Saturday, September 5, 2015

Success on Mt. Falcon

I finally made it to the top of Mt. Falcon this afternoon, traveling 2.8 miles up the hill.  In doing so, I gained 1500 feet of elevation and a great deal of potential energy.  Unfortunately, this store of potential energy didn't make me feel any more energetic.  In fact, the higher I hiked, the weaker my legs became.

The top of Mt. Falcon is fairly flat, with a number of prominences rather than one dominant peak.  I hiked up the Castle Trail and stopped at the first prominence, called Walker's Dream.

I was disappointed to find that Walker's Dream was, in large degree, merely imaginary.  The site was a jumble of lichen-covered boulders.  The only thing of interest was a marble cornerstone on a short section of stone masonry -- a mocking reminder of grandiose plans for a Summer White House that came to nought.  The cornerstone says:  Summer Home for the Presidents of the United States.  The gift of the people of Colorado, 1911.

To keep the tired and sweaty hiker from feeling that this hard-reached destination was a cruel hoax, the good people of the Jefferson County Parks Department provided this informatory placard.

The text reads:

"Summer White House

In 1911, John Brisben Walker, owner of the property that is now Mount Falcon Park, promoted the idea of a Summer White House.  The cornerstone of Colorado yule marble was laid on July 4, 1914 on this proposed site for the building.  What you see here is all that remains of his dream to create a "castle in the clouds" for the enjoyment of the Presidents of the United States.

Modeled after castles in Europe, the idea was to give the President a place to spend time enjoying Colorado.  John Walker hired Denver architect J. B. Benedict to draw up renderings for a 22-room castle on Mount Falcon.  The design sketches were made in an effort to promote the idea and raise funds to begin construction.  Proposal to fund construction included a scheme to persuade the nations' school children to contribute their pennies.

Shortly afterward, Walker became involved with other projects and his plans for the Summer White House never materialized.  However, his vision of preserving the natural beauty of Colorado continues in Mount Falcon Park."

As I retraced my steps back to the parking lot, I noticed two examples of interesting local fauna.  First, I spotted a pygmy lizard that was no more than an inch and a half long, including tail.

It was not keen on being photographed.  I had to chase it around a bit before I got this grainy frontal shot.

It had a bad attitude and was doing its best to resemble a tiny crocodile.

Farther along I encountered a young rattlesnake who was sunning himself on the trail.  He seemed perfectly at ease and did not pay me the slightest attention, until I started taking pictures.  Then he turned his head around and slid over the rest of his body, as if he were climbing a rope.

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