Rusty and Wooden Items Along the Trail at Fountain Creek Nature Trail

I am always intrigued by rusty items I find on trails.

This trail had some very wonderful rusty things, including some that were still in use.

There were many valve wheels that were related to what I believe was an irrigation ditch that was on one side of the trail.

Irrigation Rusty Valves Pilkes Peak at Fountain Creek Nature Center

I have no idea what the rusty box on a pole just sitting out along the trail was for. But the color of the rust on it was the perfect rust red. And I could see it as an abstract painting if I would just capture the one side.

The clean chains and locks that kept the valves from being turned let us know that these valves still were used to control water going into different areas along this irrigation ditch.

Irrigation Rusty Images at Fountain Creek Nature Center

The teeth on the rusty creature on the left looked very wicked. How any of these things functioned was  mystery to me. The poor deserted item in the creek must have lived out its usefulness, but had an ancient beauty to it laying among the branches and green water.

At the start of the trail going to the South, was a beautiful large wheel that I captured Pikes Peak behind. I am looking for the perfect view of Pikes Peak to enter in a art show with a deadline of June 2nd, so need to keep taking photos of it everywhere I go. this one is one I am considering entering . . . or go back when the sky is bluer as the snow capped peak kind of fades into the cloudy background.

Large Wheel & Pilkes Peak at Fountain Creek Nature Center

Farther along the trail were other large wheels that captured my attention. The sunshine sparkling on the very blue water in Fountain Creek gave us pause to reflect upon how lucky we were to live so close to so many wonderful trails and that people had preserved these areas for us to hike upon.

Large Rusty Wheels at Fountain Creek Nature Center

I liked the way the bare trees and the thin spokes of this wheel that was standing out in the middle of a dry area had my eyes moving around and around on this image as if there was motion happening. But everything was still at the time we walked by it.

And speaking of trees and wonderful images seen in the driftwood and living trees, this trail had some fun wooden images that stopped us along the way to contemplate and enjoy.

White Whale & Scream  at Fountain Creek Nature Center

The log on the left made me think of the famous painting by Edward Munch called “The Scream”. Though this screamer seemed a little lest stressed being out in the forest and not on a bridge. Then there was the White Whale log that was swimming through a very dry sea.

There is a tree near the beginning of the trail that has many knotty faces on it. Both times I saw it, I was fascinated by it. I kept walking around it snapping pictures from every angle. I got quite distracted and my group got far ahead of me on the first hike.

Tree of Many Knotty Faces  at Fountain Creek Nature Center

I see a lion, a sweet bear cub, a grumpy gnome and a gargoyle in these knotty growths. What do you see? Can you understand why I was fascinated by all these images growing on one tree?

I did catch up with the other strollers on the trail easily.

On my second hike I caught sight of this Red-winged Blackbird in this opening of branches.

Bird in Tree Snake Branch  at Fountain Creek Nature Center

And when I looked at the image at home, it looks like a snake branch is sneaking up on him from the right.

Can you see this sneaky snake?

There was an area where a couple of geese were hanging out next to a stump that had a neck like a scrawny chicken.

Goose, Robin & Bird Tree  at Fountain Creek Nature Center

And behind that log was a cheerful Robin, harbinger of Spring.

There were a few areas where one could tell spring was on its way. This very green section of Fountain Creek had us looking around for other signs of plants greening up, but this was about the greenest area on this trail that we saw.

Spriing Greening  at Fountain Creek Nature Center

But we know trees will soon be bursting out with leaves and flowers will be popping up on trails we will be hiking in the near future.

Geese at the Fountain Creek Nature Center Wetlands

There were geese and other water fowl engaged in many activities on both of my hikes at the Fountain Creek Nature Center Trails.

On the first stroll they kept flying over us.

Geese Flying overhead at Fountain Creek Nature Center

I was able to get one good picture of them flying. I am still learning this camera and should have had it on a different setting to capture more images quickly. Still it was an amazing feeling to stand under these magnificent creatures as they flew around us on this trail.

These were Canadian Geese and they were swimming singly or in pairs in the blue water. The graceful necks and distinctive markings had me watching them for many minutes as they approached the shore.

A Pair of Geese at Fountain Creek Nature Center

Some were leaving trails behind in the water that I also tried to capture.

