Lukas Denning with Lisa Dancing-Light. Photo by Sue Rollyson

It all started with a song. Then it became a musical performed by children. Then, a year ago, Lisa Dancing-Light turned her work into an illustrated children’s book about our very own Magic Mountain (Sopris).

For Roaring Fork High School senior Lukas Denning, it started with a climb to the top of Mount Sopris at age 12. This intermingled with a fond memory from his childhood of one of his dad’s work projects and a desire to do something for children. The result? A creative capstone project called Trail Tales.

A capstone project, according to the Colorado Department of Education, “is a multifaceted body of work that serves as a culminating academic and intellectual experience for students.”

Denning wanted to bring our community’s children into the outdoors while promoting a love for reading. A collaboration with Dancing-Light proved to be the perfect fit. The idea shaped into a vision, but realizing the project involved acquiring new skills.

The first lesson for Denning was reaching out to those who could help make his concept a reality. He had to communicate with government officials to procure a place for the project. He found assistance brainstorming a design and also with budgeting and planning. In addition, he had to work on promotion, through social media, print and signage.

His favorite part, however, was learning to use power tools to build the displays. He had never taken a woodshop class, nor had he any previous exposure to using tools or building. He contacted the woodshop teacher, Michael Black, who enthusiastically taught and directed Denning.

The final layout and installation at Nuche Park was the exciting fruition of a complex and ambitious project. The audience, Denning said, found “ the entire ‘Magic Mountain’ storybook split up, page by page, and set up around the one-third of a mile perimeter of Nuche park.”

To read the entire story, folks had to walk between pages. Denning’s promotional material stated: “I invite you and your family to come enjoy the mountain fresh air and read this outstanding children’s book while walking beneath the shadow of the enchanting Mount Sopris.”

The grand opening was May 1, with both the project creator and author present. People of all ages — families with children and even adults and elders without children — came to enjoy this unique presentation.

“Magic Mountain” is presented in English and Spanish, and there is a scan code at the end that connects you to an online version of Dancing-Light’s song by the same name.

Nuche Park is located on Highway 133, across from the turn to Prince Creek and just before the fish hatchery. Trails Tales will be on display until the end of May.

Denning and Michael Black in the wood shop. Photo by Sue Rollyson 

A family explores the trail. Photo by Sue Rollyson