Winter’s for the birds in Aurora: Outside activities for fall still abound

Here’s a day-by-day guide for making the most of the dog days in the coming week.

BY ADAM GOLDSTEIN, Staff Writer

The leaves are turning, the swimming pools have closed and the seemingly interminable string of 90-something-degree days is finally coming to an end.

Naturalist Tour

Art Elser, a volunteer naturalist, leads a tour Monday morning, Sept. 10 at the Plains Conservation Center. The "Walk With a Naturalist” event is scheduled for Sept. 15, from 9 to 11 a.m. It is a tour through the 1,000-acre Plains Conservation Center property on East Hampden Avenue that will feature telltale signs of a changing environment, as well as opportunities to bask in the final moments of summer. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

Naturalist Tour

A herd of pronghorn move along the horizon Monday morning, Sept. 10 at the Plains Conservation Center. The "Walk With a Naturalist” event is scheduled for Sept. 15, from 9 to 11 a.m. It is a tour through the 1,000-acre Plains Conservation Center property on East Hampden Avenue that will feature telltale signs of a changing environment, as well as opportunities to bask in the final moments of summer. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

Naturalist Tour

A red-tailed hawk flies above the tree line Monday morning, Sept. 10 at the Plains Conservation Center. The "Walk With a Naturalist” event is scheduled for Sept. 15, from 9 to 11 a.m. It is a tour through the 1,000-acre Plains Conservation Center property on East Hampden Avenue that will feature telltale signs of a changing environment, as well as opportunities to bask in the final moments of summer. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

The end of summer is upon us, and the change in season means a shift in recreation. Thrill seekers will swap their swimming suits for ski gear, and those looking for a lazy diversion will most likely head indoors as the temperatures drop. The snow storms aren’t upon us yet, so we’ve compiled some of the best local ways to take advantge of the warm(er) temperatures and revel in the final days of summer. Here’s a day-by-day guide for making the most of the dog days in the coming week.

Thursday, Sept. 13

Take a sail or a paddle at the
Cherry Creek Reservoir

The temperatures may be heading south and the swimming beach may be closed, but the coming weeks will be a key time for thrill seekers at the Cherry Creek Reservoir.

The final weeks of summer is an ideal time for boaters of all sorts looking to venture out onto the waves of the reservoir, and the Cherry Creek Marina is a good place to set off. Located on the shores of the Cherry Creek State Park, the marina offers rentals of sailboats, canoes, kayaks, paddleboats, fishing boats, pontoon boats and other crafts, and the next few months will feature ideal conditions for taking them out on the water.

“We’re gearing up. This is the best time here on the water; it’s still warm; it’s not as windy,” said Jason Williams, operations manager at the Marina. “It’s a little quieter, and that’s why the paddle sports pick up. There’s not as much craziness, not as many paddleboats.”

With hourly rates that range from $15 to $35, the Marina is a good option for a range of budgets. Those looking to rent a sailboat have to pass a competency test, but smaller crafts are available for beginners. Information: 303-779-6144 or cherrycreekmarina.com.

Friday, Sept. 14 

Aurora Arts District
“Art on the Fax” Event

The September art walk along East Colfax Avenue will offer art lovers a final chance in 2012 to take in the best of the city’s creative content in an outdoor, festival setting.

The monthly art walk event Sept. 14 will include an outdoor performance by the Aurora Symphony Orchestra and a free film screening. What’s more, the festival along the 16-block stretch of East Colfax between Dallas and Florence streets in Original Aurora will include an opening reception for a new exhibit at the Aurora Arts District Consignment Gallery at 9801 E. Colfax Ave., a space owned and operated by Troy Gladwell of Medici Communities.

“He’s actually providing a donation and allowing us to use it as an office and gallery,” said Aurora Arts District President Crystal Gardner. “We really believe one of our next steps is having a presence down here. We’re trying to find spaces for artists until the arts district can do it on their own.”

City officials also have plans to unveil a new lighting system for the district, a dedication that will include remarks from Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan and local artists. What’s more, exhibitions will be open to the public at spaces like the Downtown Aurora Visual Arts gallery, the Red Delicious Press, Sunrise Artworks, the House of Flowers and the exhibition space at 1400 Dallas St., the former home of The Other Side Arts gallery.

Saturday, Sept. 15

“Walk With a Naturalist” at
the Plains Conservation Center

The seasons show their progress in distinctive ways on Aurora’s eastern plains.

The staff at the Plains Conservation Center is attuned to the signs of the passing seasons, from decoding the calls of migrating birds to spotting changes in the behavior of pronghorn sheep. Those staff members will share their expertise with visitors during the monthly “Walk With a Naturalist” event from 9 to 11 a.m. on Sept. 15, a tour through the 1,000-acre property on East Hampden Avenue. According to the Susan Smith, the center’s director of education, the walk will feature telltale signs of a changing environment, as well as opportunities to bask in the final moments of summer.

“It’s a great way for people to come out and enjoy the beginning of the autmn and enjoy the prairie as it cools off and transitions to winter,” Smith said. “It’s been very active. We have quite a large number of hawks and raptors on the prairie for right now. There’s been a drought, so a lot of birds are moving out looking for food and space … This month, the pronghorn are going to be getting into rut. There will be a lot of territorial displays.”

