Rainy Day in Boulder

Staring at the four walls of my hotel wasn’t an option on a recent rainy day in Boulder, Colorado. I had to get out. Fortunately, I had a rain jacket and a sense of adventure. That, coupled with internet access and a good map, had me heading out to explore some alternate things to do. 

I was only one block away from the famous Pearl Street Mall, an outdoor pedestrian mall with shops, restaurants, cafes and galleries, so I splashed that direction first. Windows full of interesting pastas, funky bowls, funny napkins, cookbooks and candies lured me into Peppercorn. This two-story shop is a foodie’s dream come true with jars of hard-to-find items like clotted cream and vegetables marinated in spices and oils. Toward the back is an area of gourmet kitchen tools and linens to decorate any host’s table. Candles nestle here and there among other products, and a wander upstairs reveals household décor for any taste. 

Back outside, I snuggled my bag of treats under my raincoat and kept going. Plenty of shops on the mall sell rain and hiking gear, and I passed several places where I could have tasted one of the many microbrews that call Boulder home. It was a small place called Smithklein Gallery where a life-sized bronze dog waved me into the store. Oil paintings, glass sculptures and a wind-blown dog happily panting out of a real Volkswagen car door are just some of the pieces on display. 

Not far from there was another gallery called Lolo Rugs and Gifts, but this one had handmade Turkish rugs and brightly colored lamps arranged in various explosions of light and color. Some stood alone, others were gathered into multihued bouquets that hung from sizeable chandeliers. Soaps and jewelry are also sold here, but the magical lamps and rugs stood out as cacophonies of color that stopped me in my tracks.  

The rainy mall exhausted, I hopped into my car to go exploring. Years ago, I used to play “get lost” with my brother when we lived in Los Angeles and would do just that – driving into the Hollywood Hills to get lost and find our way out again; we saw amazing things well off the beaten path. This seemed like a good idea for an inclement day in Boulder, too. 

Fortunately, I was in luck. Canyon Boulevard turned into Boulder Canyon Drive and took me up into the Front Range of mountains that make up the westernmost side of Boulder. Steep, rocky inclines flanked me with strong Ponderosa Pines growing straight up their stone slopes and Boulder Creek rushed down alongside the road. Every curve in this windy road was a feast for the eyes. And then, like a gem, Barker Meadow Reservoir opened up in front of me with the little town of Nederland on its far end. 

I later learned that Barker Meadow provides water to the city of Boulder and is a great place to catch trout and salmon from shore, but no boats or swimming are allowed on this shining reservoir that was built in 1910. Those activities would not comply with Boulder’s water regulations. 

Curving around the reservoir I found myself in Nederland itself and decided to stop in for a turmeric tea with honey at the Train Cars Coffee and Yogurt shop. True to its name, the café is literally three train cars put together: a 1905 pullman car, an 1872 circus car that had once been a railway post office car, and a caboose built in 1910. It was off season, so the barista told me I was out of luck for enjoying their signature mini-donuts. But the tea was great, and I was able to drink it in a vintage railroad coach that still had brass window lifts, stained glass windows and patterned red material on the ceiling. I had to wonder how many feet had walked on that hard wood floor. 

Just around the corner on First Street I grabbed a sandwich and some chips at Mountain Peoples Coop after wandering around in a gem and fossil shop and the Rustic Moose where I found Colorado souvenirs for everyone on my list. 

Farther down First Street I found several signs and references to Frozen Dead Guy Days. Evidently, this town made its fame not as the mining town it once was, but because of the frozen man that was discovered in a woman’s back yard in the mid-1990s. She and her son had been carrying her cryogenically frozen father around with them from Norway to California and eventually to Nederland where he was discovered and became somewhat of a celebrity. Now Bredo Morstoe is kept on dry ice delivered bi-monthly by locals and is celebrated in mid-March every year by the entire town of Nederland with their annual Frozen Dead Guy Days festival. 

Historic train cars find new life as a coffee shop in Nederland, Colo. OR—Cryogenically frozen Bredo Morstoe inspires Frozen Dead Guy Days, an annual festival in Nederland, Colo. OR – Nederland, Colo., is a small, welcoming village that has an unusual annual Frozen Dead Guys Day festival. Photo courtesy of Lesley Sauls Frederikson.

Heading back down the mountain pass through the towering pines and rocks, I spotted a sign for Boulder Falls and pulled over with several other cars to explore one of the shortest hiking paths I have ever seen – safe for a drizzly day. Carefully carved rock steps lead up and down into a crag between two stone cliffs where a gushing stream explodes over a cliff and signs warn of imminent death for waders and those who would dare to venture off of the trail. I stood in awe of nature’s sheer strength and permanence. These stones, this creek and even some of the towering trees around me had been there long before I was born and would exist long after my demise. 

Boulder Falls gushes out of a crag in the Front Range of mountains just outside Boulder, Colo. Photo courtesy of G Adventures.

