Comanche National Grasslands – Vogel Canyon

Friday, May 30

We drove from Chama, NM to Southern Colorado. We passed through the San Luis valley and up into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. A big thunderstorm was brewing. We received a little rain, but it was over quickly. Once through the mountains, we pulled off the road for a little lunch. This was our lunch spot. We watched the storm clouds move around the mountains.

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On our way through this general area, we had stopped at a Colorado Welcome Center and picked up information about the natural areas and parks in the Eastern part of Colorado.

I picked up a brochure for Vogel Canyon and the Picket Wire Canyonlands Dinosaur Tracksite, two areas in the Comanche National Grassland.

Vogel Canyon Hiking Guide

Picket Wire Canyonlands Hiking Guide

They both sounded really great. The Picket Wire Canyonlands area didn’t allow camping, so we planned on camping in the parking area at Vogel Canyon. We made sure that we had plenty of time to go on a hike.

Vogel Canyon was really nice and appeared to be almost completely unvisited.  There were really nice covered picnic tables.  We saw quite a few sunflowers in bloom.

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We set up the camper in the only flat-ish area we could find.

The skies had continued to be very storm laden.  It was a good possibility that we were going to be rained on at some point.

The Explorer’s Guide to Colorado recommended the  Canyon Trail because of the petroglyphs, the canyon and ruins.

Explorer’s Guide to Colorado

Jon and I decided to make a loop down the Canyon trail to the Prairie Trail to the Mesa Trail and finishing up via the Overlook Trail.

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We started with the Canyon Trail figuring that the sooner we climbed out of the canyon the better considering the weather.  The trail was really well marked in some areas, but at other points, it was difficult to tell exactly which path was the trail.The canyon was very attractive and somewhat unexpected.  When we started on the trail, it just all looked like primarily flat prairie.  Then you start dipping down a little and then before you know it, you are in a small canyon.  I became less concerned about flash flooding.  The canyon walls would be pretty easy to climb up to higher ground if necessary.

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There were cliff swallow nests on some of the canyon walls.
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We did find the petroglyphs and associated signs.  Unfortunately, the petroglyphs were difficult to see due to the damage caused by more recent graffiti.  It was very disappointing.

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We proceeded to get lost due to the lack of markers, but it isn’t a very big park, so we found our way back of the trail pretty easily.  There were some very interesting rocks.

 

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We found several ruins of buildings.  This area was part of the early western expansion and affected by the dust bowl.

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When we were almost back to the parking area, we saw a small group of guys hanging out at a picnic table. One of them was trying to climb through the barbed wire fence carrying a stick.  It was a very strange sight considering there were two gates in the fence not more than about 5 feet in both directions.  The other guys offered us beers.  We talked to them for a little while and decided that at least two of the four were very much under the influence of beer and possibly more.  But they seemed rather harmless.  They left after about an hour.  So we had the park to ourselves for the rest of the night.
The clouds looked even more ominous now and we started to see a few sprinkles.  We cleaned up and I started dinner.  It was too windy for the grill tonight.  I did take a short break to come out and take photos of our campsite.  I was really lucky.  At that moment, the sun came out just enough to light up the camper.

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It never did rain more than a fraction of an inch.

Tomorrow we are off to Picket Wire Canyonlands to hike out to see the Dinosaur Tracksite.


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