Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, June 14, 2017

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, June 14, 2017
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, June 14, 2017

Sunday, July 16, 2017

A Tropical Rainforest...in Colorado? Part 1 - Fri., June 16, 2017

Let me explain...in a minute. We left our hotel by the airport at 7:30 a.m. which is late for us. The GPS unit was set to take us to Castlewood Canyon State Park. And it did, sort of. We found a self-service entrance station. As we drove up, a young man who had parked around the corner from the self-pay box, was fooling around at the pay station. We hadn't seen him take a self-pay envelope and when he saw us coming, he left. We think he was trying to take out envelopes with cash in them. The self-pay box was over-flowing. When we put our envelope in, I took a pen and stuffed it and the other envelopes in as far as I could.

Anyway, after we paid we followed a gravel road for a good while. Susan kept saying "Where's the Visitor Center? There should be a Visitor Center."

What a day and what scenery for a hike!

When we passed the old dam, she and Darren knew we were in the wrong place because they had been there in the past to do this Volksmarch and we had to be at a Visitor Center. After we passed the dam we came to a gated community and were no longer in the State Park.

Soooo, we turned around and went back to the main road and headed east to the town of Frankton. From there we headed south and found the main entrance to the park. Whew. 

It's a good thing we didn't leave any earlier from our hotel because when we arrived at Castlewood Canyon State Park Visitor Center at 8:30 a.m. we found out the Visitor Center didn't open until 9:00 a.m.  We hung around until they opened so we could sign in for the 11k Volksmarch and get our walk instructions. 

We also reported the guy hanging around the over-flowing self-pay box. They wanted a description of him and his vehicle because it's a crime to steal from the self-pay boxes. I think they sent a ranger over that way to look for him and to empty the self-pay box.

I am going to say this up front: This was not a "walk," this was officially a "hike." Hiking boots and walking poles were de rigueur. I had two bottles of water, my sun hat, and sunscreen as well. Susan and Darren had their Camelback backpack with water, sun hats or caps, sunscreen, Atomic Fireball candy and Jolly Ranchers. We were set. LOL.

We decided to sign in and start the hike ASAP because the temperature was already in the mid-80s and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. We would watch the movie and explore the air-conditioned Visitor Center when we finished the walk.

From the Visitor Center, we drove to our start point about 3/4 mile down the park road. There was only one other car in the parking lot when we arrived. We geared up with hiking boots, sunscreen, our hats, and hiking poles. 

Just about then a 38-40' 5th wheel pulled into the parking lot. It was pulled by a semi-truck cab. Adults and kids poured out of the cab. There must have been about eight people in there. Then a big dog came out. Next, they went into the 5th wheel and hauled out tomato plants and a couple of other plants and put them around their cab. What on earth? Are they moving in? This is a public parking lot in a state park!

Turns out their 5th wheel was the changing room for a bride. There was going to be a wedding in one of the pavilions by the parking lot. People started arriving to decorate the pavilion.

It was time for us to start our walk. Here's a little history for you about this area. Castlewood Canyon (formerly Wildcat Canyon) began more than 60 million years ago as a tropical rainforest. The upheaval of the Rockies, ancient rivers cutting down the landscape, the massive eruption of a prehistoric volcano, and rushing flood torrents carved the landscape into the park as it is today. The canyon is relatively young, maybe only about 100,000 years old. Geologists can read the rocks to surmise the approximate age of the canyon.

Here we go... 
Our Volksmarch starts here
The trail we came down
Beautiful forested trail, going down more
The canyon walls
Inner Canyon, flat here
Wildflowers
All is well, we have shade, but it's warm
Full sun early on
Who wouldn't enjoy walking in this beauty?
Our walk started by going down into the canyon where we walked for the first couple of miles. We had long views of what used to be the reservoir behind Castlewood Canyon Dam.
Long, flat trail...for the moment.
Throw in some boulders for visual impact
In the photo below, you can see a great example of Castle Rock Conglomerate- the signature rock of the canyon walls. You can see rocks embedded in the conglomerate, like chocolate chip cookies in cookie dough. 

Castle Rock Conglomerate
Our walk takes us out on the east side of the canyon via the Rim Rock Trail. We will return on the west side of the canyon on the Creek Bottom Trail.


