It was a massive day with three destinations! First, Red Rocks Park, where we visited the amphitheater and then hiked a 1.5 mile trading post loop trail around Frog, Sinking Ship, Gog, Magog, and all the other rocks whose names I can't recall. It was a glorious day, sunny and mild, and the views of the plains were made dramatic by the striped red rocks jutting up at odd angles. Even to someone who knows next to nothing about geology, it's obvious that there's a lot of geologic fun to be had in this area, with the weathered stones' many layers -- and their sharp angle -- hinting at ages past and the forces that have shaped the landscape. It's a place to consider the concept of Deep Time. Some of those layers now exposed remember before the age of grass and other flowering plants that now surround them, before even the conifers that cling to opportune cracks in the rock and further split it with their roots, to a time when forests of scaly, two-headed Lepidodendron trees mantled the flanks of the Ancestral Rockies, before water and wind and roots eroded them to dust. We saw a few pretty blue birds at the bird feeders, which weren't necessarily "blue birds" per se; they might have been mountain blue birds, or western scrub jays. They weren't the dark, iridescent blue of a Steller's jay, but a softer, sky blue.
We had left the house about thirty minutes later than planned and had a lot of ground to cover, so we hurried on to Dinosaur Ridge. I learned that this very site, only a few miles from home, was the place many of the coolest and most commonly known dinosaurs were discovered, including Apatosaurus, Diplodocus, Stegosaurus, and one of my personal favorites, Allosaurus. We didn't have much time to spend, so we just hung out at the very cool visitor's center/gift shop with the big, imaginatively painted stegosaurs, and stopped at several points of interest along the road. One spot, once a flat bed of mud, now a rock wall tilted at a high angle, displays dozens of fossilized dinosaur tracks, with foot-wide, three-toed tracks left by an Iguanodon or something similar, and smaller, bird-like tracks of a carnivorous dinosaur. The Interior Seaway that once drowned much of North America left ripples on the sand of its shores, where tube-shaped trace fossils from the tunneling of worms and other small animals can also be seen, and at another site Apatosaur-like tracks can be viewed from the bottom, as bulges in the rock left when the heavy dinosaur stepped above, deforming the mud layers below. In Deep Time, a mountain range rose and weathered away, a great sea rolled in and receded, and a new mountain range grew up. This place has been a steamy jungle, a coastline, and now a shrubland on a ridge. In this time scale, the lives of individual species -- forget individual organisms -- are too brief to be remembered, except for those lucky few who become rocks themselves. And then humans came and built roads and a big amphitheater nearby. Weird.
Finally, we continued on the road up to the town of Evergreen and Evergreen Lake for ice skating, which was fun if a little scary at first. And awkward. And somewhat hard on the ankles. The temperature dropped as the sky darkened and we skated by stadium lights on the shore. Pushing each other around in the chair was the most fun. Do we do strenuous outdoor activities in the dead of winter just to put our bodies and minds in the proper condition to receive hot chocolate with whipped cream afterwards, like some sort of purification before a sacrament? Maybe not, but that is a definite plus. I managed to get us home without falling asleep at the wheel, but only just.