Readers’ wildlife photos

January 2, 2021 • 8:00 am

Send in your wildlife photos!

Today’s contribution comes from reader Gregory Zolnerowich, and it’s an unusual one: dinosaur footprints! His captions are indented; click on photos to enlarge them.

I’ve attached some scenic photos of the Picketwire Canyonlands south of La Junta, CO. This network of canyons is part of the Comanche National Grasslands, and a group of kayaking compadres and I camped and hiked Withers Canyon to see dinosaur footprints during the weekend of December 4-6, 2020. All the photos were taken with my iPhone.

The surrounding countryside is pretty flat shortgrass prairie and there was snow on the ground. Days were in the mid-50s and night temperatures fell into the upper 20s. This was my first time camping with snow on the ground and I was glad I’d invested in a good down sleeping bag.

The day of the hike was sunny with clear blue skies, perfect for hiking. The campground is at the rim of the canyon and the well-marked trail descends to the floor of the canyon. The round-trip hike to the dinosaur tracks and back is a little over 11 miles.

This cottonwood tree looks like it has had a tough life, and we wondered how old it was.

A petroglyph that looks like a hand, and something abstract. Petroglyphs in the canyon date from 375-4,500 years old. No one knows what they signify and I wonder if some of them were just teenage graffiti. One of the petroglyphs reminded me of the Trix rabbit that appears in television commercials.

The Dolores Mission and a small cemetery that served a group of Catholic families who lived in the canyon around 1900.

Cast of an Apatosaurus shoulder blade.

The Purgatoire River; the dinosaur tracks are along both banks.

Allosaurus and Apatosaurus tracks, which were pretty cool to see. Excavating for additional tracks is still taking place.

The most challenging part of the hike was the ascent back to the top of the canyon. Since we were in the Mountain Time Zone in December, it was totally dark at 4 pm and we wanted to be sure to be back before sundown. A hot meal and a warm campfire were a nice ending to the day.

14 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

    1. Camping out is not required if you get on the trail early enough. We hit the trail around 9 am and took about 3 hours to get to the dinosaur tracks–with a lot pauses for taking photos, looking at the petroglyphs and the mission, etc. It took about 2 hours 15 minutes to hike back. Be aware it is 15 miles of dirt/gravel road to the trailhead, and the last 3 miles could be rough if things are muddy. Of course, sundown would be later in the spring and summer, but I think it would be a brutal hike in the heat of summer.

      1. Thanks to Jerry for posting them. The tracks are open and exposed, I expect any vandals would not be up for an 11 mile hike just to create some mischief.

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