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Autumn teaches us a valuable lesson. During summer, all the green trees are beautiful. But there is no time of the year when the trees are more beautiful than when they are different colors. Diversity adds beauty to our world.
– Donald H. Hicks, "Look into the stillnes"  
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  Volume No. 17 Issue No. 9 September 2020  

None Book Review   None Community Calendar   None Community Photos   None Did You Know?  
None Editorial   None FFPD News   None From the Publisher   None Marks Meanderings  
None Monkey Business   None News From D 49   None People on the Plains   None Pet Adoption Corner  
None Pet Care   None Phun Photos   None Prairie Life   None Wildlife Matters  
Front Page   |   Feature Stories   |   Search This Issue   |   Log In

    The Paint Mines alternative point of interest
    Colleges and COVID-19
    Working moms cope with COVID-19
    Summer with the coronavirus
    Building and real estate update
    Celebrating Victory in Europe Day
  The Paint Mines alternative point of interest
  By Paul Denney, geologist (Peyton)

   Recently, as coronavirus cabin fever erupted, this author noticed an increase in the numbers of visitors to the Calhan Paint Mines. Nearly all of these visitors park their cars and head toward the colorful canyon at the southern end of the park.
   I would like to suggest a different objective at the east-central loop of the Green Trail. That feature is what geologists call a paleo-mudslide with an associated “lag deposit” of exotic boulders that tell a story of a past climate very different from today. Note: The Green Trail is the trail that connects the lower parking area No. 1 to the upper parking area No. 3.
   Colorado’s recent geologic history: Having existed for 40 million years, the Western Interior Seaway drained away into the ocean 62 million years ago. At its maximum extent, this seaway extended from the Arctic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. Toward the end of this time, the dinosaurs ceased to exist after a large meteor had annihilated them.
   With the withdrawal of the sea, most of Colorado was reduced to a flat alluvial plain. Then another geologic disaster: 37 million years ago, a cataclysmic volcanic eruption occurred near Salida. A cloud of molten ash rushed 70 miles across the alluvial plain; in low areas a deposit of rhyolite and pyroclastic tuff (Castle Rock Rhyolite) that was 20 feet thick accumulated at Castle Rock and Castlewood Canyon.
   Erosion of the Rhyolite formed detrital material that was incorporated into the Castle Rock Conglomerate 34 million years ago. This is the hard cap-rock you see on the hills from Castle Rock to Calhan. Along with the Rhyolite, another exotic rock, the Coal Creek Quartzite was also incorporated into the Conglomerate. This exceptionally hard rock is special to geologists; it is 1.7 billion years old. Its origin is a small exposure in Coal Creek Canyon, west of Golden.
   The stream mouth altitude of Coal Creek at Golden is 6,609 feet. The Palmer Divide is higher than that all the way to the Paint Mines. How then, did the Conglomerate get onto the Palmer Divide (8,000–7,000 feet high) and across the eastern plains? Thirty-four to 23 million years ago, streams, including the ancestral Cherry Creek, flowed southeast toward the Arkansas River. This drainage pattern was later reversed as the Denver Basin subsided northward and the Raton Basin sagged toward the south. The Palmer Divide was left high.
   The “lag deposit:” Today, throughout the Paint Mines, one finds rocks appearing along the creek beds and on the uplands east of the park. Rounded boulders of Rhyolite and blue-gray Quartzite are found everywhere. This is a lag deposit — residual material left behind from eroded conglomerate that once covered the area. The “lag” is especially abundant at the east-central loop of the Green Trail.
   The mudslide
   Below the loop of the Green Trail there is a long curvilinear bluff with well-defined nearly horizontal strata. These rocks are identified as the Dawson Arkose unit D2. As this bluff curves toward the southwest, it suddenly changes its organization and ends in a distorted “mass” or “heap.”