Geese Swimming at Fountain Creek Nature Center

Reflections of these lovely swimmers and the trees made for some wonderful abstract images that I can see using in a book someday soon.

I have no idea the name of the water fowl in the below picture. If anyone can identify him, please leave a comment with his name for me.

Trails in the Water at Fountain Creek Nature Center

And these are just small portions of the images with the birds in them. The reflections in the water were very beautiful, but here I am talking about the water fowl seen in this wonderful wetland area, so wanted to make sure they were the focal point of these images shared here.

And then there was the goose taking advantage of the nesting boxes.

Goose Preparing a Nest at Fountain Creek Nature Center

She was busy cleaning it out in preparation of laying eggs soon. It was very fun watching her tossing out old nest material, then sitting quietly looking at her handiwork. I am sure I spent at least 5 minutes just watching this hardworking goose. And the next visit we saw another one in a different nesting box  just quietly and calmly sitting in contemplation of the world around her.

Mallard Ducks were seen in the large pond, but also in the waterway that we walked along on my second visit to this area.

Mallards at Fountain Creek Nature Center

The iridescent colors of the feathers on the necks of these ducks was very intense in the sunshine. The handsome fellow on the right gave us quite a show swimming in and our of some branches, then turning around and swimming back towards us. Very fun to watch.

In the creek area, there were different Mallard Ducks that would swim against the current, then turn around and ride back down for what looked like an amusement ride concept. I watched this numerous times and wanted to join in the fun, but that wasn’t feasible.

Looking up in the trees, we could see many different types of nests. And there was one that was close to the path that I was able to get a close up photo of among red branches.

Nests at Fountain Creek Nature Center

This got us to thinking about the variety of birds that were in the area. 

We were sure there were many more that we hadn’t seen, and perhaps hadn’t returned from their winter migration.

Birds  at Fountain Creek Nature Center

We were lucky enough to see a few Robins and an unknown small bird out on an island in the pond.

This handsome Red-winged Blackbird caught our attention with a song. He joyfully sang to us for quite some time. Or perhaps he was showing off his voice to attract a mate.

We continued along the trail and enjoyed this intriguing landscape that was so different from our mountain hikes.



Reflections Upon Fountain Valley Nature Center Trail

I actually hiked the same trails twice in a week.

I had never been to the Fountain Creek Nature Center and the trails that go into the wetlands and also wind along Fountain Creek in Fountain, Colorado.

Fountain Creek Nature Center

The first time on Saturday was just a “stroll” with the Deja Vu Singles group. That was fun to be with some different people on a hike.

It was a very flat and easy stroll. Though it was easy to imagine it being quite hot in the summer and wouldn’t want to be doing mid-day hikes as these both were.

We encountered many types of water fowl, birds and other visions of natural beauty, but we barely explored the area. We were told when it is warmer there were turtles and blue herons to be seen also.

I knew my usual hiking partner would be delighted by how close the many types of birds came to us. And just such a different landscape compared to our mountain hikes would surely delight her immensely.

I was took quite a few lovely water reflection photos. But the water wasn’t as still as I had thought it was when taking the photos. When downloading them at home, I saw they were more rippled than I had realized. Still, they made for interesting reflections and images.

Reflections of Pikes Peak At Fountain Creek Nature Center

This is an “oasis on the plains” filled with many ponds, wetlands and marshes. It has wide open meadows and forests of huge Cottonwoods. And you walk along the Fountain Creek on one of the trails that has an irrigation ditch on the other side of the trail.

The Fountain Creek Nature Center has some very interesting exhibits, including a large snapping turtle that was found nearby. There is a Cattail Marsh Wildlife Area that had not come to life yet, but I took some intersting photos of them all dried out and with cotton on them.

The ponds were filled with Canadian Geese, Mallard Ducks and other water fowl that I couldn’t exactly identify. This is an area that Blue Herons stop over on their migration flight, but there were none to be seen either of the days I hiked here.

Mallard Ducks at Fountain Creek Nature Center

The mountain backdrop made it particularly beautiful and walking along Fountain Creek was something I had never done outside of Manitou Springs.

On each of my visits I saw Red-Winged Blackbirds. This brought up delightful memories of seeing them when I grew up in Illinois. Haven’t seen many in Colorado, and my hiking partner swore she had never seen one before. One posed and sang for us in a tree near the trail to start our hike off on a very high note.

