset Management. On Thursday afternoon I drove back to Colorado Springs to join Julie and Harrison and to spend Friday looking around the local area as it was a day off for me. We decided a drive up to Cripple Creek would be good as neither Julie nor Harrison had been there before and I felt they may like it. It was a glorious day with just a few wisps of cloud in the sky, but it was still only 0 degrees when we arrived. We had a walk around town following the footpath where overhead heat lamps provide heat every few meters. These are mainly for the smokers who linger outside the casinos as you can’t smoke in casinos in Colorado. Cripple Creek is one of only three towns in Colorado who are allowed casinos, so it’s quite popular on weekends with people from Denver and Colorado Springs. We then paid a visit to the local Heritage Center and afterwards a drive past the mine to see it from the lookout. As it was nearing lunch we decided to head to Manitou Springs about 45 minutes away back towards Colorado Springs.

After a nice lunch at the Manitou Brewery (pulled pork burger for J&J and pulled pork tacos for H) we took a short 5 minute drive the Manitou Cliff Dwellings. These ancient, stone cliff dwellings, set back in slightly dipping sandstone rock formations, were built by the Anasazi Indians around 1200 AD. Originally built in the sandstone cliffs of southern Colorado near Pueblo, archeologists moved them brick by brick to their current location in the early 1900s and reassembled them so they could be preserved. The Anasazi, or ‘ancient ones’ were the predecessors of modern day Indians, though they are generally though to have mysteriously ‘disappeared’ around 1300 AD. They didn’t disappear overnight mind you, but during the period 1200-1300 AD which is ‘overnight’ in archeology terms. Most modern day Indians disagree with this theory and say the Anasazi are all around us in the form of the Navajo Indians. The cliff dwellings would were the highlight of the trip and definitely somewhere I could visit again and take a little more time to wander through. Just on sunset would be ideal for photography given the red rock that makes up the local geology. After a quick flight to Salt Lake City and then the usual drive to Elko, we arrived home just after lunch today.

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