|The Big Stump, a fossilized redwood, was once the pride of a commercial resort at the site. The tree would have been a "little" larger than the ponderosa pines now growing around it.|
Flash forward to the 1870s, when residents of Colorado Springs could take an excursion train west into the mountains and wander through the petrified logs exposed on the ground, chipping away bits to take home and place on the mantelpiece or in their flower beds.
Visitors chipped away so industriously that the logs are gone, except for those still buried. A generation later, two adjacent commercial establishments controlled the fossil beds, each one part dude ranch, part museum, and part fresh-air resort.
Only in 1969 did the area become the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, which also showcases fossils of quite a few plants, vertebrates, and invertebrates, preserved in volcanic ash.
M. and I stopped by in June 2013 for the first time in (non-geological) ages. We found the new park visitor center and more trails and signage than we remembered.
|Too many visitors don't get far from the vistor center. That is actually a stump in the pit, surrounded by a supporting band of steel.|
|I poop on your signage.|
The monument covers 6,000 acres, and there are 14–15 miles of hiking trails, depending which brochure you read.
We walked another three-mile loop, which crossed the Homestake Pipeline, part of Colorado Springs' water system. The pipeline carries water from a collection system near Aspen, with its flow shared by Aurora and Colorado Springs.
(It's amazing how many Springs residents think their water comes from snow on Pike's Peak, and Aurorans probably don't think at all about it.)
Despite its significance in our hydraulic civilization, the pipeline rates no signage on the hiking trail. Apparently it does not fit the narrative of the fossil beds.
|The cleared strip marks the route of the Homestake Pipline through the hills west of Colorado Springs. It was built just before the national monument was created.|