Sunday, March 27, 2011

Just finishing up the week on Denver Urban Paths

Had a great time night-skiing with friends in Keystone this weekend, splitting a condo, and skiing with J at Copper. With nice sunshine even in the afternoon at Keystone, we were basically hitting blue cruisers over and over, but J also kept up her recent trend of trying at least one new black run each outing. More impressively, since we skied all day and into the night, she did a great job keeping her speed up to keep up with the group.


Less running this week, finishing up today on HCT and Cherry Creek paths. I don't mention most of these runs even though they take up much of my weekly running volume, because I do many of the same routes (including functional run-commuting to school and back) and have a hard enough time keeping up with interesting posts (still need to catch up on some things), let alone repetitive posts. But based on my recent post, I may have given a negative impression about Denver-area urban paths themselves, which is certainly not true, and is far from the reality of the fact that I truly enjoy each run.

Despite being in a flat area, the multi-user paths in Denver and Aurora are unparalleled in most parts of the rest of the country for recreational enjoyment for most people. (My largest criticism of the paths themselves are mostly practical issues for commuting purposes). I ran just over two hours today on what ended up being a gorgeous morning, and certainly encountered dozens of people. About half of the run is on HCT, and the other half on Cherry Creek (On this route, I use the Florida Ave hill to connect the two rather than following the serpentine HCT further). Both trails have a decent parallel dirt on the side of the trail.

I recognize and wave to many of the same folks near our apartment: mostly some older folks that are regularly out enjoying the trail (there is a senior living center nearby). On weekends, plenty of runners are out, as well as cyclists, walkers, and families. One family today had Mom out for a long run, with Dad and a boy of 6 or so years riding their bikes nearby -- I passed and "raced" him to the next post as he beat me by inches. More road cyclists are out on weekends (as opposed to commuters during the week) which do often zip through traffic -- running or recreational riding is definitely more practical on these trails. These are also fine paths for rollerblading, but I probably see one rollerblader every few weeks or month. I haven't dusted mine off yet, but then I also remember it's not the 1980s anymore. Unfortunately.

Besides humans and their dogs, other regulars include a scurry of squirrels being fed at a specific bench at the aforementioned senior living complex, as well as geese near some of the ponds. Less usual is an occasional swarm of bees (I've seen twice on trees, including one warm day in January!); a man walking a cat on a leash; and a woman with a parrot on her shoulder. And even less urban animals include a house nearby on the HCT has free-roaming chickens (a rooster and a hen) that sometimes wander and scratch in the creek bed, and I have also seen deer and coyotes several times just a half mile or so from major road intersections. Finally, the HCT is signed to prohibit horses(!) right off of Havana, a major road of car dealerships and fast food -- yet one day I saw a couple ignoring the sign and riding horses their anyway! (There is a small horse ranch near Expo park less than a mile to the East).

Anyway, despite the unfortunate recent violence in the nearby area, the paths themselves generally feel safe. I can't think of any specific areas that regularly feel unsafe. The 'worst' is probably anything near the schools in mid-afternoon, because there's some sort of rule that middle-school aged boys in groups of 3 have to try to say something funny to strangers (if they're not pushing each other or teasing girls), but I usually say 'Hi' and joke with them. Tragicomically, I've been called the "N"-word twice, as in "'Sup, ..?" -- that may be slightly uncomfortable for people out by themselves. On the other hand, it is refreshing to see that so many kids can and do walk home relatively safely from school.

So I don't have bad things to say about the problems of the area because of the folks that live here (ignorant newspaper comments make broad, sweeping generalizations from other towns), but, rather, despite them. For being a city, there really are a good amount of recreational opportunities on trails and parks. These are amenities that a first-world society should strive for for all citizens. Even more basic, though, I hope we can meet the challenges of violence and economic disparities -- now -- before they get worse.


  1. Mike, I like how you've provided dual perspectives of Denver's urbanism. It makes me smile to think of you making connections with the youth who walk the paths that you run on.

    I regularly drive the streets of Aurora and all the surrounding communities of Denver while transporting patients to and from their doctor's appointments, hospital stays, nursing facilities, and assisted living facilities. Some of the places I go are pretty run down, but in general, I rarely feel threatened and the majority of people I encounter are decent human beings.

  2. Thanks Ean. There are things to celebrate, but there are still some frustrating disparities and challenges that seem overwhelming at times, mostly for those that have less of a "reserve" or support system to deal with it. (Such as: simply crossing the road, as 2 pedestrians were hit in the last 24 hours!) And there isn't a general, community outrage (other than finger-pointing and blame from people that don't live here) when shootings and hit-and-runs seem to happen regularly -- it's kind of 'accepted.'

  3. Mike - Good issues deserving of some sort of thoughtful response, but I just can't think of anything concise enough at the moment! Good material for future posts I guess. Or thinking about on long runs.

    I will say that I don't buy into that fatalism you describe. I see it too, and even though I hold people responsible for their actions, there are conditions that people should just never be subject to.

    Where most well-intentioned people differ is in why that is, and what to do about it.

  4. Thanks for the response -- it's only a fragment of what I've been thinking about the subject, since I try to stay somewhat apolitical and loosely tied to some themes on this blog.

    As for being fatalistic, I'm not suggesting hopelessness; rather, while some people may complain too much about how negative circumstance holds them back, I think an underappreciated problem is how much *credit* people claim for their own fortune. That makes it harder to more objectively appreciate how difficult it is for other people to overcome difficulties that we haven't faced personally.

    Although I try to loosely adhere to certain topics, I want to make it clear that, despite being upset at things like the Black Hawk bike ban and the Vail bike hit-and-run case, there are far more serious systemic issues in our own state to worry about. But, these issues end up getting buried below the same political social hot-button issues of little substance, don't they? =)