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BackCountry - Wild at Heart

BackCountry, then and now.

by | April 14th, 2015

Hard to believe, but it’s already been eight years since BackCountry’s grand opening. Back in 2007, Shea’s master plan was inspired by the magnificent views and commitment to conservation of the adjacent wilderness area. The concept was to build a community that preserved thousands of acres of natural beauty, encouraged an active lifestyle, and nurtured a deep sense of community. As residents eagerly tell anyone who will listen, mission accomplished.

Enjoy these photos, which show how our community has grown over the years and promise a natural beauty that only increases over time.

Sundial House

Sundial House Bird's-eye view

Sundial House Progress


Images of the Sundial House, built in 2009. From an idea taking shape out of bare dirt to an elegant and award-winning heart of the community.

Flying kites in Reflection Park

Fun in the pool

Easter Egg Hunt 2015

A few intrepid kite flyers in Spring 2009. The Kite Festival was the predecessor to BackCountry’s highly attended events of today: pool parties, movie nights, concerts, egg hunts and so much more.

Reflection park early days

Reflection Park 2015

Reflection Park, opened in 2008. These pint-sized trees have grown into shade-giving beauties. (Come on summer!)

Discovery Park BackCountry

BackCountry Discovery Park

Discovery Park has come a long way since 2009, and it’s a beautiful barometer of the changing seasons.

BackCountry Spirit Trail home

Somerset model home BackCountry

A model home from the early Spirit Trail Collection. Good design is timeless, but compare with today’s Somerset model, sporting a cooler palette and cleaner lines.

Beautiful BackCountry Open Space

BackCountry Open Space overlook

View of the 8,200-acre Backcountry Wilderness Area just behind us. Hasn’t changed a bit. And best of all, it never will.

Where the wild things are. Locally, anyway.

by | April 8th, 2015

The obvious answer is, of course, the Denver Zoo. Or the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, both especially handy for BackCountry residents. Even if you consider yourself an ardent animal lover, you may not be aware that Colorado is home to several wildlife sanctuaries. These home-away-from-home facilities do an outstanding job of taking in wildlife in need of care. And good news for humans: visitors are welcome too.

The Wild Animal Sanctuary

Located outside of Keenesburg, 30 miles northeast of Denver, The Wild Animal Sanctuary is a haven on 720 acres of rural, rolling grasslands. Established in 1980, it’s the largest sanctuary of its kind and one of the oldest in the United States. Who lives there? More than 350 animals, including tigers, African lions, black bears, grizzly bears, mountain lions, leopards, wolves, servals, bobcats, foxes, lynx, coyote, coati mundi, raccoon, porcupine, ostrich, emu, camel, alpaca, horses, and rescued dogs and cats.
 And why? Most were exotic “pets” confiscated for being kept in illegal or abusive situations. Others were surplus animals from zoos and other wildlife facilities, where they faced euthanasia. The animals enjoy life grouped with their own kind in large, open fields, underground dens, and inside/outside enclosures depending on species. Each day, the facility welcomes between 600 and 1,200 visitors. Elevated catwalks and observational platforms give a good view of the grounds and include coin-operated binoculars. Stop by the 1,200 sq. ft. education center, too.


Colorado Wolf & Wildlife Center

Out of approximately 250,000 wolf-dogs born in the US each year, 80% will likely die before they reach their third birthday. When these adorable pups grow into semi-wild adults, they’re often surrendered to a shelter, where they are typically euthanized within 24-72 hours. The Colorado Wolf & Wildlife Center helps save these animals. The center is on a 35-acre property in Divide, populated by arctic, timber, and Mexican Grey wolves, along with coyotes and red and swift foxes. Take a one-hour standard tour and learn about hunting, howling, hierarchy, and even communicate with the pack in a group howl. Check out the monthly Full Moon Tour and Full Moon Feeding Fests, too.

Photo courtesy of The Wolf and Wildlife Sanctuary Facebook

Photo courtesy of The Wolf and Wildlife Sanctuary Facebook

Serenity Springs Wildlife Center

Big cats feel right at home at Serenity Springs in Calhan (22 miles east of Colorado Springs). This safe place specializes in caring for more than 120 felines, such as lions, tigers, leopards, bobcats, cougars, and other exotic animals that have been in a situation where their well-being or life was in jeopardy. Serenity Springs also provides educational outreach. Guided tours are available on Saturdays and Sundays.

