April 18, 2016
Well, this state continues to impress me.
I had heard about the Paint Mines a few times since moving to Colorado, and for one reason or another, the trip kept getting pushed back. When I woke up up one morning this week and realized I had nothing on my schedule, I packed up my camera gear on a whim, stuffed a sandwich in my mouth, and drove the hour east toward the park. Before I knew it, I was in the heart of the prairies, or what looked like the middle of absolutely nowhere.
I was the only human being as far as the eye could see. Eerie, yet freeing.
Apparently snow was in the forecast for the evening, so as soon as I pulled up to the park’s tiny parking lot and hopped out of my car, I realized I was in for some fun. It was nice and overcast, and nice and freezing.
Not having planned or given this trip a bit of foresight, I lacked all the necessary clothing to protect me from the intense winds. As I processed the cold, I glanced around the parking lot and realized the only other thing that greeted me was a small unmarked dirt path – without a hint of any sequoia-sized rainbow rocks. As I started to walk, it quickly became apparent that to actually see the rocks, you have to walk quite a ways. And not like, down a few staircases and around a corner, I mean like miles.
That’s a lot of trust for me to put into some dirt when it’s that cold.
But I did. And with no hat, gloves or extra layers, I made sure it was a very fast walk.
Hill after rolling hill I climbed – the green grass and grey blue skies made it feel more like Ireland than the middle of the United States. I continued on for what seemed like an hour, until finally in the distance, it looked like the path opened up to a sandy beach floor. I felt the first bits of sandy rock beneath my feet and walked through these large burning red bushes, and right on the other side was my first sign of unnaturally vibrant rock. Each turn I made, the colors seemed to become more intense, more prevalent and more inviting. Before I knew it, I was smack in the middle of what looked like an entirely different planet. Pinks and oranges and bright yellows towered over me and created these beautiful intricate layers in the eroded boulders. Everywhere I looked was another impressive combination of color, texture and composition. I spent way longer than I anticipated on my midweek adventure. I wanted to follow every sandy trail around every bend until I saw every last corner of the park.
It is truly a beautiful place, and for those of you who are reading and haven’t yet experienced the Paint Mines yourself, I hope my photos do it some justice.
And please, if you visit, be sure to bring a jacket.
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