Tag Archives: Roxborough State Park

A Mental Health Day

IMG_6149

I feel like I have over 100 things on my mind, all vying for space, all wearing me out.  All the changes I see around me.  The shocks, the craziness, the idiocy.  The selfishness.  My personal shortcomings, recent mistakes, how my life’s path ended up where it is and what to do about it.  How do we find a balance between order and chaos?  All the ways in which the people around me have let me down.  All the ways I let the people around me down.  How do I keep the benefits of having a smart phone (like being able to take pictures like this, after 28 miles of bicycling, which would have been tough carrying a heavier device) but avoid the pitfalls of mindless scrolling on weekdays when bored?  What is my future,  and how do I find my niche?   What is the future of our society?  The mindless violence followed by the sometimes equally idiotic responses to it.  Globalization.  Trump, Brexit, and the backlash to globalization.  But, most of all, the disappointments when experiences do not match expectations.

Simply put, I needed a mental health day.  I think we all do from time to time.  A day where we get away from jobs, computers, social media, day-to-day responsibilities, pretty much everything that causes us stress, and do something that we enjoy.  This, of course is something different for everybody, and it is not up to me to judge what any one person does for their mental health days.  Well, unless of course it is something morally reprehensible like murder or theft.

I have a firm belief in, and also a unique take on, the connection between mind, body, and spirit.  Over the course of my life, and in observing others, it is almost impossible not to observe the connection between the three.  I remember winters in Chicago, and other times when lack of exercise would in turn weigh on my mind and spirit.  Overall, improvements in one of the three realms often force improvements in the other two.  Likewise, a deterioration in one of the three realms can negatively impact the other two, like the person who develops an eating disorder after a rough breakup.

So, I decided to make my mental health day also a physical health day, with a bike ride to Roxborough State Park.  This is a ride I did two years ago.  The basic gist is that it is 28 miles each way, goes by Chattfield Reservoir, and is a significant climb over the last five or six miles.

Wednesday’s ride was even more exhausting, as temperatures soared into the 90s and a Southerly wind developed making the last several miles of climbing in harder.  Needless to say, I arrived at Roxborough exhausted.  In fact, I had to sit inside for about 15 minutes to cool off when I got there.

IMG_6140

Still, I decided to do some hiking.  Knowing that my legs were exhausted, I decided to stick to moderate trails, but ones where I can still view the essence of the park and what makes it geologically unique.

IMG_6142IMG_6143

It was after roughly 1.5 miles of hiking that the ideas suddenly started popping into my head.  Ideas about things I could be doing with my life just entered my mind.  I could do this, and present it to these people, and achieve fulfillment in this manner.  They just kept pouring in, and, for some reason, felt so simplistic to me.  Like, the only thing I need to do is just go out and do these things.

IMG_6144

These are all things that frustrate the hell out of me day and night.  Maybe it is because all of the physical exertion caused my mind to slow down enough for my brain to stop over-thinking things.  Maybe it is the freedom from all of the distractions of daily life.  It’s strange what I was contemplating.  Whenever I am in front of a computer, at an office, in a cube, or in some kind of work-like setting all of the ideas I have seem almost impossible, like a daunting challenge that would take years to attempt and would likely not result in any meaningful success.  In a way, there, I feel stuck.  Here, not so much.  Here, the same exact ideas seem quite possible.

It is here that the conspiracy theorist in me gets activated, so please bare with me, as I am the kind of person that just likes to entertain theories, even if I am not necessarily going to conclude that they are true.  I wonder if cubicles, offices, sedentary days and the like are the way “the system” maintains itself.  By “the system” I mean what I am observing around me.  A whole generation of highly educated people going to work at jobs that are well beneath the skill level they develop through college, and increasingly, post-granulate, education.  A whole generation of people submitting to rules, such as a strict 9-5 schedules and dress codes, that are no longer relevant for the kind of work that now predominates in a service sector economy.  Is the reason people continue down this path the manner in which a whole day of sitting at a computer connected to the internet and all of its distractions make them feel?

IMG_6147

People visit Roxborough State Park, and the geologically similar and more well-known Garden of the Gods, because they are unique.  If this place looked like every other place on Earth, people would not make a specific point of coming here.  So, maybe the key to being the kind of person people seek after, is to be unique.  After all, the person you meet at the party that is exactly like everyone else, is the person you don’t remember.  Sorry to be harsh.  But, it’s when someone does something unique, or interesting, that you remember that person.  Strangely, though, the world of school, and subsequently work, encourages conformity.  It encourages people to follow the worn out path and do things the way they are always done.  Maybe overcoming that conditioning and doing things our own way is the key to life, both in terms of success and happiness.

A Bike Ride to Roxborough State Park

IMG_1933

The primary reason I love cycling as much as I do is that I am able to go places a significant distance away completely under my own power.  For many years I have enjoyed commuting to work (now only 1.5 miles but formerly 6 miles), running errands, visiting specific places, and getting myself to and from specific events by bicycle.  I feel the benefits are two-fold.  There is the obvious money savings on fuel (and/or parking/ transit).  In addition to the monetary savings, I find the exercise and time outdoors to have a been a great value to my health, both mentally and physically, over the years.

