Southeast Colorado

In addition to constant Snow Goose sightings, the High Plains Snow Goose Festival in Lamar last month offered many memorable moments. Colorado is known chiefly for its Rocky Mountains, but over a third of our state occupies the Great Plains. Despite a dearth of peaks and a landscape that appears monotonous and barren at first glance, the plains scenery is variable and punctuated by unexpected rises and falls, as we festival participants experienced during field trips to both public and private properties.

To enlarge a photo, click on it. To read its caption, hover cursor over it.

The plains are windy places, and not a single day passed without a breeze at best, gale-force gusts at worst. During the three-day event, we enjoyed only a few calm hours. On a single-digit morning, we braved a biting wind, before it blew us back into our vehicle. At times, we hid behind the bus or a building in order to steady our binoculars and cameras. Native Americans and homesteaders had to be a hardy lot to survive in this challenging climate, with freezer- and furnace-like conditions alternating in the course of the year. Petroglyphs and smoke-darkened caves bespeak long-term human activity in the region, and ruined homes and artifacts tell of those hopeful settlers who arrived, but could not make a go of things.

Lamar exists because the Mountain Branch of the Santa Fe Trail traversed the southeastern portion of Colorado. From 1821 until 1880, the legendary trade route connected the US with Santa Fe, which was part of Mexico until 1848, when it was appropriated by the US. The arrival of the railroad consigned the trail to history books, until the 1987 creation of the Santa Fe National Historic Trail by the National Park Service. A series of historical markers, which we encountered on several occasions, recall its historic significance.

Lamar mural

Lamar mural

While Coloradans have reason to celebrate some past events, we still try to come to terms with others. Southeast Colorado has borne witness to, and bears the scars of, several inglorious acts. It saw the 1864 Sand Creek Massacre, in which Colorado militia attacked a group of peaceable Arapahoe and Southern Cheyenne, camped under express US government protection. Close to 200 persons perished, among them women and children. The area also witnessed the construction of Camp Amache, one of ten internment camps that imprisoned American citizens of Japanese descent from 1942 until 1945, in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor in World War II.

Wherever I am, experiencing the beauty and order of the natural world while being reminded of some of the inhuman acts perpetrated by humans on one another is a source of never-ending sadness and outrage. I continue to struggle with negativity and cynicism about humankind, but I don’t want to give up hope that we can yet find a way to make this earth a welcoming home for all people, as well as for all our fellow creatures.

39 thoughts on “Southeast Colorado

  1. You’re right that many people don’t know how different the eastern third of Colorado is from the rest of the state: Great Plains versus Rocky Mountains. In 2017 we drove north from Austin heading for South Dakota. The day we left Amarillo (Texas) we came up the eastern edge of Colorado on US 385 and so must have passed through Lamar. Our goal was to keep pushing further north, so I can’t remember Lamar. Wikipedia says “The city was named after Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar II during the period that he was Secretary of the Interior in the futile hope that the then town would be named as the land office.” Seems his parents were fond of Roman history.

    Even down here on the Blackland Prairie east of Austin the wind is an almost permanent presence, as I can attest from years of photographing plants that didn’t want to hold still. As you probably know, roadrunners are an occasional sight down here too, though I couldn’t tell you what species.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Good morning, Steve,
      Thank you for the interesting information about Lamar. Place names often have a profound history and reflect the wishes and plans of earlier generations. I did not know about Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus, who, it is expected, rarely wrote out his full name.
      You have likely seen Greater Roadrunners, since Lesser occur along the West Coast of Central America. Unless one ventures across the border, we should not see them in the US.


    • I think it’s a common misperception, Christa. Wyoming and Montana are similar in that they share the eastern plains and the Western Rockies, but the farther north, the harsher the winters (as you know first hand 😊).

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Very nice! I always impressed by your decent and humble approach. Thanks a lot, we need to know more about your lovely country (It’s so huge and different!) and I don’t know much about it, at all as a German. It definitely makes me more knowing and familiar with all the lovely landscapes. I wonder why I never have been there, despite a stop in Puerto Rico, which was only for a day and doesn’t count if it someone would like to know something about your marvelous nature there.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for your interest, Ira. The country is definitely vast and varied, and I doubt that anybody could explore all parts of it during one’s lifetime. But I think that is true about most countries, even if they are smaller.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I appreciate the comment, Neil. The truth is that I am not optimistic, but am constantly fighting my cynicism and sadness about the human race, because otherwise what would be the point of living on?
      And then I see a creature like a Roadrunner and it makes me insanely happy, so I would like to be around to see as many birds and other animals as possible. Is that completely crazy?
      BTW, did you happen to see a Roadrunner during your time in N.M.? They are relatively common there.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Really fascinating post. Such an inspiring landscape. I hear what you are saying about the native people. In the last few years Concord MA has been coming to terms with the slavery that went on in that town during the time of Emerson and Thoreau and all those “enlightened” folks. Finally, they have an exhibit about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. I think if we want to make this country a better place for all its citizens, we have to talk about and acknowledge the misdeeds committed in the past, and try to rectify them as much as possible, without simply paying lip service because it’s politically or socially expedient. A foundation built on bad soil will not last.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wonderful captures, both landscape and wildlife! I love your Wild Turkey family and Great Horned Owl shots! Colorado is indeed a lovely place with many scars. I’m with you, Tanja, I can only hope than humankind can become more compassionate and caring for all for the sake of our earth and wildlife.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I grew up in Southeastern Colorado. It’s such a beautiful area and I’m so thrilled to be moving back to my home state. Love your pictures and I’m glad I found your blog!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Petroglyphs!!! I’m intrigued by those vast plains and the lives of the indigenous who once occupied the region. Do you know what specific tribes lived here and their history? Is there any information near the petroglyphs regarding this?

    Liked by 1 person

    • This particular petroglyphs were modern, probably dating to the 19th century. They were not marked and were pointed out to us by a local tour guide. I don’t think he knew exactly who etched them in the stone, but in general, the Southern Cheyenne, Arapahoe, Kiowa lived or migrated through that part of Colorado.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.