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Jurassic Park, Colorado

There is much to see in the southeast plains of Colorado, if you dig deeper. This spring, I headed to the Comanche National Grasslands to hike in the Picket Wire Canyonlands and the Purgatoire River Valley ó the waterway apparently named by French trappers who spelled words funny. Until recently, I didnít know that this area was home to the largest set of dinosaur tracks in North America.I drove millions of miles, and millions of years back in time, eons before the first stake was ever driven into soil in what would become Colorado Springs. This is barren country, except for the occasional piÒon pine, antelope herd and jackrabbit rushing across the dirt road just ahead of my tires. The directions to the trailhead took me miles this way, then that, then another direction altogether; the four-wheel-drive roads getting progressively worse. I was a long way from my Front Range mountains; I might as well have been in northeastern New Mexico, transported back in time.My 10-mile hike took me down a canyon, into a beautiful broad valley and by an old cemetery on my way to the trackways. The footprints along the banks of the river were amazing. Over 1,300 dinosaur prints in 100 separate trackways tell the story of these beasts moving along the muddy edge of a vast lake. Their footprints were buried and turned to stone. Roughly 60 percent of the tracks were left by the allosaurus, a two-footed, three-toed, meat-eating scavenger that possibly hunted in packs. The balance was left by brontosaurus, a four-footed plant eater. Scientists say the site tells us something about the social behavior of dinosaurs. Parallel tracks show that several young brontosaurus were traveling together.I would have explored longer, but several four-wheel-drive vehicles arrived and spilled out loudly enthusiastic school children with lunch bags, all led by a Forest Service guide. Good for them ó I wish I had discovered something like this as a kid. But, like our dino friends from the past, it was time for me to go. Iím a solitary, two-footed, meat-eating adventurer, who enjoys his peace and quiet.

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