Salida and another scenic drive

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October 2nd 2009
Published: October 3rd 2009
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Its difficult to imagine that this area of central Colorado didn always exist as we know it today. The geological history is fascinating and the more I see and learn the more Im amazed. Everywhere we look its a breathtaking panorama. This morning the air was a cool 49 degrees, the skies once again pure blue but today they were especially clear over the mountains. The temp was below freezing last night and the little fountain in front of this wonderful hotel froze for the first time this winter. Little Oscar, the resident Dachshund was not impressed with the cold weather and he quickly went out for his morning business and then hurried inside to lie in a sunny spot by the door.
Today we headed out to further explore this area. We started with a quick drive through the historic downtown district of Salida. Its really lovely and has many well maintained old buildings from the late 1800s. The homes, many of which were built in the early 1900s are well kept and beautifully painted and decorated.
We headed out on 285 north along the Collegiate Peaks scenic route which we had seen on our way into Salida but this time we continued up to about 40 miles south of Denver before we turned back heading south and made a circle around the geographical center of the state which is a town named Terryall. At one point along the roadside we saw a small herd of Yaks drinking from a stream. It seemed a little unusual and we wondered what they were doing there but evidently there are quite a few farms that raise Yaks in the higher elevations of Colorado. They are used as pack animals, for wool, milk and sometimes meat. We stopped some distance from them to take photos, but it frightened them and they began to run off into the field. I was able to get a couple of not so good photos, mostly of their rears.
All of the roads that we have traveled on this trip have been designated as scenic routes either by the AAA (American Automobile Association ) or by the state in which we are traveling. In this case of course, the state is Colorado. The route took us once again through mountain passes, canyons, along rivers, through open cattle range, past horse farms and so on. It is simply gorgeous out here and the scenery seems to change with each curve of the road and the roads are VERY curvy. We found our usual gorgeous spot for lunch along a rivers edge. Today is was the South Platte River where we saw a deer but he (a bull) quickly disappeared into the brush. It was the Packstring National forest facility where evidently one can rent pack animals to pack supplies into remote camp site areas.
The route heading south was 126. The area had been devastated by fire in 2002 and was barren looking for miles and miles. The fire was the largest in Colorados recorded history and burned 103,000 acres.
From there we turned onto route 24 at Woodland Park, a biggish town with a huge golf course and apparently a fair amount of money in the town as the homes were not your ordinary run of the mill working mans home.
Our last stop of the day was at the Florissant Fossil Beds. It is a national monument noted for its fossils and holds spectacular remnants of prehistoric life.
The fossils are contained in the Florissant Formation of Eocene age. Huge petrified redwoods and very detailed fossils of ancient insects and plants reveal a very different landscape in Colorado of long ago. Almost 35 million years ago, enormous volcanic eruptions buried the then-lush valley and petrified the redwood trees that grew there. A lake formed in the valley and the fine-grained sediments at its bottom became the final resting-place for thousands of insects and plants. These sediments compacted into layers of shale and preserved the delicate details of these organisms as fossils. The Florissant Fossil Beds were set aside as a part of the National Park System in 1969. We had only 45 minutes to spend at the monument because it closed at 5pm so we watched the film, spoke with the well informed rangers at the visitor center and then walked a short way along one of the paths to see some of the fossilized Sequoia trees.
That completed our day and our visit to this very central part of Colorado. Tomorrow we will head further west to see one of the most spectacular areas of Aspens that Colorado has to offer.


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