Friday, June 10, 2016

Paint Mines Road Trip

A really neat place to poke around in central Colorado is Paint Mines Interpretive Park, just outside Calhan and about 40 miles northeast of Colorado Springs.  
I used Google maps to create a road trip there and was quite surprised at the amount of small farms I passed along the way. On the return trip home, I followed another plan which challenged my route finding skills plus offered more scenic views.
Paint Mines is an erosion, like Bryce Canyon, only smaller in size.  Humans have visited this site for 9000 years, mostly to collect the colored soils for use in vessel paints and body markings. Another portion of the park also interprets the early settlers who came west and settled here in the mid 1800's. I took many, many photos here and posted quite a few of them below.
From the parking lot, follow the trail and take your first right to get to the formations and geology interpretive area. At the bottom of the hill, turn right again onto the small trail that runs along a drainage. At first, the erosion and rock formations you see are small and kind of bland. But a few yards later they start to get much better. Even fantastic! 

Small paths lead left and right into the Hoodoos and spire erosion areas. Beware as these rocks are soft stone and wear easily. I will caution you here to just follow the trails as far as you can into the rocky areas, keeping the sandy ground underfoot but beleive the signs and DO NOT CLIMB THE ROCKS!  It is hard to tell just where to stop, but figure that any wear you create on the rocks means those rocks will never be seen as the same again by anyone else.  
Covering 750 acres, the total trail mileage is around 4 miles if you follow all the way around.  A Trail Map is HERE.

You will see stone that looks like poured liquid, stones that "run" down hill or pool into circles and blobs, like wet cookie dough. The colors go from white to red stripes to yellows, grays and even greens. Rabbits cross underfoot constantly, often ducking into mini caves or tunnels of stone. Some stones rise above you, creating holes through which the winds blow. Others create falls of stone, flowing stone streams with rapids of gravel. 

Off in the background stand tall windmills, creating electricity from the constant Colorado winds. The same winds sculpting the erosion around you also powers your PC and keeps your drinks cool. Wild flowers and stunted trees frame hill tops, blown grass constantly changes shapes around you. This place is quite cool!

The exposed land around you goes back more than 55 million years with centuries buried below your feet. Layers are known as Castle Rock Formation, the Dawson Formation... and much more. Colorado's light amount of precipitation will keep Paint Mines around for many years. If it rained hard, like in sub tropical regions, all this would have been gone centuries ago. All this in a county park too!
Getting there: Follow US 24 northeast about 40 miles from I-25 at exit #139 in Colorado Springs to Calhan.  (Follow Fountain Blvd through downtown and turn left onto highway 24.)  Drive through the small town of Calhan, turning right onto Yoder Road.  Follow past the fair grounds and turn left onto gravel Paint Mines Road.  Follow past a right turn in the road and park in the Paint Mines parking lot on the left.  There is a pit toilet here. The small yellow steel container beside the trail holds informational brochures with maps.

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