To be fair to all regions of the West, I am attaching six images
of eastern Colorado and western Kansas. The first two images are of
Colorado and the last four in Kansas. I wanted to be fair to Kansas.
The Colorado images were taken on July 4th. The Kansas images were
taken the following day. The focus of the images is western
1. Blanca: The first image was taken as we
were leaving the San Luis Valley in Colorado going eastward. We had
stopped at a small roadside park on U.S. 160 for lunch. The stop
afforded me the last opportunity to photograph one of my favorite
subjects - the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The cone shaped peak,
more or less, in the center of the image (farthest one away) is
14,345-foot Blanca Peak. Blanca dominates the Sierra Blanca Massif
and is the 4th highest summit in Colorado. Traveling south, you
would have to go all the way to the great volcanos of central Mexico
to reach a higher elevation. The peak to the left of Blanca in the
clouds is Little Bear, another Colorado fourteener. In the
foreground sage brush dominates. Eventually a zone of pinyon and
juniper is reached. This is spacious country. I have mentioned
before that the San Luis Valley is approximately the size of
Connecticut. It reflects both its Spanish and Indian heritage.
2. WesternExpanses0: This image was taken
east of Walsenberg, CO in a vast area of cattle country. The road
in the image leads to a gas field miles away. Cattle are the
dominant residents in this part of Colorado and the bovine
inhabitants are spread thinly. It is wide open space, and do I ever
love it. Sky, sage brush, and cholla cactus. A wonderful
combination. Folks who are unable to enjoy these great expanses of
space are missing one of life's great experiences.
3. MonicaAtRestStop: This image was taken at
a rest stop in western kansas on U.S. Route 50. Prairie flowers were
everywhere and my camera clicked away. The Kansas wind was blowing
as it almost always is. It may sound odd that we could fall in love
with rest stops, but many in Kansas are just delightful. They feel
exceptionally peaceful and are appropriately restful. Monica
attributes their therapeutic effect to being in the heartland. When
she biked across the country, Kansas was one of her favorite states.
She still talks about her pleasant experiences biking across Kansas.
Oh yes, and she did see one scissor-tailed fly catcher on our path
4. Pinwheels: This image show gaillardia in
abundance. The image was taken at the rest stop of image 3. In
places the flower carpets the prairie. It vies with sun flowers for
5. OldSantaFeTrail2: Farther east, near
Dodge City, Kansas we encountered a remnant of the original Santa Fe
By remnant, I mean a place where the impact of the trail can still
be seen today in the vegetative cover. The area is the home of both
short and tall grasses. It is the transition zone between the two
ecosystems. Once there were oceans of grass in the sun flower state.
For me, prairie grasses are as captivating as the ocean. But alas,
while we have plenty of the latter, the former is in short supply.
Still, maybe we can get an inkling of what the travelers of the
trail first saw. Take a peek at the last image.
6. OldSantaFeTrail: Natural Kansas is about
grasslands and the state's once vast grasslands were home to one of
the largest of the bison herds. It roamed western Kansas. There was
also a huge herd in Texas and one in a region that includes part of
South Dakota, North Dakota and Montana . Of course there were many
more bison scattered across the plains and prairies than just in
these great herds, but the referenced ones were enormous and often
described by chroniclers of the day. The nutritious prairie
grasses sustained the giant herds. Today, in this small preserve,
all that remain to remind the thoughtful traveler of what life may
have been like in those days are grass, sky, and the
unrelenting, but blessed wind . It keeps bothersome insects away.
The prairie ecosystem is superbly described by the late great John
Madson in his book "where the sky began". Any nature lover who has
not read this wonderful book has missed one of the classics.
The Santa Fe trail extended 750 miles from Kansas City to old
Santa Fe in what is now New Mexico, but then as part of Spain up
until around 1830 and then Mexico for another 15 years. It was
established in 1608 and made a capital in 1610. It was often
dangerous to travel the trail in those days especially in areas
where Comanche, Kiowa, and Southern Cheyenne ruled. Those
tribes/nations were the lords of the southern plains.