We travel the back roads of northeastern Colorado through the Pawnee National Grassland.
The grassland is located on the Colorado Eastern Plains, a part of the Great Plains. In the early 1900s the land was somewhat cultivated until the Dust Bowl of the 1930s depopulated the area. (en.m.wikipedia.org)
We enter the southwest panhandle of Nebraska via State Route 71…
and head east on State Route 92 toward the city of Bayard.
We spend the next 3 nights at Chimney Rock Pioneer Crossing RV Park, just off 92 and 3 miles southwest of Bayard.
Chimney Rock is visible from the front of our RV.
At night the rock is lit up.
Our next door neighbor has the smallest RV we have ever seen. It’s really a tent on wheels with an electrical hookup. For awhile she had a tall and narrow teepee-like tent set up. A shower and portable potty? But the wind blew it over so she disassembled it.
I did some online research. The 4×8 unit is called a Runaway and can be equipped with air conditioning and television. Of course, everything is extra. YouTube has lots of videos too.
Notice all the stakes lined up around the old windmill below?
Each stake represents a reserved spot to set up a tent. This part of Nebraska will be in direct viewing of the solar eclipse on August 21st.
Chimney Rock is a prominent geological rock formation that served as a landmark along the Oregon Trail, the California Trail, and the Mormon Trail in the mid-1800s. The peak of Chimney Rock is a little over 4,000 feet above sea level.
The first recorded mention of Chimney Rock was in 1827 by fur trader Joshua Pilcher. The Native Americans already living in this area, however, called this by a different name which meant elk penis.
Based on sketches, paintings, written accounts, and an 1897 photograph, Chimney Rock was taller when first seen by emigrating settlers. Erosion and lightning has since reduced its height. (en.m.wikipedia.org)
Courthouse and Jail Rocks
Courthouse and Jail Rocks are 2 more famous landmarks of western migration. Often called a “castle” or “solitary tower,” the name “courthouse” was first used in 1837.
Rising some 400 feet above the North Platte Valley, these 2 prominent rocks are composed of clay, sandstone, and volcanic ash. (historical marker plaque)
First impressions of Nebraska…
- Cornfields… duh, the Cornhusker State…
- Black-Eyed Susans
- Cows and more cows
- Trains blasting their horns ALL night
Jasmine created a baby dinosaur hatching from an egg in art class at her elementary school.
It was chosen and displayed at Grandview High School.
Denver Museum of Nature and Science
How tall are you next to a dinosaur?
A view of downtown Denver from the mezzanine balcony…
Saving Captive Wildlife For Over 37 Years
The Wildlife Animal Sanctuary (TWAS) in Keenesburg, CO rescues and provides a permanent home for wild animals that have been abused, abandoned, displaced, or neglected. Most of the animals in the Sanctuary were born in captivity and confined in back yards, basements, apartments, and garages. TWAS offers these rescued animals a place to recover and be safe for the rest of their lives. (Sanctuary Tour Guide)
“Mile Into The Wild” Walkway
An elevated walkway, 18-42 feet high, traverses over 21 of the large acreage natural habitats where the animals live and roam freely.
The 2-mile round trip pedestrian bridge allows visitors to observe the wildlife in their species-specific habitats.
A Non-Profit Facility
TWAS relies entirely on private contributions, fundraising events, and grants from foundations to stay in operation. Sanctuary memberships, animal adoption programs, and pledges provide consistent support.
David Jernigan is a member of TWAS and just adopted an animal as well.
After lunch at the Lions Den, Jeff, David, and I watch an introductory video presentation before heading out onto the 4,800-foot-long walkway.
On the way back the black leopard is hanging out on his suspension bridge play area.
No, these Bolivian lions below are not enclosed in cages. They have open access to an 80 acre habitat. The lions were confiscated from 8 circuses that refused to comply with the nationwide ban on using animals in circus performances.
What other stories do these rescued animals tell?
Many animals were purchased as pets from breeders of exotic animals until their owners found out they needed special licenses or the cute babies grew too big and dangerous to handle. One African serval was a wedding gift! So some came to TWAS to not be euthanized and to live out their lives in comfortable and natural surroundings. A wild animal raised in captivity cannot be released back into the wild.
Some came from zoo foreclosures, defunct circuses, and other sanctuaries. Others were kept confined for photography studios, mall pics, roadside and amusement park attractions, local fair performances, taxidermists…
Their traumatic pasts include:
- 2 bears living in a truck for 17 years with a Russian circus who were addicted to nicotine for training purposes
- a bear trained to walk bipedal who had to relearn to walk on all 4 legs
- 5 bears used for “bear baiting” to train dogs for hunting
- 2 horses remaining from the time when TWAS helped find homes for PMU horses from Canada… (PMU horses are farmed to collect Pregnant Mare Urine, high in estrogen to sell to pharmaceutical companies for hormone replacement treatments. Not only are the pregnant horses confined in tight stalls for 9 months, but their babies, once weaned, are taken away to feed lots where their meat is sold in Europe. The mares are re-bred to continue this vicious cycle.)
And others were born in TWAS because their mothers were pregnant when they arrived at the Sanctuary.
