Friday, August 21, 2015

Colorado National Monument

Here we are back again;   in a park with deep canyons, towering cliff walls and natural rock structures.  The high country of Colorado National Monument rises 2,000 feet above the Grand Valley of the Colorado River.  The park is part of the greater Colorado Plateau, which includes the geologic wonders of such places as the Grand Canyon and Arches national parks.   So we can expect more of what we have been seeing in the past week or so.  However, John and I can still always anticipate a few surprises, and this park did not fail us in that regard!
As at Black Canyon, we took the Rim Rock drive of 23 miles to take in some of the awesome views of the park.  One of our first stops was at Window Rock.  It was necessary to take a short hike through pinon-juniper woodland to get a good sighting of the very large structure pictured above.

The picture above shows the heart of the park.  The largest free-standing monolith on the left is called the Monument.  It was once part of a massive rock wall.  Behind it is Kissing Couple and Sentinel.  To the left of Monument is Praying Hands and Pipe Organ.  John Otto and artist Beatrice Farmham were married in front of  the Monument 1911.  She discovered that the "reality of his life was far from ideal" and left him a few weeks later, never to return.  Otto has a memorial at the Visitor's Center.  He loved the park from the moment he explored it and his memorial states he was a trail builder for it, and promoted the park.  He was its first custodian.  In 1911 President Taft designated it as a monument.
At the visitor center we were fortunate to have a geologist explain to us the different layers of rock which we were seeing in the park.  Those layers represent millions of years during which rock and sediment have built up.  Over those years inland seas have come and gone and erosion has sculpted the rock into shapes we see today.  Fossilized dinosaur bones and tracks have been found in that rock in this area of Colorado, the geologist had replicas of a few of them, including dinosaur dung!   Shortly after we had left the center, one bighorn started trotting down the road in front of us, followed by another.  By the time I got my camera out, they were running off into a ravine.
Another interesting area of rock structures is seen at the coke ovens.  That name was given to them because they look like the ovens used to transform coal into coke.  There were several other interesting overlooks into the canyons of the park, one of which is artists point.  An area of canyon there best shows the palette of color which paints the rocks found in Monument's landscape.  We also stopped at Cold Shivers Point, just because we were intrigued by the name.  There it is possible to stand at the edge of a cliff and peer thousands of feet below into the canyon.  Didn't give us the shivers, we have been having those experiences a lot in the past weeks! 

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