Roxborough State Park is about 30 miles South of central Denver.  It is a place I had never really thought about visiting up until a few weeks ago when I was looking for new interesting places to ride my bike to, and wanted a ride that would be roughly two hours each way.  In Denver, it is possible to cover a good amount of distance quite quickly using the metro area’s bike trails, which bypass traffic signals, as well as most terrain features that would normally slow a cyclist down.

IMG_0337IMG_1913

The Platte River trail can be followed from Denver southward to it’s terminus at the C-470 trail, about 16 miles south of downtown.  The Platte River trail is quite flat, as it tracks right along the river.  However, the C-470 trail, which roughly follows the highway (which is the Metro area’s outer loop), contains a lot more rolling hills.  After several miles on the C-470 trail, I arrived at Chattfield State Park, a reservoir, and popular boating destination on the southern fringe of the metro area.

IMG_1916 IMG_1917

A couple of years ago, this was the destination of a couple of rides I had done.  Last year, I did a ride to Waterton Canyon, the starting point of the Colorado Trail, a place I also rode by on my way to Roxborough State Park.  It is somewhat encouraging to actually see my continued progress as a cyclist right in front of me.  However, it also made me realize that there is one disturbing parallel between cycling (or any activity of this nature) and drug addiction; as the more I ride my bicycle, the farther and more intense of a ride I need to do to feel “satisfied”.  This is beginning to feel eerily similar to the gradual increase in tolerance a regular drinker experiences, or the ever increasing doses many drug addicts demand over time.

IMG_1921 IMG_1922

There was a fairly long line of cars at the entrance to this park.  Luckily, I was able to bypass this line, saving me both roughly 20 minutes of time, as well as the $7 entrance fee to the park.

The road from the entrance to the visitor center, basically the last two miles of the ride, was not all that fun.  It was gravel and bumpy for much of the way.  I felt uncomfortable going over 13 miles per hour.  However, the park rangers were quite pleased that I did not try to use my bicycle on any of the trails, as they do not permit bicycles on the trails.

IMG_1927 IMG_1928

At the visitor center, I realized that one of the main attractions of this particular park is the wildlife.  Showing people the fur and bones of dead animals seems like a somewhat sick way of presenting what the park had to offer to it’s visitors, but it was really neat to actually feel the fur of a black bear for the first time in my life!

IMG_1929 IMG_1934

The rock formations at Roxborough State Park were actually quite similar to what I saw at Garden of the Gods.  In fact, it is easy to see how the same geological processes created the rock formations that run up and down the edge of the front range, including the Garden of the Gods, the place, as well as places like Red Rocks.

IMG_1931 IMG_1936

The park is also set up quite similar to Garden of the Gods.  Both places make it easy for the average non-outdoorsy tourist to attain a good view of the park.  Here, the Fountain Valley Overlook, a mere half mile from the parking lot with only a slight grade, provides views like the one at the top of this entry to those with no interest whatsoever of getting any exercise.  The park also offers somewhat more strenuous hiking.  Carpenter Peak is roughly 1000 feet higher in elevation than the visitor center.

IMG_1930

I meandered around the park a bit, but decided not to do the more strenuous hike as to preserve my energy for bicycling.  The only wildlife I encountered were these three deer, which is not particularly out of the ordinary.  However, I did encounter them at a much closer distance than I typically do.

IMG_1940

For much of my time at Roxborough State Park, I was intrigued by these relatively short trees I encountered all over the park.  These tress are quite different than the ones I typically see around Colorado.  I later read, on the way out of the park, that there are some unique species of trees, as well as insects and animals, that live here due to the micro-climates created by the wind patterns that these rock formations create.  In fact, Roxborough State Park is considered a destination not only for it’s rock formations, but also for it’s unique wildlife.

IMG_1935IMG_1938

While marveling at the beauty of the park, and considering how awesome it might be to live in one of those houses that overlooks the place, the weather caught me off guard.  Prior to this ride, I looked at the forecast for Denver, which called for a threat of rain after 3 P.M.  However, 30 miles farther south (and closer to the Palmer Divide), and roughly 1,000 feet higher in elevation, any threat of thunderstorms is naturally going to come earlier in the day.  Right around noon, I noticed a few raindrops, and suddenly noticed the clouds beginning to build overhead.

My bike ride home ended up being a race against mother nature, which I barely won, partially by blatantly ignoring the 15 mile per hour speed limits posted along the trail through South Suburban Littleton.  With a little bit of help from the wind at times, I was able to make the 28 mile ride from Roxborough State Park in 100 minutes, returning home by 1:45 P.M.  As someone who typically pays close attention to the weather, and understands weather patterns quite well, this was a somewhat embarrassing oversight on my part.  However, I do feel a sense of accomplishment in making the return ride so quickly.  And, once again, I was reminded of what I love most about cycling; being able to travel a good amount of distance, and even see my own progress on a map, all under my own power.