Friday, June 8, 2012

2012-17 Lamar to Pueblo West Colorado

Lamar Colorado

Picket Wire Canyon Lands

Pueblo West Colorado

Campground:  Country Acres Motel and RV Park.  Passport America Rate, $18, full hookup + cable TV.  Parallel sites around the outer perimeter.  Unlimited stay at Passport Rate.

Campground:  Pueblo West Campground.  $120 wkly rate = $17 per night.  Full hookup 50amp.  Monthly rates are $280 + Electric.  95% of the campsites are filled with perms.  Also horse boarding available. Easy spacious pull-thru sites. Close to a Wal-Mart and easy drive into Pueblo.  Good digital TV reception.

Lamar Colorado

Imagine a small town, Wal-Mart on the edge of town, semi-trucks heading through town at all hours of the day and night, semi arid landscape.  One of the reasons I like to travel is to experience the different regions of the country.  All those trucks heading north and south along 287/385 bring to my mind that there sure is a lot of commerce happening across this country.  From my big picture window in the camper, I have a great view of all those semi’s going by.  Many loaded with heavy mechanical equipment of all shapes and sizes.

Building made of petrified wood.

Though the town doesn’t have the historical appeal I quite often enjoy, I am able to discover the oddity that every town seems to have.  Lamar has right on the main street  a building made up of petrified logs that are 150 million years old.  With a faded Ripley’s Believe it or not sign out front.   It’s not being used for anything and appears to be owned by a car dealer of some sort.  As I peaked into the dusty cobwebbed window it appears to be used only for storing old odds and ends.  The towns visitor center, which was extremely helpful in my planning my trip through Colorado, didn’t even mention this piece of Americana history right in their own back yard.

USDA Forest Service Comanche National Grassland
Picket Wire Canyon lands

That visitor center did give quite a bit of information on the Forest Departments lands in the area and I was intrigued by all of them in particular the Picture Canyon and Picket Wire Canyon.  Since there would be a car tour of Picket Wire Canyon on Saturday, I decided to see if I could hook up with one of the tourists who had a 4 wheel drive vehicle.  A major requirement on this adventure.

With luck I was offered a ride with Tom and Barbara from Colorado Springs area.  During the  orientation meeting, the Ranger said that their was usually one or two vehicles that would get a flat tire.  Tom said they’d already had a flat the day before so maybe we’d all be lucky with that out of the way.  I was thinking with my past tire issues and sure was glad I wasn't taking my two wheel drive truck into the canyon.

You guessed it, on our decent into the canyon, two vehicles got flat tires.  After repairs, we were on our way again for the first of a number of stops throughout the canyon.  From rock art, to natural arches, to remains of the Dolores Mission and finally to the highlight of the canyon, the Jurassic Tracks.  One of the largest sites in the world containing over 100 track ways.  Mainly sauropod and theropod tracks that are over 150,000,000 years old.

1300 footprints have been identified, but hundreds if not thousands more are still to be uncovered.  The feeling of being able to walk along these pathways where huge dinosaurs once roamed is just awesome.  Being able to touch the depressions made by these huge animals.  Seeing the imprints of  the three toed  theropods and the larger almost round footprints of the sauropods all lined up as they walked along the shores of the fresh water lake 150 million years ago is something not many people get a chance to do in a lifetime.  Some of these foot prints have only been visible to man for the past 10 years and I was seeing them for the first time out of the veil of history as the rock layers have become visible once again.

The site is so remote that even though it was first discovered in 1935, there was no real serious scientific interest in the site until 1980’s when the site was finally studied in detail.  It was a long day, I had muscle aches galore in my back and had to take a couple strong Tylenol, but I wouldn’t have given up this adventure for anything.  As we visited the last site, the Historic Rourke Ranch the exhaustion mainly from the back issues was almost too much.  We all finally piled into the dozen or so vehicles and began our ascent out of the canyon.  Taking one last look at the surprisingly green canyon valley below, the dark skies finally opened up and a gusty wind and light rain started to fall.  Though we were finally out of the canyon and on very well maintained dirt roads, they quickly turned into muddy, slippery tracks.  Even with everyone having 4 wheel drive, vehicles were slipping and sliding all over the road.  Thick clumps of mud building up on the tires and underbelly of the jeeps.  My two wheel drive truck would have never made it out and I was once again grateful to be a passenger in someone else’s vehicle.

As I drove the hours drive back to Lamar in a light rain, I would later find out that Lamar had endured 60 mile an hour winds and that the gas station a mile away from my camper lost it’s roof over the gas pumps and numerous business signs got blown out as well.