   Minor sorting of clasts is present, but little stratification is evident in this mass. Probably, these rocks originated high up on the bluffs of a river and slumped down into the river channel. The rocks in the mass are Conglomerate, once several-hundred feet above the Dawson D2, now lying adjacent to the D2. On closer inspection, one notices the jagged topography across the top of the mass. The larger exposed boulders are sandstone, with ragged crusts of hematite. These hematite crusts are usually found as discrete horizontal layers stratified with the D2 sandstone beds. Now, they are rolled up into the sandstone boulders.
   Incorporated into the “mass” are boulders and cobbles of Rhyolite, with a few Quartzite cobbles. This is Castle Rock Conglomerate.
   Rocks found within the mudslide are also scattered over the landscape. Lying west of the mass, an abundance of loose detrital cobbles and boulders may be found attesting to the former presence of a more extensive Conglomerate stratum. These remnants tell both the age of an event (a mudslide can’t be older than the rocks found in it); and, importantly, the derivation of the rocks found in the channel indicate two distinct sources.
   We know that the Rhyolite came from a volcano near Salida and was deposited in a band from there to Castle Rock. Second, that blue Quartzite (1.7 billion years old) is only found intact in Coal Creek Canyon near Golden. These two rocks were brought together near Castle Rock by a river system that flowed from northwest to southeast. The large size of the detrital material indicates a strong flow of water during flooding periods. This is a different climate and drainage system than today. The alluvial plain was an environment of swamps and lakes.
   Ancestral Cherry Creek would have been a river often times swollen to flood-stage and capable of transporting the large boulders southward.
   The climate in central Colorado 34 to 23 million years ago was warm and covered by temperate forests. A fossil rainforest of this age was found next to I-25, near Castle Rock. In Castle Pines, a forest of redwood and other trees thrived; its beautiful butterscotch color petrified wood is found in the Paint Mines. The paleo-Indians used this material for arrowheads and other tools.
   What do the colored rocks in the canyon tell us?
   The colors displayed are pigments in clays that are weathering products of igneous rocks sourced from the eroding ancient Rocky Mountains. Yellow indicates reduction of iron minerals, red the oxidation of iron. “Laterite pans” (yellow or dark brown splotches on the ground) speak of tropical or subtropical areas where spring water laden with iron rose to the surface, and iron participated as bog iron (hematite).
   Black is either the low rank coal-lignite or the iron mineral hematite both formed in swampy conditions. Bentonite clay sourced from volcanic tuff can give yellow, green, tan and purple colors and will form un-vegetated badlands and hoodoos (weathered rock) as at the Paint Mines.
   Geology involves interpretation. The colors of the rocks, the surface lag deposits and the unappreciated mudslide mass tell us a story of previous volcanism, erosion and surface instability during storm events.
   See Paul Denney featured in People on the Plains.
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  Colleges and COVID-19
  By Lindsey Harrison

   On March 17, the Colorado Department of Education announced it would pause all end-of-the-year state assessments for the 2019-2020 school year for K-12 students, including the PSATs and SATs, to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The decision has left some people wondering how it will impact college admissions for the fall of 2020 and beyond.
   Matt Bonser, director of admissions, systems, operations and international at Colorado College, said the recruitment admission cycle for the fall of 2020 has passed, and students have already been selected.
   “For the applicant pool, so many come in, in November, and our regular deadline (to apply) in January was not significantly impacted by the lack of testing,” he said. “There are some wrinkles for new students around their school’s ability to provide their final transcripts and their official graduation date.”
   Bonser said there are potential concerns around the overall enrollment at CC, but the school intends to maintain their student body size and enrollment numbers.
   “Even with distance learning, we are very much doing so in a small cohort environment,” he said. “Class discussion is still very important. Writing and honing writing skills is still important. For faculty to provide in-depth feedback to students, we are looking to keep our class sizes similar to what they are.”
   The students starting college in the fall of 2021 are more likely to be impacted at other colleges, but CC transitioned to a test-optional application format several years ago, allowing students to forgo standardized tests during the application process, Bonser said.