Now we come to the Main Compound where newer rescued animals are temporarily placed in smaller enclosures to gradually introduce them to more space and freedom. Those with medical issues are also brought here to help them recover or live more comfortably.
Most of these pictures are from the Tiger Roundhouse where tigers are slowly introduced to the Tiger Pool Area.
Here, the tigers learn to live and play together. As soon as 8-12 animals are responding well to communal life and freedom, they move to a larger habitat.
In the words of Pat Craig, the Executive Director of TWAS:
“It is the Sanctuary’s goal to get all the animals into a large acreage habitat with others of their own kind, so that they can experience life with plenty of space, diets of exceptional quality, expert veterinary care, and freedom from performing, traveling, or otherwise doing things Nature did not intend for them.”
For more information go to wildanimalsanctuary.org and tell them David Jernigan sent you.
Arches National Park
Today, under threatening skies and with hoards of other hikers, (some in flip-flops, others with hiking sticks) we embark on a memorable 3 mile round trip adventure on steep slickrock slopes. The trail offers no shade and traverses a rock ledge before arriving at Delicate Arch.
The trail begins at the Wolfe Ranch parking area.
Disabled Civil War veteran John Wesley Wolfe and his son, Fred, settled here in the late 1800s. The weathered log cabin, root cellar, and corral are evidence of the ranch they operated for over 20 years. (park brochure)
After crossing a bridge, a loop trail leads to petroglyphs on rocks that we decide to explore on the way back.
It’s so remarkable to be walking through the geology of Arches National Park! The colors, the rocks, the foliage, the views!
Teaser alert… An arch, yes, but not Delicate Arch…
Ooh… the trail narrows and looks over the edge…
Now we continue along a ledge…
People gather to rest, take pictures, get closer to the base of the arch, and make new acquaintances.
We spend 20 minutes talking to others.
And then it starts to rain!
Everyone starts scrambling down like ants, heading back to the trailhead and seeking the shelter of a waiting parked vehicle.
Water starts streaming through the crevices in the rock and quickly fills the potholes. I try to get a picture but my fingers are too wet to unlock the screen on my iPhone.
Meanwhile, other brave (or crazy) hikers, some carrying crying toddlers, continue up the trail to Delicate Arch. They are closer to the end of the trail than to the beginning, anyway. Besides everyone is already drenched, except for those who thought to bring a poncho.
By the time we arrive back at the trailhead, the rain has stopped, and no, we never do take the loop to see the petroglyphs carved in the rocks. Next time…
Water and Ice… Extreme Temperatures… and Underground Salt Movement… Oh My!!!
There are over 2,000 cataloged arches in this National Park, ranging in size from a 3-foot opening (the minimum considered an arch) to the longest, Landscape Arch, measuring 306 feet base to base. (park brochure)
Can you find the 2 arches in the picture below?
Look again for 2 small pinpricks of white in the upper middle section of rocks. (I deleted the photos before I could point them out.)
Towering spires, pinnacles, and balanced rocks (perched atop seemingly inadequate bases) compete with the arches as scenic spectacles. (park brochure)
Can you spot The Three Gossips whispering below?
Below is Sheep Rock, but it looks like a lamb to me.
Balanced Rock sits below. Pretty awesome!
Jeff and I first visited Arches National Park in December of 2009. It snowed heavily as we traveled into Moab. The next day, the NP actually closed because of the weather conditions.
Fortunately the Park reopened the next day and we were able to drive the main road out and back, traverse the side roads, take a few short hikes, and bask in the awe of these natural wonders surrounded by blue sky and white snow.
Today we return and wait a good half hour in a line of cars before gaining entrance to the main road that traverses the Park.
Unfortunately, major road construction has intermittently closed some sections and littered the landscape with orange cones.
I have done my best to crop out the orange construction cones so I can share the beautiful scenery from the main road, a 36 mile out and back drive, on a partly cloudy, sometimes sunny day with threatening storms on the horizon. Honestly, the sky adds a hint of surrealism to these incredible rock formations.
Do you remember the name of this formation? (Hint: whispering women…)
How did the arches form?
Geologists speculate from circumstantial evidence:
Three hundred million years ago a sea flowed across the Colorado Plateau and left a thick salt bed deposit as it eventually evaporated. Arches National Park lies atop this underground salt bed, thousands of feet thick in some places.
Then, over millions of years, residue from floods, winds, deserts, and more oceans, that came and went, blanketed the salt beds and compressed into rock.
The weight of this thick cover of rock caused the underlying salt bed to shift, buckle, and liquefy. This repositioning of the salt bed thrust some layers of rock upward creating domes while other layers of rock fell off section by section.
Faults deep in the earth’s crust created even more instability and produced vertical cracks in the rocks. Surface erosion stripped off younger rock layers leaving the salmon-colored Estrada Sandstone and buff-colored Navajo Sandstone exposed.
Over time rainwater seeped into the porous cracks, joints, and folds of sandstone. As the water froze, the rock expanded and contracted and broke off in bits and pieces. Wind later cleaned out any loose particles, leaving behind a series of freestanding fins. More wind and water caused some fins to collapse.
But others, harder and better balanced, survived this erosive process despite missing sections of rock underneath. These became the iconic arches of Arches National Park. (park brochure)