As we made yet another turn on a county road, I peered into the distance. Nothing but farms and ranches, and greenery, with an occasional small village mixed in. Yes, greenery. We had timed our visit to the northeastern plains to coincide with the last of the springtime moisture. Even mountain lovers like myself sometimes like to road trip to other environments, so recently Bryon and I took a day trip out to northeastern Colorado and the Pawnee National Grasslands.
Where later in the summer, this area would be dried and brown, now it looked to be teeming with life. Wildflowers were blooming in the fields we passed as drove ever further from our mountain home. As we parked at the trail head, I could see the rock formations in the distance, Towers of rock stood above the otherwise flat landscape.
In that moment, it felt easy to understand why Native Americans would be drawn to the buttes, seeing them as spiritual meccas. Their size and ruggedness felt cathedral-like compared to the rest of the plains. As we walked the trail, I sensed the spirituality of what felt like nature’s temples.
We read on the sign at the trail head that this area was teeming with wildlife, especially birds. As we made our way around Pawnee Buttes, we could see huge flocks of swallow. As we arrived at the eastern side, we understood why. The swallows had built hundreds of mud type nests on the more protected east side, where they would be safe from the buffeting winds and weather.
I’m reminded once again that white people were not the first inhabitants of this land. I’m also reminded of the importance of stewardship of these special places. While we can enjoy experiencing nature, but do not govern it. There is a lot of rich Native American history in the west, and exploring it reminds of what this place was like before it was developed.
Pawnee Buttes if part of our federal public lands, Pawnee National Grasslands. You can visit any time of the year, but a visit in spring allows you to experience birds of all kinds as well as wildflowers.