Orchid beardstongue plant (?)
or penstemon (?)
Ruins of the Castlewood Canyon Dam
The Castlewood Canyon Dam was built in 1890. Engineers predicted the dam would fail because it was not well built. The engineers were right. In 1933, in the middle of the night, the dam gave way. Phone calls were made down-river to give warning to residents along the path of the flood. Most people were able to flee before the flood waters hit. A wall of water flooded Denver 30 miles away.

From the dam ruins, our route took us up to the Canyon Rim Trail...the very top of the canyon.
A view of the dam ruins on the way up to the top
Darren and Susan going up
Yellow stonecrop
Lenticular clouds indicating high-level winds.
With the lenticular clouds overhead, we could only hope some of those winds would come down and cool us off a bit. (It didn't happen.)

Opposite canyon wall
Prickly pear cactus in bloom
Spanish bayonet yucca flowers
All along the Ridge Top Trail are rock cairns to show the path. In the photo below, Susan is holding up a snake's shed skin she found by this pile of rocks. Thankfully, we did not see any live snakes. We've been very lucky in that regard.
Susan liked the snakeskin

I loved this tree!
Darren liked these rock cairns
Caprock formations
This tree really wanted to grow here!
Hiking poles came in very helpful going up and down the canyons. Here, we are starting our descent into the canyon bottom.

Hiking poles offer great stability
Anyone know what this is?

Bridge over Cherry Creek in canyon bottom
Canyon Bottom Trail hike
Nice to see them resting!
Picnic area
The restroom at the picnic area was interesting. It wasn't a flush toilet, but that isn't the reason it was interesting. I looked up in the screened vent near the ceiling and there was a family of mice or rats living in there. I could see them skittering around in whatever they had collected...probably pack rats! Ewww!

Cherry Creek Falls
The day was very hot by this point. We were sweltering in the bottom of the canyon. Susan took off her T-shirt and saturated it in the cold water of the creek, then put it back on. She urged me to do the same. Um, nope! First, I am allergic to cold. If I put my shirt in that cold water and then wore it, I would have hives and itching everywhere that shirt touched. Second, who knows what has been in that water? I do not want a skin disease from something in the creek.
Susan's very cold, wet T-shirt
The next portion of our hike is very picturesque, but hard in the heat. We're going up and over the remains of the dam.

Susan M. is dwarfed by the dam.
Darren at the base of the dam
The dam is very pretty;
the design just didn't hold water.
The top of the dam
Now we hike back across the treeless meadow.
The name of this park is Castlewood Canyon, so all day I've been looking for something resembling a castle or a sign pointing at a castle rock formation. Nada. I finally found a rock that looks like a castle. I don't know if this "the" rock, but it'll do.

"Castle" rock?
Evening primrose family
Only another mile or two...uphill!
I love these rim rocks!
These hot, 11ks are doing me in. I had stop and rest, stop and rest. Once again, I bonked right toward the end. My water ran out. 

Darren stayed with me on the trail and we plodded along. Susan made it back to the van. She came back to where we were with an ice-cold bottle of water from the cooler! What a hero. I just about cried. That was so nice of her!  I think I drank half the bottle on the spot.
My hero! Ice-cold water delivered
with a big smile.
We were so close to being back to the van at that point. You can see the park pavilion behind her. That's where the wedding was about to take place.

As we passed by, weding guests were arriving and we saw the bride in her gown. The tables in the pavilion were all beautifully decorated. But I can only imagine how hot the bride, groom, and minister must have been in their wedding garments.

Back at the van, we changed into more comfortable shoes and then went to the Visitor Center. Inside, we sat in a dark, air-conditioned room to watch the movie about Castlewood Canyon. It was very well done. We also perused the history in the Visitor Center and read the tales of the night the dam gave way.

Historic photo of the dam and reservoir
Early history of the dam
Besides the early history above, the rest of the story is that the owners knew the dam had a poor design. The dam was sold a number of times, but never fixed. Eventually, the thing gave way causing a big flood all the way to Denver (30 miles away).

Well, that is more than enough for one blog. Again, I must break this into two parts because we really know how to fill up a day!

Come back for more, you hear?

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