Painted Desert

Painted Desert

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Four and a half feet of plastic action

Many photos today, as I explored downtown Golden, which looks like this:

The sign says, "Howdy Folks! Welcome to Golden - Where the West Lives!" This is incredibly cheesy. The town, however, is not cheesy. It is touristy but turned out to be very cool. For lack of anything better to compare it to, I suppose I will compare it to Mystic, CT. It is a tourist place and of a similar size, at least in terms of number of stores, though more spread out and less clogged with traffic (Golden is not divided in half by a drawbridge that opens every hour). One thing it has that Mystic is lacking is a large number of metal statues.

There was no reason to take a picture of these two statues except as a point of entry onto my tangent. For some reason, towns in the West seem to love metal statues. I don't know if I pointed this out last year when I was in Wyoming. I believe any town in the west of any size is sure to have several representations of elk, bears, horses, Indians, cowboys, pioneers, children, or possibly two or more of the above together, in juxtaposition or riding on each other in various combinations. (Above, we see a bear in foreground and a pioneer with child in background.) I soon lost count of and interest in the statues, though there are probably at least a hundred and several are downright creepy, and no doubt warrant a post of their own.

Eventually I came to the river... Clear Creek, that is, with the M for the Colorado School of Mines above:

As soon as I saw this river, my first thought was that I wanted to go tubing in it. As if on cue,

Some tubers appeared, along with a lone empty tube that got stuck in an eddy next to the rapids. I went down and discovered that there is a paved path along the river, which very quickly became wonderful.

The sign warns of flooding danger. This is especially apropos right now, as Colorado is in a heat wave and snow is melting quickly from the mountains you saw in the last post. I do not know how warm it was today, but it was quite warm, possibly in the 90s.

In a bit of genius that absolutely astounded me, the designers of the walkway had built in sections where the concrete disappears under the river in terraces and ramps at several points, allowing strollers to interact with the flow, however high or low it may be. Here, a young man body-boards on a standing wave formed where the water sweeps over a ramp. The swirl of the water, about a foot and a half deep here, held him in position. There was also a slide at this spot, from which people were being launched out onto the ground at high speed. I imagine it is more fun when the water is a bit higher. Action Shot!

A bit further up, I discovered that there is a beach:

...though these women found a rock in the middle of the river more to their liking.

There were not too many people tubing... a couple came by every once in a while... but then, the water was very cold. I could only stand to stick my feet in it for a minute at a time. These guys probably had the right idea:

I would not have wanted to be in without a wet suit. The snow this river is coming from must be something like 20 miles away... too close to have time to warm up significantly, certainly not in this volume.

Eventually I found some kayakers and some people with a strange type of plastic bodyboard who were taking turns practicing on a set of rapids.

So I began to take Action Shots! of the kayakers:

The blue kayak is doing a trick... in other words, that upside down flip is on purpose. The guy above lost (or put away) his paddle at some point but could still do tricks. Almost all of the kayakers had very short boats... 4.5 feet being the shortest I saw (generally the length is printed on the boat), and that is very short. My kayak, which you may see in a post a couple months ago, was 16 feet long, which is the length where it gets easy to take a stroke on one side and have the boat go forward rather than spin around. Longer means straighter paddling and harder turning. Shorter means very inefficient at going in a straight line, but easy to turn. I do not know how some of these guys fit their legs into their boats, they were so short. It is said that you sit in a canoe but wear a kayak, and the tight fit of these particular boats made the kayakers look like an alien species possessed of a single large foot where most people have legs.

If you have never seen whitewater kayakers do tricks, you simply must watch the videos I shot below:

Although things could not possibly get any cooler, many of the rapids sections had rocks or landscaping placed allowing people to sit and watch the kayakers, as if at a theater:

So with all this I must say that Golden receives high marks. There is room for you here too. On a hot summer weekend day, the crowds still did not reach a particularly great density. There were enough people on the river walk to make it annoying for bikers, but on foot it was easy to get around or find a spot to oneself.

The kayakers pause for a pair of tubers to come through. I imagine that this irritates them, much as I imagine the hardcore mountain bikers were irritated whenever they had to stop because I was in front of them on the mountain yesterday. Except for the unicycle guy, he wouldn't be irritated. He was too cool.

I didn't explore many of the town's retail offerings... I went into the antique store, which is very large (though with its carefully laid-out offerings it made me miss the fantastic clutter of the Phoenix in Wakefield), and I had a sandwich in one shop and a very good $2 raspberry cheesecake ice cream cone at a place called D'Deli, whose raspberry cheesecake ice cream cones I will recommend. Then I went back to the river.

Tubers paddle past some kind of park that is popular with dogs. These guys had a small inner tube tied inside a very large inner tube and were doing the Huck Finn thing. I saw them come by several times during the day, and the hilarious thing is that each time I saw them they had more women on the tube with them. Different women. One of the guys waved happily to me as they went by. Of course he was happy.

Here they disappear (ferrying but a single woman) under the second-to-last bridge before the Coors plant, where a chain hangs across the river with a sign warning floaters to keep out. I couldn't help but wonder what would happen if you couldn't get to the side of the river in time and floated into the Coors plant. Made into beer, probably. And with all the tubes and other equipment I saw lost on the river in just the time I was there, I really wonder if there is an eddy somewhere with 1,000 tubes and paddles in it. A lot of the junk I saw had people's phone numbers written on. I must find out what happens to these things.

Here, a gratiutous shot of my office building, which I passed on the way home:

This is probably the thing least worth seeing in Golden, lower down even than that creepy statue of a woman and child reading a book on a bench, but now you know what it looks like. So, I am inviting... rather, demanding... everyone come visit me, because I hate having these things here and not be able to share them except through pictures. People who volunteer to go tubing with me, or go to Woody's wood-fired pizza place, get first priority. I appreciate that the latter may sound more appealing than the former to some of my readers, but you cannot keep saying you admire my sense of adventure and then sit around watching TV. Perhaps we can get those two boys with the giant tube-raft to take us.


Mom said...

Love the stubby kayak photos!



Anonymous said...

hey Jo - that sounds like an invite if I ever heard one! hope you are feeling better - green tea w/ agave nectar.............

Bryon McCarley said...

I know this is an old posting, but felt compelled to respond anyway.

Many thanks for the comment "a bit of genius that absolutely astounded me" on the design. It was absolutely one of my favorite projects to work on in my 20 years of practice. Many don't realize the positive impact Landscape Architects have on our built environment.