BackCountry kiddos came dressed as their favorite princess and superhero for an afternoon of fun at the Sundial House.
Home Sweet Wilderness
Elk, deer, coyote, red-tailed hawk, and black bear—these are just a few of the neighbors quietly going about their business in the rugged wilderness adjacent to BackCountry™. For the lucky humans living next door, the 8,200-acre Backcountry Wilderness provides breathtaking views, mind-clearing bike rides, memorable family hikes, and easy access to a year-round roster of nature programs hosted by the Highlands Ranch Community Association.
Each program is thoughtfully designed to connect people to nature, while protecting the space for wildlife, which is “the primary goal,” explains Lindsey McKissick, Backcountry Wilderness Area Representative. Indeed, it’s a rare thing to find such a vast wildlife sanctuary in the middle of suburbia
“I think the greatest gift of living in BackCountry is having all the wonders of nature to explore directly in your backyard—without having to battle traffic on I-70 and the people once you get there,” says Lindsey. A nearby nature refuge can be especially meaningful to children. “We adults may remember playing in the creek in our neighborhood, but today’s kids have such a lack of time in nature,” Lindsey explains. “The Wilderness Area gives them the opportunity to engage their adventuresome spirits, to enjoy ‘free play’ in nature with no plans and no agenda.” They can even hang out with the draft horses, ponies, and chickens at the wilderness “base camp,” where most of the programs take place.
HRCA’s programs are open to the public, but Highlands Ranch residents enjoy discounted prices. The winter schedule is more modest, but on Jan. 21, families can enjoy a mini-campfire hike with a campfire, s’mores, and free play—there’s a giant log fort and sandpit with horseshoes and more—all for just $5. (Think of it as a Saturday morning alternative to the playground.) Also, private hayrides through the wilderness area are available year-round, allowing you to see places the public simply can’t. Some programs take place indoors this time of year, such as archery lessons and a Feb. 4 Pizza with Pokémon event. Held at the Southridge Rec Center, live animals akin to those in the beloved game will come for a fun, educational visit.
Warmer months bring back an abundance of outdoor events. Summer camps are a favorite, offering special focuses on art, adventure, horses, and leadership. Keep your eyes open for more about spring and summer programs in future blogs, but in the meantime, check out the many ways you can experience nature-in-the-suburbs on the HRCA website.
BackCountry’s budding artists shined brightly during the community’s recent Kids-n-Canvas painting event. And what great presents those masterpieces surely made!
The Sundial House turned into the North Pole for the kids of BackCountry. Holiday attire was worn, cookies were eaten, and letters were shared with St. Nick. After making sure everyone was one the “nice” list our residents enjoyed a carriage ride with Bella and Buster around the streets of BackCountry.
Sometimes December feels more like the season to be busy, with the frantic pace of end-of-year work assignments, office parties, shopping, cooking, cleaning for house guests…well, you know the drill. Rather than simply reacting to every demand, consider taking a more proactive stance: What do I want my month to look like? What memories do I want to create? And then plan accordingly. Try subbing a few of these five memorable activities for other less-jolly obligations; there’s even one as close as BackCountry’s own Sundial House.
Here’s to a happy holiday season…on your terms.
9 News Parade of Lights-Dec. 2 at 8pm & Dec. 3 at 6pm
This 42-year-old tradition remains the perfect way to kick off Denver’s holiday season. On a two-mile route in downtown Denver, this parade features marching bands, ornate floats, and, of course, special appearances by Major Waddles the Penguin and Santa. Dress warmly, take a thermos of hot cocoa, and stake out your spot along the route, or grab tickets ASAP for the limited grandstand seating in front of the beautifully lit City and County Building. Learn more.
Hometown Holiday and Tree Lighting-Dec. 2, 4:30pm-7:30pm
If you prefer smaller crowds or just staying closer to home, try on this special Highlands Ranch tradition. Hometown Holiday is an old-fashioned community celebration with caroling, entertainment, food, and a visit from Santa Claus himself. (Naturally, the big guy has a busy schedule these days, so catch him before he leaves at 7:30.) The tree lighting is planned for 5pm. Held at Town Center South. Learn more.
