Monthly Archives: March 2012

U Pack The Camera, Alpaca The Tripod

The Sangre De Cristo Mountains towering over the Cuchara River Valley.

Is this heaven? It’s Cuchara.  I often improvise famous lines from the movies and apply them to my own personal field of dreams.  In this case, the 18 mile stretch of highway between our home on Cuchara Pass and our post office in La Veta.  This is one of the most beautiful stretches of road in Colorado.  For years, this was our daily commute and it became so routine that I stopped really seeing all the beauty.  Now, we find our way to town only a time or two each week and when we do go, we slow down and notice things that have gone unnoticed before.

Alpaca Afternoon

The other day, I was heading back up the valley from a visit with the real estate experts at Bachman & Associates when I noticed that the pastures on the Cantrell Ranch had turned the brightest green, I pulled over and grabbed my camera.  As I approached the fence to compose an angle, I found myself just a few feet away from a herd of exotic, hairy, four legged creatures with peaceful smiles on their faces.   I honestly, have never studied an Alpaca up close and personal before and it took a quick Wiki search when I got home to know the difference between these guys and Llamas.  Both animals are South American Camelids, but the Alpaca is much smaller, much more social within its own species and is known for its delicately soft coat rather than for carrying cargo through the backcountry.

Living in a place of abundant natural beauty does not make a person immune to the “same four walls syndrome”.  It takes a conscious effort to remember how you felt when you first discovered it,  you have to be able to see your everyday surroundings through the eyes of a tourist, you have to remind yourself that The Greatest Adventures Are Waiting In Your Own Backyard.

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Categories: Colorado, Photography, Video | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Wild Turkey, Then Work, Then Breakfast – Just A Typical Day

San Isidro Church near Weston, Colorado

We had an early assignment in Trinidad yesterday morning and we were on the road just as the first light of the new day pushed the darkness west.  Our reward for only hitting the snooze button once, or maybe three times was the sighting of hundreds of elk and the largest grouping of wild turkeys that we have ever seen.  We stopped at sunrise to shoot video of the San Isidro Church(built around 1870) with the Sangre De Cristo Mountains in the backdrop, hoping to see the mountains turn blood red with the first direct sun rays.  For whatever reason the mountains did not turn red despite an extremely clear sky but the setting was drop dead gorgeous nonetheless.

Trinidad below the Spanish Peaks and the Sangre De Cristos

What a great way to start the day!  The adventure continued as we shot listing photographs of a beautiful building site at the base of Fishers Peak for one of our best clients, Danielle of Southern Colorado Realty.   How many people do you know who get paid to hike around in the woods and take pictures?  After the shoot, we went to historic downtown Trinidad.  Yep, more photos of the blossoming trees that line Main Street before having a wonderful breakfast at the Corner Shop Café.  Tammy had the breakfast burrito with potatoes substituting for the meat, great flavor and a great vegetarian offering.  I had a bagel with scrambled eggs and pepper jack cheese, delicious.

Historic Downtown Trinidad, Colorado

If you’ve only seen Trinidad from the lanes of I-25, then you haven’t been to Trinidad.  Next time, take the exit and explore for a while, point B will still be there when you arrive.  There is so much history here.  The Santa Fe Trail, Doc Holiday, Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson are just a few of the icons that made this a true wild west town.  The architecture and the hillside brick paved streets add a character that is unique in all of Colorado.

Historic Downtown Trinidad, Colorado

Before heading home, we stopped in at Adobe Gold Real Estate and met Charlie for the first-time.  We had a great visit and learned that he is a friendly man who wears a whole bunch of hats.  Charlie specializes in Colorado mountain land for sale and he can also custom build and deliver a camping cabin to your site within 2 to 3 weeks.  Additionally and among other pursuits, Charlie owns and maintains a community blog, forum and website called Trinidadco.com.   His site is a great source for information and history for the region.  Check it out.

Keep your eyes on our site for another video coming real soon.  We Love Comments and Questions!  If you enjoyed this post, please let us know by using the LIKE Button and by sharing it on Facebook and Twitter

 Remember, The Greatest Adventures Are Waiting In Your Own Backyard.
Categories: Colorado, Photography, Video | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Two Springs Forward, And One Spring Back

March Snow at 9600 Ft.

March Snow at 9600 Ft. near Cuchara

In Colorado, March weather is about as predictable as the personalities of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  Sure, we can cling to the notion that the month “comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb”, but in reality it hardly ever works exactly like that.  It seems that March always makes my head spin.

