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Lory State Park

A well-dressed gentleman who was not a well-mannered gentleman, having succumbed to the effects of alcohol by way of excessive drinking and hard liquor, once confided through swallowed consonants and slurred vowels and syllables that his one trip to the State of Colorado would likely be his last such excursion because he found Colorado to be ‘too much. Too big. Too vast.’

The fact I had previously been introduced as ‘a writer from Colorado’ was obviously lost on him. The fact he had been introduced to me as being from New York City was not lost on me – in fact it made allowances for his undeniably derogatory remarks and provoked a measure of pity on my part: He preferred the man-made canyons, constricting, confining and claustrophobic, filled with the unending deafening symphony of noise and din, of New York City over the wide-open spaces of Colorado, often comparatively quiet if not entirely silent. He would rather exist in a reality that would make one numb to the world and possibly deaf than to know and embrace Nature’s offerings.

Admittedly, his opinion of Colorado has some basis: It is much, big, and vast. But that is what so many find so appealing about it. At the same time they find equal attraction in the fact so many parts of Colorado individually embody the much, the big, the vast.

For example, Lory State Park, located in northern Colorado, west of Fort Collins, on the border of Horsetooth Reservoir and Mountain Park.

Encompassing almost 2,500 acres Lory State Park offers much of what Colorado offers, but as a microcosm of sorts: Wildlife, plants, and geology, and more.

According to a recent survey nearly 200 species of migratory and resident birds can be found within its boundaries, with some of the more visible and conspicuous examples being the Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Grassland Lark Bunting, Yellow-breasted Chat, Western Meadowlark, and Western Tanager.

Additionally, the Abert’s Squirrel, Cottontail Rabbit, Coyote, Ground Squirrel, Mule Deer, Porcupine, Raccoon, Rattlesnake, Red Fox, and Striped Skunk are common sights, and it is not unusual for visitors to report to the visitor center where tallies are kept on a white board for all to consider they saw a Black Bear, Bobcat, Elk, Mountain Lion, or White-tailed Deer making its way along one of the many trails totaling twenty miles in all, while above them Golden Eagles and Red-tailed Hawks fly in pursuit of prey.

For those not inclined to such physical experiences a more relaxed pursuit might be plant viewing, which is readily accessible: Lory State Park is bountiful with Montane Coniferous Forest, Foothill Shrubs, and Grassland Communities.

Complimenting them are massive uplifts, outcroppings, and cliffs throughout the park which provide a home for Lichen and Moss, while at higher altitudes one finds Aspen, Douglas Fir, Ponderosa Pine, and Rocky Mountain Juniper, with lesser species about including the common Juniper, Kinnikinnik, Penstemon, and Parry Oatgrass.

All of which are enjoined by such growths as Mountain Mahogany, Serviceberry, Snowberry, the common Gooseberry and Bitterbrush. The latter are common shrub species in the region.

At the lower elevations, lining the unpaved road that runs the length of the park, grasslands are the majority, dominated by Big and Little Bluestem, Prairie Sandreed, Blue and Side-oats Grama, Needle-and-thread Grass, New Mexico Needlegrass, Indian Ricegrass, and Purple Threeawn.

If such offerings are not enough to satisfy lovers and admirers of the outdoors there are geological wonders unequalled: Precambrian Rocks, consisting mostly of Pegmatite, Granodiorite, Tonalite and Metasedimentary, seen throughout the property.

Sedimentary formations exposed to and by wind, fire, and water through time include Pennsylvanian and Permian Sedimentary Rocks located on Precambrian Granites and Schists, subsequently creating a pattern along the east side of the park that is breathtaking and wondrous in its asymmetrical presentation, and whose coloration changes throughout the day as the sun passes overhead, its light some times filtered by cloud cover.

Seasonal run-off and water erosion spectacularly carve slowly but aggressively into the sedimentary rocks, creating precipitous canyons, which direct snow pack melt to the benefit of the entire area, including wetlands and riparian habitats. Additionally, Sedimentary Rocks are apparent in stratum above the western shoreline of the Horsetooth Reservoir. Look closely and see within these layers Red Siltstone, the Sandstone Santanka Formation, and Red Calcareous Sandstone of the Ingleside Formation.

Also in the vicinity of Horsetooth Reservoir there can be found Fountain Formation conglomerations and sandstones.

South of Mill Creek Tonalite is apparent, as is a band of Boulder Creek Granodiorite, while on the south-central park boundary Pegmatite is exposed. Colluvial deposits can be observed below the aforementioned Fountain Formation.

If none of these activities appeal to a visitor there is more: Ambitious types can camp in the backcountry of Lory State Park the six campsites available are a minimum of two miles from a given trailhead. Backcountry camping permits can be acquired at the visitor center. But be advised: Because hunting is allowed until the middle of May within the park boundaries the campsites are only available Friday and Saturday. At the end of May camping at these sites becomes available seven days a week.

For those seeking activities more inclined toward daylight hours with an element of physical exertion there is also the opportunity to go biking. Currently biking is allowed on the East, West, and South Valley Trails as well as the Shoreline Trail, the Mill Creek Link Trail, Howard Trail (which offers an unobstructed albeit dizzying view of Arthur’s Rock at certain points), and the Timber Trail.

The well-dressed gentleman mentioned previously may not return to enjoy what Colorado has to offer in places such as Lory State Park. But his myopia should not stop you.