Tag Archives: Staunton State Park

The Courage to be Radical

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A modest sized cabin in the woods, surrounded by nature- trees, and wildlife. These cabins, often surrounded by a lake, rolling hills, or some other form of natural beauty, represent a lifestyle, a fantasy. Many people dream of this kind of life, but few act on it. Most of the time, like the Staunton Family, who owned this ranch before they willed it to the State of Colorado, these places are used as second homes, for summer and weekends.

Last weekend, the sequel to MAMMA MIA, presented the story of a person who actually acted upon a kind of fantasy life.

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Together, this movie and its predecessor present the story of a young woman who, on a whim, decides to travel to a remote island in Greece. She decides to stay there rather do what is expected of her, meaning returning to the city, to what one would assume to mean a more “normal” life. The plot of these films indicates that making a radical decision like this has the potential to be quite fantastic, fulfilling, and impactful. But, it requires both courage, as well as some form of hard work and sacrifice. The main character’s life is not presented as easy.

Nor are the lives of the people in real life who make similar radical choices. Those that actually move to a small cabin in the mountains, a tropical island or a bustling beach, as well as those who start their own businesses, pursue careers in acting, or do whatever their version of being radical is, all toil away for some period of time.

There tends to be a similar general story. First, they have to have the courage to actually pursue their preferred path. This means ignoring the fear inside, as well as advice, and even pressure from others. This advice could even come from people who are genuinely caring and well-meaning, which makes it harder to ignore.

They also had to endure, at least a period of time, where life is harder than it would have been at that standard 40-hour a week job, receiving a steady paycheck. Businesses take time to become successful, artists take time to get noticed, and many ideas are rejected dozens to hundreds of times before they are finally embraced.

This blog should have actually been titled The Courage and Determination to be Radical

Those with the courage (and determination) get to be surrounded, every day, by what inspires them.

The landscape that inspired a successful family of doctors to build a summer home 50 miles outside of Denver can now be visited by the general public, as part of Staunton State Park.

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Hiking around the park is relatively easy. Most of the trails are not too steep. They are, however, fairly long. They are also astonishingly well marked.

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Not only does every trail have a two letter identifier, but each trail has regular markers, including one marking the halfway point on each trail.

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Hiking from one end of the park to the other is a good amount of anticipation. From the trailhead, rock features, some of which are actually climbed on, appear in the distance, periodically peaking out from behind the trees. This can actually go on for miles, so hiking at Staunton State Park teaches hikers to learn to enjoy the journey.

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In addition to the Staunton Ranch, which resembles the cabin in the woods so many dream of, Elk Falls Pond is one of the top destinations at Staunton State Park. The journey there is about 4.2 miles.

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Monday’s hike turned out to be a chance encounter with a thunderstorm, one that required taking refuge in a relatively safe and relatively dry spot for about 25 minutes.

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Hiking in the rain actually turned out to be refreshing. This summer in Colorado has been HOT. Of the first 22 days of July, Denver’s official high temperature has reached or exceeded 95°F (35°C) 13 times. Much of the state has been in a drought all summer, and, with the exception of the Northeast, there are fire restrictions in place through much of the State.

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So, the rain turned out to be a welcome change of pace.

Hiking through the storm, in a small way, felt radical, as it is generally not advised to pursue outdoor activities on days, particularly afternoons, with thunderstorm chances. Storms find everyone in life, regardless of how courageous, resilient, and true a person is being. As the movie indicates, those that have chose to courageously live a radical life may encounter a few more storms. These storm will eventually dissipate. The clouds will gradually disperse, and the sun will emerge, revealing, once again, something beautiful and inspiring, whether that mean a spectacular landscape or a spectacular human being!

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A New State Park

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Back in May, a new state park opened up in Colorado; Staunton State Park, near Conifer, which is just under an hour Southwest of Denver along highway 285.  I started hearing the buzz about this new state park during the springtime, just before and just after the park’s opening in mid-May.  The manner in which people talked about, and anticipated, the opening of a new state park in Colorado reminded me of how people would respond to the opening of a new restaurant, particularly by one of those celebrity chefs, in Chicago.