Red-winged Blackbirds at Fountain Creek Nature Center

On my second hike, we walked in various types of wetlands that we could imagine alive with more creatures and much greener after the Spring rains woulf fall. This was such an extreme contrast to the prairie desert where we explored the Paint Mines in Calhan last week.

I saw a few white butterflies, but none held still enough for me to get a picture of on this hike. One major reason we would want to come back later in the year is that this area is a Monarch Butterfly habitat. There are many milkweeds growing here, and that is something Monarch Butterflies.

Monarch Butterfly sign at Fountain Creek Nature Center

Milkweed nectar is a main staple in a Monarch’s diet.

Something I never knew.

I Learn or Discover something New every hike.


Winter Flora Along Trails at Calhan Paint Mines in Colorado

We walked among a very dry landscape at the close of winter and the beginning of Spring.

Its stark beauty is quite different from what we would have seen in the summer at the Calhan Paint Mines.

Colorado Paint Mine TrailsSome trails led off onto the prairie, others took us above the formations and the final part of our journey took us deep into the fragile formations.

All along the trails we saw the remnants of plants that had turned dry and golden over the winter.

Golden Plant in Calhan Paint Mines

The had a beauty quite different than the mountain trails we had been hiking recently.

Many had held on to their leaves that dried as if in an oriental flower arrangement waiting to be set upon a table.

Golden Beauties at Calhan Paint Mines

A few had some bright red berries and branches mixed among the golden flowers of an neighboring plant.

Some were accents to the prairie that spread before them, others pointed to the distant formations we would walk among later.

All had intriguing shapes that lent themselves to being very photogenic

Fuzzy Brown Plants at Calhan Paint Mines

And then there were the cactus . . .

Wicked Cactus at Calhan Paint Mines

Wickedly spiny and not everywhere, so we were sometimes surprised to see them on the side of the trail, and helped keep us on the trail.

But Cactus grow all over in Colorado, so we should always be on the look out for not stumbling into them.

Red Cactus at Colorado Paint Mines

Some were actually greeting the spring with new growth and red, red centers.

We were thinking they must know something we didn’t about the time of year. And as they had probably lived here for decades, they could tell it was time to come back from their winter hibernation.

There was this very fast moving Caterpillar who challenged me to capture him as he dashed through the dry branches and leaves on the trail.

Caterpilar at Calhan Paint Mines

The red on his fuzzy black body gave him away as he swiftly moved in front of us, then disappeared into an unseen tunnel and headed underground.

The white formation seemed to be waving to us when we walked past it where more dried plants were silhouetted against its neighboring formations.

Final Farewell to Calhan Paint Mines

And the odd red rock was hanging out on the cliff nearby.

Each element along this area of the trail seemed unique and had no connection. Yet there they were all together.

And as a final post for this area, I can’t forget how fun the clouds were.

Two playful creatures floated above the trail.

Clouds above Calhan Paint Mines

Laughing and playing together above the vast stretch of prairie below.

Just as my hiking partner and I were joyfully enjoying each new vista and the unusual plants and colorful formations that greeted us all hike long.


These Colorful Rock Formations Look Like What?

As always, I got lost in taking pictures at the Calhan Paint Mines and my hiking partner passed me by.

So did another hiker.

As I came around the bend I heard my hiking partner laughing with this gentleman hiker.

She had thought I was right behind her and had pointed to a rock exclaiming, “Doesn’t that look like a Butt?”

Butt Rock & Phallic Formations

When a male voice agreed with her, she was a bit surprised and they were both having a good laugh when I caught up to them.

What do you see in the photos above?

Looking around I saw a few formations that brought to mind other anatomical thoughts. But(t) I didn’t burst out exclaiming or pointing to them until the gentleman hiker had gone back down the path.

What had caught my eye was some formations that looked rather cave-like.

Invitation to explore at Calhan Paint Mines

And a trail that I had taken a short detour down that only went a few feet and ended in a crumbling path to a dark cave. 

These cave-like areas made me wonder if creatures had ever lived in them, or if Indians might have sheltered there from the heat.

Farther down the trail this fun long necked and smiling fat rock creatures had a joyful look to them.

