Sunday, June 20, 2010

Scenery for a Sunday: Southwestern states roadtrip

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If it were not for the unhappy events described in my last post, these photos would have closed out the week yesterday. Today will do just fine.

That one above is from Turtle Rocks, just off Interstate 80 in eastern Wyoming. It's a place I'd been ambitious to explore ever since driving by on the way work on electing Obama in 2008. This year, we took the time to circle the outcropping on a 2.5 mile trail.

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In southern Colorado we got ambitious. We decided to hike to the summit of this 13,000 foot pile of rock: West Spanish Peak. Native Americans call this mountain and its eastern twin the Wahatoya, "Breasts of the World." When early settlers on the Santa Fe trail glimpsed these peaks, they knew they were finally about to escape the endless plains grasslands.

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For a couple of flat-landers, the trudge up the loose rock talus was a tough go ... but awe inspiring.

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The 360 degree summit view made the exertion worthwhile. This fellow as the only other human we saw on the mountain.

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From the heights to the (relative) lowlands: we stopped by Great Sand Dunes National Park. Who knew that such a thing was continually building itself in the shadow of the Sangre de Cristo mountains?

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When you have enough water and the temperature is not blazing hot, the desert can have a surprisingly benevolent feel to it, grand but not hostile to humans. This was such a desert last week.

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The next day we hiked easily outside Gunnison, CO ...

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... on the north rim of the Black Canyon, another extraordinary national park. Modern adventurers still test themselves by traversing the canyon at water level. We peered down several thousand feet and marveled.

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What's life without a goal? Here's our next one: Wheeler Peak in Great Basin National Park, adjacent to Nevada's Utah border, another relatively isolated 13,000 footer. I don't know when we'll get there (there's a relatively short snow-free summer season) but it sure looks like fun. The trail starts at over 10,000 feet so there is only 3000 feet of rocky scrambling.

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At trail head altitude, in mid-June, the trees have not yet leafed out, but you can just see they are trying ...

'Nuff wandering for now. I'm home and back to work.

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