North Cheyenne Cañon Park and Helen Hunt Falls

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NORTH CHEYENNE CAÑON PARK & HELEN HUNT FALLS
A Love Your Parks Tour story by Nancy J. Reid and Lisa D. Smith

Being the start of a summer holiday weekend, the Garden of the Gods was packed with visitors. So after a full morning of exploring the iconic rock formations, we went out in search of a quieter park to enjoy our picnic lunch. We got a little turned around in Colorado Springs but somehow ended up in North Cheyenne Cañon Park. What a lucky, and lovely find! Cut 1,000-feet deep into 1.5 billion-year-old granite rock, this 1,600-acre park is a beautiful respite from the city with an extensive trail system and picnic sites. It’s a fantastic bird and wildlife watching spot too.

Entering the park we drove past the Starsmore Visitor and Nature Center, saw some deer grazing on the side of the road, and headed uphill to find a parking spot. We grabbed our PortoVino backpack of goodies and followed a little trail in through the woods, crossing over the North Cheyenne Creek. Birds, butterflies, flowers, and berries were everywhere in this forest paradise. We found an old log among the trees as our picnic site and sat down to soak up the tranquility, enjoy our sandwiches and nibbles, and raise a glass to Mother Nature.


After lunch, we headed up to Helen Hunt Falls and Visitor Center. Helen Hunt Falls was officially designated in 1966, honoring Helen Hunt Jackson (1830-1885), the noted poet, travel writer, novelist, and Native American activist. Her earliest works were often published anonymously and later under the pen name “H.H.”  She was a friend and peer of many of the literary figures of her day including Emily Dickinson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Harriet Beecher Stowe.  Our recollection of her was from living up in Julian, a mountain town just up from Ramona, a ranching community in northeast San Diego, California. Jackson’s famous 1884 novel “Ramona” was set in Southern California after the Mexican–American War and told the story of a Scottish-Native American orphan girl who suffered racial discrimination. The novel was later adapted into a play and has been performed annually in Hemet, California, since 1924.

Her connection with this part of Colorado? Helen Hunt moved to the young community of Colorado Springs in 1873, where she married William Sharpless Jackson in 1875. She loved and visited North Cheyenne Cañon often, and even penned the popular poem “Cheyenne Mountain.”

Cheyenne Mountain by Helen Hunt Jackson

 

 

By easy slope to west as if it had

    No thought, when first its soaring was begun,

    Except to look devoutly to the sun,

It rises, and has risen, until, glad,

With light as with a garment, it is clad,

    Each dawn, before the tardy plains have won

    One ray; and after day has long been done

For us, the light doth cling reluctant, sad

To leave its brow.

                       Beloved mountain, I

Thy worshipper, as thou the sun’s, each morn,

    My dawn, before the dawn, receive from thee;

    And think, as thy rose-tinted peaks I see,

That thou wert great when Homer was not born,

And ere thou change all human song shall die!

 

Helen Hunt Jackson passed away from stomach cancer in 1885 in San Francisco. In accordance with her wishes she was buried not too far from Cheyenne Mountain. However, because her burial site became too much of a tourist attraction, her family moved her remains to Evergreen Cemetery in Colorado Springs.

There’s one more connection to bring up about Helen Hunt Jackson, and that her ancestral ties to England. We asked family history expert Glynn Burrows of Norfolk Tours in England about it, and he found out that her family was actually from Norfolk and Suffolk, his local area! Read his story about it on BlendRadioandTV.com, and listen to his Big Blend Radio interview on Spreaker.com, SoundCloud.com, or YouTube.com.

More about North Cheyenne Cañon Park: https://coloradosprings.gov/page/north-cheyenne-canon

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