More High Plains Drifting – Comanche Grassland canyons

Due to an emergency with our cat, our plans for Memorial Day weekend changed. We had to spend Friday in town, make sure that the cat received the care he needed, and that his health stabilized.

Frankie had the surgery he needed and was doing much better. And someone was very much relieved.

The main casualty, besides our wallet, was a depletion of the timebank.

More money can be earned and saved. Time? As mentioned, once you spend it, it is gone.

Luckily, Ms. A is an understanding one and knows I get rather grumpy (!) if I do not get my outdoor time.  Once satisfied, Frankie was stable; she gave me her blessing to take off for the weekend.


He does have to wear the “cone of shame” for the next week or so, however.

But where to go?

All through the mountains of Colorado, the weather was wet and even snowy up high. Utah? I know my fellow Coloradoans. There would be a sea of green plates on I-70 headed west.

Northern New Mexico? The higher country there was also full of snow. And where I’d like to return to was a bit too far in the time I now had available.

So I took my advice, consulted various atlases, and picked a place.

I’d go again to the High Plains, but the remote canyon country in southeast Colorado. At about five hours or so of driving, a reasonable goal in the time I had available. Plus, since I’d be taking the back roads (and not the interstate), I would have more of a road trip experience vs. the monotony of driving a major highway.

Since the vehicle, and my gear, was mainly packed for car camping, I figured a solo car camping/hiking/history exploring trip would work well.

At noon on Saturday, someone gave me her blessing.  I quickly reconfigured for a solo trip,  packed a few remaining items, and off I went.

A few hours later, had some delicious Mexican food in La Junta from a place I ate at last year. After a satisfying and inexpensive meal, I was on my way again.

A few hours later, I soon arrived at the first canyon I wanted to check out.

Carrizo Canyon was lush and full of wildlife. An oasis on the High Plains and very beautiful.

With all the moisture Colorado has received, the wildflowers were in abundance.


And there was evidence I was not the first person to appreciate this area.

It was nearly 8 PM—time to find a place to call home for the evening.

I found a spot I had all to myself.

The light of the setting sun on the canyon walls and the lush green grass made it one of those camping spots I’ll cherish in my memory for a long time to come.

Unlike our experience, last weekend,  wildlife in this area was thriving. The birds made their night calls, and coyotes yipped in the distance. , and I had it all to myself.


The following morning I made my customary breakfast of oatmeal followed by coffee. Loaded up my day pack and made my way into the canyon. I wanted to get an early start before the full heat of the late May sun hit.

I soon made my way into the canyon proper.

As expected, much Rock Images appeared. Some were from the 1700 or 1800s Plain nations who inhabited this area.

Others looked to be much older.

There were signs of the astronomical nature of the Rock Images, too.

And some of the more recent vintage that may be old enough to cross from common graffiti to historical interest?

I continued my walk along, above, and in the canyon area.

The wildflowers continued to amaze me with their vibrant colors in this wet spring.

Blanket thrower

I spotted the ruins of the old homestead. The foundations seemed of the same rock surrounding the canyon area.

Behind the homestead, I saw a locked gate and the “Cracked Cave” behind it. The etched lines receive the rays of the sun for twelve minutes on the Spring and Fall equinoxes.

I continued my hiking and enjoyed overlooking the canyon below and the grasslands in the near distance.

I followed an old jeep track. I soon reached a weathered sign denoting the Oklahoma border.

My first time in Oklahoma. And it was on foot.

The state line was arbitrary as the rock and wildlife attested.

I looked further into Oklahoma and saw an opening in the canyon. It would be tempting to go also. But the sun was getting hot, and my map did not show this portion of the public land—some other time.

I made my way back to camp. Drank some cold tea and ate some fresh fruit. I read. Relaxed. I enjoyed just being in this remote and quiet area.

A young couple and a small child would be in the unofficial campground for the evening. We waved to each other. We made minimal small talk.  Much like me, I suspect they wanted solitude. They chose a spot where we would not see each other.

Towards dusk, I heard a cry above my campsite. A nest of owls was spotted.

The sun set. I made dinner in the twilight.

The stars again came out. The dark black of the night sky, the silver moon and the shining stars above were all I could see. It could have been the same sky from two-hundred years ago.  Some coyotes were yipping and close by. Their evening song seemed to fit this time and place. I was content.

I packed up in the morning and made my way to the town of Springfield, CO, for breakfast. I looked at my atlas and decided to explore some local if unfortunate, history.

I went a little north and east and arrived at the Amache internment camp. A place where over 7000 Japanese or Japanese-Americans became interned from 1942 – 1945. An experience that hopefully will not be repeated in this country.

The camp is nearly empty. A few kiosks, old roads, foundations of old buildings, a reconstruction of a guard tower, and some memorials.


From a “kite cam” in May 2007. The area in 2015 is only somewhat more developed than this photo. PCO of Geo Spectra.

The quiet and desolate area is perhaps the best testament to how our country has been misguided and wrong at times.

My ethnic group saw their share of prejudice during World War II. However, being more numerous, more politically connected, and of European background, the worse of this type of behavior not experienced by the majority of those in the Italian or Italian-American community in the United States.  The Italian community was fortunate. The Japanese population was not.

With these sober thoughts in mind, I continued my historic pilgrimage and went to the site of the Sand Creek Massacre.

Another dark aspect of this nation’s history. It is also something that should not be forgotten.  Many Americans have read or seen a fictionalized account of this massacre via Michener’s Centennial.  More able historians have re-capped the history better than I.

The historic site is a modest affair. A small building is the ranger station. A path and an old jeep track lead to an overlook on the low bluffs above the creek.  The plains spread out in an immense area.

As with Amache, perhaps the quiet and lonely area sets the appropriate tone for some somber reflection.

Thirty-three stars of the 1864 flag

I spoke to an onsite ranger and learned more about the history of this area. It has only been open to the public since 2007. It is, no surprise, a place where many Cheyenne and Arapaho continue to make pilgrimages.

It was time to head home. End my solo weekend of hiking, camping, and exploring the historical threads of the Colorado experience.

I’ll probably head to the mountains this weekend. For now, I’ll remember another rewarding experience in the High Plains.

More photos…


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9 years ago

Thank you for sharing. Nice pictures! What a beautiful area too. Cheers

Jim Fetig
9 years ago

A place I always wanted to see. No doubt, next time I am home, I’m going. Thanks for a wonderful blog.