Hiking Florissant Fossil Beds & Pancake Rocks

We made it to Colorado! Lucky number 13 :) Our first night we stayed in the parking lot of the Bass Pro Shops in Colorado Springs which had great views of the mountains. This was our first time staying at a Bass Pro Shops and it worked out great. We were able to get one of our favorite mustards which is the Jalapeno-Cilantro mustard from Cherith Valley Gardens. This mustard is delicious! We found it a few years ago at Mahogany Smoked Meats in Bishop, CA on our way to Burning Man and we were happy to see it at Bass Pro Shops.

Our adventure through Colorado will take us one month and at least eight different stops. Stop number one was another Passport America deal at Diamond Campground and RV Park. Nestled in the trees in Woodland Park we loved this spot. It was a nice walk into downtown where during the summer they have a farmers market on Friday mornings, and an easy drive to Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument and great hiking at Horsethief Park Trailhead.

One of the things I found the most interesting at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument was the story of Adeline Hornbek. "In the 1870s, after the loss of two husbands and two homes, this single mother of four moved her family to the Florissant Valley. At a time when women had few opportunities to own property, she filed a claim to homestead 160 acres here. Within seven years, Adeline had built a sizable house and nine outbuildings, and had acquired $4,000 worth of livestock. On top of the daily work of homestead chores and raising children, she added a job at the general store in Florissant." What a story of perseverance!

The other thing I learned was that 34 million years ago this Florissant region had massive redwoods. The few remaining redwood stumps are now monitored by the park paleontology staff and stone conservators from University of Pennsylvania. They are trying to develop a plan to stabilize the loose pieces of petrified wood so they can be preserved for future visitors and ongoing scientific research opportunities. At each of the remaining stumps they have a weather station and a time-lapse camera that measures: temperature, relative humidity, wind speed, wind direction, amount of rainfall, solar radiation, soil moisture, rock temperature and snow accumulation. The largest fossil at Florissant Fossil Beds was a massive petrified redwood stump named, The Big Stump, that was excavated in the 1800s by local residents. This redwood tree might have been more than 230 feet tall and 750 years old when the volcanic mudflow buried its base. There is something fascinating about standing near something so old and from a time so different than ours.

The next day we hiked the Pancake Rocks Trail which is off the Horsethief Park Trailhead. This is by far the hardest trail we have ever hiked with an elevation gain of 1500 feet. The entire trail was seven miles roundtrip but one mile of that was straight up hill. At times I questioned if we would make it to the end because the trail was so strenous but we did! The views from Pancake Rocks are stunning but be warned that hike is no joke.

Stream on Pancake Rocks Trail. Where does this water come from?