   “I think there will be a draw to test-optional schools or those that seem more flexible, and likely they (students) will look at ones closer to home,” he said.
   Jared Verner, director of communications for the University of Colorado Colorado Springs, said applications for admission in the fall of 2020 are usually submitted by this point, meaning the lack of standardized testing should not greatly impact the incoming freshman class.
   “We do not just look at test scores,” he said. “We look at the student’s entire career. We look at the whole picture of a student’s academic success and ability to handle the college environment.”
   Additionally, Verner said the UCCS admissions office is accommodating for students faced with a situation they cannot control. Unforeseen situations should not impact being able to enroll in fall classes, he said.
   “We do not have a firm cap on admissions,” Verner said. “If you meet the minimum requirements, you are accepted. If a student applies in August, in theory they could start at the end of August with everyone else. We are dedicated to being accessible to everyone.”
   Although COVID-19 caused the university to shift from face-to-face daily operations to remotely performed ones, Verner said applications are still being accepted and processed. Employees are processing the necessary paperwork within the public health guidelines, and a virtual tour program for prospective students is already in the works, he said.
   On April 15, the College Board announced its plan to make the SAT available for students who missed their opportunity to take them this spring. According to their website, the College Board is a national nonprofit organization founded in 1900, with a purpose to expand access to higher education and connect students to college opportunities.
   The announcement states, “The College Board will ensure students have opportunities to take the SAT to make up for the lost administrations this spring, giving them opportunities to show their strengths and continue on the path to college.”
   In the announcement, the College Board commits to the following:
  • Weekend SAT administrations every month through the end of the calendar year, starting in August if it is safe from a public health position
  • SAT administrations in schools this fall
  • A digital SAT for at-home use if schools do not reopen this fall

   “Students who registered for June and those in the high school class of 2021 who do not have SAT scores will have early access to register for the August, September and October administrations,” according to the statement. The College Board will communicate directly with students about the dates; eligible students will not have to pay the fee associated with taking the test.
   For updates, visit
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  Working moms cope with COVID-19
  By Lindsey Harrison

   On April 1, El Paso County Colorado School District 49 announced all district schools would begin an electronic learning schedule through April 30 because of the coronavirus pandemic. After having their kids home for a two-week spring break and suspension of all school programs and activities, the district’s decision presented a new challenge for parents who already work from home and are now tasked with helping their kids through the new e-learning process.
   Anastasia Garcia, a mother of five with three kids enrolled in D 49 schools, said she had to adapt quickly to help her boys in 10th, fifth and third grades. Along with being a licensed real estate agent with Equity Colorado Real Estate since December 2017 and keeping an almost 2-year-old daughter busy, Garcia said the hardest part has been providing the attention her kids need with their schoolwork.
   “It has been hard because they need a lot of my attention,” she said. “I cannot just send them to their rooms to get their work done. I have to sit with them the whole day.”
   Garcia said the e-learning situation has made her realize that her kids need more attention than they were getting both at school and at home. Additionally, she has had to relearn many things to be able to help them with their work, she said.
   With the restrictions placed on the real estate industry, Garcia said, “I am building relationships with my clients, keeping them aware of what is going on and how things are going,” she said. “I am trying to keep them comfortable knowing this will all be over soon.”
   Keeping the kids on a schedule similar to a regular school day has also helped make her new home and work life mesh better, she said. Overall, all her kids have adjusted well, she said.
   “I think that we are learning new things about each other because with work life, you get so busy,” Garcia said. “You forget that you have seven different personalities under one roof when you just see each other in passing. We are all staying healthy and taking this time to slow down and enjoy each other.”
   Chelsea Teran, a mother with two of her three children enrolled in D 49 schools, said her work life hasn’t been affected that much because she works on weekends. She said it can be exhausting and difficult to make sure her kids are staying busy throughout the day.
   “Surprisingly, my oldest –- my 10-year-old –- is very self-sufficient so I set him up and just check in on him,” Teran said. “His teacher sends a weekly task, which outlines what they are going to accomplish during the week. He is really taking it and running with it.”