Photo courtesy of the Serenity Springs Wildlife Center Facebook page

Photo courtesy of the Serenity Springs Wildlife Center Facebook page

Mission: Wolf 

Mission: Wolf is an intentionally remote sanctuary in Westcliffe (southwest of Pueblo) geared to captive wolves and wolf-dog mixes. All residents were born in a cage—part of the more than 250,000 wolves currently living in captivity. (For perspective, fewer than 10,000 wolves still live in the wild.) This fact inspires the organization to tour the country with “ambassador wolves” to educate people not to put wolves in cages or keep wild animals as pets. Mission: Wolf has more than 200 acres of land: 150 are in conservation and provide a buffer zone, 50 acres are fenced for wolves. Everyone over the age of six is welcome. Tours are free. Their nature center and tent campsite is free of charge.

Photo courtesy of the Mission: Wolf Facebook page

Photo courtesy of the Mission: Wolf Facebook page

Rocky Mountain Wildlife Federation

Wolves and wolf-dog hybrids have a happy home at Rocky Mountain Wildlife Federation just outside of Guffy, on 35+ acres complete with sweet views of Pikes Peak, the San Juan Range, and the Collegiate Peaks. RMWF provides sanctuary, rehabilitation, and environmentally-natural housing for captive-born wolves and wolf-dogs who have suffered from injuries, neglect, or abuse, and cannot be released back into the wild. Tours at this sanctuary are free and impressively interactive, including visits with the animals inside their cages.

Photo courtesy of the Rocky Mountain Wildlife Federation Facebook page

Photo courtesy of the Rocky Mountain Wildlife Federation Facebook page

Colorado Rites of Spring

by | April 3rd, 2015

Buttery daffodils and greened-up lawns. Kids with their Easter baskets and, sometimes, snow boots. Elves and fairy-winged folk roaming the streets of Boulder. Yes, these are a few of the much-loved rites of spring in our part of the world. Here’s a selection of some activities to celebrate the end of winter and the beginning of something magical: springtime in Colorado.

HRCA Easter Egg Hunt
Easter Egg Hunt
– Apr. 4, 10am sharp!
The Easter Bunny is on his way to Highlands Ranch! So grab your favorite egg-hunters (ages 1-11) and head over to Northridge Park behind the Northridge Recreation Center. Be sure to bring your basket to collect all the goodies, and a camera, too, since the Easter Bunny himself will make a special appearance. Come early—parking is limited and the hunt will begin at 10am sharp—rain, snow or shine. Free. Learn more.

Author Talk: Rocky Mountain National Park: The First 100 Years
– April 20, 7-8:30pm
If you’re itching for that first warm-weather trip up the hill, celebrate the centennial of Colorado’s premier national park at a talk by Mary Taylor Young, the naturalist and award-winning author of Rocky Mountain National Park: The First 100 Years. Witness the rise, fall, and rise of mountains. Meet ancient people, explorers lured by the mountains’ call, and engineers who sculpted Trail Ridge Road. Discover how a changing climate may greatly alter the park in its next 100 years. Southridge Recreation Center. Learn more.

Denver Botanic Gardens
Denver Botanic Gardens Free Day
– Apr. 22, 9am-5pm
Enjoy Earth Day by wandering through one of Denver’s most beautiful settings. Stop by the Botanic Gardens at York Street for free eye candy and to get ideas for your own spring garden. This time of year is likely to showcase nature’s more delicate masterpieces, such as columbines, bellflowers, lily of the valley, irises, honeysuckle, and crabapples. But if you’d like to know for sure what’s currently in bloom, check out their Gardens Navigator hereLearn more.

