Thursday, September 11, 2014


When I mentioned to my dad that we were going to try to see part of the old Santa Fe Trail, being an old Kansas man himself, he said, "Are you going to see the sunflowers?"

Well, yes. We did see the sunflowers. They grow wild along the roads in Colorado. And whole the columbine is the state flower, I believe they are the flower dearest to Coloradians. The sunflower is the Kansas state flower and of course, the Old Santa Fe Trail crossed the center of Kansas, horizontally from east to west and then entered Colorado or what is now Oklahoma, and ended up in New Mexico.

This flower has to all Kansans a historic symbolism which speaks of frontier days, winding trails, pathless prairies, and is full of the life and glory of the past, the pride of the present, and richly emblematic of the majesty of a golden future.

They were brought to the region and the story goes that the scouts who were preparing teh way for the pioneers, and who went on ahead to blaze the trail as soon as the spring thaw made the route passable, took with them sunflower seeds and scattered them along the route. Then when the settlers followed later in the season in their wagons, they had the trail marked for them by the sunflower blossoms.

So we were quite taken with the sunflowers when we saw a few of them...or a lot of them.

Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs

We have been there before, but loved going there again, this time taking Judy's mother who had never seen it... The Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. If you are travelling on busy I-25 between Denver and Pueblo, you will see the Garden of the Gods without even getting off the Interstate. It is that unusual and distinctive, with the great looming red rock formations. They are quite different in color from the rest of the surrounding landscape, whether it is the purple mountain majesties background of the Rockies (with Pike's Peak in the center of it all) or the green of the surrounding rolling foothills. Thewe are a few of the photos I made that day--and yes the colors were that vivid, I did not enhance them in any way.

Royal Gorge Reopens

A year after wildfires destroyed much of the area around Royal Gorge and closed it to visitors, the attraction reopened on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend. Just an hour or so westward into the mountains from Pueblo, the Royal Gorge is also sometimes called the Grand Canyon of the Arkansas River. Judy and her Mom and I took the drive west on highway 50 to Canon City and then about 8 miles up and over the mountain trail to the Gorge.

The day was stunningly beautiful and the new visitors' center was well designed and welcoming.

The fires did not destroy the bridge, long touted as the highest suspension bridge in the world, dating back to 1929. We went across and back, and up to the overlook where we could see the entire bridge in all of its splendor.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

More on the Zapata Ranch...

When we arrived at the Zapata Ranch, we parked in a grove of very tall cottonwood trees, and then went into the welcome center next to the log lodge building. It was all very pretty and picturesque, but we were so anticipating seeing the bison, that we did not really take in the scene as we might have. However when we returned, having seen the 500+ bison out on the range, the tall trees seemed to be speaking to me.

I mentioned that I thought they were at least 100 years old, to have reached such a stature. Later, when reading about the Ranch on their website, I learned that I had underestimated the age of those cottonwood trees. By at least 100 years. You see, Zebulon Pike (yes, the one whose name is on Pike's Peak) camped underneath this same grove of trees when he was on his western expedition at the behest of the US President. The President was Thomas Jefferson. The year was...1808.

Zapata Ranch - Colorado

While we were in Colorado we went to the Zapata Ranch to see bison.

Now we were not promised that we would see bison, but the hope was that we would.

We did.

At first a handful, then scores and then... Well I stopped counting when I reached 500.


The Zapata Ranch has a herd of 2500 bison, give or take a few. We saw more than one fifth of all their majestic animals.

And, yes, we were really this close to them.

In the background you can see the Sangre de Christo Mountains and the Great Sand Dunes.

What a thrill!

Bent's Old Fort on the Santa Fe Trail

On Labor Day we decided to get off the beaten path and take US 50 east out of Pueblo, where it soon meets up with the Old Santa Fe Trail. The mostly flat, but rolling route follows the path of the Arkansas River, toward Kansas. The south bank of the river was in Old Mexico until after the Mexican War. This is now very lush farmland, with wonderful melons and other produce in abundance, as well as cow country.

When we arrived at La Junta, we crossed “back into the US” in order to visit Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site. It features a wonderfully accurate reconstructed 1840s fort. The only fort on the Santa Fe trail that was privately owned. It functioned as an adobe fur trading post where traders, trappers, travelers, and the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes came together in peaceful terms for trade.

See more at: Santa Fe Trail