Park sign at the entrance
I just got back from a short foray on the plains of Colorado. It was my first time visiting Paint Mines Interpretive Park, but I guarantee it will not be my last.
Paint Mines Interpretive Park is part of the El Paso County Parks system. It’s a small park (approximately 300 acres) about 50 miles southeast of Denver, or about 30 miles northeast of Colorado Springs. The park consists of about four miles of hiking trails through scenic badlands in the lower washes, and windswept open plains in the higher sections. The trails are well maintained and well marked, but the best part about Paint Mines Interpretive Park is that it is perfectly located for being a part of the GPT!
Beautiful red and yellow badland formations are the highlight of the park. The colors are due to oxidized iron in the soil.
Interpretive signs explain the history, geology, and ecology of the area.
The trails are well maintained.
The higher trails offer excellent Great Plains views and vistas!
Routing the GPT through Paint Mines should be a priority as established trails in this area are few and far between.
The pleasant town of Calhan, CO is just about a mile or so to the north and offers most basic amenities.
Trevor Herriot, a prairie conservationist based out of Saskatchewan, has just come out with a new book called The Road is How. He is the author of several books about various aspects of the prairie ecosystem in Canada, the best known being One Day, Grass, Sky, Song, which deals with the dubious fate of grassland birds. He is also the author of the excellent blog: Trevor Herriot’s Grass Notes.
Below is a brief description of the new book (which I do not think is available just yet) copied from Harper Collins – Canada:
“Prairie naturalist Trevor Herriot decides “the road is how.” Recovering from a misstep that could have been his last, he decides to go for a three-day walk to sort through questions that rushed in upon the enforced stillness as he waited for his body to heal.
The author sets off down an ordinary prairie road and then detours along railbeds, over hills and into fields—sitting next to sloughs, waiting for a sparrow to sing to the dusk. Each step takes him further into a territory where imagination and experience carry us beyond the psychological imprint of our transgressions to the soul’s reconnection with a broken land.”
It sounds like he covers some territory very similar to what the Great Plains Trail will be covering, and it shows the power of landscape and nature to deliver answers to us – if we take the time to listen well . . .
An article has appeared in 5280, The Denver Magazine about some hidden gems in Colorado, and although it did not receive a large write-up, Pawnee Buttes and Pawnee National Grassland got the cover shot, as well as a full two page spread kicking off the larger article. Well done!
With more articles like this one, it won’t be long before the awesomeness of the plains starts to reach a larger audience. As other places, like the mountains, become more crowded, people are going to seek out the solitude and space of the plains and prairies. They will soon realize that their reputation as being boring and flat is just a myth.
There are so many hidden gems out there. You just have to go out and find them, and the goal of the Great Plains Trail is to link together as many of these special places as possible in one long trail from Canada to Texas!
The Mickelson Trail, South Dakota
While we’re on the subject of rail trails, one of the best in the country is the Mickelson Trail through the Black Hills of South Dakota. It’s over 100 miles long and runs from Edgemont in the south all the way to Deadwood in the north. The scenery is spectacular, and the plan is to one day make it a key part of the Great Plains Trail!
The White River Trail, an enjoyable, scenic rail trail in western Nebraska, is on the proposed Great Plains Trail route.
Here’s an update on the situation regarding rail trails, and the recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. It appears the news is not all bad, but expect more litigation . . . “down the line.”
More on the Supreme Court ruling
From the Bad News Desk, we have this:
The U.S. Supreme Court has dealt a blow to rail trails. The implications are not yet clear, but it appears that any federally protected right of ways that exist on private lands my be in jeopardy, even if they are currently being used as trails. For more information see the link below:
Supreme Court Ruling Information
Burrowing owls are one of the coolest species of wildlife that can be found on the Great Plains. I realize that statement is an opinion, and you are as free as ever to disagree, but owls just seem smart to me, probably smarter THAN me, so they have my utmost respect, and I think they’re cool.
They’re cool to look at – they’re looking at you too!
Photo: Robert Postma
They’re cool to watch:
You Tube Video – Burrowing Owls
And if you really need a Burrowing Owl fix, here’s a link to a live webcam. I’m not responsible if they’re not in view. Shy, I imagine.
Live Webcam – Burrowing Owls
Yup. Pretty. Darn. Cool. Burrowing. Owls.