Community Menorah Lighting-Dec. 26, 5:30pm
This year, Chanukah, the eight-day Jewish Festival of Lights, stretches from December 24-January 1. Join your friends and neighbors for the celebratory lighting of the menorah at sunset at the Eastridge Recreation Center. The Menorah will be lit and there will be a special performance by the children of Chabad Hebrew School, latkes and donuts, and Chanukah arts and crafts. It is free and open to the whole family! Learn more.
Denver Zoo Lights-Dec. 2-Jan. 1, 2017, 5:30pm-9pm
Imagine all 70 acres of the Denver Zoo, bright with illuminated animal sculptures that swing through trees, jump across lawns, and hide in bushes. Plus, you’ll enjoy all the holiday carolers, Santa meet-and-greets, and much more at this beloved Denver tradition. Zoo Lights is a memorable way to spend time with family, get a little exercise, and, of course, support the animals. Tip: Go on a “Value Night” for smaller crowds and reduced entry fee. Tickets range from $10-17. Learn more.
Cookies with Santa-Dec. 10, 9am-1:30pm
True, BackCountry™ is a bit of a hike from the North Pole, but the lure of cookies and photo ops with star-struck BackCountry kids brings Santa back year after year. Come enjoy time with your neighbors, wear your favorite ugly sweater or other festive attire, and have your kids bring their wishlists. Residents, RSVP through BackCountryLife.org by Monday, December 5th.
Denver Performing Arts Holiday Events-through December
Make attending at least one festive performance a holiday tradition in your family. The DCPA is offering something for everyone this month, from classics to new favorites in the making. Consider a musical performance of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The soaring majesty of Handel’s Messiah. David Sedaris’s hilariously snarky Santaland Diaries about his stint as a Macy’s elf. Or The Nutcracker, dazzlingly performed by the Colorado Ballet. Ticket prices vary. Learn more.
Residents had a spooktacular time at the BackCountry Haunted House event!
BackCountry’s furry friends dressed up during the Dog Halloween Costume Party at Solstice Park.
Good news! It’s officially October. Complete justification for grabbing a few bags of the Halloween candy that’s been on display since August. And after you’ve acquired your sweet stash—which, no doubt, will go untouched until the 31st—use our suggestions below to plan an entire month of monstrously good fun. Venture to places like the Denver Zoo or stay close to home; BackCountry and the south Metro area offer plenty to enjoy this time of year.
Pumpkin Festival at Chatfield Farms —Oct. 7-9, 9am-5pm
Selecting the perfect future jack-o’-lantern from a 10-acre pumpkin patch is one of many activities to enjoy at the annual Pumpkin Festival at Chatfield Farms. (If you don’t know, Chatfield Farms is the Denver Botanic Gardens’ 75-acre native plant refuge and working farm, not far from BackCountry.) Make a day of it with hay rides, face painting, games, antique tractor exhibits, arts and crafts booths, food, live music, and more. Get lost in the corn maze next door for an extra fee. Complimentary daycare for little pumpkins. Ticket prices range from free (2 and under) to $8. Learn more.
Haunted Forest Backcountry Wilderness Area —Oct. 21, 7:30pm-10:30pm
Behind BackCountry lies 8,200 acres of wilderness—and one unforgettable evening marked by bloodcurdling fun. If you’re feeling brave enough for a bit of a Blair Witch-style experience, visit the Haunted Forest after dark, where anything could be lurking in the shadows. But first, gather your courage with food trucks, an outdoor movie, live animals, and more. Tickets are for specific hour-long time slots and cost $13 per person. Recommended ages 10+; parental discretion advised. Learn more.
BackCountry Haunted House— October 2, 6pm-9pm
Residents: Take the terror indoors at the 2nd Annual BackCountry Haunted House held at the community’s award-winning gathering place, the Sundial House. This year’s theme is “Walking Dead,” so prepare to be scared—and then to recover with games, prizes, and fortune-telling. From 5pm-7pm, the haunted house will accommodate kids ages 3-9, but from 7pm-9pm, it will become an appropriate fright-fest for tweens, teens, and adults. Please bring an unwrapped toy or cash donation for CASA, advocates for children. RSVP at BackCountryLife.org. Learn more.
