Monday, July 17, 2017

Wildflowers on Columbine to Coyote Song Trail





I'm very fortunate to live in a community that has access to many trails. Some are public and some are private for the use of residents only. I've blogged about the Cathy Johnson trail before--click here to read that post--which is a public trail very close to our community. In fact, while I was walking on the Cathy Johnson trail recently, I took this photo looking back towards the beginning of the trail, and you can see a portion of our neighborhood to the left. Please click on the photo to enlarge it to get a better view. It gives you an idea of how we live at over 6,000 feet elevation, but we are in a valley between the Dakota Hogback and Colorado Front Range foothills.  I love to take hikes like this in late spring and early summer, when many wildflowers are in bloom. This time my husband and I decided to take an off shoot of the Cathy Johnson Trail, called the Columbine Trail, that crosses over a smaller Lyons Hogback to the west.


Most of Colorado has been arid this summer, and at times we've had above normal temperatures, yet hardy wildflowers continued to share their beauty. As soon as I began hiking the trail these flowers were the  first ones that I saw.

I also saw prairie dogs on the north of the Cathy Johnson trail, They face a hard time in many areas of the front range and plains as development grows.  This quote from this article in the Denver Post states: 
"A Century ago, black tailed prairie dogs numbered in the hundreds of millions and were possibly the most abundant mammal in North America. Colorado officials reckon prairie dogs inhabited 7 million acres in the state--an area 14 times larger than prairie dogs inhabit today. But plague, urban development, poisoning. roads and hunting, here and around the Great Plains, reduced prairie dogs by 95% Federal biologists estimate 10 to 20 million have survived."


We arrived at the turn off that leads to the Columbine Trail....


...where we happily saw many bees and insects at work!


The Columbine Trail climbs in elevation about 500 feet and crosses over the Lyons Hogback


There were many wildflowers on this trail!


There were also a large amount of scrub oak trees.


 As you can see from this photo the trail cuts in and out of these groves of scrub oaks.  Unless one is in one of the many pine forests at higher elevations, most Colorado foothill trails are fairly tree less......


....so even this small amount of shade was nice.


We saw many pretty delicate wildflowers in this area of the trail.


As we reached the crest of the Columbine Trail to cross over the Lyons Back, we could see a Lockhead Marten Space Systems Company in the distance, and a portion of South Valley Park ahead.



There were cactus flowers and other beautiful and colorful wildflowers at this point.


Now the trail began to descend....


...with rock steps to aide in the footing.


Looking back you can see the Lyons Hogback and signs that show that now this portion of the trail connects with Coyote Song Trail in South Valley Park.  I've blogged about the entire Coyote Song Trail on this post.


There are many stunning red rock formations on South Valley Park.  It is interesting to see how this land that was hundreds of millions of years ago the shoreline of a sea, and was uplifted by geological forces that lasted for 150 million years. Archaeological evidence in this area also points to hunter gatherer people occupying the South Valley 7,500 years before the pyramids of Egypt were built! These red rock formations also provided shelter for early Native Americans.


As we approach the end of Coyote Song Trail and South Valley Park, houses in my community can be seen over the ridge.


We hiked back past the Lyons hogback...


...and turned back towards home in front of the Dakota Hogback.



It was a pleasant hike so close to home and filled with beautiful views and exquisite wildflowers. How fortunate I feel to be able to experience all this beauty, almost in my own backyard!

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Monday, July 10, 2017

The Tenth Mountain Division and the Top of the Rockies Scenic and Historic Byway




If you read my post about the beginning of our drive to Independence Pass--click here to read that post-- you will remember that when we left Leadville, the highest incorporated town in the United States, we took a wrong turn, and instead of driving on CO 24 east, we went west.


It turned out to be a fortuitous mistake, as we soon discovered we were driving on the Top of the Rockies Scenic and Historic Byway, and we were seeing beautiful vistas all over 9,000 feet high.


We passed by the Hayden Meadow Reservoir, which was still partially frozen in late June. The reservoir is a popular fishing area in summer. At a scenic pullover I saw this plaque which identified the reservoir at being at 10,618 feet elevation.  The towns of Robinson, Kokomo, and Recen once stood in this valley, with the highest Masonic Lodge having stood from 1882 to 1966 when this valley was flooded to make the reservoir.


The next stop we made was in the very scenic Pando Valley

Please click on to enlarge photo

Here I found some very weathered informational placards that told the story of the Pando Valley and the interesting story about the 10th Mountain Division from World War II and Camp Hale which was located here.


When the War Department decided in 1942 to establish a unit of mountain troops trained in skiing and winter warfare, they chose Pando Valley, a stop along the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad as the ideal location.  This area had consistent and heavy snowfall throughout the winter, due to its elevation at 9,200 feet (2800 m), as well as the topography conductive to ski training. There was also accessibility due to the railroad and Highway 24, which enabled building materials to be brought in easily and quickly. There was also water supply from the Eagle River and Homestake Creek and regional coal supplies to heat the camp.


Camp Hale was constructed with around 1,000 buildings and housed approximately 16,000 soldiers and 3,900 animals. Approximately 14,000 military personnel stationed there were members of the Tenth Mountain Division. After two years of rigorous training the Tenth Mountain Division was ordered to Italy in 1945 to prepare for an advance of the U.S. Army. They breached the supposedly impregnable Gothic Line in the Apennines and secured the Po River Valley to play a vital role in the liberation of northern Italy. By the time the German surrendered in May 1945, 992 ski troopers had lost their lives and 4,000 were wounded. This was the highest casualty rate of any U.S. division in the Mediterranean,


In 1965, Camp Hale was dismantled and the land was deeded to the US Forest Service. Except for a few foundations, signs and some concrete ruins, there is not much left of the camp except for memories.  Yet, the Tenth Mountain Division had a large impact on the state of Colorado, because after the war many of the returning members returned to Colorado and were pivotal in creating the recreational ski industry in the state. They designed ski lifts, became ski coaches, racers, instructors, ski patrollers, shop owners, ski school operators, improved ski equipment and developed ski resorts. In fact one of the founders of Vail Ski Resort, Pete Seibert, was a member of the Tenth Mountain Division.


This memorial sculpture dedicated to the Tenth Mountain Division stands in the ski town of Breckenridge on the Riverwalk.

Please click on to enlarge

A close up of the plaque on the memorial.


We continued driving west on 24 West until we reconnected with I-70 again, where we drove to Aspen and then turned back east to drive over Independence pass as we originally planned.

Map of Highway 24 west--the Top of the Rockies Scenic and Historic Byway

We may have taken the wrong turn, and driven an unplanned byway, but seeing the Camp Hale area and learning about the Tenth Mountain Division turned out to be a real bonus! The fact that we took this trip on Memorial Day added extra poignancy to the Tenth Mountain Division's story and the ultimate sacrifice that was made by many.


Someone had left roses on one of the placards at Camp Hale, and I added a prayer as I stood there. May we never forget and honor them always.

Colorado is home to 26 scenic and historic byways, and eleven of them are designated by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation as America's Byways, which gives Colorado more national designations than any other state!  To learn more about these byways go to this Colorado Department of Transportation Scenic Byway link.

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