Boulder Tulip Fairy Parade
Tulip Fairy and Elf Festival
– Apr. 26, 1-5pm
Think of it as a springtime Halloween, featuring a beautifully costumed Tulip Fairy who leads hundreds of pint-sized fairies and elves around Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall as they “welcome the tulips.” A celebration of the 15,000 tulips that adorn the Pearl Street Mall, the Tulip Fairy and Elf Festival is a favorite springtime tradition that includes live stage performances, face painting, and free activities for children. Learn more.

BackCountry’s Annual Easter Egg Hunt at Solstice Park

by | April 2nd, 2015

BackCountry’s little chicks and bunnies gathered for the annual Easter Egg Hunt at Solstice Park.

Take a peek inside the Shea Design Studio

by | March 23rd, 2015

When it comes to making a house feel like a home, it’s all in the details. The little touches that express your unique individuality can make two homes with the same floor plan feel wonderfully, beautifully different.

In Shea communities, you can enjoy a dinner party at any neighbor’s home without that awkward sense of déjà vu, thanks partly to the unusually large amount of choices available in the Design Studio. Located in Highlands Ranch (and with a smaller studio in Erie), the Shea Design Studio is where buyers meet with designers to create their home’s unique style.

Shea’s studio is more comprehensive than many other builders’, notes Senior Interior Designer Melanie Best. For instance, other builders might offer just one national brand of tile, granite, and natural stone. But Shea offers selections from Dal, Arizona, Emzer, Capco, and Glenrock.

A sample of many available choices at the Shea Design Studio

A sample of many available choices at the Shea Design Studio

“We like to give our clients lots of choices,” Melanie says. And that’s what she and Shea’s other six highly experienced and educated designers love about their work. “With so many kinds of materials, we can get very creative.”

Which leads to this question: Can the design process feel a little overwhelming? “Even if it doesn’t start out fun, it ends up fun,” Melanie laughs. “We really try to minimize that overwhelmed feeling. We all have design backgrounds, so people don’t have to go through every single tile—unless they want to. Once we nail down the buyer’s style, we can just bring out things we think they will like.”

Figuring out your style is just part of the process, which breaks down like this:

Preview Meeting
Before you sign a contract, you can catch a one-hour group meeting at the Design Studio to see what selections come standard and what upgrades you might decide to include. A designer will answer questions and give you a tour of each section of the studio, including four completely decorated kitchens; tile and carpet; wood for flooring and trim; natural stone; cabinetry; and a granite room.

First Meeting
This two-hour meeting will be one-on-one with your designer. First up: getting clear on your tastes. Through a series of questions and looking at samples together, you’ll clarify your style. (Feel free to bring ideas, though. See the tips below.) You’ll start with cabinetry to set the tone of the house, then move onto kitchen and floor choices. A spreadsheet of your picks will help you keep track of your budget.

Second Meeting
At this two-hour meeting with your designer, you’ll move on to choices for your master bathroom, laundry room, and secondary bathrooms. Samples are portable, so each time you meet, you’ll see all your choices assembled on one of the kitchen islands like an inspiration board. This way, you can make sure you’re still loving everything you’ve chosen and see how it’s working together.

An interior designer and a new homeowner choose samples

An interior designer and a new homeowner choose samples

Subsequent Meetings
While some owners will complete the process in one or two sessions, others may take five to seven. No pressure—the pace is really up to you.

Once you’re comfortable with the plan, you’ll sign off on final selections. But do consider the Design Studio as a lasting resource. Long after closing, many homeowners email the staff for design insights—which Shea designers don’t mind at all—and provide feedback about how much they love their new homes.

“When it’s a year later and we hear how happy people are in their home, with the design and function of it, that’s a great feeling,” says Melanie. “It’s where you come home every day, so it’s important to have everything just the way you like it.”

Melanie’s tips for prospective buyers:
While Shea’s staff of designers is experienced enough to sleuth out anyone’s style, you can speed up the process by doing a little homework before your first Design Studio appointment. Spend some time on design websites like where, perusing their 5+ million photos, you can create idea folders of your own. Buy some home decorating magazines and dog-ear your favorite photos of kitchens and master baths. Just defining those two areas can help drive the design of the entire house. And finally, watch some HGTV. Melanie says just spending an hour a day thinking about design can make a huge difference in choosing something you’ll love for the long run.

