Sunday, March 29, 2015

Hiking at Deer Creek Canyon Park

I was sluggish today and didn't get around to hiking until after noon.  A quick Google search indicated that the Deer Creek Canyon Park was easily accessible.  So I hopped into my Mazda and off I went.

The trailhead was adjacent to a little road that ran past million dollar houses with acreage.

I consulted the park's information kiosk and picked trails to compose an easy 2.5 mile loop.

Half way around the loop, I looked across the canyon and saw a great flight of steps carved out of the hillside.  Each step was as high as a pine tree.  I heard a young boy tell his mother that it was a staircase for a giant.  It was as plausible an explanation as any I could think of.

I followed the trail to the top of the hill and then down through forest to the bottom of the canyon.  This was wonderful for scenery; but the shaded trail was covered with slippery ice that made for a risky descent, made even more risky by foolhardy mountain bikers whizzing by.  It was a relief to finally leave the forest and return to open space and a dry trail.

As I was rounding the final bend of the loop, I saw some charming geology in the form of red and white layers of rock.

 All in all, it was a surprisingly satisfying little hike.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Chatfield State Park

Today's weather was perfect for hiking.  I set off for Chatfield State Park, which consists of the Chatfield Reservoir and an assortment of easy hiking trails -- strolling trails would be more accurate.

The reservoir was all one might expect a reservoir to be: large, flat, watery, and speckled with boats.

The trails were all paved.  I saw many families with young children out walking.

To the west there was a nice view of the foothills.  The white patch is where the hill was cut away to make a road.

I had a relaxing walk and devoted the time to counting my God-given blessings.  It was time well spent.


Sunday, March 15, 2015

Castlewood Canyon State Park

Yesterday was a perfect day for hiking.  In the afternoon I ventured south to the Castlewood Canyon State Park.  Here is a glamour shot of the canyon from the Geological Society of America.

  Here is my own photograph of caprock on the east-side canyon wall.

The park's geology is complex.  Here is a brief description from the Castlewood Canyon State Park Geology pamphlet:

Millions of years ago, a tropical rainforest covered what is now Castlewood Canyon State Park.  How do we know?  Because plant and animal fossils from those tropical forests have been found in the oldest visible rocks in the park, called Dawson Arkose.

Although the rocks above the Dawson Arkose cannot speak, they tell the story of a tremendous volcanic eruption that occurred precisely 36.7 million years ago.  The eruption, which happened about 90 miles away near present-day Salida, filled the air with a glowing cloud of 2,000 degree molten rock, ash and poisonous gases.  It reached the area of the park in just a few minutes.  The liquid rock and superheated ash welded into a thick layer of solid rock as they hit the ground cooled, and were buried.  This rock has several names: ignimbrite (Latin for “fiery cloud”, Wall Mountain Tuff (named for the mountain northeast of Salida where it was first discovered), and rhyolite. You can find pieces of this once liquid rock laying all over the park.  Look for rocks with sharp angles and edges, tiny air holes, and shiny specs. It can be pink, purple, gray or brown in color.

The “icing” on the park’s rock layer cake of Dawson Arkose and rhyolite, and its most distinguishing geologic feature, is Castle Rock Conglomerate.  These 34 million-year-old rocks, washed down from the eroding Rocky Mountains, form the park’s canyon walls and caprock. Conglomerate rocks are easy to identify – they’re like cookie dough with bits of chocolate chips sticking out. The “dough” is sedimentary rock and the chips are pebbles and boulders that are smoothed and rounded in ancient rivers and cemented into the rock by the water’s high concentration of silicates – nature’s concrete.

I saw a layer of purple rhyolite that looked something like this.

Here is a picture I took of some Castle Rock Conglomerate.  Water-smoothed stones, ranging in size from baseballs to cantaloupes, were embedded in the surrounding rock layer.