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Features

  •  The first snow is always a surprise to me. No matter how many weather reports I listen to, I can’t quite believe that it is really going to snow. This is partly due to the fact that we frequently have a very warm day ahead of a cold front that brings the snow.

    That was truly the case last week because Friday, Oct. 5, was a beautiful late summer day but despite the weather forecast, I couldn’t believe it when I woke up Saturday morning to see snow.

  • Forged in Boston, the 1,200-pound cannon was used against the Confederacy during the Civil War.

    A “12-pounder” — so named because it could fire 12-pound “Round shot” shells — the cannon was brought west to Idaho Springs more than 100 years ago to commemorate the War Between the States.

    Seventy-five years ago, Bruce Bell said he remembers playing on the cannon in its current location on the Idaho Springs Library grounds. At the time, the library was also City Hall and the police station.

  •  On the night of Sept. 26, a cold front moved south through this area, and the morning of Thursday, Sept. 27, definitely was chilly. The high mountains wore a new dusting of snow, and my yard was filled with gray-headed juncos and white-crowned sparrows.

    All day, these two birds drifted through the area. Not in any hurry once they were out of the snow, they continued to drop down from the high country where they had nested.

  •  Over the years, my late husband, Bill, and I drove the highway to the summit of Mount Evans many, many times. It was one of our favorite places. We loved the high mountains, and Mount Evans was one of the good guys because he wore a white hat (of snow).

    I loved the alpine botany, and Bill always looked for the nesting birds and especially for a black swift flying over. We both were impressed by the silent grandeur of the Continental Divide, and the serenity and peace in the high mountains. In some way, we both seemed to feel at home there.

  • A ribbon-cutting ceremony on Sept. 22 to honor the completed Idaho Springs Cemetery Improvement Project is a dream come true for local Lue Howard.

    Howard has put her heart and soul into the project for the past year to do cleanup and document tombstones in the 138-year-old cemetery.

    The project also included volunteer work and local grants to build 30 concrete stairs, a new shelter and a sign/map of the area. A host of volunteers, the city and a $2,000 grant from the Clear Creek Metropolitan Recreation District helped make the project possible.

  •  September is such an unpredictable month. It is a lovely end of summer with warm sunny days and cool nights. It is gray cold days with scattered showers. It often brings the first snow, which usually melts the next day, as well as our first frost. It wants to be summer, but winter is pushing at the door so hard that it will soon be in, whether we like it or not.

  • When part-time Georgetown resident Joan Naylor heard that a little-known lake above town shared her last name, her path to the past inevitably led to county archivist Christine Bradley.

    The lives of the two women have been intertwined for the past two years as Naylor sought information about the lake’s history and its possible ties to her family. For Bradley, who acts as the springboard for many historic book and novel projects about Clear Creek, it was all in a day’s work.

  • When the Dumont Mill-City House was put on the National Register of Historic Places three years ago, hopes ran high that one of the only standing pieces of Dumont’s history would receive state and federal grants.

    However, time and time again, funding for the historic building was passed over for more prominent state projects.

  • Looking to stop and smell the flowers, Arika Zittlosen left the hubbub of Hollywood for the mountains of Colorado.

    A year ago, Zittlosen and her husband moved to Idaho Springs and this month opened Arika’s Mountain Flowers at 1535 Miner St., Unit 1.

    Surrounded by tulips, daisies and carnations, Zittlosen, a Colorado native, said operating a flower shop meets her artistic needs but at a slower pace. Previously, she worked at Warner Bros. Studio.

  • There is a small order of birds known as goatsuckers. The scientific name is the Caprimulgiformes, which comes from the Latin Caprimulgus, a milker of goats and forma or form.

    This name comes from the old belief that these birds, which are often seen in low sweeping flight over meadows, were sucking the milk out of goats. There are not as many species in this order as there are in some other orders such as finches and warblers.

  • The Underhill Museum in Idaho Springs is gearing up to celebrate the historic building’s 100th anniversary on Aug. 25.

    The fund-raising celebration for the century-old building will include a martini bar, hors d’oeuvres from local restaurant Mangia, and live music by Gary Jorgensen and Claudia Cupp in the museum’s iconic garden.

  • From beneath the wide brim of his cowboy hat, Ted Brown seeks out his quarry on the hillsides.

    His discriminating eye spots a plant that could be an oxeye daisy — not an unattractive plant, but one that is a threat to native species in the high country.

    On a recent afternoon in the fields behind Clear Creek High School, Brown is seeking the eradication of a specific weed: the common mullein, or Verbascum thapsus.

    Brown’s employees spray the mullein, whose brown stalks stick up from hillsides like Roman spears.


  • The Twin Tunnels appear key to the future of growth in the Interstate 70 corridor today, just as they were more than 60 years ago.

  • Two weeks ago, I wrote about the tree and violet-green swallows that nest in this area. They are the swallows that have dark blue-black backs and white under parts as they flash by.
    There are other swallows that nest regularly in the area and that are also present in the big flocks of swallows that gather on utility lines before they depart for the South. There are four other swallows that are in this group that everyone can easily see in mixed flocks. The bank and rough-winged swallows are easily seen as different for they have brown backs and white under parts.

  • With its Victorian charm and mining heritage, Silver Plume became the perfect setting for two books — one historical fiction and the other a ghost story — from different writers. The authors are visiting the county to promote their books and do readings over the next couple of weeks.

    A historical tale

    Veteran author Marianne Mitchell of Arizona decided to set her most recent book, “A Promise Made,” in Silver Plume after trying to unravel her own family mystery.

  •  As summer wanes, more and more young birds are at the feeders. It is great to see so many of the regular species apparently doing well. There is one whose presence I miss in the yard. For some unknown reason, the violet-green swallows did not return this spring.

  •  One of the most prominent and therefore most asked-about birds at Evergreen Lake is the double-crested cormorant. 

    This big bird often is seen sitting on the dam or on the sandbar that accumulates at the inlet. They are big black birds that people cannot fail to see, especially when they have their wings spread out to dry.

    Depending upon the current taxonomy, there are 27 or more species in the world but only one that is commonly found in inland areas. Cormorants are found worldwide along ocean coasts. 

  • Idaho Springs’ mining history made a reappearance on July 19 when a sinkhole caused by an abandoned mining tunnel under the road appeared in the left eastbound lane of Interstate 70 near the Hidden Valley exit.

    What started as a foot-long hole in the asphalt grew to more than 12 feet deep and 10 feet wide. Colorado Department of Transportation crews closed part of I-70 as they worked through the night to fill it.

    “Hopefully nothing else crops up,” said CDOT spokesman Bob Wilson.

  •  A phone call from a reader of this column on Thursday, July 12, brought some exciting news. The call was from Susan Pellegrini, who lives out Brook Forest Drive. She was calling to tell me she had seen her first rose-breasted grosbeak at her feeder. It was an adult male, not all that unusual in itself, but it was the date that excited me.

  •  The past two weeks have been interesting with the usual influx of young animals that occurs every year in July. It also ushered in a very dramatic temperature change.

    The dry high 90s were suddenly changed into crashing thunderstorms and cooler temperatures. Daytime temperatures dropped into the 70s, and nights suddenly required a blanket or two, which is much more normal for the foothills area. I was especially relieved by the cooler weather for the high temperatures seemed to weigh heavily upon me in my old age.