One of my favorite activities to do while traveling is to visit National Parks and Monuments. I’ve never been disappointed in what they have to offer.
On Saturday we drove about 50 miles to the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. This area is internationally renowned for its variety and number of fossils, particularly of insects and plants. Paleontologists have collected more than 50,000 specimens for museums and universities around the world.
The fossils are from a time period of 35 million years ago when the area had a much warmer environment. Erupting volcanoes sent ash and mudslides through the valley, preserving plants and insects in remarkably detailed fossils.
Also found here are fossilized redwood trees. The mudslides preserved about 15 feet of the bottom of the trees. This picture is of one of the tree stumps. Kevin is on the right side reading the sign. You can see how large these trees were.
We spent about three hours at the site. We watched the 15 minute movie, perused the displays at the visitor center, and went on a moderate 4 mile hike. The hiking trail took us to the Hornbek homestead. This homestead was owned by Adeline Hornbek who was the first woman to file for a homestead site on land that is now part of Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. She was a remarkable widowed pioneer woman who established a successful ranch while raising four children. The original house is still intact. The other period buildings have been moved to the site.
From Florissant we drove to the town of Cripple Creek. We visited the Pikes Peak Heritage Center at Cripple Creek which had an excellent movie explaining how the the town sprang up in the late 1800s after the discovery of gold in the mountains of the Pikes Peak range. At it’s peak, the town had around 50,000 residents, 90 doctors, 15 newspapers, and numerous gaming parlors with ladies for entertaining. More than 22,400,000 ounces of gold were extracted from over 500 mines in the area. Three commercial railroads were established. As mines began to close, the town experienced some hard times. It has reinvented itself as a tourist area by opening many casinos. There are over 18 casinos in this small town. The main historic buildings have almost all been turned into casinos. There are also a couple of mine tours, a train ride, and numerous small museum buildings. We enjoyed the Heritage Center because it had excellent displays and it was free :)
Gold is still being mined in the area, but is pretty much controlled by one company. You can see these mine shafts on top of the mountains. This picture shows one of them as well as the aspen trees. Many of the aspens are losing their leaves.
Our drive was along an area known as the Gold Belt Tour. The road meanders through a valley between two mountain ranges. The scenery was magnificent. There are many ranches throughout this area. On our morning drive, we saw numerous road signs warning to watch for cattle, but we saw only a few cattle. On the way back, we saw many cattle, including these guys in the road. They must have been napping earlier :)
As we were heading back, we encountered a little bit of rain. This is the first rain we’ve had since we’ve been in Colorado. The clouds over the mountains created some beautiful scenes. Below are some scenic pictures from our drive yesterday.
This mountain is Pike’s Peak.
I get so excited when witnessing nature’s beauty!
Finally, I promised I’d tell you which famous person’s profile is depicted in the Royal Gorge mountain picture I posted yesterday. Pidge was the first person to respond correctly with John F. Kennedy. I liked Karen and Al’s guess of Archie and Judy’s guess of Abe Lincoln. Thanks also to Judy for identifying the bird as a mountain bluebird. After looking up images of mountain bluebirds, I think it was a female. Thanks, Judy!
Don’t wish upon a star – Reach for one!