Category Archives: colorado

Virtual imagery of Chimney Rock, a Chaco outlier in southern Colorado

Laser-based technology uncovers new archaeological details
By Mary Shinn Herald staff writer, Durango Herald

Their work is part of Project Map, an effort to model ancient and historic monuments across the state. Chimney Rock is one of their first projects because of its archaeological ties to Chaco Canyon National Historic Park, and for decades researchers from CU Boulder have worked at the site, which was mainly inhabited between 925 and 1125.

“This is one of the most important national monuments of the Chacoan culture in the state of Colorado,” Gutierrez said.

original article

Free entry to all national parks on Monday | ABQJournal Online

Free entry to national parks on Monday | ABQJournal Online

By Journal and wire reports | 9 hours ago

On Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, visitors can enter Bandelier National Monument, as well as other national parks and monuments throughout the United States, free of charge.

Monday’s holiday is the first of nine days in 2014 when all National Park Service sites will open their gates to visitors without charging entrance fees.

Fee-free day waivers apply to entrance fees, commercial entrance fees and transportation entrance fees only. Other fees such as camping, tours and concession fees are not waived.

Free entry to national parks on Monday | ABQJournal Online

I-70 Wild Byway | Growing a Bridge

This is a very cool idea: an Interstate overpass for wildlife. Much better than sending them under the road through a dark, wet tunnel.

I-70 Wild Byway | Growing a Bridge

Colorado is ready to grow its first vegetated wildlife overpass spanning our interstate highway, allowing safe passage for animals and drivers.

A modular, cost-effective, forward-thinking Byway for East Vail Pass has been designed by world renowned architect, Ted Zoli, through an international contest. Its surface has four landscape bands: Forest, Meadow, Shrub and Scree — habitat corridors for the largest possible variety of wildlife species.

I-70 Wild Byway | Growing a Bridge

This forest doesn’t know it’s dead

Every summer, we camp in Colorado. Even in a drought, Colorado is colder, wetter, and greener than New Mexico. This year, we camped by streams four nights in a row in dense vegetation. However, we returned a week earlier than we had planned. Why?

We encountered a plague of a billion caterpillars that have stripped entire hillsides of aspens. These horror movie wannabes fell from the trees so loudly it sounded like rain. After they fall, they crawl everywhere and climb anything, including you, if you pause too long. We could not walk without crushing many with each step. We crossed a stream choked with thousands, every rock coated, countless floating downstream on the ride of a lifetime. It was obscenic: at once nauseating and mesmerizing.

Except for one male western tanager, we saw few birds. Either these caterpillars taste bad or the birds are afraid they will be the ones eaten. Birding was a bust except for the ubiquitous robins and the invisible warblers. In fact, we didn’t see any wildlife other than prairie dogs, chipmunks, golden mantled ground squirrels — nothing but rodents, not a single deer or elk.

There was a highlight: thousands of yellow swallowtails. They flitted among many lovely wildflowers and gathered in mud wallows by the road. We’ve never seen so many swallowtails. If they are related to the plague of caterpillars, huzzah for the caterpillars. (I don’t think they are connected.)

The wind in Albuquerque has been particularly ferocious this year. We lucked out in missing one horrible night while we were gone. However, I’ve never known Colorado to be so relentlessly windy. The wind blew hard all day long. Such a wind usually presages a change in weather and an approaching storm, but we never saw a cloud, just haze from fires. It was eerie.

We got a camper, in part, to shut out unpleasant neighbors in campgrounds and to be able to move quickly or stay in dispersed campsites away from the herd of fools. Although we found a sweet little campground that was unoccupied except for the opposite end, we saw much evidence of the quality of humanity this area normally attracts. People couldn’t bother to cross the road to an outhouse, preferring to defecate on the surface of the ground between their campsite and a stream, not bothering to cover said feces with anything other than a mound of toilet paper that soon blew hither and yon. This happened more than once in more than one campsite. There was trash everywhere — not as bad as Idaho, mind you, but bad enough.

And the height of folly? Two dolts pushing over a 50 foot tall living aspen for firewood. My hope is that it crushed their bus-sized RV. Yes, with wildfires raging over the next hill, every camper but us insisted on a fire from early morning until leaving it unattended as they staggered off to bed. They pulled down live limbs. They chopped like woodpeckers. They were the envy of the caterpillars.