A professionally designed kitchen showcases many available options

A professionally designed kitchen showcases many available options

Save the date—July 19th—for the Shea Design Studio annual fundraiser for the Inner Circle Foundation, which supports those diagnosed with rare-aggressive cancers and their caregivers. This silent auction offers hourly giveaways and the chance to take home items like tile, area rugs, signed footballs, spa gift certificates, and more.

BackCountry’s Luck of the Irish Event

by | March 20th, 2015

The Luck of the Irish rubbed off onto the children of BackCountry during the Kids St. Patrick’s Day Event.

On everyone’s honor roll: ThunderRidge High School

by | March 16th, 2015

Ask your Realtor, your neighbors, your hairdresser about ThunderRidge High School and more than likely, you’ll get a very enthusiastic thumbs up. But the stellar reputation of BackCountry’s nearest high school actually extends to the national scene. The school appears regularly on the Newsweek annual list of America’s Best High Schools, and in The Washington Post’s list of the Most Challenging High Schools in America. That storied track record adds to the list of smart reasons to live in BackCountry—whether for your own children or the lasting value associated with top-rate neighborhood schools.

Just a six-minute drive away, ThunderRidge High School serves 9th-12th grades. And serves them well, maintaining a 94% graduation rate and a 91% pass rate for International Baccalaureate exams. Yes, besides offering a robust education to the general student, including plenty of Advanced Placement classes, the school also offers the rigorous IB program. Like AP classwork, IB classwork can earn your student hours of college credit, along with solid college prep and a larger worldview of education.

Photo courtesy of ThunderRidge High School Facebook page

Photo courtesy of ThunderRidge High School Facebook page

Need even more convincing? ACT scores average 23.0, while Douglas County earns 21.8 and the US averages 20.7. In 2011, 30 ThunderRidge kids earned perfect ACT scores!

It’s kind of a chicken-or-the-egg relationship, but, not surprisingly, this kind of school retains top teachers. About 70% have earned their master’s or doctorate degree, and 83% of them step outside the classroom to help with extracurricular and leadership activities. For example, librarian Paula Busey brought a Maasai warrior she met on safari in Tanzania to ThunderRidge to broaden the minds of her students. Read about it in this National Geographic article.

As Busey demonstrated to her students, there’s more to life than studying and Snapchat. At ThunderRidge, students get involved. Last year, 386 students devoted more than 20,000 hours to community service. And then there are the 45 clubs and activities and 29 athletic pursuits to choose from. The arts makes a strong showing too, with theater, band, orchestra, fine art (that seems to win lots of awards), and more.

Image courtesy of ThunderRidge High School Facebook page

Beyond the physical beauty of BackCountry, isn’t it a comfort to know that our nearest schools are good ones, meaning your kids can grow up with their neighborhood pals from preschool through senior year?

Curious about the elementary and middle schools? Read past blogs posts about them here and here.

Seven years. No itch.

by | March 9th, 2015

It’s been seven years since Roxie Mountain-Weed and Rick Weed moved into what was then a brand new community named BackCountry. And back then, in the days before the Sundial House, Discovery Center, or even a single model home, when all there was to see was a trailer and some drawings, this was a leap of faith.

But when they saw the views of the Front Range and downtown Denver and understood the vision for the community, they both instantly agreed: “This is it,” Roxie recalls saying. “It was kind of wild. But because of Rick’s work in land development, we knew Shea’s reputation. We wanted a Shea home, and we loved all the open space that was going to be attached to the community.”

new homes oudoor space colorado

Over the years, Rick, Roxie, and their three children (now in college) have logged quite a few miles on those trails in the 8,200-acre Backcountry Wilderness Area. Still do. One of Roxie’s favorite activities is taking a walk at sunset with her walking stick, “Moab,” and watching the deer and other wildlife come out. Other tried-and-true favorites include concerts and movie nights.

“There’s something wonderful about lying on the grass, under the stars, and watching a fun movie with all the little kids running around. And now you can run into Indulge [at the Sundial House] and grab something to drink. It’s just so cool here. Sometimes I just think…‘pinch me’!”

