Thursday, November 12, 2020

Eastern: Colorado and New Mexico; Western: Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma

With Covid cabin-fever rampaging my psyche I reached back into the cobwebs of my brain for some prior trip planning ideas and resurrected a plan for a a short three state highpoint trip with lots of driving. We would fly into Denver and then do a half-circle of driving to the highpoints of Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma and back to Denver to fly home. It was a perfect Covid activity because it was mostly driving without much else to do. It also helped fill in an area of the U.S. in which we have little exposure. 

On Friday, October 16, 2020, we flew from Ontario, California to Denver on Frontier Airlines, leaving at 9:35 a.m. and arriving at 12:49 p.m. The only negative part of the travel was the underground train at the Denver Airport which takes you to baggage claim: it was as packed as the New York Subway at rush hour. We got upgraded to a Jeep Cherokee at Enterprise and set out for the Crow Valley Recreation Area in the Pawnee National Grassland, just north of Briggsdale. Along the way, east of Evans, I ate a Famous Star Beyond Burger at Carls, Jr. and took my first photos of house sparrows. Just before Briggsdale, I got photos of three pronghorns, just off the side of the road, something I was hoping to see. 
Crow Valley had more vegetation than what we'd been seeing as we drove, but after a short walk among the trees and seeing no birds, decided to continue on (Crow Valley is supposed to be a great spot for bird watching). We continued north, along the eastern edge of the western unit of Pawnee National Grassland, to Hereford, then turned east before eventually turning north into Nebraska to visit Panorama Point, the high point of Nebraska. 
From Panorama Point we stumbled across Pawnee Buttes from the north side, then circled around to the south side for another view. 
From Pawnee Buttes we continued on to Fort Morgan where we enjoyed a meal at Elaine's Place, where  I had a Greek salad, onion rings and shared hummus and pieces of pita with Judy, then spent the night at the Best Western Plus Overland Inn. 

     House Sparrow (Bob) 
     Pronghorn  (Bob)
     Pawnee National Grassland  (Bob)

Saturday, October 17, we drove over three hours to eastern Kansas to Mount Sunflower, the high point of Kansas. Along the way we encountered a large prairie rattlesnake on one of many dirt roads we had to take to get there. 
We drove south and east to Weskan, then east to Sharon Springs, then Hwy 27 south for 114 miles through Tribune, Syracuse and Johnson City to Richfield (stopping in Syracuse to eat at Porky's Parlor). From there we went west, then south and into Cimarron National Grassland where we visited Point of Rocks Pools, Middle Spring and Point of Rocks, near the old Santa Fe Trail. 
We made our way down to Elkhart, Kansas, then southwest through the Oklahoma panhandle to Clayton, New Mexico where we spent the night at Best Western Kokopelli Lodge. 
     Prairie Rattlesnake  (Bob)
     Mount Sunflower - Kansas High Point  (Bob)

Sunday, October 18, we got up early and drove north on Hwy 406 through Seneca to Kenton, Oklahoma, then to the Black Mesa Trailhead where we did an 8 mile roundtrip hike in 30 degree weather to the high point of Oklahoma. One of the highlights were some beautiful mountain bluebirds. 
Then we drove back to Clayton where we had a nice lunch of pizza at the Santa Fe Trail Grill. Then we drove Hwy 87 northwest to Capulin Volcano National Monument, where we drove to the top of the extinct volcano, then continued up through Raton, New Mexico 
and into Colorado to Trinidad where we stopped for ice cream at Tutti Scoops, then on to Pueblo where we spent the night at Wingate by Wyndham Pueblo. 
     Mountain Bluebird  (Bob)

Finally, on Monday, October 19, we drove from Pueblo to Denver International Airport where we flew Frontier Airlines to Ontario, leaving at 11:05 a.m. and arriving at 12:26 p.m. 

1 comment:

  1. Lots and lots of blue lines in this post. That's one of the ways I will remember this trip. It is always fun to see a new part of the country, even if it is through a car window.