I HAD NO IDEA THAT WAS THERE!

If you're a resident of the towns that make up the Jefferson, Park, and Clear Creek Counties of Colorado, you've probably heard that same phrase from every tourist that crosses your beautiful trails and frequent your shops.
Well.
You, dear Mountain Town Folk, are patient, generous people. When this phrase comes your way, you are known to open your lives and history to those who want to know more...

If you're a resident of the towns that make up the Jefferson, Park, and Clear Creek Counties of Colorado, you've probably heard that same phrase from every tourist that crosses your beautiful trails and frequent your shops.

Well.

You, dear Mountain Town Folk, are patient, generous people. When this phrase comes your way, you are known to open your lives and history to those who want to know more.

I know this because I experienced just this response as I took a jaunt into Pine Grove and Sphinx Park the other day. I got a hot tip from a friend and had to check out the beautiful drive, folklore, and residents. I added the curiosity of looking up any festivals that might pop up.

You, dear folk, did NOT disappoint.

In researching the area of Pine Grove, I found a fantastic festival with a worthwhile history and had to get in on the story because it's coming up soon!

Since 1987, PECIA (The Pine Elk Creek Improvement Association) has inspired the whole town of Pine Grove (as well as any excited outsiders) on the second Saturday of June to celebrate Rhubarb! This year's festival is on June 10th, and I hear it's going to be better than ever!

The schedule this year starts off early:
7:30-11:30 - All-You-Can-Eat Pancake Breakfast
11:30 - Bake-off Judging of Rhubarb Recipes
12:30 - Parade starts after the winner of the Rhubarb Baking Contest is selected
1:00 - River Duck Races
1:30 - Carnival activities and Bands take center stage.

Rhubarb is not a staple I use in my everyday cooking, so I went on a spree, and let the anticipation build. To get in the Rhubarb spirit, here are a few videos to get you up to speed on just how delicious and versatile this veggie-turned-fruit is. Rhubarb 101 - Everything you need to know about rhubarb with Dani Spies, shows just how to prepare it. When is it ripe? Rhubarb with "Your Produce Guy", addresses the planting and harvesting aspect, and to take it one step further, Growing Rhubarb Secret to maximum production - Care and Harvesting by "1learncomputerstuff" is perfect extending the life of the plant. I even found what so many would naturally want to create, Make your own Rhubarb Liqueur (Recipe) by "1learncomputerstuff" (complete recipe below the video). Check them out!

These fun videos will get those juices flowing and your imagination percolating for the annual baking contest on Saturday. You could be crowned King or Queen and ride in the parade as Rhubarb Royalty! There will be plenty of fun with carnival activities afterwards, along with live bands and lots of local shopping from the bevy of talented craft artists. And don't forget to pick up your copy of the many Rhubarb Cookbooks for sale!

Now if you're a local, you know where the happenings are, but for us greenhorns, the festivities are located right in Pine, Colorado, a picturesque setting nestled in the South Platte Valley at the juncture where Elk Creek flowed in from the north and merged with the North Fork of the South Platte. It has immediate access to Pike National Forest, nearby camping spots and trails for hiking, biking, and horseback rides.

If you're planning to partake in Rhubarb-mania in this lovely mountain town, come early, like I will, and know you will be part of a family-friendly crowd eagerly packing the town for a Pancake breakfast, Rhubarb BakeThese fun videos will get those juices flowing and your imagination percolating for the annual baking contest on Saturday. You could be crowned King or Queen and ride in the parade as Rhubarb Royalty! There will be plenty of fun with carnival activities afterwards, along with live bands and lots of local shopping from the bevy of talented craft artists. And don't forget to pick up your copy of the many Rhubarb Cookbooks for sale!

Now if you're a local, you know where the happenings are, but for us greenhorns, the festivities are located right in Pine, Colorado, a picturesque setting nestled in the South Platte Valley at the juncture where Elk Creek flowed in from the north and merged with the North Fork of the South Platte. It has immediate access to Pike National Forest, nearby camping spots and trails for hiking, biking, and horseback rides.

If we're lucky, firetrucks may spray their water hose, cooling down the parade crowd on the warm mountain day. You never know what treats will be tossed to the cheering mass from vintage cars proudly displaying their shine as the small-town parade and festivities swing into action.

The Rhubarb Festival is a fun community event that is the main source of funding for community improvement projects, and for donations to local service groups such as the North Fork Fire Department. It's an informal affair, so bring plenty of sunscreen, your voracious appetite, and a love for all things Rhubarb-inspired!

I meandered around the area myself last week and landed myself in Sphinx Park at another famous find. The Buck Snort Saloon captured my attention, and after a long day at the Rhubarb Festival, you've gotta go, too. It's an authentic, yet precariously perched mainstay in the community of Sphinx Park, just upstream from Pine Grove . I was impressed by just how easy and beautiful the 45 minute drive from Evergreen was. The Sphinx Park Mercantile, which now houses The Buck Snort Saloon, has parking that's tricky to navigate, but well worth maneuvering. 

Colorado miner legends go way back, folks, and are personified perfectly at this authentic Saloon. According to Jeff the bartender, an old Colorado mining tradition (back when the mining company owned the saloons and used them to monitor their men) dictated that a miner would stop in at the saloon before going in for his shift of back-breaking labor in the depths below. He'd plop down a bill and his name as proof he was there and going in that day. It became a good luck charm, of sorts.

The boss could see the accountability, as the bill would be on the bar all day, and the worker would then claim the buck (usually minus the cost of a well-earned beer) when he was safe and sound away from the mine. Many a buck went unclaimed during that time due to the dangerous conditions.

When a bill went unclaimed, it would be solemnly pinned to the wall in remembrance of the man who gave his life for the mines. So now, the Buck Snort's tradition lives on, in tribute to those unfortunates who never came out to claim their buck. 

The evidence is a place papered by bucks "paid" in tribute by visitors who want to leave their mark, too. Including me. Solidarity, folks. This famous spot has been frequented by celebrities, road warriors, and visitors the world over. 

 Galina Bye, owner for the last 20 years, makes sure of 1 thing and 1 thing only: "Everyone's equal at The Buck Snort . Everyone comes in to party and have a great time, and everyone's equal here."

I'll tell ya what, folks.

This area is littered with pride, tradition and stories that make you want to stay for another cold one. I did, and met Michael Olguin, a local resident of Pine who treated me with a tale of the Mountain Lion. According to Mike, this particular cat comes around in April and has been around for years. Years ago, Coyotes had surrounded him in his cabin.

It wasn't unusual to hear them calling in the distance, but this particular night he was caught out at the woodpile when they cut off his path back to safety. Just when the coyotes were moving in, this Mountain Lion shot out of nowhere and saved him. Killed 2 coyotes and kept the rest at bay while Mike was able to get back to the cabin. Later that night, she brought him back a rabbit and put it on his porch. Ever since then, she's taken care of him and others around the community. Kind of makes you rethink the rep of the big mountain cat, right? (Not for me, necessarily. I'll still take extra precautions, Mike.)

Yep, the phrase, "I had no idea that was there!" has spurred me into a gorgeous adventure, and I'm excited to continue it on the 10th of June for the Rhubarb Fest. I'll be taking in the view, the food, and the folk, and can't wait to assist in edifying the everyday outsider around the beauty and magic that awaits just minutes up the mountain. 

So Many Treasures
Introducing Sharon Montgomery
 

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Thursday, 22 February 2018
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