The nature walk is free for the center’s members and $5 for nonmembers. Information: 303-693-3621 or plainscenter.org.

Sunday, Sept. 16 

Fishing at the Aurora Reservoir

The staff at the Aurora Reservoir has plenty to brag about when it comes to fish.

The 31,650 acre-foot reservoir on the city’s southeastern fringes hosts an array of species, denizens that include tiger muskie, catfish, smallmouth bass and white suckers. More impressively, fish pulled from the Aurora Reservoir have set several state records for size and weight, and they’ve usually been out and about in the final months of summer.

“Around this time is where we start seeing the bigger fish. Two of our state records were caught at this time of year. It’s when the water temperature starts dipping that the fish come out to play,” said Crystal Yusten, a park ranger and special event coordinator at the reservoir. “As of last week, the perch were really great, and there have been some big walleye caught.”

Fishing enthusiasts of all skill sets can try their luck at spots all over the reservoir, as long as they have a valid license from the state, Yusten said. Walk-in visitors can enter free of charge; the reservoir charges a $10 fee for each vehicle. The reservoir is located at 5800 S. Powhaton Rd. Information: 303-690-1286 or auroragov.org.

Monday, Sept. 17

Walking tours at the Denver
Botanic Gardens, and beyond

The walking tours at the Denver Botanic Gardens go far beyond the park’s 23-acre grounds near Cheeseman Park.

In addition to the guided tours that take visitors through the Gardens’ wide array of plant life and scenic grounds in downtown Denver, the park also organizes expeditions that feature the best in suburban gardening, both traditional and nontraditional.

“We have some that take place on property, we also have one called the Urban Homestead Tour,” said the Botanic Gardens’ spokesman Will Jones. “It’s people who are raising chickens, raising vegetables.”

Whether visitors opts for the tour of the grounds or the view of creative gardeners in the metro area, there’s plenty of end-of-the-summer grandeur and beauty to take in. Information and appointments: 720-865-3500 or botanicgardens.org.

Tuesday, Sept. 18 

Golfing in Aurora

The seven golf courses in the boundaries of Aurora offer plenty of variety for golfers looking to hit the links before the weather turns.

From the traditional, tree-lined landscapes of courses like Meadow Hills and Aurora Hills to the more modern, sparse designs of Murphy Creek and Saddle Rock, the city offers plenty of options and settings for a last round of summer golf.

“When the sun is shining, there is a lot of golf play,” said Doug McNeil, manager of golf for the city. “Until the latter part of October is when the conditions are still good. Every year is a little different, it seems like, but certainly October offers some good weather for golf.”

Of course, McNeil added, there are die-hard golfers who will hit the links as long as the sun is in the sky, but the final weeks of summer and the first weeks of fall offer a final window for the more casual players.

“I would definitely say that your more dedicated players are going to be the ones who play more throughout the winter,” McNeil said. “There’s a certain segment of the golf population that puts down their clubs for the winter.”

Information about the Aurora Hills, Centre Hills, Fitzsimons, Meadow Hills, Murphy Creek, Saddle Rock and Springhill courses: auroragov.org/thingstodo/golf/index.htm

Wednesday, Sept. 19

Hiking the trails around the
Morrison Nature Center

There’s a sort of calm that descends on the trails and trees that surround the Morrison Nature Center in the final weeks of summer.

“The color palette of the trees and grasses gets so much more interesting. The sky seems to get a little bluer. It’s this amazing color palette that seems to change every day,” said Mary Ann Bonnell, senior natural resources specialist for the city. “As far as wildlife is concerned, it’s an interesting time of year. We’ve got fall migration for birds … It’s a great time to be listening and looking up.”

The 200 acres of preserved prairie land and trails at the Morrision Nature Center and the Star K Ranch is an ideal spot to take in the changing season on foot. From the indoor classrooms at the Center at 16002 E. Smith Road to the trails that compose the beginning legs of the the Sand Creek Regional Greenway, the stretch of preserved land on Aurora’s eastern corridor offers an immediate and visceral view of summer’s dog days.

“All year, we’ve seen an increase in nature center visitation … To me, it was a hotter year than we’ve had in a long time, so now is a time we do see more trail use,” Bonnell said. “It’s a better temperature to be out hiking around. It’s super comfortable to be outside.”

Information: 303-739-2428 or nature@auroragov.org

Thursday, Sept. 20

DeVotchKa and the Airborne Toxic Event with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra at Red Rocks

Nothing says summer like a show at Red Rocks, and nothing hints at the onset of fall like the end of outdoor music in Morrison’s signature venue.

Happily for music lovers, Red Rocks is closing its season with a bang, hosting local heroes and international stars during its final weeks of the 2012 season. One of the best choices for a send-off to the venue for the year is the melding of gypsy balladry, indie rock and classical strains that will mark the joint appearance of DeVotchKa, the Airborne Toxic Event and the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. DeVotchKa and the CSO are sure to give it their all for their hometown audience, and guests the Airborne Toxic Event will only add to the spirit of the show. The show kicks off at 7 p.m. at Red Rocks Amphitheater, 18300 West Alameda Parkway in Morrison. Tickets start at $20. Information and tickets: 303-623-7876 or coloradosymphony.org.

Reach reporter Adam Goldstein at agoldstein@aurorasentinel.com or 720-449-9707

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