States visited: 49!

visited 49 states (98%)
Create your own visited map of The United States
Miles driven so far -
LOOP 1 (Aug 2009 - Aug 2010): 29,000
LOOP 2 (May - August 2012): 10,800

Highest altitude with camper: 11,158ft (I-70, CO)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Colorado National Monument

After school, we left Dave to work and drove up the supremely winding road to Colorado National Monument’s Visitor Center.  We collected Junior Ranger books and despite temperatures in the 90’s, we completed the one mile, self-guided nature trail.  There were some great little paragraphs of information.  We learned about a variety of plant life, in particular pear cacti and juniper trees.  This one died at the grand old age of 300 years and will take at least 100 years to slowly decompose, providing food and shelter for numerous critters.

The reddish-orange cliff walls are Wingate Sandstone and former sand dunes.  Over millions of years, winds blew the sand until they grew little by little.  There are a number of ridges created by winds of different directions.  These rocks are highly susceptible to erosion and weathering, so we could see plenty of overhangs and holes.  At the end of the trail, we stood in a ‘room’ created by wind erosion.  Walking carefully on the path, we took care not to ‘bust the crust’ – this is the delicate hard top covering on the soil to the sides of the path which takes moments to break but years to form.

As we hiked along, we spotted a number of collared lizards.  We read about and saw, hidden under the rock ledge, the left-behind nest of a woodrat as well as some tiny lionant traps.  Apparently there were Desert Bighorn Sheep in the park; however, sadly we did not see any again!  The Ranger told us that they had been spotted on the Rim Rock Drive to the west earlier in the morning – exactly where we drove in, there was definitely no sign by the time we passed through.

We followed cyclists down the steep road back to Fruita, spent some time working on the Junior Ranger programs, and returned to the Park in the afternoon with Dave. 

We headed through the West Entrance, stopped at Balanced Rock View, and continued on through the rock tunnels. 

The Fruita Canyon View gave us an incredible view over the valley.

From the Visitor Center, we hiked the mile Canyon Rim Trail to Book Cliffs View jumping every time a lizard ran across the path!  We were afforded more wonderful views.

Having completed the two required hikes and far more activities than necessary, the kids were sworn in as Junior Rangers once again. 

The famous Independence Monument was our next stop along the Drive.  From the brochure: This was once part of a massive rock wall that separated Monument and Wedding Canyons.  Slowly, as the forces of erosion enlarged the canyons, the dividing wall was narrowed and weakened.  Weathering and erosion proceeded more rapidly in places where the rock was most vulnerable – along natural fractures.  Eventually the wall was breached and parts of it collapsed.  A remnant of the once solid rock wall survives as Independence Monument, a free-standing monolith.  It too will eventually succumb to the ravages of time and weather.

We continued along the Rim Rock Drive, stopping at a number of the overlooks including Coke Ovens Overlook and Artists Point, apparently good for seeing sheep, naturally none there when we were!

Moving around to the east side of the Canyon, we viewed Upper Ute Canyon and Red Canyon Overlooks.  It was incredible to see the Fallen Rock, huge chunks of rock literally dropped from the side of the cliff.  We commented that it must have made quite a noise when it fell!

The very end of the Drive took as toward the East Entrance where we paused at Devils Kitchen Picnic Area for dinner.  We returned to Fruita via the more flat roads outside of the Park.

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