As we drove away from this obscure narrow canyon with just two campgrounds of 10 and 7.5 sites, respectively, the weekend traffic was pouring in. People were setting up the largest tents and canopies I’ve ever seen in the woods. Campsites had 4 or 5 vehicles, countless people. It was gonna be a good ole rowdy family-funtime up deathtrap hallow until the shootin’ starts. Fittingly, we passed 3 huge trucks unloading cattle. We looked from the cows to the people and back again. We could no longer tell them apart.

Chimney Rock National Monument, Colorado

CO 115Located not terribly far from Aztec, New Mexico, Chimney Rock is an extraordinary Chacoan outlier (but each is). Most of the ruins are located on a ridge above the surrounding area. In fact, there is a particularly narrow section of the ridge affording even more isolation to the dwellings in sight of two natural rock formations (Chimney Rock and Companion Rock). These formations serve as markers on the 19 year lunar cycle, especially at least one of the two lunar standstills at the extreme northern point or southern point of this cycle. Unlike most outliers, you must have a guide with you to tour Chimney Rock (or, at least, that was the case 10 years ago, when I took these photos).

Students performed an exercise using mirrors that allowed them to exchange signals with Chaco. One source says this outlier also provided trees floated down to Chaco.

Obama to designate Chimney Rock as national monument Friday | New Mexico Wilderness Alliance

Published September 19, 2012 in News. By Allison Sherry The Denver Post

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama will designate Chimney Rock as a national monument Friday — a move that will help preserve the 4,726 acres in southwestern Colorado, administration officials told The Denver Post Wednesday.

Chimney Rock comprises a chunk of the San Juan National Forest and is surrounded by the Southern Ute Indian Reservation.

Obama to designate Chimney Rock as national monument Friday | New Mexico Wilderness Alliance


Among those sites identified as Chacoan outliers, the Chimney Rock Pueblo is distinguished by being the most isolated, the highest, and the most remote from arable land. With two exceptions, building at all of the outliers was begun between A.D. 1086 and the first half of A.D. 1120. Chimney Rock Pueblo is one of those exceptions, as construction began in A.D. 1076. — from Prehistoric Astronomy in the Southwest, by J. McKim Malville and Claudia Putnam

Time Travel in Colorado

2012-07 CO tracks
Our routes in Colorado

We’ve been camping in Colorado for more than two decades. Most years, we head up north before the end of June, but this year my book project kept me busy well into July and we hit the road 7/10 for 14 nights away.

This year, our travel plan was vague: head north until we encounter rain and cold. We assumed we’d have to go at least as far as Wyoming. Ironically, our first night just south of the NM-CO border was both cool and rainy. We never made it to Wyoming. In fact, it rained every day for the first 11 days. Most nights, the temperature got down below 50 degrees (20+ degrees cooler than Albuquerque nights right now).

Most trips, we jack-camp, a term that brings a blank look to faces. The official term is “dispersed camping” and we’ve heard “dry camping” – camping outside of a campground, as is allowed in US forests and BLM lands. (I encountered cognitive dissonance when we reached a campground for “dispersed camping only.” Er, um, they must mean there aren’t any established sites in this CG? Well, the fire rings made that unlikely. Moreover, this was one of two campgrounds maintained by volunteers.) Jack camping means we won’t have any neighbors and we won’t pay for the privilege. Nor will we have outhouses, water, or trash pickup.

This trip, not only did we stay in campgrounds, but they were more expensive than ever before: $18 per night in one well-worth-it CG; $36 per night in the Ouray KOA (includes hot showers – and lots of inconsiderate neighbors).

I’ve kept a journal sporadically since college and regularly on these trips since 1998, when we drove to Hinton, Alberta, Canada (a round trip of more than 5000 miles). Each night on a trip, I read older journal entries to Merri before she goes to sleep and then I write until I’m done (sometimes, all I have to say is where we are and what we ate). On this trip, I read the 1998 journal first. Then I skipped to the journal for 6/2002 because 10 years ago we were travelling the same area of Colorado. In fact, at times, it was uncanny how unintentionally close we were to previous locations and experiences. It’s remarkable to think “this is so beautiful and we’ve never seen it” and then read that, in fact, we did see it a decade ago and thought it was beautiful then. Of course, the unreliability of memory is one of the reasons I journal – we forget, and we are often amused to be reminded. Not surprisingly, many journal entries include “it rained today” or some discussion of how we tried to deal with, avoid or escape the relentless rain. This is how desert dwellers vacation.

