It’s our first full day in Colorado. We ease into the morning, visiting with Sis before she heads off to morning classes, and with BIL and the girls. We discuss plans; we know we’ll head out to Estes and Rocky Mountain National Park at some point, but we want a good day for it (and rain is, uncharacteristically, being forecast all week long). In any case that won’t be today. Their family drove out here a few weeks before… the girls are still a little burnt out from it, and way less than excited about getting into a car for more than a few minutes.
We’ll try that adventure for tomorrow, weather permitting. So they plan for a day at the pool, and we borrow the car.
The rain is expected to come over the mountains to the west. We head east, instead, checking the guidebook for what to see in that direction. There are battlefields and museums and – a bit closer – some buttes. But no highways will lead us there. It’s local roads to county roads to barely roads. But off we go, through small towns, past sheep and cattle farms, through flatlands that one can easily envision vast herds of buffalo grazing.
We’re heading to the Pawnee Buttes. It’s hard to imagine that there will be anything like that out here. It’s hard to imagine that we wouldn’t be able to see it coming from far away, with nothing but plains as far as the eyes can see. Even so, it is hard to find. This is not helped by the fact that the buttes don’t have an address, nothing to put into the GPS. The guidebook describes them as being off CR 110 (pretty far off, as we’ll discover), the managing office is in Greeley (very obviously NOT where we’re going according to the map). We have the guidebook and my road map to Colorado to help get us close-ish.
We just hope we don’t run into any problems. There’s virtually no traffic, homesteads are few and really VERY far between, and we’ve all managed to leave without bringing our cell phones.
It only takes us 2 turns to be on well-graded but not-paved roads. One CR runs into another. No signs point us to the Buttes. We get as far as the road the book mentioned and end up asking a local woman – idling in her car at the end of a road, as if waiting for us – and she gives us directions that will get us as far as signs to the Buttes, and an estimate that we have 20 miles to go.
But we do go. It’s pretty country. Peaceful. We see a mule deer. We drive over cattle guards. And at last we arrive.
There’s no visitors center. Or placard. Or bathroom.
Not even a port-a-potty. Or a shrub for 100 miles.
Well, anyway. The buttes are impressive. And surprising; we crest what looks like just another minor rolling hill of the endless plains, and there they are; unseen until we are upon them.
We decline to continue east following this adventure. Instead we cast north, into Wyoming, to a major highway. We take 80 west toward Cheyenne and then head south on I-25 back to Ft. Collins. We find fast food along the way. We see a camel, and do a doubletake. We make it back without incident to family and dinner and DQ deliciousness for dessert.
It’s a good first day.