Birthday Road Trip to Northeastern NM and Central CO

I explored northeastern NM and then went up into Colorado to hike Mt Democrat!
MG 7286  I drove north on Highway 68 toward Toas which runs along the Rio Grande. I saw a lot of rafting trips that day. MG 7287  They call this section of the Rio Grande near Pilar the "racecourse", which is good for introductory white water rafting. MG 7290  I stopped by Heron Lake State Park and the lake was low like all the lakes are in the state this year. I did see some American White Pelicans though which were cool. MG 7298  I went up to Raton then east to see Capulin Volcano National Monument. It's a small national monument, but it's a place I've wanted to check out.
MG 7299 MG 7300  At the rim of the caldera is a nice 1 mile hike that follows the rim. MG 7302  The views at the top were cool. You can see the rippling effect from the old lava flows. MG 7303  Another old lava bed.
MG 7306 MG 7309  A few flowers blooming. MG 7316  Capulin Volcano is known for massive lady bug migrations that stop there but I was a little early in the lady bug migration season and didn't see any. MG 7320
IMG 0132  I headed east to Clayton to see about camping in the Kiowa National Grasslands. I stopped to move this box turtle off the road. MG 7325  The camping opportunities on the national grassland were very slim, so I opted to go to Clayton Lake State Park and camp. Even though it was July 4th, the park was mostly empty. I camped at the far end. IMG 0134  There were a few of these guys running around (Phrynosoma cornutum). MG 7330  On the morning of the 5th, my birthday, I headed north. Highway 370 is a dirt road and pretty isolated.
MG 7332 MG 7334  There were a few places where streams cut across the flats that were nice. Of course this was all private land and all full of cows. MG 7336  Around the intersection of highway 456 the colors improved with a lot of red rocks. MG 7337
MG 7339  That random stretch of paved road along highway 456 was reminiscent of scenes I'd seen in Baja Mexico. MG 7340  Not much is left in Folsom, NM... IMG 0138  Another horned lizard, this one was Phrynosoma hernandesi. He was making moves on the toy that was in my dash. Dan found that creepy toy on a beach in northern Mexico at Christmas last year. MG 7342  This is the view from Highway 72 before you drop down into Raton.
IMG 0141  Looking the other way I saw this gate with open pipes. I'd seen hundreds already on this trip, but I decided to check this one. Some of you may know that I've been documenting bird mortalities from open pipes and what I've been finding has been depressing. This was a private gate, so I didn't mess with it, but I did check the pipes. IMG 0140  And I found a freshly dead Mountain Bluebird. This bird was only about 8 inches down so I could reach it and I collected it. I am premitted for such things...  We need to get open pipes closed off across the USA! MG 7345  I stopped and had lunch in Raton and then decided randomly that I wanted to hike a 14er. That sent me north into Colorado. Along the way I drove by the Royal Gorge. It was my first time here and it was beautiful. MG 7348
MG 7349  Sadly, the Royal Gorge had just gone through a major wildlife event. Both sides of the famous bridge burned with high intensity like this and the bridge was closed. MG 7351  I finally arrived that evening to my new camp at the base of Mount Democrat. This camp was at 11,900 feet and it was damn cold and I had not packed the proper gear, but I was here already so no point in leaving. This camp is near Kite Lake which is west of Alama and north of Fairplay. The peak behind the one in the foreground in the center left is Mt Democrat. MG 7353  A lot of the area around this hike was private land littered with old mining equipment. The roll of cable in the background was slowly rusting away. MG 7361
MG 7362  The next morning I hiked up. I left around 0700 and there were lot of folks already hiking ahead of me. This goofball was riding his unicycle up the trail. MG 7364  The old mining slag piles left many colors of likely bad substances... MG 7366  About a third of the way up was this old mine building that had fallen down. My camp was down the hill a little to the left of Kite Lake. MG 7368
MG 7370  It's a short hike and just beyond the false summit on the left is the real summit of Mt Democrat. MG 7372 MG 7373  Being the holiday weekend, many hikers had flags. MG 7375
MG 7378  Nearing the saddle. MG 7379  The peak was just beyond the snow bank on the other side. I only got to the top of that snow bank before turning around. I was essentially there, but from the saddle all the way up this ridge I was nauseous and I started dry-heaving near the peak so I just headed down. I have a tough time with elevation above 13k. MG 7380  Looking back down the valley. MG 7381
MG 7383  The wilderness on the otherside of the saddle. The winds were ripping here too. MG 7384 MG 7385  Brown-capped Rosy-Finches were foraging in the snow bank once I got up there. I turned around soon after this. IMG 0145  Felt a little better as I started down...
MG 7394  Once I got back down to a lower elevation I felt fine again and decided to focus on some wildflowers. They were in abundance. MG 7395 MG 7398  I wish I knew my botany better! These little blue flowers were only a few mm across. MG 7400
MG 7410 MG 7414 MG 7416 MG 7419
MG 7421  I saw lots of pikas but getting one to hold still long enough for a photo was hard. This one finally gave me a decent look. They are cute little wanna-be bunnies. MG 7428 MG 7439 MG 7448  There were also lots of White-crowned Sparrows in the flowers.
MG 7453 MG 7454  This can't be good? MG 7456 MG 7458  I tried to overlook it, but pretty much everywhere on this hike I could find this. Some people call this historic, I call it shit that needs cleaned up.
MG 7463 MG 7464 MG 7467 MG 7472  This ice was near my camp. After this I loaded up and headed south. I ended up just heading home, so this is the end of the roadtrip pictures!