I have been spending a lot of time over at my parents, and one of the things I have been enjoying every morning before the Colorado sun gets too hot and makes the outside unbearable is a walk around the neighborhood with my dad. They moved a while back, so it is not the same neighborhood that I grew up in, and it was when I was old enough to have moved out of the house, so I did not really have much of an opportunity to explore the neighborhood that they moved into. I thought of it as just a place with a bunch of big house with small yards to keep maintenance to a minimum, and a couple of parks for people to walk through or play at if they wanted to wear out the kids. I was unaware of all of the space that was designated to keep the area beautiful while highlighting the beauty of Colorado at the same time.
A lot of this open space is maintained by the good people at the Colorado lottery and I am happy that there are places like this out and it is a benefit of having an organization dedicated to collecting money and reserving places in Colorado to keep natural so the whole Front Range will not be overcome by human sprawl. But I do have a little bit of a love/hate relationship with the organization. Though I love the fact that they are dedicated to keeping Colorado beautiful, they do collect a lot of money that could also be used for other purposes that need attention in the state of Colorado. In the year of 2020, the Colorado Lottery collected $658.8 million dollars, making it the second biggest year for this organization that has been around since 1983. I love the way that they make sure that a little part of Colorado stays Colorado, and when I find these hidden little corners that they protect, I am happy that they are there.
But I am also an educator, and spent a lot of my first few years working in one of the smaller districts in the state. The building I used to work in housed a small alternative high school that kept students in school who wanted to drop out for various reasons. It was not a priority of the district, but I like to think that we did a lot of good there with very little money. Parts of the building were falling apart and we did not always have the equipment we needed in order to give the students the education that they needed. I was not paid well, nor were any of the other teachers that worked in this district. A little bit from the state could have helped out a lot to make this struggling district a great place, but one of the biggest contributors to the coffers of the state went to protecting the landscape of Colorado. If they could have allocated some of that money to education, it could have transformed this field into something really great.
And that is where the love/hate relationship with this law comes into effect. I love Colorado for its beauty and I know that with the amount of people moving here, the need to protect this land becomes greater with each passing year, but I also believe in education and the system has been broken in Colorado for a long time without any sign of anybody willing to come along to fix it. There are ways to do allow both things to exist, but it would take some strong leadership to bring it about. The priorities of the state do not seem to align with my thinking either, so I will just have to keep on letting my voice get heard with my votes, and maybe some day the change will happen.
Until then, I will continue to enjoy what Colorado has to offer by enjoying my walks, and finding those little treasures that can only be found in this state. I hope it continues to be that way and the new influx of people into the state will not change the beauty of the Front Range and that my parents will always have the wonderful neighborhood that they can always enjoy due in large part from the funds generated by the Colorado State Lottery.
I have enjoyed being back in the cool air of the Pacific Northwest again. It is refreshing after the heat wave that I was experiencing in Thailand. I am in that position of making sure to keep my contact with other people to be minimal, so I have, for the most part, stayed inside. But I have taken a moment every day to get out and walk around. It is nice to walk on these streets free from the crowds, and enjoy the weather.
Every where I look, I see those little pieces of Americana that I have missed during the last couple of years. There are the tree houses and graduation celebration signs in people’s front yards. There is the sound of lawn mowers trimming the yards, and there are people out walking their dogs. I do have to remember to keep to the sidewalks. After two years of sticking to the edge of the roads and paying attention to the sounds of oncoming cars and motorcycles, I forgot that there are places where you are supposed to stay off the road, and stick to the safety from the sidewalk.
It is a different view from the sidewalk. There is always so much to see from there. People like to put a little bit of themselves in their yards, and it is fun to see their personalities. Sometimes the yards are well manicured and sometimes they are a little more sporadic. Every once in a while, there is a little joke that offers up a little laugh. It makes these walks more enjoyable to take.
My favorites are the free libraries that can be found all over the Pacific Northwest neighborhoods. On our little one mile walk, we came across three of these book deposits. People in the neighborhood can take a book or drop one off, and each little library offers a different collection of books to browse from. There are ones that cater to a younger audience, and some enjoy the thrillers that can be found all over the place, while others have a more literary selection.
It was nice to get out to enjoy this activity again, and make it home without being a hot, sweaty mess. I am looking forward to the day when I get back to the more populated parts of town, and enjoy this cool weather even more. But I still have a few more days of quarantine to go through as well as another vaccination shot. It is still nice to know that it is getting closer to enjoying a more normal life, and to be back in America to enjoy it.
