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BackCountry - Wild at Heart

Fun. It’s not just for kids anymore.

by | July 22nd, 2015

With all the pools, parks, and highly ranked schools, Highlands Ranch and kids go hand-in-hand. But uniquely, BackCountry reaches out to its adult residents as much as it does to its children, addressing sophisticated interests in ways uncommon in the suburbs. At BackCountry, grownups enjoy the best of both worlds: an engaging, adult lifestyle within a relaxed, suburban setting.


Beyond the trails that beckon bikers and hikers of all ages, the Sundial House itself is an adult magnet. There’s the pool, of course, with lap lanes and lounge chairs. But inside, you’ll also find folks doing yoga and cardio or de-stressing with a facial or massage. Meeting new friends at a book club or empty nester potluck, or picking up goodies for an outdoor movie in the Amphitheatre or a time-saving and tasty “drive-by dinner.”

One of the favorite ways that adults unwind and socialize is at Indulge at Pike’s Pub. Located within the Sundial House, this weekend gathering place buzzes with residents enjoying wine, tapas, and flatbreads, made famous by the original Indulge Wine Bar. Live music adds fun to the vibe twice every month. Stand-up comedy takes the stage sometimes, too.

At BackCountry’s regular wine tasting events, residents explore themes such as Mediterranean terroir, the focus of this event.

BackCountryCO wine tasting

BackCountryCO wine tasting night

About once a quarter, residents gather for a cooking class at the Sundial House kitchen. At this one, Leah Eveleigh, Winner of Food Network’s Cutthroat Kitchen, helped residents concoct a yummy Pacific Island menu. Read more about Leah here.

Chef Leah Eveleigh

Cooking class in BackCountryCO in action

Having an award-winning community center like the Sundial House is only half the story. Compelling activities like these hum along thanks to an active HOA and resident advisors who make sure the good times keep rolling—for every age group.

Bike trails and clinics and snow cones, oh yes.

by | July 15th, 2015

With three separate trail systems winding through the breathtaking open space behind the Sundial House, it’s no surprise that BackCountry is a biker’s dream come true. Or that BackCountry has planned its first bike clinic.

Scheduled for 9am-noon on Saturday, August 8, the BackCountry Bike Clinic will be led by five-time World and 10-time National Xterra Off-Road Champion Cindi Toepel, of Energy Xperience. But don’t let her prowess intimidate you. This clinic is geared toward beginner and intermediate riders who will learn how to properly stay upright, handle corners with ease, negotiate small obstacles, and minimize the boo-boos. Instruction will be followed by a trail ride. While all levels are welcome, advanced riders may prefer to contact Cindi directly for advanced instruction outside of the event.


Kids (stable riders ages 7-11) will have their own clinic from 9:15am-10:15am, while adults (ages 12 and up) will meet from 10:30am-11:45am. Both clinics will take place on the BackCountry trails just behind the Sundial House.  A local bike shop will offer bike safety checks and a Highlands Ranch Park Ranger will talk about BackCountry wildlife you might encounter. Music, snacks, and drinks—including beer—will be available after the adult clinic.

This inaugural event is hosted by residents Craig Wilmes and Marni Hall, realtors at Realty One Group Premier. As an avid biker, Craig hopes the event will tempt even more people out on the trails. Craig hits the trails three to four times a week, meeting up with 8-10 neighbors on Saturday mornings. One set of trails is private to BackCountry residents, consisting of two big loops with two smaller inner loops. Craig says, “These trails are fairly tame, well maintained, and I like them because I can basically figure eight the loops however I like.”

These trails connect to the Douglas County East-West Regional Trail system and the Highlands Ranch private trails. “Both systems are very well maintained and offer various degrees of difficulty from ‘not-too-bad’ to ‘that-was-really-hard,’” says Craig. “Make sure to carry your Highlands Ranch ID card with you as I’ve actually been stopped twice by Park Rangers to make sure I was a resident.” (Which means that your lovely backyard wilderness area will never feel overrun with cyclists from all over the metro area.) On the trails, you might see prairie dogs, owls, coyotes, turkey, deer, and the occasional eagle.

BackCountry Family biking

Although Craig and his family have lived in BackCountry since 2011, he only ventured out onto the trails two years ago. After just one ride, he was hooked. “I love the BackCountry trails,” he said. “And the community too, the look of it and all the events.” And now he’s kicking off an event that he hopes turns into a regular one. To his fellow residents, he says, “Don’t wait like I did to jump on your bike and give it a try. If you’re ever interested in going out with other riders, meet our group at the corner of Tiger Lily and Meadowleaf Lane around 8am on most Saturdays throughout the summer.”

