Pike National Forest & Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument

Our first few days in Colorado were a little uneventful because while hiking in Palo Duro, Alan was breaking in some new hiking boots and got huge blisters on his heels. Once they healed and we started hiking around, we quickly fell in love with Colorado’s majestic mountain scenery!

Pikes National Forest

We were lucky enough to find a great campsite within Pikes National Forest that became our home base for a few days. While in the Colorado Springs area, we drove up the infamous Pikes Peak scenic drive. Unfortunately, we could not make it to the peak due to poor weather conditions. We were still able to stop for some scenic views on our way up the mountain.

The view from our campsite

Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument

Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument is one of the richest fossil deposits in the world. While exploring the park we hiked a multitude of small trails that amounted to 6 miles and saw some massive ancient petrified redwood stumps. We were especially surprised to find out that a lush redwood forest existed in Colorado 30 million years ago!

Ancient petrified redwood stump

Takeaways

Pike National Forest was our first stop in Colorado and was a great first impression to an amazingly scenic state.

Palo Duro Canyon State Park

Palo Duro Canyon State Park is in the Texas panhandle near the city of Amarillo and is the second largest canyon in the United States. This state park is one we have wanted to see for a long time but because it is a 9-hour drive from Houston, it would be difficult to make it during a weekend trip. Since we were heading north towards Colorado, we decided this park was a good stopping point to breakup the miles. In all we spent 3 nights below the rim of this beautiful wilderness.

GSL, Lighthouse, & Paseo Del Rio Trails

On our first full day in the park we hiked from the Givens, Spicer, Lowry (GSL) trailhead to the Lighthouse trail then connected back on the Paseo Del Rio trail. Our main objective of the hike was to reach “The Lighthouse”, a rock formation resembling its namesake. Having reached the Lighthouse, we took a break for lunch then returned via the Lighthouse Trail passing a formation known as “Capital Peak” then connected back to the GSL trailhead on the Paseo Del Rio Trail. On our way back we also passed a reconstruction of a 19th century dugout used by cowboys during the period.

The Lighthouse
Capital Peak

The Big Cave & Rock Garden

During our next exploration day, we visited “The Big Cave”, a large hole in the canyon wall approximately 20 feet wide and 30 feet tall. Then when hiked the Rock Garden Trail though an ancient landslide in the form of a large boulder field. We were most impressed with the large size of many of the boulders and were surprised to see that some of them had chalk from where climbers had scaled these immense rocks.

The Big Cave
Looking out of The Big Cave
The Rock Garden

Takeaways

This is one of the more scenic Texas State Parks and is worth a visit when passing through the panhandle.  Our only issue was because of it was early June when we visited, the temperatures were in excess of 100 degrees during the day. Next time we visit it will be in the spring or fall.

Thanks for reading!

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Carrizo Plain National Monument

Carrizo Plain national monument is located near Bakersfield, CA and belongs to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The monument is mountainous prairie land with a valley the center containing a lake. One of the monuments main attractions are the large amounts of wildflowers that typically bloom in the spring and summer. Ashby was especially excited about seeing the wildflowers so we made this a priority stop. We spent 4 days parked up a hillside overlooking the valley below.

Wildflowers

While this park is known for its vibrant “superblooms” of wildflowers, the blooms depend heavily on the amount of precipitation that occurs during the winter. Unfortunately, the monument did not see the much rain this winter so, we missed out on a “superbloom” but still saw some unique wildflowers. We will have to visit again when the rains are better.

Purple Owl’s-Clover and Fiddleneck

San Andreas Fault

The division between the North American and Pacific tectonic plates runs up the length of the monument appearing to be no more than a drainage ditch. It is a unique experience when you are standing on this immense geological boundary. I decided to go into the fault line and on my way down heard a rattle and saw movement out of the corner of my eye. My immediate reaction was to jump and run the opposite direction. I quickly surmised that I had just narrowly escaped being stuck by a rattlesnake! We then stood above the fault line and observed the rattlesnake slither back under some rocks all while it continued to rattle at us. This day happened to be our 3 year wedding anniversary and Ashby was glad we didn’t end up in the hospital.

San Andreas Fault

Takeaways

This is a remote mountainous prairie that in some ways reminded us of the vast prairies back home in Texas. We hope to return again following a good rain season to witness one of the wildflower superblooms this area is famous for. Until next time!

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Visit to Carrizo Plain National Monument