Through this, I came to the conclusion that the opening a new state park is the Colorado is the equivalent of the opening of a new restaurant in Chicago.  So, I applied the same crowd-avoidance rules to visiting this park that I would have applied to visiting a new restaurant in Chicago.  I waited a few months (until August), and I went on an off-peak day (today is Wednesday).  And, it worked!  It was not too crowded today at Staunton State Park.

I decided to check out a few different parts of the park, as well as a few different types of trails. Most of the trails in the park, or at least most of the trail length, permits mountain biking. The first mile or so of the trail was actually smooth enough that I would have felt comfortable riding my cyclocross bike on it.  A little bit farther up the road, a few rocks did begin to appear on the trail, but the trail still seemed quite smooth for a mountain biking trail, especially compared with the Apex trail near Golden.  For people who are thinking about getting started with mountain biking, or with little experience looking for something not too intimidating, I would definitely recommend Staunton State Park.

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These trails also have a very moderate grade, making the hiking not too strenuous.  However, the few mountain bikers I saw traveling uphill on this trail appeared to be going rather slow.  So, it was probably steep enough to produce strain on a biker, but not a hiker.

I decided to check out one of the hiking-only trails.  A vast majority of the park is open to mountain bikes, with trails  that look like the pictures above, but there are a few places where only hikers are allowed.  The one hiking-only trail I took actually had a fairly strenuous section, with switchbacks and steep grades.  This strenuous section only lasted about 3/4 of a mile, making the hike overall significantly less strenuous than what would be labeled “strenuous” at a place like Rocky Mountain National Park, but it was not trivial by any stretch of the imagination, and would seriously challenge anyone that is not in shape.

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Even these trails open to hikers only were quite wide and well-marked.  They reminded me of what I would refer to as “luxury hiking” back in the Midwest.  Well, without the restrooms and benches along the way.  But, the trail seemed to be laid out in a manner with greater comfort in mind than in many of the other places I have hiked in Colorado.

At the top of the ridge, I could not help but reflect on this view, as well as the views I had encountered at the top of the 14ers (14,000 ft. + mountains) that I had climbed last month.  The more I encounter views like this, and compare them with views like the one at the top of this page (photo taken near the park entrance), the more I begin to think that the best mountain views are taken somewhere between the base and the peak- basically somewhere in the middle.  This is kind of why the view of the Front Range mountains from the hill between Boulder and Louisville is so scenic.  At the top of the mountain, some of the features are a bit tougher to make out.  I guess it took me a while to come to this conclusion.

I did not get to view one of the park’s defining feature, Elk Falls.  The map I was handed at the park’s entrance indicated to me that the trail to these falls was not opened yet.  I guess this park is still a work in progress despite the fact that it is already open to the public.  I could have followed a series of trails to the Elk Falls Overlook, but I figured that with this park’s proximity to Denver (home), I would have plenty of chances to get back here after the trail to the falls directly opens.

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I did, however, get plenty of views of the park’s other defining feature, the rock formations.  These rock formations appear to make it a great place for rock climbing.  In fact, the park even put together a climbing guide, and specifically labelled the trail that leads to the climbing area “Climbing Access”.  So, it appears to me that this would be a great place for rock climbers, but I would not know for sure.  I have never been rock climbing.  As a matter of fact, I am a bit unsure of whether or not I want to add this activity to my repertoire.  On one hand, people I know who climb appear to love it.  And, it would add an upper-body intensive activity to supplement my current activities, which are mainly lower-body intensive (mainly biking, hiking, and skiing).  However, rock climbing appears dangerous to me.  I am somewhat hesitant to take on a dangerous activity like this when I am perfectly happy with the less dangerous activities I currently do.  It’s just one of those decisions I will likely put off for a while and then make based on something arbitrary, like someone’s fairly ridiculous line of reasoning at a bar one night.

Overall, Staunton State Park appears like a good place to go for mountain biking and climbing, that still offers some fairly good hikes.  I look forward to checking this place out next year, hopefully with the Elk Falls Trail open, and seeing everything it has to offer.  However, I am thinking that for someone whose primary interest is hiking, the options for hiking that does not resemble walking down the road may run out pretty quickly.