Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument

Trip Start Aug 12, 2013
Trip End Oct 02, 2013

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Flag of United States  , Colorado
Monday, August 19, 2013

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On my way to breakfast I saw that one of my tires had gone completely flat overnight. After I ate I started figuring out how I was going to get my tire patched. Well, it turns out the hotel is next to a tire store. I wandered over and asked if they had a portable air tank I could use to pump up the tire so I could drive over. Nobody could find it. Plan B was to send someone over to take the tire off where it was parked, roll the tire over to the store, patch it, roll it back to the hotel and put it on. Plan B worked pretty well and my car was soon ready to go.

I headed for Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, which contains one of the richest and most fossil deposits int he world. The first thing I noticed when I arrived at the Visitor Center is that, unlike nearly every other National Park Service property, it wasn't a CCC project. While the fossils were discovered in the 1860s, it didn't become a national monument until 1969. For a century the area had no protection. Railroad tracks were built right next to fossil beds so tourists could be brought out, they could dig next to the train and then hop back on for a trip back to their hotels. It wasn't until the 1960s when developers wanted to build houses on the land.that efforts began to protect it.

There are two types of fossils at the monument. There are stumps of a tree much like the Coastal Redwoods. The bases of the trees were buried due to a nearby volcano around 34 million years ago. Many of them have been hauled away but there are still somewhere around a dozen visible.

The other fossils are impressions in shale. These formed in a lake that was created when lava from the same volcano that buried the stumps blocked a river. You only get to see these at the Visitor Center in the display cases.

Another attraction of the monument is the Hornbek Homestead. There were at least two homesteads on the property before it became a national monument. One eventually became a dude ranch where people came to see and dig fossils. It was torn down after the National Park Service bought the land after it became a national monument. The other one, the Hornbek Homestead, was started in 1878. It was sold to the National Park Service in 1973 and was kept as an exhibit.

After watching the movie, going through their displays, hiking the two main self-guided nature trails and taking a quick look at the Hornbek Homestead I headed for Frisco.  I thought about taking one of their longer hiking trails but the approximately 8,500 foot altitude and the dark clouds and lightning nearby convinced me to call it a day.  I enjoyed the monument but I don't think I would recommend it to most people. 

I've spent a lot of time in the Frisco area in the winter but I've never seen it in the summer. The road to Frisco took me through some beautiful scenery and over the 11, 542-foot Hoosier Pass.  I drove by the Breckenridge ski area. It looks a lot different without snow.  I stopped in Frisco for dinner. I've never gotten around to eating at Himalayan Cuisine so I decided to give it a try. After dinner I headed for a hotel in the nearby town of Dillon.
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