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A Hike in Staunton State Park

April 30, 2018

Batholith formations at Staunton State Park near Conifer, Colorado

Staunton State Park

Last week it was Roxborough State Park south of Chatfield Dam, 25 miles or so south of Denver along the foothills through Dakota (100 million years ago) and Lyons (280 million years ago)  formations. It was in a well watered area at the edge of the foothills at an elevation of 5000 feet. There were some wetland areas right at the edge of the foothills between the Dakota and Lyons formations. The bird and animal life were extensive but in terms of what we saw (deer, a variety of bird species – and what the rangers told us were in the vicinity (bear, mountain lion, bob cat had all been cited within a week or so of our visit.)

Today’s hike was quite different

We were up in the mountains at around 8500 feet, west of Conifer at another state part, Staunton State Park in a pine and aspen forest with all kinds of rock outcroppings, batholith formations,  a part of the Pikes Peak complex – although a good 60 or 70 miles north of the peak.

batholith is a very large mass of intrusive igneous rock that forms and cools deep in the Earth’s crust. An igneous rock is a type of rock formed through the cooling of lava or magma. The term ‘batholith’ comes from the Greek words bathos, meaning ‘depth,’ and lithos, meaning ‘rock.’ In order for an intrusion to be called a batholith, the exposed area showing at the Earth’s surface should be at least 100 square kilometers, though some of these formations are much larger than that.

The park is Colorado’s newest, opened only in 2013. It brings together some 3828 acres of land donated to the state by different individuals, the largest piece offered by Frances H. Staunton, the daughter of two Colorado doctors who homesteaded the 160 acre original plot and eventually expanded their holdings. According to park website:

The first 160 acres of the Staunton Ranch was homesteaded by Rachel Staunton who lived there in the warmer months and provided medical care to the people who lived in the area. Some of her clientele were Native American families who bartered beadwork, pottery, jewelry, and rugs to show their appreciation and pay for her services. The Staunton Ranch grew to 1,720 acres over the years.

Frances H. Staunton, daughter of Archibald and Rachel, preserved and protected the Staunton Ranch throughout her life and gifted the land to the state in 1986 with the understanding that the ranch would someday be developed into a state park.

Several other adjoining ranches were purchased by the state, the Elk Falls and Davis ranches along with the Chase properties, making the park quite an extensive recreational area.

Compared to Roxborough, Staunton is considerably drier although there were some streams that

black-eyed junco at Staunton State Park (R. Prince photo)

came down from the mountains. It turns out with the warm temperatures and high winds that we were hiking during a “high fire danger” day. There have been some bad forest fires over the years, not far from here, one near Bailey that nearly engulfed the town a few years ago.

Given the 3500 foot rise in altitude from the mile-high area that embraces the Denver Basin to the 8500 foot altitude of Staunton, spring comes a little later here, the temperatures a little cooler than at the bottom of the foothills. The area supports far less bird and animal life as a result.

But we did see deer towards the beginning of our hike, a group of five or six nervous and grazing females, Downy woodpeckers (both male and female), black-eyed juncos feeding on the grounds. The little juncos – a kind of sparrow – are among the most common birds in North America. According to the CornellLab of Ornithology there are about 630 million of them in North America. They reproduce in Canada for the most part, but then live most of the rest of the year throughout the continent.

Far fewer wild flowers as well (compared to Roxborough) although Pasque Flowers were shooting up here and there. They tend to be among the first to bloom just after the mountain snows start melting in April, around the time of Easter (Paques in French, Pascua in Spanish). It is a powerful plant known for its medicinal qualities when taken in small quantities. According to the Sustainable Homesteading blog, it

is a wonderful nervous system remedy, an anti-spasmodic, and great healer for high blood pressure, poor circulation, shock, nerve pain, headache, and hormonal fluctuations. In addition, Pasque Flower can support a person who is feeling anxious, vulnerable or frail. Pasque Flower was used by the Ponca and Omaha Indians to treat sores and wounds, including those of the eyes.

However it must be taken in extremely small tinctured doses, diluted with water otherwise it can be dangerous.

Pasques Flower, Staunton State Park. April 30, 2018


4 Comments leave one →
  1. Bill Conklin permalink
    May 1, 2018 7:38 am

    Good morning Rob, and thanks for the essay on Staunton Park. I think it is a beautiful place to hang out too. We are so lucky to live in area that still has some pristine places for us to visit. Thoreau would be proud.

  2. Mary Ann Tavery permalink
    May 1, 2018 8:30 am

    Thanks for the blog on Staunton State Park. It is a beautiful park close to the metro area. We are lucky to have so many city, county, state and national parks in Colorado. I am appreciative of Rachel Staunton for donating her land so the public could enjoy it.

  3. May 3, 2018 1:43 pm

    Thanks, Rob. Have always wanted to learn more geology and you’re helping.John

    • May 3, 2018 2:14 pm

      Mostly it’s my brother-in-law David Fey who knows and explains to Nancy and me. I get it when I’m with him in the mountains John. If I don’t write something down about it, I tend to forget

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