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The Butte climb

HUERFANO — Rushing along I-25 up to Pueblo and beyond, you pass the namesake of our wonderful Huerfano County, Huerfano Butte. A few days ago a group of 20 curious and fearless folks were standing on the very top of that landmark. They came together to learn about the butte’s history, both the geologic and the human stories. They also wanted to be able to make the all-important and impressive claim, “I’ve been on top of that.” As some collect stamps or coins, others collect mountain or butte tops. We heard about the geologic history before we climbed and while at the top, and we could also envision the changes the area has gone through. We could visualize a great inland sea in the area followed by a grand erosion of a mile or more of sediment exposing the Huerfano Butte, a volcanic plug. We also learned that the volcanic plug was at some time bisected by two different volcanic dikes, giving it that unique shape with a dip in the middle of the plug. We heard words and phrases such as “Biotite olivine alkali gabbro plug” or “Argon-Argon dating methods.” We felt we were in another world on top of the butte, and also that we were hearing the language of another realm, geologic vocabulary ably explained by our geology leader David Moore. Also from our great vantage point at the top of Huerfano Butte, we were able to visualize some of the human history of the area thanks to historian and speaker Dave Steffan. The Huerfano River valley was a big trade route even before the white man made it to the area. It was called the Old Trapper’s Trail or the Taos Lightning Trail. Did you know the Huerfano River was a proposed spot for the Transcontinental Railroad? If it had been chosen, there was a plan to have a large statue of John Fremont, mounted on a horse waving a sword, sitting on top of Huerfano Butte, greeting all of the folks on the passing trains. Steffan did a wonderful job of pointing out land features that could be seen as we perched on top of the butte. As we sat on top of our orphan butte, we felt better connected to this landscape we buzz by so often on I-25. We didn’t see a single rattlesnake! This trip was a joint venture organized by the Huerfano County Historical Society and Cuchara Valley Recreation. Note: The Huerfano Butte is located on private property, so do NOT attempt to climb it on your own.   The Huerfano County Historical Society and Cuchara Valley Recreation periodically organize other great trips and events. For more info contact them through Carolyn Newman (carlynewmn@aol.com), or Bruce Johnson (bswanjohnson@yahoo.com). You may also visit www.huerfanohistory.org (click on events link)  or www.cucharavalleyrec.com (click on summer schedule link) for other events.