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May 1, 2007 > Around & About with Pat Kite

Around & About with Pat Kite

Denver, Colorado

Even if you don't ski, it's fun to visit Denver. Plane fares have dropped and now, among other varying reasonable flights, a Southwest roundtrip from Oakland airport to Denver is about $159. Let's take a look at what you might find besides winter skiing and year-round golf.

Denver, despite its initial appearance of buildings and more buildings, has lots of open space. For example, Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge is a prime example of the adage, "If life hands you lemons, make lemonade." By 1942, America was gearing up for World War II. The military purchased 20,000 acres north of Denver to build a weapons plant: the Rocky Mountain Arsenal. Here they created chemical weaponry. After the war ended, industrial plants at the Arsenal were converted to agricultural chemical and crop pesticide production. In short, land contamination galore. What to do? Eventually cleanup started, including 11 million gallons of hazardous liquid from one area alone. Ordinary folk were barred from the sites.

Then the public discovered that Bald Eagles, an endangered species, were wintering at the now relatively peaceful Arsenal. The land remained contaminated, but hawks, cottontail rabbits, white-tailed deer, bullfrogs, burrowing owls, coyotes, badgers, and all kinds of migratory birds, didn't seem to mind. A stalwart grassroots public effort, with Fish and Wildlife Service backup, created in 1992, the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge. Visitors were now greeted, free of charge, with lovely pathways, gift shop, serenity plus several lakes for catch and release bluegill and largemouth bass.

Should you be fond of elk, and want to see them outside of a zoo, take about a two-hour drive to Rocky Mountain National Park. Sometimes it can be slow going, as elk herds amble across the road expecting cars to stop. Since elk are bigger than many cars, and kind of cute in an elk sort of way, it's fun to watch. There's a large bookstore and visitor nature center at the entrance, ranger-led programs, hiking, and picnic tables. Seniors can buy, for a measly $10, a national park pass, good forever.

On a less active schedule, there's the exquisite Denver Botanic Gardens. Meander, eat hot dogs, enjoy 32,000 plants, ponds, and plenty of places to sit and people watch. For the science-oriented folk, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science has great exhibits, including a planetarium and dinosaur exhibit.

For the whole list visitor sightseeing list, request a brochure from the Denver Visitors Bureau, 1555 California Street, Suite 300, Denver CO 80202, or log onto DENVER.org.

Tea drinkers, do try and get to the Celestial Seasonings tea factory. In addition to free and ample tea, the tour allows you to see the piles of different types of tea brought in from all over the world. Enjoy.

Pat's local travel note: The BART train from the Tri-Cities to SFO takes about an hour, with a transfer at BayFair. It takes you right into SFO; extremely convenient. Allow at least another 20 minutes to find your way around the airport and air train maze.
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