Every trip has its doldrums and its peaks. Highlights of this trip include:

  • looking out to see a bear sauntering within 20 feet of the camper – “where’s my camera?!”
  • most of the 4 nights in Lost Lake Campground (we’ve never stayed anywhere 4 nights in a row – no driving at all)
  • watching a chipmunk explore Luke’s well-sealed food bin (we saw more chipmunks than ever before, but fewer hawks than we see in Albuquerque)
  • numerous hikes (vistas, wildflowers, cool bugs, wildlife), including the Cannibal Plateau (after Alferd Packer)

Not to dwell on the lows, but they include

  • ATV & dirt bike riders
  • flies
  • heat (worst in Montrose)
  • a broken vent cover that left a 14”x14” hole in our roof with rain imminent (fixed easily and cheaply in Montrose)

From my journal for Friday, 7/13/12:

We came to the turn toward Taylor Reservoir, still a dozen miles beyond that point. We went straight and pulled into Mosca Campground. As we drove through, the host pounced. Eventually, we got his name as Jean or John — I wasn’t quite sure. He was a cross between a mountain man and Jack Black. He was barefoot with beads around his bicep. Above a thick salt and pepper beard, his piercing blue eyes skewered my soul and asked silently, "are you the one?," making me hope I was not. Jean would like to host that remote CG for the next 30 years. He said the previous hosts had done so for 30 years. The husband died a few years back and the wife went on hosting until she fell on the dam and showed signs of Alzheimer’s. Jean went on and on, overloading us with details – which birds are around (he’s an avid birder) , such as the Williamson’s sapsucker, which drills an interesting pattern in trees, as we could see just next to site something or other; what wildlife (a black phase gray fox and a red fox with a kit; a possible muskrat hole at water level; beavers; his own nemesis, the chipmunks (which seemed against his wild child air)). He told us this turn and that turn and this road that soon gets too crappy for our vehicle and on and on. He was a famous wood carver of realistic birds, but now draws with pencil — he loves to show his work, which he refuses to sell. I would not want to sit through a show in his yurt. (Actually, he has a van. I bet he sleeps on the ground, covered with leaves.) In fact, Jean is quite an interesting character, just a little too intense, a guy made gregarious by isolation, perhaps. Probably a great host for his highly rated CG. He said "I’ll talk you to death," to which I replied, "then we’re getting away just in time," which made him pause a moment. I liked him but reached my limit in the 10 or 60 minutes we chatted with him. He deserves to be a character in a novel and he might say his living that novel, having left Idaho to migrate between this CG in the summer and Taos, or was it Tucson or was it Las Cruces. A wilderness hippie, I say with some affection.

We drove on to the next fork in the road. All around us were clusters of campers, every single camp sporting multiple ATVs and dirt bikes. Somehow, it felt crowded. Even before the first deer fly bite, we knew this area wasn’t going to work for us. We walked up one road to a potential site only to look down to see a lower road with two dirt bikes. One could not walk in this area without looking over one’s shoulder the whole time. There would be no chance for real quiet. Ironically, Mosca CG is the only space that might be a bit civilized and we couldn’t face more Jean time.

We pulled into the parking lot for the reservoir and setup up our chairs for lunch using the back porch as our table. As we ate misc, Jean descending from the CG with binocs and did not look our way — he knows we are not the one. He marched over to a family and we heard some snippet of familiar details. I was in a hurry to leave, but Jean went on away, no doubt to walk barefoot through the muck at the top of the reservoir, sinking to his knees, plugging into earth and water, becoming part of the land, raising his arms to heaven and returning to his tree form, mink running around his trunk until the next visitor enters the CG. Perhaps they will be the one.

NM EPHT: Environmental Conditions – Wildfire Smoke in the Four Corners area

Follow the link for the latest versions of these maps.. mjh

NM EPHT: Environmental Conditions – Wildfire Smoke

NOAA Southern Rockies (New Mexico and Arizona) Wildfire Smoke Forecast

Smoke concentrations in micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m**3) are represented as
light brown (low concentrations) on the left-hand side of the Legend across the top
of this map to red (high concentrations) on the right-hand side.

