Things Legends Are Made Of

By: Linda Vissat

In the low light of morning an Indian maiden comes into view followed by a screaming warrior.  The sun continues to rise.  At twilight a miner joins them.  They all live in the "Cirque", ten minutes in the morning hours and just a few at night.  The sun kisses the edges of the "Cirque" and shadowy forms are cast of the lost souls still lurking in the rocks and hills above the Scout Ranch in Bear Creek Canyon

"Cirques" are formations that resemble an amphitheatre.  They are circular basins at valley heads where glaciers used to be.  The sun shares qualities with the glacier.  As the glacier melts and moves down the valley, it plucks out chunks of bedrock and carries rock down hill where it leaves the basin known as a "Cirque".  As the sun warms and moves across the valley, it plucks out spirits casting their shadows upon the edges of the basin.  In the early 30's a miner and his son prospected for gold here living in the now deserted cabin.  Nearby an opening to three mine shafts beckons. 

To earlier travelers headed to Santa Fe, Taos, or the rugged west Las Cumbres Espanolas or Spanish Peaks stood sentinel guiding their way.  Firmly planted in southeast Colorado, they are among the most important landmarks of the Southwest.  The peaks acted as a shepherd’s cairn guiding Indians, the Spanish and French, and early settlers to all points west. Early Indian tribes named the double mountains Wahatoya, (Breasts of the World).  Religious connotations flourished naming them the home of the Rain Gods and the deposit of God's treasures.  It is said Aztecs were aware of these mountains and believed golden treasure to be hidden there.  Geologists claim there probably is there, since quartz-granite rock is in abundance.

Part of the Santa Fe Trail, "The Taos Trail" passes north of the Spanish Peaks along the Huerfano River, up Oak Creek and over the Sangre de Cristo Pass to the San Luis Valley and south to Taos.

The usual trail either cut off from Bent's Old Fort near LaJunta, Colorado (the mountain route), or through Southwest Kansas (Cimarron Crossing, or "the dry cutoff"), southwest toward Santa Fe. Explorers and mountain men like Kit Carson, and "Wild Bill" Hickock, as well as Zane Grey traveled through the area.

About three miles from Walsenburg up Bear Creek Canyon Road, we passed the remains of Cameron, a 1900's coalmining town.  Now it is a ghost town.  Back in the day three to four thousand people stomped around on all that remained of the concrete foundations.  If you are trekking around be on the lookout for Indian ‘Picto-graphs.’ 

Along the winding road to LaVeta "Dikes" radiate like man-made plinths varying in height from a few hundred feet to over fourteen miles.  Millions of years ago molten magma forced itself into underground rock crevices and is now exposed through erosion.  Many are seen along Highway 12, the most prominent being Devil's Stair steps and Profile Rock.  Volcanic plugs dot the landscape on this drive, formed by underground volcanic action.   Just south of La Veta don't miss Goemmer's Butte. 

Further south on this same highway the "Backbone of the Rockies" spans from Mexico to Canada.  As you can tell this is an extremely long sandstone formation and actually named the Dakota Wall. 

Another phenomenon occurs there under certain atmospheric conditions.  Strange cloud formations encircle the Peaks and appear to be layers of pancake shapes, sometimes four or five high.  Storms are known to roll in and out so fast totally obscuring the Peaks.  In September it resembled a tropical hurricane.  Trees were thrashed and pelted with such force I could hardly believe I was in Walsenburg, Colorado.  Calm hit after a twenty-minute barrage and I took a calm, peaceful walk up Indian Creek Trail.  Sitting by the water under mountain ash and willow was a calm place to regroup. 

Not only the tales of legend make Spanish Peaks a site to visit, but also the entire area is a geological treasure.  Gold panners still try their luck. 

While in Walsenburg, pick up a visitor guide and head to the hills.  There is a lot to see.  You may not find any gold and you may miss the Indian spirits at the "Cirque", but whatever you do, don't miss Colorado's only alligator farm in Mosca.  The visitor guide will point the way.  Only in the mountains of ColoradoScience Articles, huh?

See this site for proof of this phenomenon: http://www.dailybreeze.com/hottopics/articles/1792127.html

Travel and Leisure
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 

» More on Travel and Leisure