As I drove back to my hotel, the rain gave way to dappled sunshine that peeked down through the parting clouds overhead. Bikers and walkers were taking to the streets again, but my rainy adventure had unearthed things I would never otherwise have seen – through art, humor and the sheer force of nature. 


            Play on Pearl Street: www.boulderdowntown.com

            Navigate Nederland: www.townofnederland.colorado.gov

            Chill with Grandpa Bredo: www.frozendeadguydays.com

            Feel the Falls: www.dayhikesneardenver.com/boulder-falls/

            Lesley Sauls Frederikson is a freelance writer. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.


Off the Road in Door County

There is something refreshing about a brilliant, cool sunrise on a clear Wisconsin morning in Door County. I had just pulled up to a local coffee roasting company and was greeted by the cheery owner who was repositioning pots of bright flowers to better showcase her homey shop and eatery.

At the advice of a friend with local ties, I had arranged to take part in a Coffee College mini-lesson to learn more about the origins, production and consumption of my favorite morning brew. My classmates and I carried steaming mugs of various coffee blends along with us to a comfortable conference room where we began our short lesson. My coffee had an essence of cherry in it – a nod to the cherries that put Door County on the map in the late 1800s.

Roasters add flavor to gourmet coffee blends in Door County, Wisc.

As we would learn from Vicki Wilson, the owner of Door County Coffee & Tea Company and our instructor, where a bean is grown and its specific quality are essential to the flavor of any coffee. On a mural of the world, she pointed to the countries from which her beans are procured and showed us a life-sized example of a coffee tree where she demonstrated how beans are picked by hand. Wilson passed around beans of different qualities and a plate of coffee grounds that exhibited three kinds of coarseness for various brewing methods; I use a coffee press and need a coarse grind, but my husband needs a medium grind for his drip coffee maker.

Along with her hands-on samples, Wilson had an information-packed PowerPoint presentation and answers to all of our questions. Who knew there was so much to learn about this historic and global morning potion? At the end of our lesson, she pointed a remote control at the back wall of the room, and curtains rose to reveal coffee roasters at work in her small factory. In plastic drums along one wall, we watched a worker add flavor to beans that tumbled inside them like miniature cement mixers.

Wilson clearly has a passion for her profession, and she delights in having her whole family involved in various parts of the company she began over two decades ago.

Eyes twinkling with pride – and maybe a touch of caffeine – Wilson said of her initial decision to start the company, “I didn’t know a damn thing about coffee roasting, but I took a leap of faith, and 24 years later, here we are.”

After a creative and hearty breakfast called the Kitchen Sink that included eggs, potatoes and French toast in a sinful and delicious mix, I grabbed a steaming cherry decaf to go and headed north on the peninsula to the Ridges Sanctuary. This, too, was at the recommendation of a friend who knew I was taking a weekend to relax in Door County, and it was a spot-on suggestion.

A lovely, modern interpretive center welcomed me with information about why the area is called the Ridges. Historical documents, satellite images and old photos adorn the walls, and an interactive video explains the area’s topography.

The Great Lake Michigan laps up against Door County’s peninsula at Baileys Harbor, WI, but centuries ago, the lake level was much higher. Each time the lake receded from shore, it left a ridge of sand along the bank that grew trees and bushes and became its own small ecosystem. An aerial view of the sanctuary shows nearly 10 such ridges have resulted from the ebb and flow of Lake Michigan. Between each is a swale of marsh lands, a low-lying area that was once beachfront property before the next ridge was formed.

Visitors enjoy a guided walk through the ridges and swales of Baileys Harbor in Door County, Wisc.

The video helped visualize how these ridges and swales were formed, but it was a guided walk through the sanctuary with a well-educated naturalist that brought it to life. We left the interpretive center on a wooden boardwalk through a lush forest and learned about orchid restoration projects and the difference between deciduous and evergreen conifers. The deeper we pushed into the forest, the more rustic the boardwalk became. We navigated bridges over marshes and padded on mossy paths through forests that varied based on each ridge’s age.

One boardwalk was strikingly different than the rest. It was poker-straight and set in a wide-open swath of clear-cut forest. At either end was a restored structure that I learned were range lights from the mid-1800s. Inside the larger building was a docent who explained that we were in a home as well as a navigational beacon. In its cupola was a bright white light that, when aligned with the bright red light from the smaller building, would guide shipping vessels into the rocky harbor.

The range lights were in service from 1869-1969 when the house evolved into being a minister’s home and then a private residence. Fortunately, it is being restored by donations and has already been re-approved by the US Coast Guard as an operational range light. Who knew there was so much to learn in a northern forest?

For a century, this range light helped guide ships through the dangerously rocky Baileys Harbor in Door County, Wisc.

I was able to walk the range lights’ boardwalk down to a sandy beach along Lake Michigan and dip my toes in its cool water. Tucking into my jacket as the breezes tossed my curls, I savored what had turned out to be a delightful day of relaxing education.