For a preview of the byway, check out both the video and map linked below:
- Cache la Poudre North Park Scenic and Historic Byway – video
- Cache la Poudre North Park Scenic and Historic Byway – interactive map
The day began as a brilliantly blue-sky filled day with just the right amount of winter crispness in the air. My husband joined me on this byway tour, which is a treat since he’s typically half way across the country in his 18-wheeler when I’m off on one of my byway adventures. And because he was with me, we decided to stop for breakfast at a very well-known truck-stop in Northern Colorado: Johnson’s Corner; where they are famous for their giant cinnamon rolls. No, I did not have a cinnamon roll…still working on the weight loss…but, I did have a hearty breakfast, since we were going to be playing around in the high country above 9000 feet.
Breakfast was wonderful…mostly because my hubby was with me, but also because we sat at a table that had full view of the northern Colorado mountain range. And on this particular morning, I had a special treat in that an acquaintance of mine – someone I hadn’t seen in about three years – and his family had come to this restaurant for their breakfast as well. And why should I mention this? Well, mostly because he was one of the first people in the motorcycle club I had joined in 2006 that had given me some riding pointers and helped to ease my fears of riding on a motorcycle track.
Let’s get on with the adventure, shall we?
The first part of the Cache la Poudre North Park Byway begins on the northeast side of Ft. Collins with a park and heritage site. As you travel along the northern edge of Ft. Collins along this byway, you are reminded of the importance that water has not just in Colorado, but in the world. While the byway heads northwest as you leave Ft. Collins, I wanted to visit a very small town just off the byway, which is home to some Colorado history: The Historic Flowers House and the Bellevue Hydraulic Irrigation Laboratory where a water measuring system which is now used around the world was perfected in the 1920’s by professor Ralph Parshall.
I’ve got to mention this, but the photo of the Flowers House sign was not edited in any way. I did not want to edit it, because I wanted to show off the brilliance of the day in a completely organic way.
One other thing I would like to mention about Bellevue is that many of my sport-bike-riding friends have passed through this town on their way to a very technical road called Rist Canyon. This road is technical, because many of the curves rate 15-20 mph. I’ve pointed it out in the interactive map.
Poudre Canyon is another fun canyon for many motorcycle riders, too. And while the twists and turns are not as technical as those in Rist Canyon, the river is spectacular. All along this byway, you can find a myriad of campsites, hiking trails, white-water rafting areas, and fishing spots…and much, much more.
Now, while it is winter, there are a lot of areas in Colorado which have not seen much snow, which is something else worth mentioning, since about half of the drive up the Poudre Canyon was quite snow-free. The only telling sign that it is winter in this part of the state was the ice-covered river. As we drove up the canyon, I also was quite saddened to see how badly the forest fire from the summer of 2012 had devastated the mountainsides. This particular fire, the High Park fire, had destroyed so much – homes weren’t the only things destroyed in its wake…the forest and thereby, protection from damaging floods, are gone. The Poudre River itself will be feeling the pains from this fire as well and more specifically, fishing; hiking, camping and clean water down river will be affected. And it isn’t just the environment that is affected by fire…lives, income, and the local economy all suffer.
But…let’s get back to something just a little bit lighter, shall we?
As my hubby and I continued our drive up the canyon, the blue sky began to give way to clouds that seemed to touch the mountain tops. Soon, we came upon an open meadow area that was spotted with Aspen stands and just before us around a bend in the road and coming down the mountain tops was a billowing mist which seemed to swallow up the canyon walls as it blew towards us. At that point, I asked my hubby to pull over, so I could get a few shots in the middle of the meadow. As I stood in the meadow pointing and shooting my camera, the air around me seemed still, but it only took a few minutes for the first few snowflakes to reach me and soon, the wind and snow was blowing all around me. I hurried back to the truck and quickly shook off the layer of snow that had covered my shirt and hair before hopping inside and into its warmth.
As we continued to drive higher in elevation, the road and mountainsides became snow-covered. I asked my hubby to pull over again at Cameron Pass, which is right along the Medicine Bow mountain range. Snow was blowing everywhere, but I loved the quite that came with it. Not that we were the only ones enjoying the mountains on this blustery day, just that snow tends to muffle the air. And yes, there were a lot of people out and about along this byway…more precisely; they were out snowshoeing, hiking and cross country skiing. Every parking area along the way up to the pass was filled with parked cars. Both my hubby and I were quite amazed to see so many apparently hearty folks taking advantage of everything that Colorado has to offer in winter.
As we came down Cameron Pass on the west side, we stopped at one of my favorite forest visitor centers, the Moose Visitor Center at State Forest. So now, you may be asking if I actually got to see a moose on this drive. Well, not at the visitor center, even though its name is the “Moose Visitor Center.” There are two moose at this visitor center…one standing outside is made completely of barbed wire…and the other standing inside in the middle of the visitor center is a stuffed moose affectionately called, Henry. Oh and I have to mention this, but the volunteer at the visitor center on our outing was absolutely wonderful. She was full of great stories and great information. So, if you ever have a chance to visit this part of Colorado, take some time to stop in and get to know the area from the wealth of information the volunteers and state staff share.
Now, while Colorado is home to an abundance of wildlife, those of us who live here don’t actually see all the wildlife that live here. Some animals, we do see a lot of, such as elk, deer, mountain goats, and so on. So, you may be asking…What do moose look like? The National Geographic has some really good information on many animals, so I thought I would share a few links to some of our more popular four-legged friends…
Here are a few other facts about moose: Deer do not grow up to become moose. Elk do not become moose at a certain elevation. Each of these creatures is uniquely its own type of hooved beast.
One other thing about these animals and all wild animals for that matter: DO NOT FEED them. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen someone trying to feed a wild animal, but each and every time I do, it bothers me…and it’s not that it’s my personal opinion that they should not be fed. It’s an ecological problem that has major negative effects (check out the PAWS website on the effects of feeding wildlife)…so please…when you visit a place just to see its wildlife, keep these two things in mind:
- Keep your distance
- Do not feed the animals
One other thing when visiting the high country in winter, especially if you plan on playing in the snow in the back country…take a class on avalanche danger. It will save your life and the lives of others. We learned about the Diamond Peaks Ski Patrol at the Moose Visitor Center and all of their efforts to keep people who venture into the Colorado back country safe.
After we left the visitor center, the road became less curvy and had leveled out as we entered what is known as North Park in Colorado. This area is also known as an intermountain basin area. The landscape looks sparse aside from the sage brush and high country grasses. So, the snow that was falling seemed to be never ending, because it was hard to tell the difference between ground and sky. Soon though, we came to the end of the byway as we entered the town of Walden. This was not the end of our adventure though, because I wanted to see an area I haven’t been to before: the Delaney Buttes Lakes State Wildlife Area.
Now of course the snow had not ended, but on this particular day, there was an ice-fishing tournament going on. I thought I would get a chance to capture someone catching a fish or two. Now, I realize that sometimes I tend to get just a tad overly enthusiastic and while this might be one of those times, since I did not capture anyone actually catching a fish, I did get lucky enough to spot two female moose standing along the edge of some bushes across a huge open meadow. Now that was well worth the trip.