Friday, September 10, 2010

Lathrop State Park - Southern Colorado

Roger here....  Our Wednesday night stay was at Lathrop State Park about fifty miles south of Pueblo, Colorado.  We left Seibert so early in the morning that we arrived at the state park just before noon.  What a unique and beautiful place!  Our pull-through site with electricity gave us a panoramic view of Hogback Ridge and the Spanish Peaks.  The first thing we noticed was the ever-changing appearance of the mountains and the spectacular white (and sometimes gray) clouds rolling across the bluest of blue skies.

We had half a day here, so we put on our hiking shoes and took the boys on a three-mile hike to the top of (and across) Hogback Ridge.  The first part of the hike was through a low scrubby area, full of cactus, some of which still had remnants of blooms.  We saw a cool mule deer with a full set of antlers, but he bounded away before we could get the camera out.

As we began to ascend the ridge, we were surrounded by huge, heavily eroded, sandstone boulders.  Some of them were covered with brightly covered lichens (red, yellow, and green). 

Near the top of the ridge, the trail became a little dicey - more like mountain climbing (scrambling) than hiking.  I was concerned that our chicken doggie, Chaplin, would be afraid and balk at the erratic climb, but he bounded to the top.

The view from the top was stunning, especially looking straight down, but the mid-afternoon lighting and an increasing cloud cover made for poor photography.  (Dianne here:  If you look closely, you can see our motor home.) 

The ridge was indeed a ridge.  As we walked along, the drop was pretty much straight down on both sides.  Dianne picked up a few souvenir rocks.  Fortunately, they were small enough to put in her pocket (remember Lucy's hidden boulders in the movie The Long, Long Trailer).  (These weren't anything rare; just a small sample of the igneous rock that originally formed the mountains, and a couple pretty sandstone rocks from the base.  I'll mark them with "CO" so I'll remember what state they're from when I add them to my collection in Texas).

 As we carefully kept our balance, we passed by a gnarly 200-400 year old juniper tree. 

  And then...  What was that?  Was that a rain drop?  The clouds look a little darker than when we left?  Is the wind picking up?  Was that another rain drop?  Isn't it about 45 minutes back to the camp ground?  We didn't bring rain panchos, did we?  Do we have anything to keep the camera and cell phone dry?  Was that another rain drop?

The trip to the top of the ridge was leisurely.  The trip back down along the circular trail was purposeful.  Fortunately, we made it down the steepest part of the trail before the sprinkles turned into a more steady rain.  Jasper became a "dog possessed" as we speed-walked to the campsite.   We made it back with wet clothes (and fur), but with a feeling of exhilaration.  (Just love that wet-dog smell....)

We woke up the next morning to a sky full of vibrant orange/pink clouds.  What a beautiful place.  Too bad we only had a day here.

I know that Dianne talked about our drives heading west.    When we left Colorado Friday morning for Taos, NM, I do want to point out that our first steep ascent and descent through a western mountain pass (the La Veta Pass on Route 160 west of Wahlensburg) went well.  We did travel as slow as 25 mph in second gear for a portion of the crossing, but the engine did not overheat.   (We passed by two semis with heavy loads who had to stop and cool a bit on the shoulder.  Our motor home performed like a champ; slow but sure.)

 Using the lower gears on the descent prevented me from having to use the brakes to maintain a safe speed.  Dianne held up well, too.  She didn't even complain about my driving - probably too scared to talk.  (Actually, I was very impressed by my hubby "The Gear-Master.")

The next posts will describe our adventures in Taos and the surrounding area - one of my favorite stops so far.

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