Seven years later, Roxie still speaks enthusiastically about their decision, noting how well the community has evolved. “We’ve lived here long enough to know that Shea keeps its promises and does everything well. The Sundial House turned out so beautiful and high-end, so far beyond our expectations. And I can’t say enough about the landscaping.” Their home still makes them happy, too. It feels a little big with the kids gone, but Roxie says she can’t see herself moving. “Actually, I should probably get out more, but I just love to be home!” The indoor-outdoor living features are among her favorites, with a wrap-around deck that can handle a party of 50, plus French doors off the morning room that create a huge extension of the house. Perfect for the Colorado lifestyle.

So, no, they don’t plan on leaving BackCountry any time soon. “I am so happy that I live here,” says Roxie. “Even after all this time, I still feel like I’m on vacation. It’s like I have a mountain home, but in the city. I just can’t imagine being anywhere else.”

Here’s a video of Roxie and Rick sharing their thoughts on BackCountry back in 2012.

Foodies, this month’s for you.

by | March 5th, 2015

If there’s one thing everyone can rally around, it’s a good meal. Sure, preferences will vary, but that’s the beauty of this month’s bounty of culinary events, ranging from swanky Broadmoor cuisine to St. Patty’s Day comfort food. Bon appétit, BackCountry!

Broadmoor Taste & Savor
-March 5-8
What better place to sample ambrosial delights than The Broadmoor, Colorado Springs’ iconic, five-star resort, framed by the majestic Rockies? At this inaugural Taste & Savor epicurean weekend, you’ll rub elbows with acclaimed chefs and beverage experts from around the country, savor gourmet dishes, world-class wine and craft cocktails, and attend seminars and panel discussions. Two- and three-night packages include events, a gala, and brunch starting at $750 per person. Learn more.

Cooking Class with Chef Leah
-March 10, 6-8pm
Not long ago, local Philippines-born Chef Leah Eveleigh sliced and diced the competition on Food Network’s Cutthroat Kitchen. Now this winning chef will be on your team, teaching you to make this Taste of Asia menu: miso soup, shrimp and vegetable tempura, Vietnamese fresh spring rolls, and sticky rice with mango. Best of all, you’ll sit down together and enjoy the delicious fruits of your labors. Feel free to bring your own bottle of wine. $50 per person at the BackCountry Sundial House, 6 – 8pm, Residents only; minimum of 12, maximum of 16. RSVP by March 9 through ActiveNet or at the Sundial House.

Adult St. Patrick’s Day Event
-March 13, 7-10pm
Lucky you, there’s a fun St. Patty’s Day party right in your neighborhood at the Sundial House. Join the gang for Irish-inspired food, drink, and toe-tapping music from Ruby Rakes. Don’t forget to wear green for a session in the photobooth! Menu includes mixed field greens with fresh vegetables and balsamic vinaigrette; chicken breast in Jameson Irish whisky cream sauce; colcannon potatoes; Irish heritage cabbage with Irish bacon, nutmeg, and red wine vinegar; and dinner rolls. $15 per person before March 1. After March 1, $17. RSVP through ActiveNet or at the Sundial House.

St. Patrick’s Day Parade
-Mar. 14, 9:30am
This year’s theme, “Emerald Mile,” captures the close ties Colorado maintains with its Irish heritage. After all, Denver’s parade is the largest this side of the Mississippi, attracting more than 350,000 cheering wearers o’ the green. Enjoy the floats, bagpipers, marching bands, dancers, horses and stagecoaches, and more Irish-themed fun with Western flair. Learn more.

Annual Easter Egg Hunt
-March 28, 10am
Sweet surprises lay hidden for this year’s roving band of Easter egg gatherers, but no hunting is required for the doughnuts and other refreshments kindly provided by Royal Crest Dairy. Beyond enjoying all the tasty treats, children can hobnob with the Easter Bunny and Little Bo Peep, and ooh and ahh over a petting zoo full of furry animals such as rabbits, chickens, sheep, goats, donkeys, and a miniature horse. To keep things fun and fair, The Easter Egg Hunt will be broken into three age groups: 3 and under, 4-6, and 7 and up. Children MUST bring their own baskets to collect eggs. RSVP through ActiveNet no later than March 21.

