Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument

After we dropped off the red-headed stepchild at Golden Bell (where he did in fact pass his louse-check), we took a side-trip over to Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. It falls under the National Park Service.

We were sitting there snuffling our Walmart deli roast beef sandwiches. Leece had also packed some grapes and Ranier cherries. I started pitching cherry pits and stems at a squirrel (see the gallery) when ... a ranger materialized next to us.

"Sir, I'm going to have to ask you to stop throwing refuse on the ground."

"Huh? Hey. They're cherry pits and stems. Natural vegetable waste," I protested. But not too vigorously.

"They aren't natural to the site, sir. You're going to have to cease and desist."

"But the squirrel ... he's gobbling 'em up. There's no litter ...". My protest sounded lame even to me.

"Don't feed the animals, sir. They can become dangerous when overly acclimated to humans.I'll have to ask you to step away from the cherry pits, sir. Please keep your hands where I can see them."

Nah. It wasn't like that but my imagination was running wild. The Florissant rangers were as we have experienced at every National Park Service site: friendly, professional, helpful, and quite well-informed.

We had a good time though we didn't have much time. We hiked over to Big Stump, the fossilized remnant of a redwood estimated to be at least 230 feet tall at the time the volcanic outbreak got it. This is not one of those 'dinosaur' parks. These fossils are from a period well after the dinosaurs shuffled off this mortal coil. The fossils are of plants and insects.

There are 14 miles of hiking trails here; it's well worth a visit. There's a slight fee but we had our America the Beautiful Old Farts' pass (you can get one out at Bent's Old Fort). Picnic areas are well-maintained and clean, as are the outhouses. There's a flush toilet and running water sinks in the visitors' center.

Florissant is 8400 feet above sea level. The air is thinner than you think. Drink lots of water, and take it easy, even if you do think you're in pretty good shape.

Hornbek Homestead is on the grounds of the national monument; it's an interesting side trip. There is a small parking lot near the homestead site, just off the highway.

We have a gallery up here:

Mike and Leece's image galleries

under the "Road Trip" heading.