On the 21st, my husband Kyle and I attempted 14er Mount Bross (new for him but a repeat for me). About a mile in, nausea overcame me and I made the decision to turn back so I could lay down for a while, but not after vomiting off the side of the mountain, fun! (Altitude sickness is no joke, people. If I pushed it, I could have become VERY sick!) Kyle continued on for a while but eventually turned back as well, unmotivated without his summit partner.
I don’t know why, but every now and then, maybe only once every few years, I get a bout of altitude sickness. What did I do different that day to get sick? Obviously I’m acclimated so what the heck!? Well anyways, I was feeling pretty crappy about a whopping 2 miles hiked that ENTIRE weekend, so I was looking forward to my brother Nicholas arriving from Wisconsin for a 2 week visit. I had off work the entire time and we were going to be hiking and traveling all over Colorado! YES! Finally I’d have a chance to snag a bunch of easier hikes that I knew I’d be able to finish. Time to get out of my funk!
Trail of the Mourning Dove | Crow Valley Recreation Area
Briggsdale, CO | 07/23/19 | 1.08 miles | 9′ gain
First stop on the agenda was the Pawnee National Grassland. Nicholas fell in love with the prairie after his visit last year and wanted to go back! Plus this would act like a sort of acclimation day before heading to the mountains, as he had just arrived from sea level. I found a new recreation area (new to us at least) that supposedly had a few short nature trails and an outdoor museum. I couldn’t find much info online so I had no idea what to expect but it was on the way to our actual destination (the Pawnee Buttes) so even if it sucked, it wouldn’t be a big deal.
We pulled into the Crow Valley Recreation Area, which is basically just a campground. Am I even allowed to be here if I haven’t paid to camp? The place was nearly empty, so I figured it didn’t matter much either way and we eventually found a trailhead sign for the Trail of the Mourning Dove. Still unsure what to expect as I never did find a map, we set off on the very flat trail.
We walked through cottonwoods and then into the shortgrass prairie. The mountains are a part of me, but the prairie is pretty special too. Years of vegetation monitoring and soil sampling on reclaimed coal mines and oil & gas sites has burned the prairie into my soul whether it wanted it there or not.
We passed a small pond or two and a few groves of trees. As we continued farther, the trail became more and more overgrown. We eventually tired of battling the weeds and turned around. It may have been short and flat, but it was nice to walk through the prairie again.
Lee & Dorothy Rhoads Farm Museum | Crow Valley Recreation Area
Briggsdale, CO | 07/23/19
As the outdoor museum was right next to the Mourning Dove Trailhead, it was our logical next stop. What I assumed would be more like a museum, with signage and information, was essentially a collection of antique farming implements. I wandered through, wondering what everything was used for, and left no wiser.
Nicholas was very interested, so he spent a few extra minutes photographing individual machinery while I took pictures of Bob and a nearby sunflower.
We had originally intended on finding the second nature trail within the campground/recreation area, but at this point we were kind of over it, so we decided to leave early and head straight to Pawnee Buttes!
Pawnee Buttes Loop | Pawnee National Grassland
Grover, CO | 07/23/19 | 3.78 miles | 319′ gain
Now in familiar territory, we set off on the Pawnee Buttes Trail toward our prominent destination.
Last year, we visited during the nesting season closure for birds of prey, so we couldn’t take the Lips Bluff alternate route. But this year we were about a month later and the trail was open! It always feels good to explore a new trail.
We took a right at the junction and headed towards Lips Bluff. A hop, skip, and a jump away, we summitted just minutes after we started. Easy summits are fun.
We’d been following a great trail but it seemed to dead end at a narrow rock bridge. But of course, this was where we were supposed to be!
I wasn’t expecting to find exposure and sheer drop offs on the plains, but I don’t suppose it would have been as fun without them.
We soon found our way off Lips Bluff and back to the prairie, ever closer to our destination.
Flat walking always goes by quickly and before we knew it, we were there. The trail bypasses the buttes, so we didn’t get too close. Climbing is not allowed.
Bob was getting overheated (it was HOT out!) so we stopped to rest in the shade of a boulder. Nicholas continued on to the East Butte. The trail does go all the way, but you eventually cross onto private property.
After a short while, Nicholas returned and we headed back to the trailhead for our picnic lunch.
We decided to take the standard route on the way back, to form a sort of loop. The standard route descends into the wash at the base of Lips Bluff instead of climbing up onto the bluff itself.
Ghost Town of Keota | Keota, CO \ 07/23/19
After devouring our sandwiches in one of the numerous picnic shelters at the Pawnee Buttes Trailhead, we made our way back to Greeley. But it wouldn’t be a trip to the Pawnee Buttes without a stop at the ghost town of Keota. (If you’ve ever read James Michener’s Centennial, Keota is where he spent some time writing and researching this novel.)