Time for that final camp-out of the fall season near Denver

Michel CooperLast Update : Wednesday 4 October 2017 - 1:09 AM
Time for that final camp-out of the fall season near Denver

AURORA – When it comes to Halloween, call me the neighborhood curmudgeon. I’m the guy who kills every light in the house so those pesky trick-or-treaters will think no one is at home.

These days, I don’t have to pretend nobody’s home because we often aren’t. Weather permitting, my wife and I will say goodbye to summer with one final, season’s-ending camping trip.

Our usual destination is Cherry Creek State Park, an urban-hemmed enclave of water and solitude sandwiched between Denver, Aurora, Centennial and Greenwood Village.

The park surrounds the 880-acre reservoir trapped behind Cherry Creek Dam, an earthen plug built to keep the occasionally flooding stream from turning downstream Denver into a giant swimming pool. 

It offers 35 miles of biking and hiking trails, 12 miles of which are paved. There is a sandy swim beach, boat ramps and a summertime marina. Along with picnic grounds and a group amphitheater, the park offers a dog-off-leash area, a model airplane field and a shooting range, which thankfully lies out of earshot of the campground.

For us campers, Cherry Creek provides three group camps and 135 individual sites that range from grassy tent pads to full hookup sites suitable for trailers and motorhomes. With the dam, hills and vegetation cloaking views and muffling traffic noise, the neighboring city seems far away.

Massive cottonwood trees shade the sites in the summer. Come autumn, those leaves turn yellow-gold and flutter to the ground. We watch the park’s volunteer campground hosts rake sites when a camper checks out. By the time the next arrives, the breeze-blown leaves will have once again blanketed the site.

Often stuffed to capacity during prime camping season, the campground in autumn is less crowded and feels more relaxed. We like to walk around and chat with fellow campers, many of whom are full-timers stopping off in Denver before flocking south for the winter.

Our late autumn campouts follow a predictable pattern. In the morning, we awaken to the sound of deer browsing past our campsite. After an obligatory bacon-and-egg breakfast, it’s time to hop on our bikes and pedal away some of those calories.

Bicycling opportunities abound at Cherry Creek State Park. We can ride the paved loop around the reservoir, which runs a bit over nine miles in length, or we might follow the Cherry Creek Regional Trail northwest toward downtown Denver or southeast toward Franktown. We share the pavement with recreational riders on fat-tired commuter bikes and skinny-tired racers wearing bike jerseys from their latest event. Nearly all smile and say hello.

Come evening, we like to head to the empty swim beach where we can sit back and watch the sun slowly set over the water and peaks beyond. Lights flicker on in office buildings across the reservoir. Moon and stars begin to emerge in the heavens.

Back at our campsite, we’ll light a fire and bask in the warm glow of blazing logs. When the coals get to her liking, my s’mores-loving wife will break out the fixings and begin roasting marshmallows over the glowing embers.

Should any trick-or-treaters venture by on Halloween night, we’ll gladly give them a stick and let them roast their own.

Source: denverpost

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Michel Cooper