Monday, July 27, 2015

Mount Falcon

one of the trail signs in Mount Falcon Park 
In doing research for this blog post, I discovered that not only Colorado, but our country, the United States of America, has a lot of castles! 

I spent a very short time trying to find out just how many we have, but quickly gave up. Wikipedia says these structures are "primarily country houses, follies, or other types of buildings built to give the appearance of a castle.... usually designed in the Gothic Revival, Chateauesque, Romanesque Revival, Scots Baronial or Tudor Revival styles... built to give the appearance of a castle."

The reason for my interest in castles is because my hiking buddy, Denise, suggested we trek west of Denver in Mount Falcon Park where there are ruins of a castle.

Trail Mix, Denise in the pink, me in the blue
This was our first hike together of the season. She went to Branson (without me) and I went to Florida (without her), so we are just now finding the time to resume our usual summer habit of hiking Colorado's famous trails.

Mount Falcon Park, looking southwest
Mount Falcon Park is just west of Denver, in the foothills and easily accessible from Highway 285 (on the south) or the town of Morrison (on the north). There is a good, paved parking lot, benches for sitting, some picnic pavilions and (perhaps most important) clean public restrooms.

the land tells a story
We began walking the trail toward the ruins of a castle but saw evidence of other stories along the way, like these dead trees surrounded by younger vegetation.  

It is recommended that mountain hikes begin in the morning, the earlier the better, and end by lunchtime because these areas frequently get strong thunder and lightning storms in early afternoon. Along with Central Florida (another place where I have lived -- twice), Colorado is known for its frequent lightning strikes. You don't want to get caught in one of these storms.

We had two destinations within Mount Falcon Park on this particular day and this was the first of them. Mr. John Brisben Walker came originally from Pennsylvania but eventually made his way to Colorado where he is known for being a self-made millionaire, a devoted family man and a visionary businessman. He launched many projects in Colorado, Denver in particular, that impact those of us who live here now, over a hundred years later.

Castle Ruins
Among his notable accomplishments was this castle home built for his family in what is now Mount Falcon Park. 

Castle Ruins

Mr. Walker bought and preserved over 4,000 acres of land west of Denver and began construction on his castle-home in 1901. 

Castle Ruins
The mansion was a marvelous craftsman-style chalet built by stonemasons from Italy to include ten bedrooms, a music room, an observation deck, eight fireplaces, a library and servants' quarters.

Castle Ruins
Sadly, Mrs. Walker died in 1916 and two years later the mansion was struck by lightning and burned. Soon after that, John Walker left Colorado, never to return.

Green Mountain
One can easily understand why such a wealthy man would choose this location for his family home. I am grateful that ordinary citizens like myself are allowed to hike the area at no cost except for the gas to drive there.

looking east toward downtown Denver
I never tire of climbing high and then looking in every direction to see scenes such as this.

the Hogback runs along the foothills from north to south
This is an archeological feature that interests me: the hogback. Like the huge sandbars along the ocean coasts that create an intracoastal waterway, here in Colorado we have the hogback that separates the higher mountains from the plains, creating a long valley in-between. 

a castle and a dream

Mr. Walker was a good man to not want to keep all of this beauty to himself. Among his many ventures was to set aside land for a summer White House for our presidents to enjoy, so they could escape the sweltering heat of Washington DC (I know about that, too... lived there for 4 years).

official marker for the Summer White House project
In 1911 Mr. Walker promoted the idea of a Summer White House. The cornerstone is made of Colorado yule marble and was laid in place on July 4, 1914.  What we saw during our hike,  however, is all that remains of his dream to create "a castle in the clouds for the enjoyment of the Presidents of the United States."

some of the wildflowers alongside the hiking path
Modeled after castles in Europe, architect J.B. Benedict drew up plans for a 22-room castle. However as it turned out, Walker became involved with other projects and his plans for the Summer White House never came to pass. 

the famous Red Rocks Amphitheatre
But the rest of the population can enjoy this area at any time, including this breath-taking sight of the famous Red Rocks Amphitheatre where famous names come all the time to entertain Coloradoans.

leaving Mount Falcon Park
The morning was passing us by quickly and the clouds were already starting to build up. Rain sprinkles found us as we made our way back to the car.
Good food for hungry hikers!
I did some Internet research on John Brisben Walker in preparation for writing this blog post. One can feel intimidated by all the humanitarian good just one man accomplished in his lifetime. But at the same time, I am reminded that every single one of us is important in God's economy. He created us as unique individuals for His glory and our good. 

A few weeks ago one of the blogs I follow made mention of a fictional character in the J.R.R. Tolkien novel, The Lord of the Rings,  where one man's purpose was simply this: to help his friend who was called to do great things.

That thought fascinates me. We most certainly are not all called, or expected even, to do awesome things in the mind of man. But just the simpler acts of behind-the-scenes enabling of others to fulfill their callings, perhaps that is enough. 

Well, my Brown Bungalow is my castle; and for Beloved and me at this stage of our lives, it is quite enough.


  1. Thanks for the great pictures!

  2. Oh, how I enjoyed your photos/trip. I have never been to Colorado, would love to one day. Thank you for sharing, have a beautiful Monday!! Blessings

  3. Beautiful pictures and what great exercise. I did some hiking on our Alaska trip a few years back but none before and none since. Interesting post!

  4. I so enjoyed this post and your lovely photos and great descriptions. Thank you for sharing! Your last comment made me think of something I heard a few years ago. A man asked a janitor at NASA one day just what he was doing. The janitor replied that he was helping to put a man on the moon. You are right that we aren't all called to do great things, but we can sure support those who are!

  5. Thanks for all the great comments on this post! You all are an encouragement!