Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Cabin Day 5, 2013 - History

For years, Lynne and I had frequently ventured up Larimer County road 80C west of Highway 287 just north of Livermore, Colorado, also known as Cherokee Park Road. It is a dirt road that goes west to an intersection called Cherokee Park. From there it goes up toward Iron Mountain and the headwaters of the Poudre River. After a while it drops down to Sheep Creek and finally over Boulder Ridge and into Sand Creek Park.

A mountain "park" is a large open valley nestled in among mountain ranges or ridges and you'll hear the word used often in the mountainous areas of the west. Winter Park, Estes Park, South Park, are well known examples.

The view from Sand Creek Park north toward Laramie, Wyoming:

Sand Creek Park is no different, nestled between Boulder Ridge on the east and Bull Mountain to the west, it is a wide open expanse of high prairie grasslands with expansive views north of Wyoming. The average altitude is probably just above 8000 feet. Sand Creek runs through it northwards to join the Laramie River (although I'm not exactly sure where).

We loved to camp along Sheep Creek. It was quiet--not as busy with traffic and people as more popular spots closer to town such as the Poudre Canyon or the Big Thompson Canyon, both recently in the news because of the disastrous flooding. There were numerous camping spots in the Roosevelt Forest along the creek and opportunities to hike and fish.

And, in the fall we'd drive a big loop up Cherokee Park Road, over Sand Creek Pass, down into the Laramie River Valley along the Diamond Tail Ranch. Then, north on Laramie River Road along the foothills of the Rawah Mountains to join Colorado Highway 14 near Chambers Lake. A left turn on a paved road (well, it wasn't paved in the early days) and down the Poudre Canyon back to home in Loveland and later Fort Collins. We'd make that drive to see the aspen trees changing colors. There were hillsides, and ridges lit bright yellow, and sometimes with a tingle of orange or red. The aspen season only lasts a couple of weeks and we made the trip annually trying to catch the peak of the season.

Aspens so big, I can't wrap my arms around them:

So, we were familiar with the area when Lynne--who had a desktop publishing business at the time--took a job to create a newsletter for the Sand Creek Park Landowners' Association in 1986, or maybe it was 1987. They published and mailed a newsletter a couple of times a year. And, through that newsletter we not only learned of a land development called Sand Creek Park, but also of the true community of landowners. The newsletter advertised fish stocking events, annual picnics (held at the top of Bull Mountain, at the time) and other association news and activities.

Rick and Lynne, with Bella and Hailey on Picnic Rock:

Learning of land for sale in an area that we loved stirred us to call Angie at Cabin Country Realty and inquire about property.

One Saturday in August, 1988 we met Angie at Sand Creek Park and saw several places for sale. Most were along the base of Bull Mountain and had names like the Honeymoon Cabin or Strawberry's Place. Each had a story. And, most had an existing cabin although in the case of the Honeymoon Cabin, it needed a lot of work to be habitable.
I had this crazy fantasy of buying land, cutting trees, hewing logs, and hand-building a rustic log cabin. I bought books on how to build a cabin. I read histories of people who had done so. I collected the Foxfire books and read articles on everything from hog dressing, to soap making. I was ready to return to nature.

So, we turned our attention to empty land with a good cabin site and trees from which to build the cabin.

A bull moose in Sand Creek Park:

Sand Creek Park was originally a ranch, and was being subdivided and parcels sold in phases (as to not put too much property on the market at once). A new phase of development had just opened, and Angie showed us a parcel that she called Hidden Meadows. After a short hike through thick forest of pine and spruce and aspen, we walked into a flat meadow of sagebrush completely surrounded by forest and that fell off into a thickly wooded ravine to the east. Angie commented that it would be a nice place to build a cabin. We were sold.

The next week, we met Angie back at Hidden Meadows and walked the property line. We discovered that the potential cabin site was close to the southern property line. Since we wanted a very private and isolated location, we decided to purchase two parcels including the one immediately south of Hidden Meadows. The two parcels are bisected by an association road that accesses other properties, but this road would also give us easy access to the cabin site.

Within a few weeks, we were proud owners of parcels 4 & 8, section 11 of Sand Creek Park with a total of 74 acres of raw land.

The road to the cabin site in Hidden Meadows:

A few months later, in January of 1989, I took a job in the The Netherlands. Cabin building plans went on hold while we enjoyed life in Amsterdam and vacationed throughout Europe.