One week ago, Tammy and I were hiking through the canyons of S.E. Colorado.  Short sleeves, sunscreen and temperatures in the 80’s gave us the false notion that winter was over.  By Tuesday morning, two feet of fresh snow and temperatures in the teens found us scrambling for the winter clothing and the snow shovels.  Today is Saturday and we are expecting nothing but blue skies and temperatures in the mid 70’s.

All in All, it is the diversity in geography and the unpredictability of the weather that makes Colorado such a wonderful place to live.  Where else can you change your season, simply by changing your elevation?  Get out and embrace the contrast.

Pastures near La Veta turning green

Pastures near La Veta turning green

The Greatest Adventures Are Waiting In Your Own Backyard.

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Categories: Colorado, Photography, Video | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Exploring The South-East Colorado Canyon Lands

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Spring Equinox – Rock On, Rock Art In S.E. Colorado

Carrizo Canyon Paradise

Carrizo Canyon - A Prairie Paradise

Tammy and I are taking our new job very seriously.  Every couple of weeks we pick a destination that is within our immediate proximity, we pack a lunch and camera equipment and we head out to capture and chronicle the experience in our new blog and web video series called “The Local Tourist – Colorado”.   It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it.

Yesterday, we awoke to a glorious spring morning in Cuchara.  The forecast was calling for temperatures in the mid 60’s, another day of melting snow and ice and another day of mud.  A couple of hours later, it was almost surreal as we watched the mountains shrink and then disappear in the rear view mirror as we traveled across the plains of South-Eastern Colorado.  The temperature was 81 degrees.  Our mission:  To explore Picture and Carrizo Canyons on the Comanche National Grasslands in Baca County.  To view prehistoric petroglyphs and pioneer homestead ruins.  To celebrate the Spring Equinox by going somewhere warm and dry.

Picture Art at Picture Canyon

At Picture Canyon, the rock art was amazing, although it was sad to see how many people would rather leave their mark than take a memory of an undisturbed historic site.   Most of the pictures were likely inscribed into the rock by Plains Indians in the 17th or 18th Centuries, but it is possible that some of the rock art could have been made by long before that by early Indians or by Celtic Explorers.   The “Crack Cave”, is only illuminated by direct sunlight during the spring and autumn equinox and it is speculated that the petroglyphs within the cave were used to track and record the astronomical calendar.  Unfortunately, despite our near perfect timing, we were not permitted to enter the cave.  The Forest Service recently closed the cave to protect the bat population from disease.

The remains of several early 20th century homesteads still stand in the canyon, not too far from a giant spring that is lined with cottonwood trees and cat tails.  This must have been quite a find, to be out in the middle of this dry, parched land and to have running water percolating up from the ground within a stones throw from your front door.   These two room homes were built with   native stackable rocks held together with mud.  The walls were about two feet thick and the same rocks were also stacked to create a livestock corral.

Picture Canyon is huge, experiencing it in its entirety would take days on foot.  Horses and mountain bikes are allowed which would make one-day exploration more efficient.  Charlie (our dog) was getting burs and cactus needles in his paws, so we kept our hike short, about two miles.  But we felt that we had seen everything that we had come to see, and we were anxious to move on to Carrizo Canyon before the Sun set.

Petroglyphs at Carrizo Canyon

Carrizo Canyon is truly an oasis in a vast arid land.  Carrizo is the Spanish word for “Reed”, a plant that grows in water.   The one-mile nature trail begins at the newly improved parking lot and picnic area.  As you wind your way along the creek, it is easy to appreciate that this was a place that was dearly loved by its early inhabitants.  Petroglyphs can be found in the canyon walls just off the main trail and it requires a bit of a scramble through boulders to get there.  Plant and animal life is abundant here.  A rope swing hanging from one of the tall cottonwood trees indicates that a lot of people must come here to swim.  This is a short hike, but we plan on coming back to spend a whole day, relaxing, taking pictures, and swimming in the summer.

For both of us, Carrizo Canyon was a profoundly peaceful déjà vu.  Our imaginations raced with visions of Mothers and Grandmothers grinding corn and preparing cloth from animal hides that had been brought home by the hunters.  Children jumped into the deep refreshing pools and played on the sand beach that lined Carrizo Creek.  Jubilant, excited young voices and the sound splashing water echoed throughout the tiny paradise.  Up high in the smoky canyon, the red light of the late afternoon sun filled the air as a man knelt, etching the figures of deer and antelope into the sandstone wall.

Carrizo Creek

As the sun was setting over the western horizon, we made our way home to Cuchara, feeling renewed and happy that we had ventured east for the day.  The Greatest Adventures Are Waiting In Your Own Backyard.

