Archive for the ‘Colorado Trip’ Category

Upon waking up in Durango, Colorado one could easily see the outside was filled with smoke. The smell of smoke was strong outside, as well. The reasons for this white blanket of smoke were the two major wildfires north of Durango. The winds had shifted forcing the smoke southerly. Roads and ramps had been closed due to the intensity of the fires.  The train we were to ride had been cancelled due to the fire. We saw pillars of smoke miles away yesterday.

We headed east to another train known as the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad.  This ride would take us on a 64

New Mexico

mile rail through areas of New Mexico and Colorado. This trek would include breathtaking sceneries through steep rugged mountains winding along the slopes and valleys. The ride includes scenery from the San Juan Mountains and the Conejos valley.

The old steam and coal engine dating back to the 1920 era would huff and puff its way along this railroad . This particular railroad is the longest and highest narrow gauge track in America. This preserved railroad is designated on the National and state Registered Historic Site. (Narrow gauge tracks are three feet between the rails instead of the standard 4 feet 8 inches. This aids in making tighter turns in the mountainous terrain.)

The rails began in 1880 between Chama, New Mexico and Antonito, Colorado. There is a 4 percent grade on this rail.

While traveling along the way the train suddenly stopped. We had derailed! The train was placed upon the track with a replaced bearing and we moved little before the same thing happened again. Another repair and stop yielded some disgust with the engineer. A decision was to lock all the car’s brakes, disconnect the engine and back in another engine. This wait was two hours in length of time. However, the weather was great and scenery was beautiful so I didn’t feel stressed at all.

There were two areas where the engine could have come from. They are Cumbres or Osier. Cumbres is 10, 015 above sea level.

One most beautiful site to behold was the Toltec Gorge. AT this point we were 600 feet above the Rio de Los Pinos and 800 feet across the opposite side. Two tunnels were used on the 64 mile trip.

Eventually we reached the goal of Antonito.



Additional photos to view are below.

Pine Beetle damage





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Lots of wildlife photos below. be sure to see the Bighorn Rams at the bottom.



Osprey with fish




Moose Calf

One of the thrills for me on this western excursion was to see the varied and unique wildlife of the west.  We saw a lot of wildlife. I may forget some species but here is a list of western wildlife. Sand hill Cranes (In Indiana while traveling); Bald Eagle;  White Pelicans (In Illinois);  Big Horn Sheep; Pronghorn Antelopes; Mule Deer; Rio-Grande Wild Turkeys (Saw eastern Wild Turkeys  more easterly.); Canada Geese; Elk; Pica; Yellow-bellied Marmots; Moose and calf; Black-billed Magpies; Mountain Bluebird; Jack rabbits; Prairie Dogs; Swan; Snapping Turtle; Carp; Coyote; Least Chipmunk; White-tailed Deer (Easterly) Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel; Cottontail rabbit; Ravens; Sagebrush Lizard…I am, probably, forgetting some wildlife. A few in the list are native to Pennsylvania, too.

The Pika is a small hamster/bunny looking mammal found at high altitudes living among rocky areas.  Two were chasing each others at times

Least Chipmunk


Yellow-bellied Marmot


Bull Elk


A Swallowtail Butterfly


Sagebrush Lizard


Prairie Dog


Pronghorn Antelope


Nice male Pronghorn Antelope


Mule Deer


Black-billed Magpie


Jack Rabbit


Mule Deer


Hummingbird. I believe it may be the Black-chinned Hummingbird


Bighorn Sheep Rams


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The title of this entry may be a little deceiving since a lot of interest was surrounding the man.  William  F. Cody, known commonly as Buffalo Bill, was born in Iowa and later spending much time in the west. He went to Denver to visit family for his final years. He died there in 1917 at the age of 70 years old. Supposedly he wanted to be buried at a site near Denver known as Lookout Mountain. Indeed the man was buried at the site.


Looking west

A controversy arose over the decision since Cody, Wyoming wanted his remains to be buried in their community.

Looking east

This stirred quite an issue at the time, so much that Denver covered his grave with cement and , at one time, had a tank on the hill with the grave site. Wow! Well, Mr. Cody and his wife Louisa are buried at the site toady. They were married in 1866.

Buffalo Bill was a man of a lot of interests. he served as a stagecoach driver, civilian scout, served in the Union army during the Civil war, buffalo hunter and even was involved as a Pony Express rider.  he is most known for his western Wild West Shows. The shows actually went to Europe in the day!


Annie Oakley?


Lookout Mountain is a very high mountain near Denver. Today a museum is present. The painting above is on display at the museum.  One needs to walk up a trail to the very summit to see the grave site of Buffalo Bill and his wife. the Ute Indians favored Lookout Mountain. The view is breathtaking. One can view the Continental Divide.