The Quintessential Coloradan’s Bucket List

by | February 23rd, 2015

Our thriving economy is one logical explanation of why people keep moving to Colorado. But really, how many people do we know who came here on vacation… to college… to visit friends and family… and got hopelessly hooked on the state? It’s the natural beauty—and the endlessly fun, associated activities—that just keeps ‘em coming, year after year.

So as a welcome to all the newbies and a refresher course for you natives and long-timers, here’s a selection of “must-do” Colorado activities that capture the flavor of our state across the seasons. If you’ve already checked these ideas off your list, explore a more fine-grained rundown of ideas published in last month’s article in 5280 magazine. And be sure to share your bucket list with us on our Facebook page.

Ski at Telluride

Ranked the best overall ski resort in the US by, Telluride Ski Resort Colorado Telluride offers stellar skiing and snowboarding far from the maddening weekend pilgrimage on I-70. That’s the beauty and curse of Telluride, of course, as its southwest Colorado location makes it a bit of a hike from metro Denver. But the rewards, beyond the powder, are a unique town with an extra-laidback vibe, colorful mining history, and its awe-inspiring canyon setting with steep mountain vistas. Learn more.

Bike on Independence Pass
Jaw-dropping gorgeous and a wee bit harrowing, thanks to narrow lanes, hairpin turns and dramatic drop-offs, traversing Independence Pass is truly a Colorado rite of passage. Driving the road is a badge of honor all by itself, but biking can take your Colorado cred to a whole new level. Start at Aspen and end at Twin Lakes, and in between, log 37.6 miles and gain 4,187 feet—while taking in magnificent, jagged vistas thick with aspen and evergreen. Open only from Memorial Day to Labor Day, due to high altitude and winter road conditions. Check for road closures here.

Soak at Strawberry Springs

This destination is the perfect complement to your ski trip or summer vacation in Steamboat Springs, another must-see destination. Just outside of town, these hot springs clock in at about 104 degrees—a perfect contrast with the literally adjacent, frigid river. (One favorite diversion is to dip, courageously, from one to the other.) These mineral pools are of the more naturalistic type, with rocky, tree-filled surroundings, but there are private massage huts if you want to glam up the experience. Be warned: come evening, clothing is optional. Learn more.

Ogle at Bridal Veil Falls
Let’s say you went skiing at Telluride and fell in love with that charming town. Be sure to go back in summer and explore its many warm-weather pleasures, including Bridal Veil Falls. With a 365-foot drop, these are the tallest free-falling falls in Colorado. It’s a 4.2 mile trek to the top of the falls with a gain of 1,650 feet, so let that inform your decision whether to hike, bike, or four-wheel drive up the road. Learn more.

Quiver on the Manitou Incline

Rare is the hiker whose thighs will not jellify on this incline, the former site of a cable car ride. After a rockslide in 1990, the Manitou Incline was closed and locals started (illegally) hiking up the remaining ties for a lung-searing workout. The incline was officially opened to the public in 2013 and is a popular, challenging hike of 2,741 steps—a one-mile ascent with an elevation gain of 2,000 feet. Good luck! Learn more.

Learn at Mesa Verde
While Mesa Verde National Park is open to cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, warmer months are a better bet for fully enjoying this national treasure. This park was once the home of ancestral Pueblo people from 600-1300 A.D. who lived both on the mesa tops and in dwellings carved into the rock below. These cliff dwellings are some of the country’s best-preserved. While you’re there, you can explore a variety of cliff dwellings and learn about the Puebloans’ way of life from well-informed park rangers. Nearby camping is also available. Learn more.

Time Travel on the Georgetown Loop

This one’s an idyllic way to spend an afternoon with everyone from kids to grandparents. Nose around Georgetown, with its charming historic buildings, and then hop a classic train on the Georgetown Loop Railroad, built in 1884. This three-mile, 1-1/2 hour loop takes you through the mountainous terrain between Georgetown and Silver Plume, another quaint mining town. Options include mine tours, dinner, wine and hors d’oeuvres, and “ales on rails.” Learn more.

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