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Down By The River

Mother Nature can’t stop the music at Northern Colorado’s Mishawaka Amphitheatre.

July 2013

If an audience turns its back on a famous singer, he or she is probably having a bad night. Or, perhaps there’s just a bear at the back of the house distracting the crowd. That could only happen—and has—at the Mishawaka Amphitheatre.  

Set on the banks of the Cache la Poudre River in the Poudre Canyon northwest of Fort Collins, the “Mish” is more than a concert venue; it’s a multisensory experience. Music echoes off the canyon walls, bears and bighorn sheep roam the surrounding area, and rafters float downriver past the performers. “It’s an escape from the real world,” says owner Dani Grant. She’s not exaggerating: There’s no cell reception at the site, which opened as a dance hall in 1917. These days, the streamside stage is visited by a funky mix of jam bands and bluegrass groups like String Cheese Incident, Béla Fleck, and Parliament Funkadelic. That trend will continue this month with Bruce Hornsby (July 19) and John Hiatt (July 26).

The Mish was almost silenced last year, however. Flames from 2012’s devastating High Park Fire, which destroyed 259 homes, danced around the property and crept within three feet of Mish structures. Fire crews set up command central there and fought back, preventing damage. Since then, Grant has received an outpouring of support from concertgoers.

To kick off the 2013 season in May, she dedicated a 20-foot-wide steel monument to the firefighters, fixed to the very walls they saved. “We have an obligation to preserve the kind of experience you can only get at the Mish,” Grant says. “There’s nothing more fulfilling than creating that shared experience between bands, the fans...and the deer.” themishawaka.com

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If You Go: More on the Mish

Hike: Get your heart rate up with a 3.1-mile, moderate-to-difficult hike up Greyrock Trail to the summit of Greyrock Mountain. Be on the lookout for poison ivy over 1,900 feet of elevation gain.

Camp: Catch a show—and maybe some trout—after pitching a tent at the riverside Ansel Watrous
campground.

Raft: Class III and IV rapids will buffet you on the Mishawaka Falls portion of the Cache la Poudre River. Rocky Mountain Adventures offers a half-day outing, which includes a lunch break and a drop-off at the Mish for an evening show. shoprma.com

Bike: Park at the Mish for a strenuous but scenic 44-mile ride to the top of Cameron Pass on Highway 14.

Unwind: Book a rejuvenating retreat at the Shambhala Mountain Center in Red Feather Lakes (a 45-minute drive), which encompasses the tallest Buddhist temple in North America. shambhala mountain.org