AT the top of the mountain looking westerly one can view snow-capped mountains of the Rockies. By turning easterly one can see

No idea???

the foothills, buttes and off farther the plains.

The actual site of the Lookout Mountain is 65.7 acres at the very summit of the mountain.

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When I was a young feller I would see articles and photos of the Cave Dwellers  of southwest Colorado. I was totally fascinated with seeing and learning more of those early people and their rock homes. I really hoped to see the sites someday.  Years passed and I remained interested, but had realized I may never make it to actually view the homes and country.

  However, this was the year! I finally made the journey to the Mesa Verde cliff dwellings.         

The Mesa Verde is a national park. The park was established in 1906. Initially local farmers began coming upon the sites in the 1880 time frame. The acreage is vast. sad to say, The property has had much burned over land mass. the last one occurred in 2012. Remnant of snarled and skeletal snags can still be visible from the fire. the fire had burned so hot that the soil has been void of the needed nutrients to aid in plant and tree growth. Today one can see many Pinion Pines and Junipers in the area.

The Indians who have been credited for living at the stone homes built in the cliffs are Pueblo Tribes. Many may have read in books or saw documentaries where the tribe was called the Anasazi People.  However, this is a Navajo term.


Sagebrush Lizard (I think)

It is believed the Pueblo Indians lived at these sites for over 700 years. Interestingly, they seemed to have left the sites in the later 1200 time frame. Why did they leave?  For me many possibilities could be possible for their departure. Such possibilities could have been disease, warfare, absorption or capture into other tribes,  soil depletion leading to crop failures… the truth is we can’t say with one hundred  percent certainty what may have occurred during the 1200 era.


Burned over areas


A subspecies of a Yucca. The Indians used these for basketry.

The Pueblo natives were farmers and hunters. Their primary crops were corn, squash and beans.  Their has, also, been  evidence of trading with other tribes. The people were good with making baskets and pottery. Many intact pieces had been found in the dry caves protected from the elements.

Some sites have petroglyphs on existing stone. Petroglyphs are carved pictorials on the stones walls.

Today this area has over 4,500 archeological sites with 600 of them being cave dwelling sites.

To learn more see: http://www.nps.gov/meve




Down the hall


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Find a word to describe the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Sure one can come up with many words to vocalize in a weak attempt to give others a visual of such beauty.  One may use words such as: awesome, majestic, beautiful, jaw-dropping, unbelievable, but anyone hearing the words will not be able to visualize what you are trying to describe. There are NO words to describe the beauty. In fact photos can not demonstrate what the eye sees.

Laurie, trying to find words, expressed the sites as somewhat of a religious experience. I can concur with her statement. In fact, I went a step farther stating of being magnificent and spiritual. I can understand how Indians felt about sacred and spiritual lands.

We actually tried to make up words to describe. We couldn’t do it! One has to feel the experience and hold onto those memories.

My thoughts drifted to the words of the Apostle to the GENTILES, named Paul. The man told of an experience  of witnessing the glory of heaven. He was forbidden to speak of the glorious details. (2 Corinthians 12) Paul added of being caught up in Paradise and hearing of inexpressible words that no man could utter. I can relate to what Paul was discussing. Attempting to describe this beauty is inexpressible with words.

The altitudes of these mountains above see level is inspiring as well. I must admit I was feeling some pressure in my head at those heights at times.  I believe the highest we attained was around 14,000 feet by vehicle. Laurie and I walked up a trail to reach 12, 005 feet. The winds were strong. Wind speeds can get into the hundreds at some points.

The terrain of the Rocky Mountains is greatly diverse.  The bottomlands are often lush in green foliage and yellow flowers. Some areas consist of evergreen pines. Other areas are mingled with Quaking Aspens. (This would be beautiful in the fall. The Aspens turn into golden yellows.) Other points of interest yield other evergreens growing only at higher altitudes.  Evergreen devastation from the Pine Beetle is very common. The very highest points on mountains are tundra-like.  This is called the alpine regions. Very little vegetation appears at such heights of over 11, 400 feet above sea level.  The soil is thin and some grasses and low-growing flowers are in these areas.


Yellow-bellied Marmot

Wildlife abounds in these various eco-systems. We saw lots of Elk. We were blessed to see a Moose and her calf. We


saw some Mule Deer as well. Some interesting mammals located at the higher points of the mountains were the Yellow-bellied Marmot and Pika.

The Pika resembles a hamster and rabbit combination. They are only about eight inches long. The Marmot resembles our native Woodchuck or Groundhog in size. The coloring is different.

I am planning on doing an entry on western wildlife at a later date.

