Clear, bright blue skies greeted us on the morning of October 5th. Instead of being enshrouded in clouds as it was when we arrived in Colorado, the snow capped Rocky Mountains seemed to gleam in the morning sun, a perfect setting for our departure from St. Vrain State Park. And it was especially pretty with the bright yellow hues of the autumn leaves in the foreground.
Our next destination was Boyd Lake State Park (see our review) in Loveland, a drive of only 26 miles. Our main reason for staying here was due to its proximity to Rocky Mountain National Park which was on our must do list. But we quickly discovered several other sightseeing opportunities here as well.
The name Loveland conjures up all sorts of romantic thoughts, doesn’t it? Guess it does to lots of people because “since 1946, volunteers in the small town northwest of Denver have teamed up with the United States Postal Service and the Loveland Chamber of Commerce to stamp and re-send more than 160,000 pieces of mail each year. Pre-addressed and pre-stamped envelopes sent to Loveland are hand-stamped with a special Valentine’s Day message, then forwarded to lovebirds the world over. So far, the “Sweetheart City” has helped spread the love by re-sending letters from all 50 states and over 110 countries.” Who knew! Perhaps next Valentine’s Day, you should give it a try!
Being such a beautiful day, these sweethearts needed a walk after our tedious (Ha!) 26 mile drive, so we headed over to the nearby Benson Sculpture Garden. This beautiful outdoor setting has been showcasing sculpture since 1985 and has been dubbed “one of the 20 must-see contemporary art sites across the USA”.
Today there are 158 pieces of sculpture on permanent display by world renowned artists. Lovely park, an oasis in the middle of suburbia and it’s free! Animals, birds, fish, cowboys, musicians, in an assortment of styles ranging from contemporary that leave you scratching your head, to humorous whimsical ones that leave you chuckling, to more traditional style of sculptures. Although many were bronze, there were a few fashioned out of stainless steel or rock. Each one was labeled with the name of the sculpture and the artist. What a great way to spend a picture perfect afternoon!
The next day we transitioned from the lush green garden of sculpture art, to what sounds like a hellish intimidating landscape when we took our devil of a hike! Although the name “Devil’s Backbone” insinuates that maybe it is a place to avoid, it didn’t keep us from visiting this iconic formation of rocks located about 8 miles from Boyd Lake State Park.
Because the sharply tilted chunks of rock protrude out of the surrounding landscape with pinnacles over 200 feet above the surrounding valley, it does resemble either the backbone of the devil, or perhaps even more appropriately a prehistoric creature. During the formation of the Rocky Mountains some 200 million years ago, the backbone was created as a result of an ancient anticline (arch) of sedimentary rocks that uplifted. This occurred during a time when the area was a floodplain in a humid lowland climate comprised of marsh and dunes, supporting lush vegetation and lots of dinosaurs.
Within the 2,198-acre Devil’s Backbone Open Space, managed by Larimar County, there are 12 miles of trail. But of course that much time and exertion wasn’t in the cards for us on this particular day, instead we would hike the 2.1 mile Wild Loop Trail. It was a relatively easy trail, only climbing about 200 feet and by now we had acclimated somewhat to the altitude. It did get a little scary though when several people heading back to the parking lot warned us that there were some ticked off rattlesnakes up ahead. Gulp! Sure enough as we passed by the area they mentioned we were given a clear “rattling” warning and we made sure we passed by quickly. We did see a couple other rattlers along the trail but they just slithered off and went on their way. Eventually we made it to the Keyhole, a gap that has eroded away within the ridge and a high point of the trail.
At the Keyhole, through the gap in the demonic vertebrae, sweeping vistas of the valley on one side and on the other mountains off in the distance, combined with a bit of urban development in the foreground. Pretty neat!
With the thoughts of snakes making me nervous, I spent a lot of time looking at my feet on the way back. Good thing because there in the middle of the trail was another rattler sunning himself. Egads (have I ever mentioned that I don’t like snakes)! Although he didn’t seem the least bit interested in us, believe me, we gave him/her a wide berth as we continued on our way, breathing a sigh of relief when we finally made it back to the car. Beautiful day, stunning scenery and an exhilarating walk. Definitely more heavenly than hellish.
With one more day in the Loveland area, the best was yet to come!