Rock Creatures dancing at Calhan Paint Mines

I could imagine them dancing into the night under starry skies when no one else was around. And laughter seemed to ring out along this trail as I saw smiling rocky faces enjoying the bright blue sky and sunshine that had burned away the grey clouds that had covered the park earlier this day.

The deep blue sky accentuated some of the rock formations in a way that just stopped me in my tracks as I rounded another bend.

Stunning Colorful Rock Formation in Calhan Paint Mines Park

My eyes followed the white path up and up through the multicolored formation ending with the gold against that deep blue sky.


3 Worshipers seen in Rock Formation in Calhan Paint Mines Park

And nearby were three forms that were either singing or chanting prayers to the sky above.

I joined in the chorus with my “oh’s” and “ah’s” that slipped out as I walked along this trail.

Blue Sky Contrast with Colorful Rock Formations

I just kept taking detours and losing my hiking partner.

Luckily she enjoys just standing still or sitting on benches and enjoying looking at the natural wonders on the trails I take her on.

The last trail I ventured down took me near a series of “Salt Pillars”

Salt Pillars in Colorado Paint Mines

The variations of colors in the ground below them and at their peaks just fascinated me at how these formations came to be.

I stood in contemplation for quite a few minutes in this area that felt very sacred.

I really was not ready to leave.

But I knew we still had quite a hike to get back to the car, so headed back down this trail, back to the main one.

Plus it was getting late and we were both pretty hungry. Since we had planned on having lunch after this hike, we both had minimal food with us and we stopped to enjoy the last energy bars before we headed up the hill that would lead back to the parking lot. I hadn’t anticipated spending more than four hours here, and didn’t realize we had until we did get back to the car.

I could keep posting photos of these magnificent formations, but my last post will be of the plants and views of the prairie that also captured our appreciation.

And as we crested the hill, the wind was so very strong you could literally lean into it and be supported.

I don’t know how people live out here, that wind was brutal.

We were both very glad we could see the parking lot and hiked as fast as possible to get back to the shelter of the car.

Paths Into Colorful Formations at the Paint Mines Park

As we walked across the prairie, the path started to climb upwards.

The large rock at the top had a big smile on his dinosaur face, and we were soon to discover why.

Cresting hill to View Paint Mine Formations

He had a magnificent view of the largest area of the Paint Mine formations that visitors get to view from above, the walk among below.

Many of the rocks and formations, and just the open prairie area had a very prehistoric look and feel to them.

I could easily imagine dinosaurs roaming here.

The feeling of ancient creatures roaming this area was ever present.

Looking down below this is the sight that greeted us as we walked farther down the path on the other side of the rock.

Standing above Colorful Formations At the Paint Mines

Below us hidden from view until you are right above them where the prairie opens up to spectacularly colorful formations.

I knew that the next part of our journey would be the highlight of this hike.

And that was why I had taken the route I did.

Looking down at Colorful Formations At the Paint Mines

Standing above and at a distance from these beautiful and so very unique formations is an incredible experience in itself.

Yet what where we would hike next makes the experience of hiking around the formations pale in comparison.

Path into Colorado Paint Mines Formations

We hiked down this unassuming path that took us deep into a fantasy land.

Here we were surrounded by many different types of very colorful formations that without seeing them, one can’t imagine their existance.

I doubt I could have gotten my hiking partner to leave here if it had been the first part of our hike.

There are numerous short side trails that go off into tangents of different types of formations.

This fat and sassy formation greeted us as we started to hike down a long and winding trail that took us deep into a valley of strange and wonderful formations.

Lavender Rocks at Calhan Paint Mines

As we rounded each bend wondrous sights were revealed for us to ponder upon how they were created and just enjoy their incredible beauty.

So many different creature forms were evoked in my imagination as I wandered down the trails.

Going up the trail they looked totally different from how they appeared as we traveled back down the same trail.

And the sky became an awesome deep blue that accentuated all the colors in ways the cloudy sky had not.

Trail to Lavender Creatures at Paint Mines

This is one of the areas of formations we saw from the trail above.

We could see the trail that lead into them and now we were on it.

On the right I see the backs and sides of a few bird like creatures chatting with very formidable prehistoric dinosaur forms.

Then hiking down another trail we found these fun formations.

