An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

August 11, 2009

Grand Lake, CO

After a few days in Denver, we headed into the Rockies, over the continental divide to Grand Lake, Colorado. Grand Lake is the state's largest natural body of water, and together with several nearby man-made lakes, it helps provide water for other parts of the state. It was formed when glacial action dammed several local streams. The indigenous Utes called it Spirit Lake as they believed the souls of the dead called its cold waters home. The waters were indeed cold - cold enough for this Southern boy to stay out thus avoiding a swim with the departed.

The Ute's crossed the mountains from the prairie each summer to hunt here, but had enough sense to head back before winter came with its heavy snows and cold. Non-natives began settling here permanently in the late 1800's and the town of Grand Lake began to take shape. From its infancy the town depended on tourism, but when Rocky Mountain National Park was formed and the town became the Western entrance, this reliance became concrete. The main street is Grand Ave., and it has wooden sidewalks, many of which are covered and remind me of a scene from an old western (except I don't recall seeing such colorful hanging baskets and planters in the movies, or Lupines growing in the streets). I think I saw only one saloon, many of the businesses were selling dubious and serious western themed art, lamps made from antlers, blankets, t-shirts, post cards and such. There were a few places selling nice stuff, and one in particular had a great garden out back that overlooked the lake.

Away from Grand Ave., down by the lake shore is a scenic old yacht club, a municipal park and a small swimming beach (for people from Greenland). Also near the lake is the Kauffman House, which is an old hotel made from logs that has been restored with many original furnishings and is used as the town museum. It offered a nice break from all the commerce half a block away and gave us a good look into the area's past.

One of our intrepid hostesses, Sherpa Girl B. found us a lovely cabin on the outskirts of town near Lake Columbine. However, the word cabin is a bit misleading, this place was bigger, more well appointed, cleaner and generally nicer than our own house. The gardener in the group was as equally pleased with the cabin's landscape, or lack thereof. Nearly all of it had been left natural with Lodgepole Pines and Blue Spruce coming up through a very thick carpet of mostly unfamiliar wildflowers.

Potentilla fruiticosa - Shrubby Cinquefoil

Hordeum jubatum - Foxtail Barley

Ipomopsis aggegata - Western Scarlet Gilia

One of the other attractions of the cabin was being entertained by the ever-changing skies, especially at dusk and at night. After dark the clean, clear air made it possible to see the Milky Way, fast moving satellites and shooting stars.

Next Colorado Post: An Alpine Hike


  1. Hi Les, my husband has been to Grand Lake and says it is gorgeous--which your photos portray. I really really love that meadow! The oranges and whites and blues are wonderful.

  2. Les, your photography is stunning! The lake/mountain/sky scenes are gorgeous. As are the fields of wildflowers; and all the rest. It surely looks like a wonderful place;-)

  3. This looks so heavenly. It has been a long hot southern summer.

  4. GORGEOUS! The wildflowers and the lake - wow! I want to go.

  5. Beautiful. I have to think that wildflower meadow is enhanced somehow by human intervention. A little seed therapy perhaps.

  6. My goodness Les, just amazing. The sky meeting the water, the history, hearing how much you are enjoying it all. I love hearing you tell it.

    You make me miss Colorado. We lived in Co.Springs for 4 years at the USAFA. Living at 7,000 feet with the whole of the prarie in front of you and the Rockies behind you--is burned in my memory forever.

    It's so pretty and you are doing it proud.

  7. I am a Williamsburg follower who wants you to know how much I enjoy your gorgeous photographs! The colors and compositions are stunning!

  8. Les, what a great group of photos of Grand Lake. We used to have some great times up there (in my younger days). What, only one "saloon"? My how things have changed! And they may have helped enhance that wildflower meadow but on the other hand this is a banner year for wildflowers in the mountains. I'd say you captured it all!

  9. Janet,
    Thanks for the compliment. The whole house was surrounded with with wildflowers. You just open the door and there they were.

    I really enjoyed looking up at the sky. I just had to remember to stop walking while I was looking up.

    I like Lupines a lot, and learned early on in my gardening that they are a waste of time and money here in Tidewater.

    It was anything but hot there. They day we left it was a chilly 39 in the morning.

    It actually reminded me a lot of Maine, we even got to see moose.

    I agree that perhaps it was enhanced, however there were enough growing elsewhere to make the whole place look like a garden.

    How lucky you were to live in Co. Springs, although I imagine your "employer" kept you very busy. Stay tuned there will be more posts from Co.

    Thank you for stopping by and for the compliments. Please come back again.

    Yes it is a banner year. When we were there in 2004, it was also a good year. Then we had a chance to go camping up in Gothic Valley near Crested Bute, and it was like camping in a flower bed.


  10. I hope you and your family are enjoying this trip as much as I am. Thanks for sharing the photos with us. It's been 40 years since I was in the mountains in Colorado; I'd forgotten how stunning that scenery is.

  11. Linda,
    Unfortunately I am at home now. There was no way I could blog from the road. I am glad you are enjoying the trip and yes the scenery is stunning, especially for me being from the flatlands.


  12. Oh Les, thanks for taking us along, what a place! Everything about it, except maybe the cold dead people water, Greenland HA! Even that was incredibly beautiful. The wildflowers you show, the white, looks like the annual gysophilia, and orange wallflower, erysimum, were like a dream. You must be having, or had the very best vacation ever! :-)

  13. The wildflower meadow behind the cabin is absolutely gorgeous. It couldn't have been designed to be any better than it is.

    The skies out West are so different from the skies here. I love the shot with the illuminated clouds in the lake.

  14. I love Colorado and your photos make me want to book a flight out there...They are beautiful captured the beauty of the wildflowers and the sky and lake so wonderfully~~gail gail

  15. What beautiful images! I could almost feel the cooler air... The meadow was amazing. And those lupines. Makes me want to move west!