Friday, October 28, 2005

Colorado Springs - Fossils and Mountains

We drove about 35 miles west yesterday to visit Florissant Fossil Beds Nat'l Monument. This area used to be a large lake. So there were fossils of insects and plants that were preserved in the muck of the old lake. Unfortunately all of the fossils we saw were in the Visitor Center. What was surprising was to see the petrified tree stumps of Redwoods that were spread out along several trails. Surprising evidence that there used to be a Redwood forest in Colorado.

There was also an old homestead here in the park. Adeline Hornbeck and her four children. It was rare for a woman to be able to receive approval for homestead and it was rare for a homestead home to be built as large as hers. Four buildings and the root cellar were on-site.

Florissant is at 8,200' elevation. It was quite chilly (in the 50's but bitter), so we opted out of hiking more trails here. Instead we drove to Mueller State Park (which was 9,600'). Half of this park was closed for the winter. I hope I've mentioned that a lot of places close in the winter: shops, campgrounds, hotels, attractions, etc. Or, if they don't close, they reduce their services. And in the parks, hunting season is beginning so some areas are off-limits. We hiked one loop trail in the State Park, with a couple of spur trails to overlooks. A beautiful park with aspens, scrub oaks, firs, and pines and great views of Pikes Peak and the Rockies. This would be a great park to camp (campground available, sites looked very nice) and explore. On the ridges and overlooks we were freezing with the wind nipping our noses, but on the uphill treks in the forest we got pretty heated from the exertion. Still hard for us to get used to the "take it off, put it on, off, on, off, on" method of hiking out here in the West.

Did you ever get the feeling you were being watched while you were hiking? I used to think it was the stealthy mountain lion, but now I realize it's because the Aspens have eyes! Ha! It appears that when the older branches fall off, it leaves these marks that look like eyes. Eerie, especially when you look into an aspen grove and see fifty "eyes" staring back at you. But, at least I know an aspen won't eat me for lunch.


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