Please note that the clinic is a free event, but you must register and sign a waiver at by Wednesday, August 5. The event is open only to BackCountry residents and their guests. You must provide your own mountain bike, helmet, and water. For questions, please contact John Lyon at the Sundial House at 303-346-2800 or Craig Wilmes at 303-810-7299.

Big ideas meet big fun. The Biennial of the Americas returns.

by | July 7th, 2015

Back when our governor was the mayor of Denver, John Hickenlooper envisioned an event that would celebrate the ideas, art, and culture of North, Central, and South America—putting Denver at the hub of a globally influential discussion. His plan appears to be working. Launched in 2010, the Biennial of the Americas keeps getting bigger, better and, happily, more inclusive of metro residents. So, BackCountry residents, think about how you might want to participate in this history-making event.

Opening week of this year’s Biennial is scheduled for July 14-19, and features talks by international innovators, experts, and artists; local art exhibitions; public parties; performances; and cultural events. Many art exhibitions, installations, and cultural programs will continue through August 30.

Image courtesy of Biennial of the Americas Facebook page

Image courtesy of Biennial of the Americas Facebook page

This year’s theme is Now!, a “dive into our present circumstances, seeking to understand the contexts, conditions, and challenges that exist across the western hemisphere today.” During three nights of symposium discussions, speakers and panel moderators will include (among others) former Chilean President Ricardo Lagos and former Colombian President César Gaviria, media mogul Tina Brown, Nature Conservancy president Mark Tercek, and Univision’s León Krauze. Discussions will range from strategic investing and evolving technology to the long-term community effects of legalized cannabis. Get your tickets here.

Photo courtesy of Biennial of the Americas Facebook page

Photo courtesy of Biennial of the Americas Facebook page

If a symposium isn’t your thing, you’ll find many other ways to enjoy this multicultural extravaganza:

For more details on the many events planned, please visit the official Biennial website.

July events: Pick a festival, any festival

by | July 3rd, 2015

With reliably warm weather, July is the quintessential festival month here in Colorado. Which ties in nicely with the celebratory mood the Fourth puts us all in. While you’ll find wonderful festivals to explore all over the state, there’s no need to travel given this perfect lineup of events in our own backyard.

Cherry Creek Arts Festival-July 3-5
It’s hard to imagine Denver without it, but it was 25 years ago that the Cherry Creek Arts Festival made its grand debut. (Today it’s ranked #1 among the nation’s art festivals, drawing in 350,000+ visitors each year.) This year celebrates that anniversary with an opening gala, daily anniversary cake, and surprise performances, along with the regular joys of purchasing and admiring the work of acclaimed artists, boogying to live music, eating delicious food, and trying your own hand at a community mural.  Held in Denver’s Cherry Creek North Shopping District. Admission is free. Learn more.

Cherry Creek Arts Festival

Colorado Black Arts Festival-July 10-12
Immerse yourself in three days of art and culture presented by the creative talents of local, regional, and national African-Americans. With a theme of Rock Steady, this 29th annual festival invites you to enjoy two stages of jazz, blues, reggae, gospel, traditional African drum, and dance performances; watch the family-favorite Boogaloo Celebration Parade; stroll the Watu Sokoni (People’s Marketplace); go on a cultural scavenger hunt; and “rock steady” in the streets, dancing to the music of one of Denver’s hottest DJs. Held in historic City Park. Free. Learn more.

Colorado Black Arts Festival

Patriotic BBQ & Country Music Concert-July 11, 5:30pm-8:30pm
Pumpkin seed spittin’ and lasso jumpin’ are just a few of the antics planned for this favorite event at the BackCountry Amphitheatre. Headlining the evening is Chris Daniels & The Kings, one of Colorado’s hottest country rock bands. Buffalo Bill, a uniquely talented cowboy, will preside over the spitting and lassoing contests while teaching rope tricks, too, and a “branding station” will affix some glittery tattoos. BBQ is available: adults $13, kids $6 each. Please order meals online through ActiveNet or at the Sundial House by July 6.  If you plan on attending but not ordering a meal, please RSVP at

4th of July at BackCountry

Colorado Dragon Boat Festival-July 18-19
Here’s a feast for the senses! Held at Sloan’s Lake Park each year, this Asian festival features dragon boat races between 53 teams. (A 2,000-year-old tradition, dragon boating is a sport that happens all over the world now.) Five stages offer 100+ music and dance performances honoring various cultures and, of course, authentic Asian food vendors, including one who won an Iron Chef Competition on the reality show Cutthroat Kitchen and two more currently showcased on the Food Network. Learn more.

