Thanks for the Unsightly Stuff! – Special Thanksgiving Edition

18 Nov

With some extra free time on Wednesday, I rode on the Platte River Trail, headed northeast out of Denver.  I had not taken this route for awhile, so it felt like the time was right.  As scenery on Denver bike paths go, this section is the least interesting, at least if you want to see pristine views of nature.  On the other hand, one is treated to what I call Denver’s Backyard – the industrial section north of downtown and west of Commerce City.  Actually, Denver’s alleyway might be more appropriate, since it contains essential elements to make the city run, you just don’t want to look at (or smell) any of it.

Once past REI and Confluence Park in LoDo, the trail starts to run along and also under a number of railways, as well as past different switchyards.  In this section, instead of hearing rustling leaves and chirping birds, the accompanying sounds include the rumble of freight cars, the giant metallic clank of coupling cars, and the odd whistle and warning alarm from the switchyard.  Unfortunately, the path runs along the lower river banks, obscuring much of this activity.  Tall cyclone fences festooned with barbed wire finish off the remaining views.

Beyond the rail yards are farms/stockyards.  I can only imagine at one time this area probably contained even more livestock, but since much of the “processing” takes place near Greeley now, I imagine this area a shadow of its former self.  And again, the shadow is about all you can see from the path.  The trail passes along more fences, which get nice and cozy to backs of livestock buildings.  Right below the eave of the roof are a number of long, horizontal openings for air movement, but too high for one to see into.  I can hear the clatter of livestock, and what sounds like bleating sheep (not in a butchered sort of way, just in a general “sheep-noise” sort of way).  I have no idea where the sheep come from, nor if they are actually “processed” there, just that I can hear them.  I know that the Western National Stock Show is nearby, but with much of the view outside of the trail obscured I can only guess.

This blog powered by giant piles of coal.

Further northeast beyond the livestock, I can actually see a power plant to the west, and Denver Wastewater Treatment Facilities to the east.  A quick search did not reveal which plant it was, but I saw enough coal and steam to have certainty of it’s purpose.  The trail has risen to a point where I can actually see most of the wastewater facilities, and the smell leaves no doubt about that (think lagoon on a farm).  Good old microbial processes help take part in the cleaning, so the smell is nothing to fear, just quickly pedaled past.

From this point on the trail becomes a bit more scenic, providing better views of the river.  This part of the trail forms a green-way that cuts through something of a no-person’s (thought I’d try gender-neutral out) industrial land.  The ribbon eventually passes by the newer subdivisions in Thornton and Northglenn, making me feel like I am actually riding in a place that people should intentionally find themselves, as opposed to sneaking through the industrial area.

"What's he building in there"? Denver Wastewater expanding to do more water-treatment stuff.

I actually enjoy this ride a lot because I can see a totally different side of Denver.  (Uh oh, look out, it’s planning/biking-connection time!)  I could ramble at length about the location of these forgotten – or more accurately, unknown – places of Denver, and the social implications of such places, but will only touch on it here.  Additionally, I could critique the environmental impacts of this corridor I’m riding through, but will also skip that here.  I want point out that our public spaces do occasionally provide us a window to look into and see the inner-workings of a city/region/civilization.  For better or worse, we use all these things to make life (generally, for most) more comfortable.  When we don’t understand how our lights come on or where the water goes down the drain, we do not have an appreciation for what really goes into making this all possible.  So for these reasons, I’m thankful that the Platte River Trail really allows me to see things that I would miss or know nothing about.

On-ramp to prairie dog town.

To cap off the ride, right before I turned around to head home I rode past a couple of bare fields full of prairie dogs.  While considered a nuisance by some, they sure have an impressive ability to build underground cities.  While I was watching the prairie dogs go about their daily labor, I suddenly saw a coyote climb out of the wash and head right for the field.  The whole scene suddenly became filled with the frantic chirps (I know, doesn’t make much sense that they chirp, but whatever) of the prairie dogs.

Intruder alert! (look along the fence)

The coyote causally strolled on through the field, and soon prairie dog town resumed business as usual.

The coyote

Industry, nature, and some guy on a bike – all together on a cold, sunny afternoon.  I’m glad that I have a chance to see (and smell) all these different things, to get to know my urban area a little better.  Just what I needed as I try to build a base for racing next year – a good reminder of what you might miss if I just speed along and don’t stop to smell the wastewater treatment facilities!

From the cold prairie - Happy Thanksgiving!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: