The goal was a nice morning, a good start to the day ahead of us before we headed down to the Garden of the Gods and ended the day in the San Juan Mountains. To that end, we didn’t push ourselves to wake up before the sun, knowing the lake would probably be filled with many a photographer hoping to catch that beautiful early morning light. We packed up the car just a little after 630am, checked out of the hotel we were staying at in Estes Park (which I highly recommend as your home base if your going to be spending time in Rocky Mountain NP) and headed on up into the park at a leisurely pace.
A couple of wild animal crossings later, we made it to the parking lot of Bear Lake, which just two days prior we had driven to just a little before midday and found absolutely packed. That morning however, only a few cars remained. We slipped (and I do very much mean slipped, neither one of us had the forethought to pack yak trax and the short trail was covered with snow that had iced over) our way out to the lake and found it completely frozen over and beautifully quiet. It was cold, the sun still making it’s way up and our hands stupidly bare and freezing, but it was so incredibly beautiful to the point that it made us forget the discomfort.
Only two people remained, both slipping their way back towards the parking lot by the time we started to make out way around the lake, leaving us with the place all to ourselves. Neither the bf or I had ever seen a completely frozen over lake before, never mind actually walk out on the surface of one, so the whole experience was full of adventure and discovery. Somehow neither one of us actually fell, though we came close a couple of times, and we ended up sitting on some rocks jutting out near the edges of the lake, watching the light come up.
It was very cold, very quiet and above all, incredibly breathtaking.
After leaving the gems and minerals behind us for the day, we headed deeper into the museum, to find the North American Indian Cultures exhibit area. We had to leave before really getting a chance to explore everything to catch a show at the planetarium (Cosmic Journey: A Solar System adventure….and yes it was as fantastically nerdy as it sounds) but we came right back afterwards. I have a bit of a ….tempestuous, relationship with museums and their exhibits of Native American artifacts and the way they recount their history, but the Denver museum was- at least in my very humble and not overly scholarly opinion- really well researched, honest and above all, respectful. I would definetly recommend visiting for a chance to learn more about the cultures that span North America and getting a chance to see beautiful works of art (both ancient and modern).
Something of particular fascination to me were the signs you would see every so often behind the glass cases, just under a blank spot where an artifact use to sit. A small sign saying the object that used to be displayed there had been returned to their respective tribe or historical owner. I know the subject is something of intensely furious debate among certain groups, so I won’t go into it too much here, both because I don’t really come from a culture that has had it’s history taken to be displayed in museums without proper permission and also because I don’t have a Ph.D in…well anything really, but I will say it was something I though was interesting in many ways to see documented within the displays themselves. I ended up buying a really fascinating book on the subject in the gift shop (because of course I did) called Plundered Skulls and Stolen Spirits: Inside the Fight to Reclaim Native America’s Culture which was actually written by the senior curator of anthropology at the museum and I recommend as an interesting read on the subject.
We finished off at the small but super informative and fun Egyptian Mummies exhibit and then meandered our way down to the gift shop where as you can probably tell by now, I spent a stupid amount of money at. Books, postcards, souvenirs and even a new notebook, I would say don’t exit through the gift shop but… that would be so very hypocritical of me, no?
Following up on my last post regarding my at times overzealous interest in geology and pretty much all subfields therein, it’s only fitting to admit the #1 reason we decided to visit this particular museum over any others. We (and by that I mean ‘me’) had been undecided on which museums in Denver we were going to try and make it around to, since there’s a fantastic abundance of them (the Denver Museum of Art, Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, Byers–Evans House, Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum, Museo de las Americas, Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art and of course the the historically interesting Molly Brown house museum) but a quick google search through the current exhibitions they had going on at the Denver Museum of History and Science had me 100% decided this was the one we would definetly have to make time to go see.
Specifically, it was the exhibition regarding the Russian folk life gem carvings of Vasily Konovalenko that caught my eye. I didn’t know it at the time, but the museum is home to the most significant collection of these gem-carving sculptures in the world- actually the only collection on public display outside of Moscow. I could probably wax poetic about these amazing works of art for pages on end but the thing that struck me the most when I first saw these carvings in real life was not only their beauty, but the sheer mastery of skill displayed in each of them. These are sculptures carves from gems, and not only are are they wondrously- almost magically- gorgeous, they’re also engaging. Each carving tells a story and there’s not a single one that doesn’t draw you in with the magnificent play of colors and the forever frozen flexing of stone hands and candid features.