   To fill the time with her two other children, ages 5 and 2, Teran said she, too, plans the day according to the school’s schedule. Morning is for learning time, noon is for quiet time and afternoon is for art or other fun activities, she said.
   “I always make it a point to get them outside,” Teran said. “They can jump on the trampoline or go on nature walks. We were doing that stuff before but mostly on weekends so we are doing it more often now.”
   The additional time spent together has sparked creativity, especially on her part, she said. Planning different activities and keeping everyone busy has been a challenge[; she said she has no time for herself.
   “That has been kind of a bummer because I have a lot more on my plate,” she said. “I have a lot more guilt. I have not picked up a new skill. I have not learned anything new. I have just been focusing on staying sane because if I am depressed, I am no good for my kids.”
   Regular walks outside on nice sunny days and making sure to take a shower each day just to feel normal have helped keep the depression at bay, she said. Additionally, Teran said she is becoming more confident in her ability to help her kids learn new things.
   The lack of social interaction with friends has been difficult for the whole family, something that Shera Aziz, a mother with three of her four children enrolled in D 49 schools, knows all too well.
   Aziz said her oldest is a freshman in college in Gunnison, and is struggling with not being able to go back to school this year.
   “She came home on March 23, right after their spring break,” she said. “On April 7, we had to drive down to Gunnison to get all her things because they kicked everyone out of the dorms. She is devastated because she left where she was living, her friends, sports, everything.”
   The challenge of helping her college-aged child adjust to online courses while helping her three other kids with their e-learning curriculum is compounded by the fact that state restrictions banned her from working as a hairstylist for most of the shutdown, Aziz said.
   “I was working March 16, and we got the order to stop working that night,” she said. “We heard we could not work until April 30 and it was very abrupt. Hairstylists have usually been somewhat of an untouchable industry because people always want to get their hair done. We have never been put out of work like this.”
   Aziz said she had to turn down people who offered to stay outside on the lawn for a haircut or pay triple her normal cost for services. Agreeing to do so could have resulted in the loss of her cosmetology license, she said.
   The ban on hairstylist services was lifted May 1. Earlier on April 16, the governor extended e-learning for the remainder of the school year. Aziz said she is concerned about trying to balance work and all four kids at home.
   She will resume her career as a stylist, with a plan. “My plan is to follow the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment guidelines, the Department of Regulatory Agencies guidelines, which are a huge inconvenience because they limit our clientele and add really strict guidelines on cleaning and sanitation,” she said.
   All three moms said the extra time together as a family has been beneficial, and they are grateful to have husbands who continue to work and financially support their families. They all said other families aren’t as lucky.
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  Summer with the coronavirus
  By Leslie Sheley

   Editor’s note: The following is the information available as of May 29. Be sure to check websites for updates.
   The summer is near and what it will look like is not quite clear. The coronavirus has shuttered or postponed activities and delayed the reopening of many popular venues.
   Rachel Wright, public relations and social media manager at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, said they did not have an opening date at the time of the interview. However, updates are provided on the zoo’s website. They are still planning to have summer camps for kindergarten through ninth grade, Wright said. The zoo will also host some events originally scheduled, such as Silent Night; Tails, Tunes and Tastes; Run to the Shrine and Moonlight on the Mountain. Again, check the website for any changes. Social media videos, at home conservation activities, science experiments, keeper talks and animal demonstrations in a series called “Abnormally Normal” are just some of their online programs, she said. The zoo also offers virtual experiences, including video shout-outs and live virtual interviews with animals and keepers. For updates, check Facebook and visit
   Vanessa Zink, senior public communications specialist for Colorado Springs, said their overall plans are uncertain at this point. “The operation of our city’s park, recreation and cultural services facilities and programming will continue to align with whatever public health orders are in place at that time,” Zink said. During this phase of Safer at Home guidelines, Garden of the Gods park and all parks, trails and open spaces in Colorado Springs and El Paso County are open, she said. But all playgrounds and pavilions inside the parks are closed. The Manitou Incline is also closed. “All visitors’ centers, including the Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center, are closed,” Zink added.
