Thursday, August 6, 2015

Experiencing Colorado up Close! By Ed Powers

My wife and I have lived all over America, north to south and east to west, but now we call Colorado home and enjoy it entirely.  My wife grew up in Golden, Colorado and I grew up in the Dakota’s and Nebraska.  For the last 44 years we have visited Golden and Ouray on in a regular manner no matter where lived, but it wasn’t until we moved here 4 years ago that we appreciated Colorado.  We live in Evergreen about 7700 to 8000 feet in elevation.

This is what part of mountains of Colorado looked like after the 2nd or 3rd volcano activity and major land uplifting.

It wasn’t until this year did we really study the state.  In the last 12 months we have spent time at Grand Lake, Granby, the Great Colorado Sand Dunes and Ouray.  These visits piqued my curiosity and I began to read and study the geology of the state and how it has impacted the flora and fauna.  Did you know that Colorado is 2.3 billion years old?  That Colorado at one time was at the Equator until its land mass was pushed northward by collisions with other land masses.  That the dinosaurs roomed Colorado, which was a dense tropical forest, while volcanos erupted all around it.  We know this because of the many fossils and foot prints that have been found in our area.  The Rocky Mountains may be the 2nd or 3rd set of Mountains to exist here.  Also somewhere in our history we were part of a large sea.  All I can say is “wow”- what a great state we live in.

Dinosaurs such as this one inhabited much of early Colorado.
Now what does all this mean for us now.  We are a very high, arid plains and set of mountains that has some of the most interesting wild flowers and animals on earth.  Because of all of this, we have one of the most advanced and highly regarded universities in the world.  People from all over the world visit us on a regular basis.

We have, as our state flower, Columbine which is one of the most beautiful flowers on earth and it grows almost at any altitude.  While in the wild it is usually blue and white, I found a pink and white one in the San Juan Mountains this year. 
Columbine Flowers growing in the Colorado Rockies
While it is not our state flower, we have another beautiful flower called an Indian Paint Brush. Some species are orange or red at levels 5000 to 8000 feet, but as we go higher in altitude, there are new species that come in pink and white, and at 11,000 feet and above it can be a light yellow or green.

Pink Indian Paint Brush (Castilleja rhexifolia) found at higher altitudes

Red Indian Paint Brush (Castilleja linariifolia) found in the higher Colorado Foothills
Now let’s talk about what I think is the most intriguing and beautiful plants on earth: the Cactus, and we have several of them growing in our state. One of the most prevalent is the “good ole” prickly pear cactus which grows wildly around home.  While its flowers are usually a bright yellow, there are some pink ones.  Regardless of the type or structure of the cactus, it is uniquely suited to live in our arid climate.

Common Prickly Pear cactus found in the foothills and lower mountain areas of Colorado.
I have not discussed many other beautiful plants and trees in our state, nor did I discuss the wide variety of animals that we share the land with and encounter regularly.  There simply is not enough time or space is this blog to do that.  But suffice to say we are very lucky to live here and share the land with our plant and animal neighbors.  

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