We did make it back home once or twice a year, and when we did we'd rent a 4WD vehicle and trek to Hidden Meadows for a picnic. We had a nice picnic spot in the meadow, or sometimes we'd go to Picnic Rock, and after eating we'd hike along the ridge lines, or down into the ravine along aspen trees so big I could not wrap my arms around them, and to the beaver pond on the northern property boundary. In those days, there were even active beaver communities there. In fact, there was a lot of wildlife: elk, deer, the occasional bear. Snowshoe rabbits leaving their huge paw prints in fresh snow. Coyotes howling and singing at night. Moose. Hawks and eagles and Big Horned Owls calling hoo, hoo, hoo-hoo in the evening.

An Elk in Sand Creek Park:

In 1991, we moved to France and enjoyed life living in a small hamlet near Lyon. Food and wine grew in importance to us and we embraced the French lifestyle. When we returned to the US for vacations, we'd visit Sand Creek Park and dream of our future cabin.

While living in France our very dear Bernese Mountain Dog, Manda, (acquired in Germany in 1985) died. We decided to get another Berner. Well, we decided to get two, a male and a female (a dog and a bitch to dog lovers) and got Indiana and Heidi.

Alex loved the cabin:

We returned to the US in 1993. We visited the land often, sometimes just for the day, but we also often pitched a tent in a grassy flat area about 1000 feet west of the cabin site and camped an entire weekend. We also started showing Indiana at dog shows and he was very successful becoming one of the top Bernese Mountain Dogs in the country in 1996 and 1997. To support our dog show hobby, we acquired a travel trailer and later a motor home. Often, we'd bring the trailer or motor home up to Sand Creek Park and park at the camp site. It was a short walk through thick forest of lodgepole pines (we called it the Ewok Forest) to the cabin site. 

The camping site at Hidden Meadows:

We created trails on the land, often cutting fallen trees and clearing a path, that still exist today. We'd take walks along the property line (a very strenuous hike), or along the western ridge line then down to the beaver pond and finally up along the eastern side of the ravine to the road (which later came to be named Hidden Meadows Lane when the county required us to name all the association roads in Sand Creek Park). This trek is named "Around" and you'll see we refer to it often. There are many place names along these walks like Serenity Point, Dick the Tree, Picnic Rock, Coyote Den Rock, Downward Facing Dog, and Bart's Creek. I'll get into the naming of these landmarks in a future post.

Dick the tree:

Coyote Den Rock:

The passion to have a log cabin continued to grow during this period, but the desire to build it from scratch and by hand waned.

In 2000 we contracted with Log Knowledge in Fort Collins (no longer in business, now) to build a 1000 square-foot log cabin in the Hidden Meadow. This would no longer be a rustic, hand-built cabin, but a modern design with all the luxuries including solar and wind-powered electricity, a well, indoor plumbing, propane heat, and a septic system. Oh, and a 300 square-foot screened-in porch.

You can follow the construction process on a separate section of the web site. Just click here.

The cabin in Hidden Meadows:

During most of the 1990s and continuing after the cabin was built we'd pack up the truck with supplies and dogs and make probes into Sand Creek Park looking for roads that were passible in winter. 80C closes after the first snows, so we'd try Sportsman Lake Road that exits Highway 287 exactly 1 mile north of Tie Siding (avoiding the 13 mud holes by driving around them), or Sand Creek Road from the cement factory in Laramie, or Brubaker road at the Flying Y Ranch turnoff. Sometimes we'd be rewarded with a day of bright sunshine, absolute quiet, and snowshoeing on the trails. Sometimes, we'd have to turn back and go home, often within a mile or two of the property due to snow drifts and threatening weather.

The cabin has become a sanctuary for us. Someplace we can escape the hectic pace of daily life and the evil that seems to be in the daily news. Over the years, we've collected lots of fond memories. There are photo galleries of wildflowers and mushrooms you can peruse. We've made a lot of good friends, and lost a few too.

A nice sunset over Bull Mountain:

As I sit here, 25 years after buying land in Sand Creek Park I think of all the changes: beetle kill has changed the fabric of the scenery; people who were close friends with each other have become adversaries; the amount of wildlife has decreased; there are more people buying land and building cabins; GPSs are leading naive people into the Park and someday one of them will get stranded and die up here. If we've learned anything over 25 years, it is that this is hard country, especially in winter. Country to be respected.

Tags:  cabinthoughtsnatureother-wildlifephotos
Posted under: Cabin News • by Rick on 09/25/2013 at 06:00 AM
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  1. Your dogs are beautiful, Alex is so handsome. It’s so cool that you give these wonderful dogs a fun and loving home.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/14/2013  at  09:04 AM

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