Snow cover on the mountains was less than in other years. That fact alone, and the lack of rain, has much of Colorado area in drought. In fact, we altered our traveling due to two major wildfires in south-western Colorado. We could see the smoke for miles. More on the fires in another entry.

The wild flowers in the tundra areas are low-growing. This is done due to extremely short growing seasons and protection from high winds.

Some additional photos below.

Alpine regions


Male Elk

Long-ago gold mine



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The second day we stopped at an area in Iowa known as Amana Colonies. The story of this colony is interesting to those who enjoy history. See http://www.AmanaColonies.com for more details.

  Two men in Germany had mutual religious beliefs. They began in 1714 to travel about and writing throughout Germany and Switzerland. Their actions resulted in forming small congregations. they became known as the Community of True Inspirations or the Inspirations. They advocated freedom of speech and were persecuted. Remember Europe was a hotbed for persecution’s.

Later, in 1842 this group bought 5,000 acres in New York. They developed a communal system of living that would last eighty-nine years.

they eventually decided to move farther west settling in Iowa. This would become known as Amana Colonies. (Amana means to remain true.) Beginning in 1855 the villages were constructed with communal living being the normal way of operations.  Their way of living lasted until 1932.

Many of the original buildings are still in place. many have become localized shops  and homes. Some buildings have been added on to with time.

I enjoy old buildings and barns and weathered wood so I took many photos. I grew up in a climate of old weathered barns and fences. Most are in black and white to give a sense of age.

Westward Ho the Wagons boys and off to spend the night in Nebraska.

The Amana Colonies are registered as a national historic Location.

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Bald eagle over the Illinois River

Laurie and I had planned on this trip to Colorado for several years. However, life happens! Extreme back pains plagued Laurie suddenly leading to surgery forces some time to regroup the plans. After the healing process the second concern was how would the traveling would effect her. Would discomfort on such a distance be too much? We actually had a shorter excursion planned into the White Mountains of New Hampshire. This event was cancelled due to the issues. Last year we did a several day trip and all went rather well. This year…Colorado here we come!


Plum Island on the Illinois River

Earlier this month of June we began the travel westward. The goal would be the Rocky Mountain National Park and

White Pelican

many other sites in Colorado. Later, we would see sites in Utah and New Mexico. Interestingly, one can’t exit Kittanning, Pennsylvania and be out west in several hours. Many miles lie between Pennsylvanian and Colorado. That fact insures stopping in sleeping over along the way. The first stop would be in Utica, Illinois.

We stayed overnight at the Starved Rock Lodge located in the Starved Rock State Park area. This area was voted the #1 attraction in Illinois. The area is, indeed, beautiful. Many distinct canyons are located along sandstone watercourses.

Many Indian tribes had inhabited this area over the years. In fact the name of this site became to be due to a legend concerning the Indian tribes. In brief, Chief Pontiac in 1760 attended a tribal council between the Illinois Tribe and the Pottawatomi Tribes. An Illinois warrior stabbed Chief Pontiac.  The Illinois people took refuge upon this huge rock for they feared vengeance. The Pottawatomi surrounded the rock. The upon the rock died from starvation starved hence the name, Starved Rock.

Beautiful lodge area

Much of the lodge we stayed at and other buildings were originally built by the Civil Conservation  Corpse or the CCC. This was a government program in the 1930 era to construct buildings and do work out for various projects.

Unfortunately, time was limited, however, we did manage to do some hiking. One hike to see the Starved Rock itself

All I could think off was the movie, The Shining.

proved very interesting. A series of steps and landings was constructed to get to the bottomland area. Shear rock cliffs are prevalent, so to get down there we needed to use these steps.

Once at the bottom of the steps we were disappointed to see the trail to Starved Rock closed. I don’t know why that was to be, but barricades were erected to keep people out. We walked other trails. I could see the Starved Rock from the lodge’s decking.


Starved Rock in the distance.

Eventually we came to the Illinois River. The river is beautiful. An island known as Plum Island was present at this site. Many White pelicans could be seen along the shoreline and on the waters. They migrate here which was interesting since we tend to think of these birds along coastal areas and the southern states. two Bald Eagles flew about overhead. I managed several photos.

About five years ago the family visited a relative north of Starved Rock. He lived in Oregon, Illinois. the Illinois River flowed near his property.  Some of my great uncles (Yount) moved to Illinois back in the 1930 era. I found seeing them at family reunions and other places a most enjoyable time. Ira (Buddy) Yount recently passed away a couple of years ago. he was 99 years old.

The following morning we hiked a little. I spotted a hen turkey walking about. I could tell by her actions that some young poults were, no doubt, close by.

The next entry will be Amana Colonies of Iowa.

Old CCC building

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