Colorado Dragon Boat Festival

Mom, I’m bored. (Said no BackCountry kid ever.)

by | June 23rd, 2015

Okay so that’s wishful thinking, but it’s no exaggeration that BackCountry is an incredible place to be a kid. You see it in the way children ride their bikes freely and play in happy little packs, roaming from yard to yard and house to house. (Gated communities where people know each other promote that kind of easygoing vibe.) And naturally, the Sundial pool and abundant parks and open spaces are huge kid magnets in the summer. But BackCountry’s child-friendly planned events also play a critical role in keeping the young’uns busy, physically active, and connected with each other year-round.

BackCountry boasts an exceptionally active HOA, guided by full-time Lifestyle Director Britany Chambers and a committee of residents. Together, they plan special events that target the interests of all kinds of residents, including the young ones. Case in point, this kids-only science event featuring exotic animals and cool experiments that use everyday items.

backcountry science snake

backcountry science experiment

Or annual Easter Egg hunts with a special appearance by a very popular, cotton-tailed guest.

BackCountry Easter Bunny

BackCountry Easter egg hunt

Or an afternoon of star-struck hobnobbing with Rapunzel and Spiderman at a Superhero and Princess Party.

BackCountry Superhero and Princess party

BackCountry Rapunzel and Spiderman

So what’s on tap for kids this summer? Below, you can read about a couple of annual favorites followed by a complete summer calendar of activities planned with BackCountry’s youngest residents in mind. Get ready. It’s going to be a fun-filled summer for children at Backcountry.

Saturday, July 11, 5:30pm-8:30pm
This is high-quality family time, listening to live music, dancing and sharing good food in the BackCountry Amphitheatre with the gorgeous foothills as your backdrop. Performances include Chris Daniels & The Kings, one of the hottest country rock bands to hit the Colorado scene in years, and a real cowboy uniquely talented in rope-spinning tricks. Kids, get ready for pumpkin seed spitting, lasso jumping, and more fun activities to enjoy.

Saturday, August 1, 6pm
Far more picturesque than any drive-in parking lot ever, the Amphitheatre is the ideal summer evening setting for watching the Tom Hanks classic, Big. The movie starts at 8pm, but the pre-movie entertainment (including a real-life “Zoltar” machine offering silly fortune telling a la the movie), root beer floats, and popcorn will begin at 6pm.

Other summer events include:

  • Snow Cones & Pool Games, June 8
  • Ventriloquist, June 11
  • Family Concert at Amphitheatre & Food Truck, June 18
  • Tween Pool Party, June 23
  • Snow Cones & Pool Games, June 25
  • Reptile Show, June 29
  • Snow Cones & Pool Games, July 7
  • Kids Painting Event, July 14
  • Tween Pool Party with Water Wizard, July 21
  • Snow Cones & Synchronized Swim Team, July 23
  • Kids Educational Event, July 29
  • Back-to-School Party, August 6
  • Labor Day Luau, August (date TBD)


BackCountry Summer Concert Series

by | June 23rd, 2015

BackCountry’s first summer concert of the season featured the Doobie Brothers tribute band, Black Water. Residents enjoyed great music and delicious food from Gusto’s Food Truck.

Read a book. Make a friend.

by | June 16th, 2015

Once a month, between 10 and 14 women gather at the Sundial House—ostensibly to talk about the book they’ve read, but more importantly, to deepen their sense of community.

Danni Holland, the founder of the BackCountry Book Club, wants to make clear that the doors are wide open to everyone in the community.

“We usually have one or two newcomers each meeting,” says Danni. “And we’d love to keep growing.” No intellectual posturing required—this is a friendly group open to all BackCountry residents, where the time splits naturally between book chat and pure socializing. Books usually don’t get overly lofty, and include both fiction and nonfiction, since one of the goals of the group was to help lure each other out of their reading comfort zones. They vote on book selections every couple of months.

Sundial House great room

The group’s diversity makes it all the more interesting, says Danni. “Our members range in age from mid-30s to 80s. The difference in life experience and perspectives adds so much to our discussions.” She says the book club has also very much facilitated friendships. In fact, she met her closest BackCountry friend at the first book club, not realizing that she actually lived just four doors down from her. Others have experienced the same, forging friendships that include walking together and other get-togethers. Not too surprising, given that “there’s a lot of neighborliness at BackCounty in general,” says Danni. “We have lots of outgoing, friendly neighbors around us,” she says. “I think people move here because they want to live in a neighborly community. The kind where there aren’t fences and there’s a good level of trust.”

If you’d like to drop in sometime and make a few new connections of your own, the book club meets on the first Wednesday of each month from 7pm-9pm in the Sundial House community room. Look for the blurb in the monthly community newsletter that lists the current book title. (July’s is The Residence by Kate Andersen Brower, a nonfiction account of the lives of the people who serve those in the White House.) Bring a bottle of wine or appetizers to share around the fireplace. (Occasional field trips also occur. One time a member hosted the club at her house, serving a French meal in honor of the book choice, The Paris Wife.)  And don’t stress if you don’t have the time to finish the book. As Danni says, “We come together around a book, but we stay together for the friendships.”

