Friday, July 24, 2015

Castlewood Canyon State Park

The past week has pretty much been devoted to helping our daughter and her cousin Heather check out campgrounds for the Lohrmann reunion in 2017.  In the process we have managed to get some sightseeing done.  One day we took a trip south through the mountains on highway 70 and were able to get a good view of some snow covered mountains which included Mount Elbert and Pikes Peak.  The entire drive took us to Colorado Springs with stops in Leadville and Buena Vista.  It was a beautiful trip, and we were also lucky to see pronghorn antelope.
Several days after that trip we again headed south to check out a campground near Castlewood.  The rock structure for which the town is named is pictured above.  Ten miles from the Castle Rock is Castlewood Canyon State Park.  There we took the Canyon View Nature Trail first, which is a handicap accessible pathway that follows along the rim of the canyon.

According to information provided along the trail, many years ago pressure within the earth built the Rocky Mountains.  As the young peaks grew, they shrugged off layers of sediment and rock.  Raging rivers then rolled them off the slopes unto the plains.  Some of them rolled 30 miles south from Pikes Peak and embedded them in the caprock pictured above.  Those smooth rounded cobbles can also be seen in the walls of the canyon, I took a close-up photo to show how all those little pieces of rock built up the canyon.
Our path along the rim brought us to the Inner Canyon Trailhead, a much more rugged trail.
It was a beautiful walk down into the canyon.  Here we saw a variety of wildflowers, some of which were a first for us, as the harebell and butter and eggs.  Pictured below is a patch of penstemons.
An interpretive sign along the trail pointed out that within the canyon are 5 ecosystems: caprock, riparian, shrubland, conifer forest, and grassland.  The caprock area is dessert-like with cactus plants.  At the bottom of the canyon we walked along Cherry Creek, which has the riparian as well as shrub and grassland ecosystems.  They all can be seen in the picture below.
Another picture here shows the end of the trail for us, where we had to turn around instead of completing the loop out of the canyon.  We encountered two groups of hikers warning us that they had seen rattle snakes on the rocks where we would have had to cross the creek to get to the other side.  We also noticed that by continuing on the trail we would have had to do some rock scrambling and go through quite a bit of brush.  Much as we would have liked to have continued on the trail, we retraced our steps.

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