One of the things I have been doing a lot of while staying out in Colorado is taking walks with my dad. He had a hip replaced last December, and he is already recovered enough to be able to go on two or three miles hikes everyday. Usually we stick with the same roads that he knows in case there is a problem we can call somebody to come pick us up. But considering that I was with him, we started to get a little more adventurous by going down streets that he had never explored before and find new places in his neighborhood. On my last day, this sense of adventure took us down a dirt path that looked as if nobody ever went to down, and it was one of the nicer spots in his neighborhood.
The path took us to a hidden green space that bordered a protected body of water. The reservoir was probably used by the city of Denver for their drinking water, but considering that there was this huge body of water in the middle of suburb that nobody seemed to know about, it made it look even more pristine. The only other animal in the area were a couple of birds that enjoyed the quiet solitude by bobbing up and down on the middle of this lake.
Towards the end of this walk was a gazebo with a couple of benches that allowed for an even better view of this lake. It seemed untouched by anybody except for one empty bottle of Corona. So the theory goes that some people know about this place and come out there to view the sunset even though it would not dip below the horizon of the lake because if faced to the east. It would still be a nice place to enjoy the cooling of the evening and have a couple of beers. It would also have been one of my favorite places as a teenager because it would be out of the prying eyes of the police, and I could be a little loud with my friends without disturbing any of the neighbors. So this might have been where the stray beer bottle came from as well. Either way, it looked like some other people had the same idea that we did about this place that it was the perfect hidden gem in this neighborhood that allowed for a small retreat from the pressures of suburban living.
I was thinking that the path would wind its way all around the lake, but about 100 meters in, it stopped at a fence with a No Trespassing sign on it. I guess the city of Denver didn’t want anybody to disturb the water, but by looking over the fence I was able to see another pond that was used more often by the neighborhood. This was the one that was connected to the neighborhood’s club house, and it offered such water sports as kayaking and paddle boarding. It is still a fun place to hang out on a hot summer day, but it still did not compare with the other little place that we found. I know that others know about its presence, but for that day, I like to think that this little gazebo out in the green space of the neighborhood was only known by my dad and me. It made the place seem a little more special as if we had discovered something that nobody else knew about.
It is these little things that are out there that make it worth the trip to veer off the normal path and explore what other little areas your neighborhood has to offer. I am glad that I got to go on this exploration with my dad on the last day that I was out in Colorado. It made the experience even more memorable.
One of the things that I miss the most while living in South Korea is the ability to go outside and take a stroll after a nice snow storm. I can do it, but I find myself deep in the city crowd, and it is not really fun because the wind bites, and the cold digs down deep into my bones clinging to them for hours after I return home. Being in Central Oregon at Black Butte Ranch, I was able to take the time to go out on one of these walks through the various bike paths and enjoy the scenery and the calm and quite.
Black Butte Ranch turns into a place where I can breathe easier and reflect on life during the winter. When I left on my walk, I thought that I would be the only person out on the bike paths, but I was surprised at the amount of people out there doing the same thing. Most of them were families taking the time away from their televisions and warmth of their houses to enjoy what the Ranch has to offer. Or they were out to give their dogs a little bit of time in the snow. But they were few and far between, so most of the time I felt like I had the whole place for myself.
Every turn took me to a place I was familiar with due to all of the time I have been able to spend out here during the summer. But with a blanket of snow over it all, it gives it a new look like it was the first time I was seeing it. I know I was out on the Ranch by myself, and not sharing these moments with anybody else, but it was the fact that I was out there by myself that made me feel like I was walking away with something that was completely mine. It was the walk that returned me to a simpler time when I had these moments to myself instead of the hustle and bustle and the constant contact of the busy city. Even though it was a little bit of exercise, the walk was the thing I needed in order to recharge the batteries I needed to take on the last semester at my school.
I love the activity that can be found at this vacation spot during the summer as I hear the voices of children laughing from the various pools or the folks taking their voyages on the horses that they can rent out there, but I think the winter time is my favorite time at the Ranch. The fact that there is not as much to do forces me to take the time to stop and look at the Ranch a little more closely. The ruddiness my cheeks gathered and the calm I collected made it one of my favorite moments on this trip so far.