The ones on the right looked like dinosaurs butting heads from many angles.

Or maybe they were secretly planning a way to escape their sedentary world.

Then near those were rock creatures that seemed to be sharing kisses and about to hug each other.

Dinosaur Kissing Rocks at Calhan Paint Mines

And as we followed the trail these formations were on there were more rock pillars and that were very colorful and had interesting looks.

I wish I could draw or paint them and give them life beyond their stony visages.

Golden Lavender Rock Creatures at Calhan Paint Mines

They seemed like they could easily come to life and talk with us or each other or perhaps take a walk in the Park when no humans are around to see.

Every way one turned there was just another formation makes a person so amazed at the diverse beauty on this planet Earth that we get to walk upon.

Every time I hike I am inspired to think of ways I can share its beauty and help to preserve it.


White Chalk Formations with their Yucca Companions

 It was hard to fathom how beautiful pure white formations could be unless you are walking among or above them.

We hiked for a long stretch of Prairie, then looked down to see these are views that resembled looking into White Sands in New Mexico, but much harder lines and more colors intermingled in the hills and gullies. I have visited White Sands three times, and would go back in a heartbeat. But the Calhan Paint Mines are closer, and I have only gotten there twice since living in Manitou Springs.

Yucca & White Formation at CO Paint Mines

The forms and shadows played with your imagination and changed dramatically as one continued on the path that took us around this area.

In many places the white ended, then either gold or green or lavender colors were above the stark white.

There didn’t seem to be any order to what the next color would be above the white which made it all the more fascinating.

Yucca & White Formation at CO Paint Mines

Sometimes the white turned a bit grey, but within that grey other colors could be seen also.

Yucca & Grey Formation at CO Paint Mines

 There again were colorful rocks just hanging out adding to the mystery and beauty of this stark white environment.

What mineral creates those magenta rocks?

 Yucca & White Formation at CO Paint Mines

The Yucca plants that grew on the formations intrigued me almost as much as these stark formations.

Yucca & White Formation at CO Paint Mines

Yuccas showed up in some of the most unlikely places.

How do they hang on to the crumbling formations?

Looking at the harsh environment makes one really wonders how they find nourishment enough to live there.

Yucca On the Prairie at CO Paint Mines

How can anything survive in this windy climate that sometimes goes from freezing cold to scorching hot all in one day?

But the Yucca and many other plants do.

In the next post, we will go walking among the most colorful formations in the Park.

Colorful Formations in Calhan's Paint Mines Park


Calhan Paint Mines Offers Wonderful Formations

There is a rich diversity of life out on the Colorado prairie that is rarely seen by visitors, as the mountains are the biggest draw.

The Calhan Paint Mines is an archeological district on the plains of Colorado that has a very diverse ecological system that includes prairie, wetlands and badlands filled with fantastic formations.

The park covers 750 acres and has 4 miles of trails that go down hills, then can rise over 500 feet in elevation on various sections of the trail.

Prairie & Formations in Colorado Paint Mines

The geological formations are formed by multi-colored clay and white sandstone-capped spires.

The site is protected by law because of its very fragile environment.

Fragile & Colorful in Calhan Paint Mines

 The formations crumble at the slightest touch, yet have survived through thousands of years and visitors.

Distant Black Forest & Formations in Colorado Paint Mines

When on the highest trails, you can see all the way to the Black Forest in many places (the black line in the background) and even get some glimpses of Pikes Peak on the highest trails.

One gets a sense of just how majestic and big the mountain range that Pikes Peak rises above when seen from a distance. What an awesome sight it must have been for the first pioneers to see it as they crossed the prairie in covered wagons.

Pikes Peak above Formations in Colorado Paint Mines

 The prairie had a stark winter beauty that enchanted us both.

These formations are beginning to get more interesting and colorful. And we got to walk among some on the trail so we could see the colors and the uniqueness of each section.

The Yuccas soon played an artistic part in our views. Clinging by just a their roots, the tenacity to survive in a hostile and ever changing environment was inspiring.

Interesting Formation in Paint Mines in Colorado

And the sun was beginning to come out more, so when in the valleys and protected areas we were not as chilled, but the wind swept across the open areas to remind us that it was still a bit wintery on these prairie trails.

