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Prairie Dog

We spent a little time in eastern Utah mostly because of two major wild fires burning in Southwestern Colorado.  Roads were closed in various areas.

 

Wilson’s Arch

The route taken, however, yielded to some beautiful and typical western scenery. I am talking about cowboy and   Indian movie type of backgrounds. One could easily see varied layers of sediment rocks embedded along the cliffs, as well as, multi-colors. There were red-orange colors; yellow ochre to whitish and various shades of all of these including browns. All of this made for some beauty to behold.

Utah is known for a number of stone “arches.” Theses arches were formed through water erosion from times past adding wind erosion on sandstone rocks. Sandstone erodes easily and possibly quickly due to the nature of the sandstone.

 

Smoke from two fires.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I was naïve when I had first of a Colorado national Monument. I wondered exactly what would the monument be. Did the monument consist of a man-made statue depicting something of importance to Colorado?  Was this monument representative to native Indians of the area or some early westward expansion movement of years past?

My first reaction upon seeing those rim-rock sites was one of awe. I could see these natural buttes and steep  verticals from way off while traveling. Was the monument up on the top of those sheer cliffs? I would soon find out exactly what was this Colorado National Monument. The monument was the jaw-dropping beauty and expanse of those rim-rock verticals!

The road wound along those steep cliffs and up and over onto the flat areas. Along the way the spectacular scenery was visible to admire.  Various unique standing rock formations jutted from the shadowed hollows. Balanced rocks appeared. These rock formations have endured wind and rain erosion for years.

We were fortunate of the timing of our visit. The visit would include the last several hours of the day which meant we would, also, be witnessing deepening shadows caused by a setting sun. This would allow strong contrasts for photo-taking.

  The evening found me channel-surfing. I stopped on a western featuring the late, Jimmy Stewart. he was talking  with another gentleman when I stopped. Within a few minutes the camera position changed and I saw some of the rock  formations I had seen at the Colorado National Monument. How cool was that?

The Colorado national Monument area was in itself the monument and what a monument to the west it is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunset!

 

Indian Paintbrush

 

Native Lupine

 

I enjoy the natural world. All that know me can attest to that fact. So, with that in mind it is not difficult to understand how I was always on the lookout for western wildflowers. Unfortunately, I don’t have them all identified in this entry. The wildflowers usually all have varied localized names, as well, so my names here may be different from other wildflower identifying books. Just enjoy their beauty.

Golden banner

 

 

 

 

Scarlet Gilia or fairy trumpet

 

Prickly Pear Cactus

 

Coneflower “Mexican Hat”

 

Apache Plume or Old Man’s Whiskers

 

 

Prickly Pear Cactus showing more of stalk

 

Oyster Flower

 

 

A flower of the Alpine region.

 

Alpine Buttercup

 

Alpine Forget-Me-Not

 

Sage

 

Balanced Rock…a favorite place of tourists.

 

The natural area known as the Garden of the Gods was definitely a place we wished to experience. Others had mentioned of this site and we anxiously waited to see the beauty.

Eagle nests

Prior to the travel to the garden we watched a short movie called, “How Did Those Rocks Get There?” Laurie and I strongly  disagree with all the theories concerning how the landscapes became to be, but we watched the movie. We are amazed at the constant bombardment as to the millions upon billions of years for individual places to have come to be.  There are serious issues with the Carbon dating techniques being used to determine ages, however, the thought process still insist of using this method to determine age without question. There are plenty of scientists who disagree with the measuring techniques, but I have listened to their talks as to how they are continually being pushed aside by museums and their colleagues. I guess a discussion should fall into a future entry here and not to take up space.

The red-orange rocks and high displays are truly a view to behold as we gazed upon the sky-reaching structures jut upward.  Years ago the area was known as Red Rock Corral.  The present name came to be when two men seeing the area in 1859 made claims the site would a great place for the gods to assemble to drink.

In past years many Indian tribes utilized the area. as well. The Apaches, Utes, Shoshones, Kiowa, Lakota and Pawnee spent time in the rock areas. The Ute still come and do ceremonies  here.  For example, the Utes clam of a spiritual connection to the red rocks.

We saw two nests of the Golden eagles perched into rock crevices. Mule deer were present and we saw five Bighorn Rams outside of the garden of the Gods site.

Pikes Peak

 

In the distance we saw Pikes Peak named after Zebulon Pike, an early American explorer. The gardens are registered  as a National Historical Landmark. Pikes Peak is 14,115 feet above sea level.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This prickly shrub is known as the Wild Rose.

The beautiful Royal Gorge is located by Canon City, Colorado. This gorge consists of 1000 feet high, mostly vertical, granite cliffs. These mountain vistas are breath-taking to behold. This site is, also, known as the Grand Canyon of the Arkansas River.

  We viewed the Royal Gorge by riding on the railroad. Guess what this train was jinxed, too! However, this stoppage wasn’t nearly  as long as the Cumbres-Toltec ride. The problem was a leak in an airline which was repaired rather quickly in comparison.

This train was a more modern “version” of a train. I would guess this train was built sometime in the 1950-1960 time frame. Some cars had domed glass in the roof of the car. This helped see those vertical cliffs. I spent some time in an open car to get better control over photos.

The ten mile trip (Twenty including the return the ride back to canon City.) followed the course of the Arkansas River. The river is a beautiful trout stream and I sure would have enjoyed fishing those waters.

Remnants of past human activities were present at many areas.  A local prison, in times past, supplied a work force to place lines along the granite hills. I wonder if any causalities occurred?

Bighorn Sheep enjoy living out their existences along the way. However, I failed to spot any. The conditions they survive in feature sheer, rocky and steep cliffs, perfect for their hooves to climb.

 

Old shed

 

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

 

 

 

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

Pika

 

Osprey with fish

 

Moose

 

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