Saturday, January 8, 2011

Elephant Rocks

I found that Elephant Rocks is a place that's a bit off the radar unless you're into bouldering. There's very little about it online, other than land management maps and plans, and route reports on climbing sites. I tried to find the climbing links again and couldn't! The only reason I stopped the first time was because I thought the rocks and hills were cool-looking, and I think there was a sign for it, so I pulled off SH 112 for some pictures and a little exercise. Here is the approximate location near Del Norte, CO. These are some of the rocks near the entrance:

At this point, on Jan. 2nd, I had just gotten over a cold and exercise caused me to cough (it still does a bit), so I took it easy and jogged up a spur trail onto a hill. When I got to the top, a group of pronghorn antelope spotted me and took off down the valley:

A minute later I spotted a single coyote trailing them, and even though it was several hundred yards away, it ran from me, repeatedly glancing over its shoulder in apprehension. But, I'm guessing coyotes have good reason to fear people in ranch country.

I felt like an intruder in a parallel universe where I had no part, and to some extent that was true; the drama of life and death goes on in spite of us living alongside these animals.

I jogged down the valley on a dirt road after the antelope, hoping to get a better photo of them. They rounded a hill to the left, so I cut uphill hoping to look down on them. After walking through scrub and getting cactus thorns in my foot, I topped out and they were nowhere to be seen. I'm pretty decent at picking out details in terrain and spotting, and I could see a good 1/2 mile to a mile, but they just vanished.

The desert terrain in this area was striking to me; a scene of smooth, stark shapes, wide spaces, and big sky. Just a mile into the valley and it seemed like another planet, remote and no longer civilized, where I could just as easily be the hunted as a hunter.

Adding to that sense were the numerous hiding spots in bushes and the animal tracks everywhere in the snow. The print below seems like a cat paw to me, possibly a bobcat or a lion cub? It was mixed with tracks made by some small animal, probably a mouse, and it wasn't big enough to be an adult lion, yet there are no distinct claw marks and it's wide compared to a canine print. It looks like a bit of caked snow on fur around the outside:

The snowpack made an interesting lacework pattern around the warmer/higher rocks and plants:

On the way back I couldn't resist the photogenic pine tree again, with the Sangres in the background:

What an interesting area. One of these days I'm going to have visit nearby Penitente Canyon, which has some larger rock formations. Either way, it's nice to have another cool place to stop on the long drive between Durango and Denver.


  1. Excellent photos! No doubt the pronghorn had good reason to disappear quickly with the coyote on their trail.

  2. Thanks! You're probably right. It was like they said "Coyotes and people? We are out of here!"