Trail to Formations in Paint Mines Park

We saw this side trail and were curious where it lead.

After following just a short distance it opened up to a view of these spectacularly colorful formations.

Looked like legs with large toes at the bottom. Or whatever your imagination wants to see.

We could see that the trail we were on would take us above them for a different view, but wished there was a trail that took us closer at this level, but no. So we turned back and got back on the main trail and climbed up to the top of this formation with glimpses of it from many different angles on the way to the top.

Close up & Ground Rocks in Calhan's Paint MinesI became fascinated by this rock formation that we were close to.

As I walked around him, I just kept seeing more faces and creatures emerging from this one formation.

He had a surprised face from one direction. Another looked like he has a butterfly on his hand.

And then when we looked down, there were the most colorful rocks on the very neutral ground.

The deep magenta rocks kept showing up all around the park in the most unexpected places. They made interesting contrasts to their surroundings and made us curious where they came from, and why they were scattered around the park, rather than in just one area.

And from here on the formations and colors made it easy to understand why this area was called the Paint Mines.

Hiking in the Colorful Paint Mines in Calhan Colorado

Now for a completely different type of hike out on the Colorado Prairie.

One has to drive about an 45 minutes out from the edge of Colorado Springs to get to Calhan where the Paint Mines Interpretive Park is located.

This is one of the most spirit renewing hikes I have ever taken.

I was here once before and could still see images of its beauty in my mind’s eye, but had always wished I had taken more photographs. Well I have many photos from this hike, and even those couldn’t capture the amazing unique beauty of this place.

Both times, I had a really hard time heading back the car to drive away. I just wanted to explore one more trail, or just stand in wonder.

But I get ahead of myself here.

The parking lot gives no clue of the visual treasures that one will get to explore.

I took us first on the trail that went the farthest into the park, as I knew I wanted to end on the trail that allows one to walk among the really awesome formations. Doing it in reverse, and we might never have gotten to the more distant formations and views that are worth walking to, while at the same time adds to the mystery of why the park is called the Paint Mines.

History of Paint Mines in Calhan, Colorado

In the distance there is a hint of white to make one curious what that could be.

One wonders how such a flat looking area could have much of interest to offer. But then, what is that white in the distance?

One feels the primeval energy here, Dinosaurs surely roamed this area a millennium ago.

And Indians roamed the prairie with herds of Buffalo that sustained them in this harsh climate.

Winter colors along the trail Paint Mines in Calhan, Colorado

The trail is very sandy here and was deeper than the surrounding ground in some areas.

Walking among the various types of grasses, intriguing plants with dry pods, including yuccas, you encounter an interesting, but not particularly awe inspiring rock formations.

They have a some muted colors and intriguing shapes that can I of course could see creatures and faces within the rocks.

Do you see a few here?

Then there is the very green and grey mound in the background.

Interesting, one thinks, but not exciting enough to create a park around.

First Formations Paint Mines in Calhan, Colorado

We kept on walking and the formations got a bit more interesting.

Still, not sure why it is called the Paint Mines. Muted tones of green and various shades of tan and greys are beginning to intrigue my hiking partner a bit more.

The winter colors against and behind these eroded rock formations were really quite stunning.

I actually think I like these colors and the naked branches and pods on the plant a bit more than the greens that were there on my last hike. 

Though the weather forecast had been for a 70 degree day, the wind and the grey sky made it a bit chilly. And the tiny patches of snow we encountered made us realize it wasn’t really Springtime on the prairie quite yet. Later the sun did come out, but the wind got very harsh in some areas on our hike, and as we left heading to my car, I could literally “lean into the wind” and feel totally supported by it.


Very Fragile Formations Paint Mines in Calhan, Colorado

Getting close to the formations, one could see how unusual and fragile they really were.

There is quite a variation of colors that one rarely sees in other areas of Colorado. The golden and greens made us wonder what minerals created these colors.

But they were still pretty muted, but intriguing.

When we got closer to the vibrantly green mound, we saw some of the white formations at its bottom.

Colorful Mound in Calhan's Paint Mine Park

But until we went past them and went around another bend in the trail, we hadn’t seen much that made this park so special or how it got its name.

Now I knew what was coming, but was enjoying the way the park teased you with hints of what was to come.

