Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Treasures of Lookout Mountain

View west from Lookout Mountain trail
I spent an amazing day - only a half hour drive from Denver - at two places on Lookout Mountain which are wonderful western experiences:  Lookout Mountain Nature Center & Preserve and the Buffalo Bill Museum, Grave, Gift Shop & Café.   I had so much fun I did not want to leave either place and tried to share the day equally between the two adventures that I had planned. 
Lookout Mountain Nature Center (LMNC) is part of the Jefferson County Open Space and Parks program and sits on 110 acres of ponderosa pine forest and meadow. The land was a generous gift from the Boettcher family to Jefferson County, and the Boettcher Mansion, the family’s summer home, still stands on the site. The mansion, built in 1917, is on the National Register of Historic Places and makes a great venue for social or business events. 

LMNC sits near the mansion and is a gorgeous building. Built of pine trees and locally quarried stone, the center boasts green architectural practices. The floors were built from recycled train box cars, the bathroom tiles from used windshield glass and the decking from plastic pop bottles and sawdust. The taxidermy displays feature the “locals” such as the black bear, mountain lion and mule deer lurking amidst other native species such as an Abert’s Squirrel, Ponderosa Pine, and raccoon. At one point a child commented about the display showing a mountain lion coming up behind a mule deer, “Well, that is not going to end well.” It was evident that the display was successfully telling a story about nature.  But wait, there is more.
There is a cozy children’s discovery corner, a windowed observation room, and nature-inspired educational gifts.  Hovering about the ceiling of the center is a myriad of local and migratory birds – each one hand carved of wood and with bird calls coming mysteriously from all corners of the center.  On one wall a flat screen TV displays video clips of the local animals caught on camera and photographed at night with an infrared motion sensor camera.  It was amazing to view black bear, elk, deer, red fox, coyote, and the elusive mountain lion doing what they do when humans are not about.  The best part was getting outdoors and walking the trails (Forest Loop and Meadow Loop); this is a where one can breathe the pine-scented air and perhaps see a glimpse of wildlife. It was here we kicked up, quite to our surprise, a dozen deer that were bedded down under the Ponderosa Pines. See photo below. 
Mule Deer on the Forest Loop Trail, LMNC

The grave site of Buffalo Bill and Louisa

Getting There:
Lookout Mountain Nature Center/Preserve  910 Colorow Road, Golden CO 80401-  is just minutes off I-70.  Westbound, take exit 256 and turn right.  Eastbound, use exit 254 and turn left.  Then follow the brown highway signs. Also you can drive via Golden on the Scenic Lariat Loop Byway!

Down the hill a ways from the LMNC is the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave, which is part of the Denver Mountain Parks System. From the observation deck (located directly east of the parking lot) one can view the city of Denver, which appears so small and is swallowed up by the enormous expanse of the Great Plains. It is rumored that on a clear day you can see four states. This vantage point in the foothills was one of Col. Wm. F. Cody’s favorite places and the reason he requested burial here. The setting is glorious, and a short walk up a trail takes the visitor to his grave site. Here Buffalo Bill rests next to his wife, Louisa, and the grave site commands the surrounding area. The gift shop is stocked with great educational toys and books, tourist goodies, and many Wild West trinkets. One can even nosh on a buffalo burger in the café.  

Prepare yourself with plenty of time for the grand tour of Col. Wm. F. Cody’s life displayed in the museum. The enormous painting which consumes the entry wall down to the museum - Buffalo Bill on Horseback - is breathtaking. It took the French painter, Robert Lindneux, a full five years to complete the work. Lindneux met Buffalo Bill in Paris while the Wild West Show was touring Europe, and he was inspired by the show to visit the real western United States. 
Robert Lindneux painting of Buffalo Bill on Horseback - Buffalo Bill Museum
Throughout the museum the displays and colorful artistic posters read like a giant history book. One of the “aha” moments I had, while drinking in Buffalo Bill’s life history, was that he definitely evolved and grew from his experiences.  He went from buffalo hunter to becoming a preserver of the buffalo herd; from fighting the Native Americans to employing them in the Wild West Show and getting them off the reservation, traveling the world, and sharing their culture so many more would have a better regard and understanding.
Bumble and Buffalo Bill Cody share the same birth date of February 26, what a coincidence!

Tribute to Sitting Bull - Buffalo Bill Museum

Getting there:
Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave 987 1/2 Lookout Mountain Road, Golden, CO 80401
Take I-70 W. to exit 256. Turn right at the top of the ramp, and then an immediate left. Follow this to Lookout Mountain Road. Turn right and travel approximately 4 miles. The Museum will be on your left following an open park and picnic area. Or from Golden -Take 19th Street west, toward the mountains. This will turn into the Lariat Loop Historic Byway. Follow this to the top of the mountain. The Museum is the first possible right driveway at the top of the hill.

1 comment:

  1. I want to live in the old wild west! Love your blog!