Current New Mexico Wildfire Smoke Map

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NOAA U.S. Wildfire Smoke Forecast

Smoke concentrations in micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m**3) are represented as
light brown (low concentrations) on the left-hand side of the Legend across the top
of this map to red (high concentrations) on the right-hand side.

Current Wildfire Smoke Map

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NOAA Wildfire Smoke Data

NM EPHT: Environmental Conditions – Wildfire Smoke

Protect the San Juans!

Senators Udall and Bennet Introduce San Juan Wilderness Bill | Colorado Wilderness Areas [hat tip to Chas Clifton] Posted on September 27, 2011 by colorado wilderness

Eagles Nest Wilderness

Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet introduced the San Juan Wilderness Act of 2011 to the 112th Congress.

If passed, the law will add approximately 33,200 acres of wilderness land to the existing Mt. Sneffels and the Lizard Head Wilderness areas of southwestern Colorado. In addition to the wilderness lands, 21,620 acres of federal land will receive special protection in the San Juan Mountains near Silverton, Colorado. [Specifically, Sheep Mountain Special Management Area – 21,620 acres including the Ice Lakes Basin near Silverton, CO] The special protection bans the use of motorized vehicles and the construction of roads, but fails to protect the streams and rivers from future water resource projects.

Senators Udall and Bennet Introduce San Juan Wilderness Bill | Colorado Wilderness Areas

Udall Introduces Bill to Expand San Juan Mountain Wilderness | Mark Udall | U.S. Senator for Colorado

An easy-to-fill out contact form is available on the website along with maps of the proposed wilderness at

Udall Introduces Bill to Expand San Juan Mountain Wilderness | Mark Udall | U.S. Senator for Colorado

I’m amazed that Ice Lakes Basin isn’t already as protected as any place can be: it’s a treasure beyond measure.

Initiative to study wildlife corridors along Colorado, New Mexico border

 Durango Herald News, Initiative to study wildlife corridors along Colorado, New Mexico border

Wildlife migration corridors between New Mexico and Colorado will be identified and protected as part of an initiative announced Friday by the governors of both states.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Gov. Bill Ritter of Colorado finalized a memorandum of understanding pledging to protect corridors used by elk, deer, pronghorn, bighorn sheep and other species.

“A rich wildlife heritage is one of the great treasures our states share, and it must be protected," Richardson said. Ritter said the effort “should be part of our legacy."

The agreement stems from an initiative by the Western Governors Association to identify and protect wildlife corridors across the West.

The WGA has said the issue is complicated because decision-makers must deal with unprecedented population growth, energy development and associated land-use impacts while working across federal, state, tribal and private lands.

Durango Herald News, Initiative to study wildlife corridors along Colorado, New Mexico border

Lynx Kittens in Colorado

Discovery of 10 lynx kittens heartens Colorado wildlife biologists | L.A. Unleashed | Los Angeles Times

Biologists with the Colorado Division of Wildlife have been cheered by the births of 10 lynx kittens in Colorado this spring, according to the Associated Press.  Prior to the discoveries of the kittens — seven males and three females in five separate dens — no newborn lynxes had been found in Colorado since 2006.

The species once flourished in the area but were gone by the early 1970s as a result of purposeful killings (by traps and poison) and human encroachment (in the forms of logging and property development).  In the last 10 years, 218 lynxes from Alaska and Canada have been released in Colorado, but biologists don’t know how many members of the threatened species are currently in the state.

Young wolverine makes 500-mile trip to Colorado – The Denver Post

A wolverine has traveled more than 500 miles from Grand Teton National Park into Colorado, the first known incidence of a wolverine in Colorado since 1919, wildlife officials said today. …

The wolverine, a young male known as M56, spent April and May traveling 500 miles south from Grand Teton National Park and successfully crossed numerous highways, including Interstate 80 in southern Wyoming, to reach Colorado.

The wolverine, which was collared in December, is now in northern Colorado, where the Colorado Division of Wildlife and the Wildlife Conservation Society are jointly tracking it.

Bob Inman — the Ennis, Mont.-based director of the Greater Yellowstone Wolverine Program — said wolverines were virtually wiped out in the lower 48 states by 1930. They were killed by unregulated trapping and poison-baited gut piles, he said. There has been a very slow recovery with about 250 believed to be living in the lower 48, said Inman.