Posts Tagged With: sight seeing

Exploring The South-East Colorado Canyon Lands

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Categories: Colorado, Photography, Travel, Video | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

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:

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:


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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