Pueblo West, Colorado

140 miles on down the road and I’ve arrived in Pueblo West.  The road I’m speaking of is hwy 50 which I’ve taken all the way from Dodge City Kansas and portions of it run over the original Santa Fe Trail and is also posted as the Scenic Mountain Auto Route.  I’ve just arrived in the high desert before ascending into the Rocky mountains.  I’ve decided to stay in this area for a week and explore a bit before heading into the mountains.  The area is being built up with homes on 5 acre lots and businesses parallel the main highway.   The area continues to grow, gradually taking over the pastures and ranches that once dominated this dry arid plain.  It still has the open high desert dusty dry grass land feel so I get to enjoy this rugged landscape before it eventually gets overtaken by man.

This was originally a cross roads in the old west, where trails converged.  Add railroads into the mix and it became a boom town.  The largest steel mill west of the Mississippi was based here until the 1960’s when cheap foreign steel out did the mill.  It was shuttered and the owners locked the doors, leaving almost everything in place.  5 tile and brick mills were in the area, making brick the major component in building the town.  Giving the town a permanence that other western towns didn’t have.  A major flood in 1929 nearly destroyed the town.

The historic downtown area has a river walk and even boasts a river ride through a couple blocks of old downtown.  Which has more of a modern feel as new construction lines the river walk bordering the older parts of town.  The History museum which is next to the visitors center is a huge new building, but the exhibits which fill only two large rooms are static and not very inspiring.  Though I did enjoy a portrait show of  Trinidad Colorado’s photographers, O.E and Glen Aultman which has given me inspiration for a project I have in mind for the Photography group at Desert Trails this coming winter.

Bishops Castle

Bishop's Castle

I had a fun drive today up into the Wet Mountains on my way to see Bishops Castle.  It’s a really cool castle that Jim Bishop started in 1969 as a one room stone cottage.  It’s been under construction ever since and none of it has ever been furnished or lived in in it’s 43 years of existence.  Jim has worked on the castle between raising a family and working full time in Pueblo Colorado at his families iron works company.  He wasn’t there when I went through the building so I didn‘t get to hear his rants about the Government.   Which I’m told are quite heated and passionate.  Climbing those steep outer concrete stairs which eventually lead up to a vast vaulted great room with floor to ceiling windows on each peaked end of the room.  But most folks including me spend a lot of time on the wrought iron balconies that surround the upper levels of the castle and towers.  With winding stairs to climb and vistas on all sides it’s pretty awesome and one can get almost light headed with the height and those mountainous views.  Being able to view the castle from inside and outside on those wire rap-around balconies was a stroke of genius.  To me this is one of those places I just have to visit.  To feel and see what one man can accomplish.  A vision that is all his own.  There are so many questions.  Why build it?  Why the effort if not to live in it?  What does it mean?  Is it art?  What’s the message?

Bishop's Castle

So you’d think that would be enough of an adventure for this leg of my trip, but instead I went to Rosemount Museum which is a 37 room mansion in Pueblo built in 1893.  The mansion was built over three years by John Thatcher and his wife Margaret.  It’s been featured on America’s Castles.  It was built during the transition period when electricity was just coming into fashion so all the Tiffany lights in the house are electric and gas operated.  Because of the location of the house in Pueblo, the electric was turned off at 8 pm to the houses on the block.  The home even was designed with the intent of putting in an elevator in the future.  The space on each floor contained closets with shelves which were eventually removed and the elevator was installed in later years.  The descendants lived in the house until 1968 when it was turned into a museum.  And in a sense it is a museum even having an Egyptian mummy on the third floor and a couple Ming Dynasty vases about 5 feet tall.  My guide pointed out a photo of one of the daughters who took a grand tour around the world, quite an accomplishment for a girl back then.  The picture was of her and her friends on camels in front of the sphinx and one pyramid.  The sphinx is buried up to it’s neck in sand so you don’t see it’s large paws and only one pyramid is showing plus the very tip of another one.  My guide was a bit ditzy to say the least.  Along with the shiny gloss around her lips, yes, extending beyond the lips themselves giving almost a guppy like look to her face.  Forgetting some of her pitch and just stopping and staring at some of the artifacts as if she was seeing them for the first time herself.  Made for a most unique tour.  So there you have it, I saw a castle that has been under construction for over 30 years and no where complete to another castle featured on the TV program American Castles that had all the bells and whistles with a fascinating history of the house and people who lived in it.

Rosemount, Pueblo Colorado

I've been experiencing heavy winds the last couple of days, as I’m on the down slope of the cool winds coming off the mountain ranges meeting up with the hot high desert air.  The dark clouds being just to the east of my campsite.  About 35 miles north of where I’m staying, Colorado Springs had a dozy of a storm last night with tennis ball sized hail.  Tonight, just north and east of Colorado Springs they had a second storm and a tornado touched down briefly.  Fortunately I’m just out of range of these storms, but not the winds as my camper does a shimmy and shake dance most of the evening.

I have lots more to report on, but will save it for next week.

Pics at:  Picasa

1 comment:

keyward9 said...

I think the petrified wood structure is the most interesting excerpt in your post -- baffling that nobody seems to know much about it!