Saturday, March 16, 2013

Fillius Park - Gateway to the Mountains

An abandoned cabin is a reminder of the past
"Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity, and the mountain parks are... fountains of life." ~ John Muir.

In the early 1900s, naturalists like John Muir shouted from the mountaintops about the need for conservation. They wanted to make sure America's wilderness treasures were protected from the destruction of Westward Expansion. Heeding Muir's advice, the City of Denver began purchasing land in the mountains to offer an escape from urban stress and provide outdoor recreation opportunities for its city dwellers. Frederick Law Olmstead Jr. designed a series of mountain parks, linked by a network of roads, all within a day's drive of Denver. Consequently, Fillius Park was created as a gateway rest stop for tourists on the way up to Squaw Pass and Echo Lake.

Every day on my way home from work, I drive past the little picnic area. Except for the interesting sign, I've never paid much attention to the place. Recently, we checked it out and discovered that Fillius Park is actually more than just a lunch spot. A vague trail marker beckons the curious to follow an obscure path into a forest of lodgepole pine. The route follows a broad ridge line that provides dramatic views of the volcanic-shaped peaks that surround the town of Evergreen. An abandoned cabin set against a background of snowy mountains is a picturesque reminder of the old days but the most interesting feature in the park is an aesthetic shelter house.

Jules Jacques Benois Benedict, one of the most prominent architects in Colorado history, designed the hand-built structure in 1918. Doris Hulse, his biographer, describes the artist and poet as "talented, cultured, eccentric, flamboyant, practical, difficult, opinionated, generous, temperamental, considerate, gentleman farmer, man-about-town." The shelter house blends in beautifully with the natural landscape because logs and native field stones were used in its construction. Circular windows provide light, tree trunks create a doorframe and inside is a large fireplace. I believe Muir was right, an evening hike through a mountain park is the perfect way to recover from a hectic workweek in the urban jungle.

Fillius Park is a gateway to the mountains

An obscure path leads into a lodgepole pine forest

The most interesting feature is the aesthetic shelter house

The structure was hand-built in 1918

Jules Jacques Benois Benedict designed the shelter house

"Going to the mountains is going home."

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