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

Cherokee Castle & Ranch: A castle for us commoners

by | June 9th, 2015

No trip over the pond planned this summer? That’s okay. Now you can skip the jet lag and still feed your obsession for all things British with a mere 25-minute drive down to your local 15th century Scottish-style castle. Yes, BackCountry residents can easily access this truly stunning blend of European elegance and Western charm—and sample fun and educational events.

This 3,400-acre sanctuary in Sedalia is home to secluded open spaces, wildlife, and 22 historic structures, including the iconic stone castle, a 1920s landmark with echoes of 1450s Scotland. The 24-room castle features towers, turrets, gargoyles, eight fireplaces, soaring wooden arches, and intricate cut-stone walls. Historical paintings, furniture, and other accessories are on display, along with drawings by Sir Christopher Wren, the architect of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. An expansive terrace offers breathtaking views of the Front Range, stretching from Pikes Peak to Longs Peak and beyond.

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

In addition to ogling all the fine art, architecture, and views, plan to take in some of the castle’s countless events. From June to December, a performing arts series features the work of Colorado Symphony Chamber Music, Denver Center Theatre Company, Denver Brass, and the University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music. Other performances showcase local and regional talent, while additional events include castle tours, fancy afternoon teas, and educational programs that focus on culture and the arts, environmental science, Colorado and Western history and heritage, wildlife, and ranching. Possibilities abound with onsite resources like 13th century Indian caves, an 1840s mountain man trail used by trappers and traders, mid-1860s homesteads, and more. See the event calendar here.

On a castle tour, you can learn about the history of the property, which stretches back to the late 1890s, when it was divided between the Flower and Blunt Homesteads. The land was put to agricultural use then, growing potatoes, wheat, and sorghum, and grazing cattle. In 1924, the castle was built by the Johnson family, who sold the property to Tennessean Mildred “Tweet” Kimball in 1954. (Just one of the place’s many interesting stories…Tweet took ownership of the castle after her ex-husband told her he’d buy her anything as long as she stayed west of the Mississippi.) Tweet lived at Cherokee Ranch until her death in 1999, and thanks to her vision and generosity, the property is now under the watchful care of the Douglas County Open Lands Coalition. Very good news for all of us living south of Denver…and far west of the Old World.  Learn more here.

Long days, light hearts: June in Colorado

by | June 4th, 2015

The summer solstice is coming up on June 21, a happy reminder to squeeze in more hours of fun on our long, gorgeous Colorado days. So now’s the time to let your inner kid out for good behavior and take advantage of these events—several of which will keep you nice and close to your BackCountry neighborhood.

Sundial House View

Senior Adult Fun at the Park-June 9, 9am-noon
Parks aren’t just for kids anymore. Seniors, try something new or revisit a favorite activity, such as Zumba, gentle yoga, bocce ball or cornhole, and stop by educational booths, all at nearby Redstone Park.
This event is hosted by the Highlands Ranch Metro District, Highlands Ranch Community Association, and 50 & Better Together. For more information, contact Jodie McCann at 720-240-4922 or

Colorado Renaissance Festival-Opens June 13
Entering its 39th season, the Colorado Renaissance Festival offers eight weekends of engaging time travel to the rowdy festival days of 16th century England, full of authentically costumed (and interactive) jousters and jugglers, hearty fare, and seven stages of performances. Pick up BOGO tickets for the opening weekend at Wendy’s, or hit the Royal Ale & Art Festival (with free ale samples) on June 20-21, or check out the Celtic Festival (with men’s kilt contest and hard lemonade samples) on June 27-28. Held at Perry Park in Larkspur. Learn more.

Colorado Renaissance Festival

Empty Nesters Summer Potluck-June 25, 6-8:30pm
For BackCountry residents only, this summer potluck offers a sweet opportunity to hang out with your neighbors while enjoying a delicious meal. Bring a dish to share that will serve eight, as well as your own beverages. Log into and RSVP by Friday, June 19.

Denver Museum of Natural Science Free Day -June 29
If you haven’t visited lately, it’s time—especially on one of the museum’s free days, which give you license to stay just as long as you’d like. You’ll have plenty of reasons to linger, of course, between all the permanent exhibits and the current Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns, and Mermaids. You’ll explore stories and uncover the truths behind the myths of the aforementioned beings, along with kraken, giant squids, flying horses, and the ever-popular Nessie and Big Foot. Learn more.

mythic-dragon-Denver Museum of Nature and Science

BackCountry’s Red White & Blue Celebration at the Sundial House

by | May 29th, 2015

Residents kicked-off the summer with high energy and interactive games during the Red White & Blue Celebration.

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