Don’t forget to look for our new video, The Grassland Canyons of S.E. Colorado, coming this week at The Local Tourist – Colorado Also, We Love Comments and Questions!  If you enjoyed this post, please let us know by using the LIKE Button and by sharing it on Facebook and Twitter

For more information on the Picture and Carrizo Canyons, visit the following informative websites:

http://www.santafetrailscenicandhistoricbyway.org

http://www.springfieldcolorado.com

http://www.secoloradoheritage.com

Categories: Colorado, Comanche National Grasslands, highway of legends, Tourism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

March Madness On The Highway Of Legends

Springtime Near Stonewall

Living at 9600 feet atop Cuchara Pass is not recommended for those who prefer dry ground, a clean car and a convenience store nearby.   We awoke yesterday morning to 12 inches of moisture filled spring snow, a surprise storm that gave the weather forecasters their third miss in a row.  As always, we are hoping to deposit as much H2O as we can into the Snow Bank so there will be plenty to withdraw in the summer months that are just around the corner.  “Gotta make water when the sun isn’t shining”.

Up here, cabin fever sets in on a fairly regular basis during the winter months.  Fortunately, it usually just takes a short drive in any direction to give us a renewed outlook, after all we live along the incredibly scenic highway of legends.  Yesterday, we headed south and despite the fresh snowfall and the cloudy skies, signs of spring could be seen everywhere.  The ice on North and Monument lakes is quickly melting and the first signs of new growth are appearing in the deciduous forest.

Long before the asphalt of highway 12 was laid down as a U.S. Mail delivery route connecting La Veta and Trinidad.  Legend has it that the Stonewall postmaster’s last name was Stoner and the vertical Dakota Sandstone formation that bordered the town was dubbed Stoner’s Wall.  Long before a town name like “Stoner’s wall” might be considered dubious, it was changed to stonewall to represent both the man and the landmark.

Spring Snow On Dakota Wall At Stonewall

Spring Snow On Dakota Wall At Stonewall

Today, Stonewall is home to the Shopping Bag, our local convenience store, a mere 15 miles from home.  We picked up a few items then drove around to observe some of the wind damage from one   particular sleepless night last winter.  Stonewall had sustained winds in the 100m.p.h. range, tall trees were blown over and a number of buildings were either damaged or destroyed.  It is indeed fortunate that nobody was hurt or killed by these record winds.

Along the drive home, we stopped to shoot a few photos before climbing up our long snowy driveway in four-wheel low, cabin fever remedied.  If you don’t know it by now, The Greatest Adventures, Are Waiting In Your Own Backyard.

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If you want to learn more about the Highway of Legends, the following websites are a great resource:

www.cucharavalley.org

www.spanishpeakscountry.com

www.sangres.c0m

www.trinidadco.com

Categories: highway of legends | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Birds Gone Wild – The Sandhill Crane Migration

Think of how dull life would be if the Earth’s axis were not tilted in relation to the Sun.  Without that 23.5 degree angle, there would be no change in seasons and therefore, no cause for celebration this time of year as we welcome the arrival of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere.Today, we head west from La Veta, following US 160 all the way to Monte Vista.  In a few days, this quiet agricultural community will welcome thousands of visitors from all over the world, arriving to attend the 29th Annual Monte Vista Crane Festival.

Again, thanks to that tilt in the Earth’s axis, a flock of Sand Hill Cranes touch down  for a long layover here at the National Wildlife Refuge at just about the same time each year.  We’ve come a few days early and we are hoping to witness one of natures great migrations, a group of 20,000 or so giant birds on their journey north from New Mexico to Idaho.  A rowdy group that will spend spring break feeding on the barley and wheat of the San Luis Valley.

We arrived at the Refuge in the middle of the afternoon and there were indeed a number of Cranes in and around the Wetlands, jumping about in their ritual mating dances, resting and eating under the warm sun, but to our disappointment they were grossly outnumbered by a seemingly segregated grouping of Canadian Geese and other species of birds.   Had we arrived too early?  Even Charlie wondered what all the hype was about.

As the sun dropped behind the San Juan Range to the west, the air space became noticeably busier.  From every direction, these spectacular creatures gracefully glided toward their chosen landing strips before flaring and flapping their massive wings into a perfectly executed soft landing.  And then, just before dark, we witnessed a spectacle of mesmerizing proportions.  The Greatest Adventures, Are Waiting, In Your Own Backyard.

Categories: highway of legends, monte vista crane migration | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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