Sunday, October 2, 2016

Colorado National Monument: Week of the Sheep



This is our second time at Colorado National Monument in the Saddlehorn Campground, where we had difficulty finding a level site. Our entry step was so high due to all the blocks we needed, we decided to move to a better site when someone left the following morning.


$10/night with the senior pass gets you water, flush toilets, trash and recycling, but no hookups or dump. But there is a nice dump station and water fill at the Fruita Visitor Center 7 miles away.


We’ve had some rain and thunderstorms off and on, but managed to hike all the trails we can access from the campground, and those along the scenic drive.













Yesterday morning we went to Grand Junction to shop at REI’s famous garage sale, where I spent a whole $12 on a pair of shorts. On a rainy day a couple days prior we spent nearly all day shopping at REI, Cabela’s and Sportsman’s Warehouse. I bought two jackets and Jim bought one. Since we were replacing ones we’ve had for at least 10-15 years it was about time.

On the way back yesterday we hiked the Lower Monument Canyon/Wedding Canyon Loop. It’s 2.5 miles to Independence Monument along the base of massive sandstone cliffs, just a beautiful hike, although a pretty good climb.





Getting closer to Independence Monument.


John Otto first climbed Independence Monument and placed a flag at the top on the 4th of July, 1911, and this tradition still takes place today. He also got married at the base of it but the marriage lasted only a few weeks. Apparently he wanted to continue living in a tent, much to his wife’s dismay. Here is a quote from her:

"I tried hard to live his way, but I could not do it, I could not live with a man to whom even a cabin was an encumbrance." Beatrice Farnham Otto

Otto is the man who lobbied for this to become a national park, and he worked as custodian here for 16 years. He built many of the trails we are still hiking on today.


To make this a loop we returned on the Wedding Canyon trail, a very rough, rocky steep descent on an unmaintained trail. More great scenery heading down this canyon.




And now for the sheep. We have seen desert bighorns a few times in our travels, but never as many as we’ve seen here this past week. Of course none of our sightings were on trails, just from the road while driving in the car.

Just past the visitor center one day we saw a man in the road taking photos. Jim said he wondered why someone was taking a picture of the speed limit sign, and then we spotted them.



Later that same day we came to a surprise in the road, where this biker was stopping traffic. Actually, we were the only car.


They climbed up on the rock guardrail and ran right next to the car.



On our way to REI yesterday morning there was an organized bike ride, and we passed numerous riders coming up the road. As we descended on the road we came around a bend and saw several bikers stopped taking pictures of an entire herd of bighorns! I counted at least 13.


This female had a couple of suitors but she didn’t appear very interested.



After nearing extinction, a small number were reintroduced to Colorado National Monument in 1979, and now there are over 40. This guy was very handsome.




Was hoping to do one last hike but it’s been raining all morning. If the weather cooperates we’re moving on to Moab tomorrow. This time we remembered to stock up on beer before entering Utah.


  1. Thanks again for taking this wimp along to see the scenery. I appreciate it.

  2. That was our first campground when we hit the full-time road way back in 1999. The sites were nearly impossible to get level in then, so I see nothing has changed :).
    Love the bighorn photos!
    Box Canyon Mark

  3. We had the same leveling problem there as well but so worth it for the scenery around. We did not have the amazing looks at the bighorns. Your pictures of that Ram are spectacular. I posted about the Ottos too. Their short marriage made me laugh. How could she not have known who he was before marrying him. Guess she must have thought being her husband would get him out of the tent. Really wonderful pictures, I would love to return and do more hiking there.

  4. What an amazing post. Your photos are absolutely gorgeous. The bighorn photos are out of National Geographic. Fabulous scenery! Great job.

  5. Beautiful pictures! And the sheep, WOW!, we have been there a couple times and only birds for wildlife. Not sure when we will be back in that area, so many thanks for sharing your experiences.

  6. We're in Moab now.
    When you get here, give us a shout and we'll stop by to say hello.
    Ed and Carol

  7. We were in Loop A on Friday night. We went walking and I said to Greg, that looks like Life's Little Adventures. But, I never feel right knocking on someone's door unless they are outside. Can't believe it was you! We loved Colorado State Monument. Sorry to have missed saying hi.

    1. Oh, I'm so sorry you didn't stop by. If there's a next time feel free to knock!
      We really like it here, too.

  8. Loved your bighorn photos. I'm always on the lookout for them but they are invariably on the other side of the canyon and not too photogenic.

    We are in Capitol Reefs and reading your entries from two years ago - many thanks!

    1. You're welcome! We love Cap Reef, great hiking. Hope you will be near Zion in a couple weeks.

  9. Wow, what a sheep bonanza! There's rain in OR right now too...but we expect it since we're heading for the coast for a short stay!

    Smart move on the beer...

  10. This is a great NM and seeing lots of sheep is always fun. I think we saw sheep every trip into the monument. Loved that loop hike. Coming down that steep trail made us glad we had our poles. We got passed by a woman in her 80's that does the loop almost every day! Have a great time in Moab!!!

    1. How inspiring that a woman in her 80s could hike that trail! Had we not used our poles I would have done a lot of butt scooting ;-)

  11. Beautiful campground and gorgeous scenery! Great photos of the bighorn sheep—it looks like you must have encountered just about every member of the herd. Reminds me of our visit to Anza Borrego in winter a couple of years ago when we saw dozens of rams, ewes, and lambs daily. But we've been other times and not seen any. Cute story about the Otto's. She was obviously no fun. :-))

  12. Beautiful country. All those bighorn sheep remind me of our time in Yellowstone. Great photos!

  13. Wonderful pictures of a beautiful place. We have to get there!

  14. So nice to see you back in the redrock country.

  15. I love Colorado NM. Great pictures and nice to see the sheep.

  16. I look forward to each of your emails of your adventures. This latest one with all the rock formations is awesome. I wish Jim a speedy recovery. Happy Anniversary!