Boo at the Zoo —Oct. 22-23 and Oct. 29-30, 9am-5pm
For two weekends, the Denver Zoo gets (just a tad) spooky, offering 20 trick-or-treat stations, creepy crawly animal demonstrations, and oodles of family-friendly entertainment. Come in costume and enjoy not only the Halloween festivities, but visits with the zoo’s 4,000+ animals and ogle at the countless towering trees in their finest autumn glory. All activities are included in the price of admission ($12-17; free for ages 2 and under). Learn more.
BackCountry Halloween Hot Spot Houses—Oct. 31, dusk-7:30pm
Another perk of a gated community: worry-free trick-or-treating for your kids. At BackCountry, roving bands of candy-seekers—and givers—relax knowing that only residents are part of the transaction. Beyond that, friendly neighbors provide “hot spots” for trick-or-treaters and their parents to stop and enjoy a hot drink and/or snack, plus a little chit-chat. The HOA is looking for one volunteer on each block to open their garage and provide light refreshments. It’s a sweet way to get to know your neighbors and assess the season’s most popular costumes (will it be Pokémon? Ghostbusters?). If interested in hosting, please contact Christa Dellebovi at email@example.com by Friday, October 21st.
Residents enjoyed the last concert of the season featuring Blues performed by Biff Gore & Friends at the amphitheater in BackCountry.
BackCountry™ has a reputation for attracting active people. Panoramic mountain views, 467 acres of natural open space, and the 8,200-acre adjacent wilderness area have a way of tempting residents out on the trails to hike, bike, and revel in the serenity and fresh air.
However, life does have a way of throwing curveballs with illness, injury, or simply the effects of aging, which can sideline us from the activities we love—and that keep us healthy. At BackCountry, though, residents have an extremely helpful ally in The Fitness Lab, about five minutes away near the intersection of Wildcat Reserve Parkway and McArthur Ranch Road.
The Fitness Lab is a medical exercise training facility that helps people manage their health through movement. Some of the challenges clients face include arthritis, joint replacement, diabetes, hypertension, cancer, multiple sclerosis, stroke, and injury from accidents. The Fitness Lab bridges the gap between healthcare and fitness by designing effective exercise programs to help manage such conditions. (Often, because of insurance limitations, people can’t achieve relief from their regular medical professionals before their benefits end.)
The Fitness Lab’s Movement Coaches work with clients to regain muscular balance, increase endurance, improve flexibility, and restore the function and vitality needed for good quality of life.
Three kinds of assistance are available at The Fitness Lab.
Medical Exercise Training establishes an exercise program for clients with chronic conditions. Here, the goal is to support the management of their diagnosis and to improve or maintain the gains already made through medical care, physical therapy, or chiropractic rehabilitation.
Active Life Training focuses on training clients for a life of activity free from injury, pain, and movement restrictions. Corrective exercise and functional strength training address postural problems and muscular imbalances that produce pain and dysfunction.
Fitness Training, conducted by certified personal trainers, is available to identify and meet fitness goals either individually or in a group.
“There is always a solution in movement,” says Trevor Wicken, one of the business’s two Movement Coaches. “It is not okay that so many individuals believe they have to accept their medical condition, surrender to chronic pain, and settle for a life without the freedom to choose how to live.” Wicken has been a Medical Exercise Practitioner for the past 15 years and
is an AAHFRP Medical Exercise Specialist; NASM Corrective, Performance, and Elite Personal Trainer; Neurokinetic Therapist; and TRX Sports Medicine Practitioner. He has worked with Division I athletes, some of whom have been professionally drafted Olympic medalists while they were in training, and current and retired professional athletes.
Partner and fellow Movement Coach Matt Oster has been working in the health and fitness industry for more than six years. At the University of Colorado, Boulder, Matt studied psychology and slowly returned to sports after a debilitating football injury at the age of 14. His successful rehabilitation experience led him to earn a master’s degree in exercise science with a concentration in injury rehabilitation and performance enhancement.
Developing the right program for each client begins with a medical exercise assessment in which neurological, musculoskeletal, and functional movement is carefully evaluated. Hopefully, it’s just the first step to getting people stepping (or cycling) back on those BackCountry trails in no time.