– a short video regarding three of the sculptures displayed at the museum and the background and history behind their beauty: A Stone Live On
– this is one of my favorite quick reads for a little more information on the artist behind these wonders.
The exhibit is in a very quiet part of the museum, tucked away in the back of the second floor, just off the Explore Colorado area, easily overlooked if you weren’t determined to find it. While we were there, people shuffled in, wandered around the glass cases and then shuffled right back on out, few really taking the time to look at each display or read the placards beneath them. On the one hand I was glad to have the room pretty much all to myself, to get the chance to look for as long as I wanted to at each carving and take photos from all angles….but on the other hand, I really wanted to rush up to each person that just walked away after a quick look-see and beg them to appreciate the beauty of each sculpture, to linger just a little bit longer. Of course, i’m not that big of a weirdo and eventually I too shuffled out- though I did end up buying a book at the giftshop below, called Stories in Stone , which I would very much recommend if you’re interested in the carvings but can’t quite make it out to Denver just yet.
And if you do get a chance to visit, I hope you give yourself the time to really enjoy this room and all the beautiful and compelling work it holds.
I’m a pretty nerdy person. I read economics books for fun, go nuts over things like Masdar City and most anything involving Elon Musk, will gladly talk about the Byzantine Empire with anyone that has half a passing interest and i’ll probably breakdown in tears if I ever get to actually touch a piece of Hadrian’s Wall. So it should come as no surprise that I would make it a priority to hit the Denver Museum of Nature and Science while in the area.
It’s certainly been a good while since I visited a museum that truly captured my attention, the last time being when I was in NYC and visited the American Museum of Natural History with my good friend Kat and I about lost my mind in the opulence of their minerals and gems exhibit. You could say I have an er….mild interest in geology (somewhere I can hear the slightly hysterical laughter of friends and co-workers i’ve sunk into boredom with my talks on exactly why geology is so dang interesting).
We hit the museum early on our last full day in the Denver area and we had plans to spend just a couple of hours there before checking out the Denver Art Museum, but I ended up mesmerized by the Gems & Minerals exhibit (as well as two others, but more on that later). The crowds were pretty mild, probably because we went during a weekday and I’d definetly recommend a visit if your in the area and are interested in learning more about Colorado’s rich (ha) mining history. The exhibits were informative, engaging and definetly fit with the whole atmosphere they had going on, managing to make the experience intimate without toeing the line towards claustrophobic that i’ve seen some geological exhibits veer into. Eventually though, the kiddos on field trips streamed in and so we headed out towards the next stop.
(Btw, just a heads up- if you’ve no interest in museums, feel free to skip the next two posts which will be on the Konovalenko Gem Carvings and North American Cultures exhibitions.)
If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’re probably a least a little familiar with my love for ghost towns and places where time’s been less than kind. From my explorations here in Texas around some Sherman Factories to my great overabundance of places I found to explore in Death Valley NP, like the ghost town of Rhyolite and the Skidoo Stamp Mill,i’m always up for exploring anywhere with even a little bit of grime settled in the stone. And like i’ve told the boyfriend- it’s not a roadtrip unless there’s a ghost town somewhere on the itinerary.
To be perfectly honest though, we weren’t expecting to find any ghost towns on this last trip to Colorado, not because there aren’t any (there are SO many) but because they’re all mainly situated up in the mountains and are inaccessible during the winter season. The only reason we decided to try and make out way to this one was because we happened to be in the area. After leaving Rocky Mountain NP we didn’t really have set plans for what to do next and since we were just a short-ish drive from Nederland we decided why not, lets go for it.
The road to go up to the remains of Caribou is situated just before the main center of Nederland (which btw, is a super cool little town that I would recommend visiting just for itself if you’ve the spare time, it reminded me of the area around Salvation Mountain something fierce) and while it was somewhat muddy and a bit winding, the pay off at the end was well worth it. There’s not much left of the former silver mining town, but then again, I never go expecting much. Whats mainly there, the draw if you will, is two large stone buildings, which I know, doesn’t sound like it would be worth a trip… but for someone like me, it was fantastic.
The weather was cold but crisp and if anything the snow surrounding the buildings (and nestled inside them) made the whole scene even more picturesque, which was a small departure from the usual vibe I get when I visit these kinds of places (that vibe being of mild depression or creepiness….which is to be expected). That feeling of history however, that was still very much there.
– a good post to check out if your interested in reading up on the town more or if you happen to be in the area and just maybe would like to stop on by : UncoveredColorado, Caribou