And in so many places you had no clue of what was just around the bend or over the hill, until you turned it or climbed it.

White Rock Formations Paint Mines in Calhan, Colorado

And this is the sight that greeted us as we walked around and past that colorful mound.

Now we were getting excited about what this park has to offer.

The chalk white formations intermixed with golden ones above and the moss green above that, with just a hint of lavender showing in these formations are the beginning of a spectacularly colorful journey as one hikes deeper into the Paint Mines Park.

As it is late, I will leave posting and adding many more photos over the next few days.

And it just gets better and more colorful the farther we walked into the park.



Brave Birds Among the Ancient Cedars in Garden of the Gods

This hike had many interesting facets to it, not an ordinary Garden of the Gods hike.

When we stopped for a lunch break on the way back down, there were some very brave birds. I often leave some nuts or dried fruit for creatures to find when we are gone. I placed a few pistachios in their shells on a rock in the cedar grove we were sitting in. But these Mountain Blue Birds did not wait until we left. They first checked us out from the trees above, then came down to see what treats we had for them.

Mountain Blue Bird in Ancient Cedars in Garden of the Gods

We opened up quite a few more pistachios and tossed them into the center of our picnic area.

These birds would cautiously fly back into one of the trees, look at us, move down to a lower branch, and check us out some more.

Then they would fly into the area that the pistachios were and  pick up as many as their beaks could hold, then fly off to a nest.

 Spectacular View in Garden of the Gods

While waiting for a bird to return, we would enjoy the spectacular view that was presented to us.

Off in the distance is Red Rock Canyon Park that we hike on many times and on many trails. A different perspective to see it from here compared to when one is in the park.

And I really love the beauty of the Ancient Cedars that are found in this part of the Garden of the Gods park.

I think there were just a couple of these Mountain Blue Birds, but it was hard to tell as all the feathered visitors looked pretty similar.

Mountain Blue Bird eating a pistachio

We probably spent 20 minutes enjoying the antics of these very delightful and very happy blue birds and enjoying the view.

Notice the cactus near the bird.

The hillside we had climbed up was filled with cactus with huge spines.

I had made it up unscathed, but my hiking partner slipped once and got a few needles in her hand.

Cactus in the Garden of the Gods Colorado

They did come out easier than the needles from smaller cactus, but still not a fun thing to run into on any hike.

We were following deer trails to get to the “summit” of this trail. Pretty rocky and uneven terrain, but doable.

And it was worth every panting step we took.
 Ancient Cedar on Summit of Garden of the Gods Hike

 I hiked a little further up than my hiking partner.

I saw an easy trail that led to the North, but knew that would not be explored today.

It certainly was tempting to just go a little bit farther . . . but I resisted that Temptation.

Trail not Take at Cedar Summit

Still, I had a hard time turning back and heading back down to begin the descent and leave the Ancient Cedars behind.

I found myself stopping and just breathing in the beautiful scent of these Ancient Cedar Trees. And then looking up and taking another photograph of either the cedars or spectacular views that presented themselves to me as I hiked down.

There were some particularly spectacular views of Pikes Peak that I found myself taking a few risks to get a clear photograph. I never even stumbled as I leaned on some trees or rocks to steady myself near an edge or holding the camera past some tree branches and hoping when I clicked a great picture would be where I couldn’t see.

Spectacular View of Pikes Peak

Because I was so distracted and into my own world of beauty, I didn’t realize that my hiking partner was following a trail going down faster than we had come up. When I realized the path she was on and tried to steer her more to the East, it was a bit too late. I then knew we were going to be hiking back on another very rocky creek bed, rather than the gentler trail down I had intended us to take. I had hiked both ways, and made it out before, so knew we could do it, but this would mean we needed to be very cautious where we stepped.

Creek Bed Exit Trail in Garden of the Gods At times we had to hike up a slippery slope to the side when the rocks became cliffs or just not safe to climb on in the creek bed.

The colors of rocks fascinated us both. Reds, purples, golden yellow, white, rusty, milky quartz and others sparkled in the sun. Another type of beauty that had us totally intrigued making it easy for us want to look down, rather than up as we did on the other trail and to progress slowly down the creek bed back to the starting creek bed.

And it was a bit cooler in this area, making my hiking partner more comfortable after being in the heat above.