   She said all city pools, fountains and spray-grounds will remain closed until further notice. The YMCA operates the city pools.
   The internet is a go-to for all sorts of stay-at-home activities.
   Free resources online such as the nature journal for kids can be downloaded from Zink said the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum is hosting two digital series: “Cultural Connections” and “Children’s History Hour”—; and the Therapeutic Recreation Program of Colorado Springs shares ideas for at-home activities — The community garden is also open at Deerfield Hills Community Center, she said.
   Jason Lasecki from the public relations team at Great Wolf Lodge said they are scheduled to reopen June 16, pending approval from local and state government officials. For information and the lodge’s safety guidelines, visit  
   The Colorado Renaissance Festival 2020 will be held every Saturday, from Aug. 1 through Sept. 20; tickets go on sale June 1. The festival contact said they are monitoring the situation and changing guidelines, and will make a public announcement about festival policies at a later date.
   Austin Lawhorn, from the North Pole Santa’s Workshop, said, “We light our Ferris wheel at 8 p.m. every night to show our gratitude to our first responders, health care workers and those essential workers on the front lines,” Lawhorn said. “When things are dark we will look for the light and we will come through this together.” Out of respect for guests and Santa’s helpers, they have not scheduled an opening date, he said.“We will be following state recommended guidelines as the situation progresses,” Lawhorn said. Check the Facebook page and website for updated information:
   Kayah Swanson, director of public relations and marketing for the Pikes Peak Library District, said they don’t have specific details to share beyond the curbside service, launched May 13. “Pikes Peak Library District will take a phased reopening approach for our 16 facilities that prioritizes the health and safety of our patrons and staff,” Swanson said. “With guidance and direction from local public health officials, our team is considering all factors and working out details for each phase.” The annual summer reading program for ages zero to 18 is exclusively digital this summer. She said Summer Adventure, presented by Children’s Hospital Colorado will help kids and teens stay engaged and active over the summer months; participants can win prizes through reading, moving and imagining. The program will run from June 1 through July 31. Visit for more details. They will also continue a variety of virtual activities such as meditation, yoga and the book club for adults:
   Cathy Van de Casteele, board member for the Pikes Peak Children’s Museum, said they operate as a mobile museum; and all of their in-person programming is suspended at present. Follow their Facebook page for summer online activities.
   The Space Foundation Discovery Center does not have a reopen date yet; however, they have created several online resources for parents and kids called Auxilia Webinar Series, which is Latin for “Helping Hands.” Visit more information.
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  Building and real estate update
  By Lindsey Harrison

   Sterling Ranch
   The El Paso County Board of County Commissioners unanimously approved a request by SR Land LLC for the final plat of the Homestead at Sterling Ranch Filing No. 2 subdivision to create 104 single-family lots and three tracts for open space, drainage, public utilities and rights-of-way. The 29.68-acre property is zoned residential suburban 5000 and located north of Woodmen Road, south of the future extension of Briargate Parkway/Stapleton Road and east of Vollmer Road. It is located within the boundaries of the Falcon/Peyton Small Area Plan and the Black Forest Preservation Plan.
   The commissioners also unanimously approved the partial release of two letters of credit for subdivision improvements to Branding Iron at Sterling Ranch and Homestead at Sterling Ranch. The letters of credit were for $277,065.60 and $354,265.20, respectively. Seventy-five percent of the improvements to both subdivisions have been completed and inspected.
   The EPC planning commission unanimously approved a request by SR Land LLC for the final plat of the Branding Iron at Sterling Ranch Filing No 2 subdivision to create 75 single-family residential lots, rights-of-way, utility and drainage tracts and a school site. The 30.54-acre property is zoned RS-5000 and located south of the future extension of Briargate Parkway/Stapleton Road and east of Vollmer Road. It is located within the boundaries of the Falcon/Peyton Small Area Plan and the Black Forest Preservation Plan.
