Saturday, March 13, 2010

Colorado Extremes

Sunset from my hotel room - there is a snow covered peak hidden in those glowing clouds.

The place I have most often visited in my life has been Colorado. The long trek across the plains of western Kansas and eastern Colorado is a small price to pay for a flatlander's first glimpse of the mountains as the peaks appear on the far horizon. As the miles recede in the rear view mirror, the mighty Rockies slowly rise in their distant and magnificent splendor. It is one of the best things traveling Interstate 70 west, and one of those small personal moments of delight I cherish in my life.

This trip was for business, but Colorado is a treat, no matter what the reason for traveling there. In order to avoid the heavily congested traffic of the Denver area, I left the interstate, taking off across the high plains on two lane highways. In avoiding traffic, I traded away the experience of seeing mountains slowly rise on the horizon, though the high plains also have their emotional impact. All that space and sky! I am accustomed to 360 degrees of sky and the open landscapes of Kansas, but those vistas on the Colorado high plains are enormous and beautiful. The little car I was driving hardly seemed substantial enough for such vast spaces. With the cruise control set at 70, there were moments when I would emerge into spaces so vast that I would check the speedometer because I had the distinct sensation of the car slowing down.

Most of eastern Colorado has been plowed into hundreds of thousands of acres of wheat. Farming such spaces requires enormous equipment. Huge farm compounds are situated every several miles surrounded by windbreaks of double rows of trees - the effort to stop the wind that blasts unimpeded for hundreds of miles. The high plains are not a place for weak human beings - neither the Indians who hunted those vast spaces, nor the current farmers who feed our nation, and many others, with their science and machinery.

I find farmed areas ugly and depressing, yet I am quite happy to go into any supermarket to buy a cheap loaf of bread and a pound of steak. I do not understand it, but I can never see any landscape without imagining the way it must have looked before human beings over-populated and began decimating the natural beauty and balance. Those oceans of grass on the high plains must have been a breath taking sight before there were fences, roads, cell towers, electric transmission lines, imported trees and oil drilling. Even dominated by human activity now, the scenery is still daunting and awesome.

I spent the week in Ft. Collins, Colorado. It is a college town, the location of Colorado State University, the student body once known as the Aggies, a reference to the agricultural focus of the college. Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas has a similar history, and were also once known as Aggies, (hence the little bar district there known as Aggieville.) Agriculture is exactly what has brought humans to our present dominance of the planet, but being known as Aggies is not desirable or cool any longer. It is kind of a wimpy representation, so the Colorado Aggies are now the Rams, and Kansas Aggies are the Wildcats.

Some of the local people in Ft Collins are regretting the urban growth in their beautiful little town. It sits right against the foothills, with at least one snow capped peak visible from some points in town. I sympathize with the local residents. We all hate urbanization and roads and highways and landfills and traffic and congestion and crime and expense ad infinitum.

A bit unsettling perhaps is the large reservoir above the town - literally. The water is at a higher elevation than the town. It is the Horsetooth Reservoir, named for the rock formation shown in this photo - the one that looks like a giant horse tooth. Imagine that.

The Horsetooth

I have posted some photos of the drive along the reservoir. Even though the scenery is dramatic and beautiful, and there are expensive homes with spectacular views strung along the hillsides the length of the lake, it was the little homesteads tucked along the road in the floor of the valley that were attractive and compelling to me. There were many places with little pens of horses everywhere, far more than I would expect people to have simply for their own pleasure. I thought maybe people hired them out for riding along the trails by the lake. They were almost all smaller, sturdier horses then what I am accustomed to seeing in Kansas. I did not take a single photo of any those handsome little horses, though. I guess the mountains bedazzled me.

These are the foothills visible from the hotel.

Ft Collins from the foothills.

The valley road that leads directly to this...

An enormous cottonwood tree! There is one in Kansas larger, but not by much.

Goodbye Rocky Mountain Peaks - until next time.

My hair got in the way of this photo. This is the scenery that I love the very most - wide open spaces with no sign of human interference beyond the fence.


cold beer and a fishin' pole said...

Very poetic. I dig it every time you write.

Anonymous said...

If you'd been a thoughtful guest, you would've brought spring out with you. ;-)

Jackie said...

Sorry, Kit, I can't bring what I don't have. Will spring EVER arrive this year????

Jackie said...

Cold Beer... I tried three times to post to your blog today. I only just discovered your blog and read through it. You live an amazing life.