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These were real buttes

They were ìway, waaayî out there. We’re talking Wyoming ó Kansas out there, far from my familiar Colorado Springs region. They are called the Pawnee Buttes.I should have known how remote these predominant geologic features really were ó located at the Pawnee National Grasslands ó by the directions I had downloaded from websites. One warning read, “The Pawnee Buttes are literally out in the middle of nowhere, so it would be best to come prepared with a detailed map.” After following about 47 directional turns through a maze of county roads, continually resetting my odometer, I arrived at the small trailhead parking lot.A 5-mile round trip trail system took me to an overlook point, and then down to each of the two buttes that rise 300 feet above the surrounding prairie. These windswept plains, with such a rich frontier history, was a new hiking experience for me from my usual Rocky Mountain adventures. I had the whole Grasslands to myself ó 193,060 acres of big country were mine alone to explore, including canyons, gullies, hills and delicate clay hoodoos around the bases of the buttes that rule over the prairie and are as tall as massive 20-story buildings. The West Butte looked like a grand courthouse and the East Butte like a giant bell.The drive home didn’t go as smooth as my morning travel adventure, as challenging as that was. Trying to reverse the directions, I missed this-and-that turn and found myself lost in vast ranch land in the middle of somewhere. I could have stopped and asked for directions, if anyone had been around. I suppose I could have used my cell phone GPS app, but that would have been too easy. The early pioneers didn’t have Google Maps. I knew if I would just continue to drive west, toward the mountains, I would eventually intersect the Interstate, but I couldn’t even see the mountains!Obviously, I did find my way home, a bit embarrassed and tired. A long day, but glad for trail memories of something completely different. And for my wilderness adventure, I’ll plan better by bringing a detailed map.T. Duren Jones spends time in the Colorado wilderness as often as possible. He has hiked hundreds of trails, completed the nearly 500 miles of the Colorado Trail, and has summited all 54 of Coloradoís 14,000-foot peaks. He loves the outdoors. He hates snakes.ìYour hopes, dreams and aspirations are legitimate. They are trying to take you airborne, above the clouds, above the storms, if you only let them.î ñ William James

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