   Curtis property
   The BOCC unanimously approved a request by the Curtis Family Living Trust for a minor subdivision to create two single-family residential lots on 36.65 acres, zoned residential rural 5. The property is located at the northwest corner of the Roller Coaster Road and Hodgen Road intersection and is included within the boundaries of the Tri-Lakes Comprehensive Plan.
   Meridian Ranch
   The commissioners unanimously approved a request by GTL Development Inc. for pre-development site grading on 372.93 acres of the proposed Rolling Hills Ranch planned unit development in advance of the preliminary plan approval. The property is located west of Eastonville Road, at the easternmost end of Rex Road, west of the Falcon Regional Park. Included in the request is a waiver of the provision in EPC’s land development code, which requires the BOCC to approve a preliminary plan before authorizing a construction permit for pre-development site grading.
   The EPC planning commission unanimously approved a request by Meridian Ranch Investments Inc. to rezone 29 acres of the Estates at Rolling Hills Ranch PUD to create 16 single-family residential lots, rights-of-way, open space and utility tracts and to use the PUD as the preliminary plan.
   The BOCC also unanimously approved the final acceptance of certain streets within Stonebridge Filing No. 2 at Meridian Ranch into the EPC road maintenance system.
   Falcon Field
   The commissioners unanimously approved a request by Falcon Field LLC to rezone 57.67 acres from RR-5 to commercial regional zoning district. The property is located at the southeast side of the Highway 24 and Woodmen Road intersection and within the boundaries of the Falcon/Peyton Small Area Plan.
   Bent Grass
   The BOCC unanimously approved a request by Challenger Communities LLC for the final plat of the Bent Grass Residential Filing No. 2 to create 178 single-family residential lots and 13 tracts for open space, drainage, public utilities and rights-of-way. The 68.55-acre property is zoned PUD and located 0.25 miles north of Woodmen Road, east of Golden Sage Road, west of Meridian Road and is located within the boundaries of the Falcon/Peyton Small Area Plan.
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  Celebrating Victory in Europe Day
  By Mark Stoller

   To celebrate the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, on May 8, thousands of pipers around the world played Battle’s O’er, a traditional tune performed on the bagpipes at the end of a battle, and VE Day 75, a tune specially composed for this event by Roger Bayes of the city of Norwich Pipe Band. In addition, several pipers in Germany and Poland played at the war’s infamous concentration camp sites such as Dachau, Bergen-Belsen, Buchenvald, Auschwitz- Birkenua and Treblinka.  
   The United Kingdom VE75 organizer, Bruno Peek, said: “We are asking pipers to play at suitable locations of their choice, such as outside churches, cathedrals, in market squares and on high streets, in valleys, on town and village greens and onboard ships at sea. The overall aim is to have 5,000 Pipers taking part throughout the world.
   Local members of the Colorado Springs Pikes Peak Highlander Bagpipe and Drum Band also participated in the Victory in Europe 75th anniversary celebration. Pipers Andra Stoller, Gracie Stoller, Gary Frasier and Drummer Natalie Smiley braved the cold wind to play outside of JAKs at the Meridian Marketplace. 
   The Pikes Peak Highlanders were founded in 1985 by Royal Canadian Air Force Major Bob Tracy. The band has enjoyed a long and successful journey as a competition and performance pipe band and has provided the sounds of Great Highland Bagpipes and Scottish drums to the front range for over 30 years.
On May 8, In Meridian Marketplace, members of Pikes Peak Highlander Bagpipe and Drum Band, pictured left to right, Drummer Natalie Smiley, and Pipers Gracie Stoller, Andra Stoller, as well as Gary Frasier, braved the wind to play in celebration of the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day. Thousands gathered world-wide to play Battle’s O’er at 3 p.m. in their locations. Photo by Cara Lord-Geiser
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