She was standing high on the cliffs, silhouetted against the morning light. Just as I was gaping up at her, we rounded a curve on the very curvy Rim Drive to find two more sheep on the road, neither of which seemed in a hurry to let us pass. We took advantage of a pull-out so I could get out my camera and my really-long lens. I doubted that the ewe up on the cliff or the two on the side of the road would still be around by the time I got lenses changed and out the door; it’s my experience that by the time I finish camera-fumbling, the intended subject has gone. Not this time, fortunately. The ewe had moved around slightly to keep an eye on the two below. and gave me plenty of time to fire off a number of shots. I tried to get a couple of shots of the two sheep as they moved off into the brush, but just as I framed them up, two women on bikes rode around the curve, into my frame, and with the innocence of not-photographers, asked if I was getting anything good. All I managed after the women rode on was to get two sheep rear-ends.
Colorado National Monument is an amazing treasure right on the edge of the Colorado Plateau. The Monument, created in 1911 and now part of the National Park Service, is 1500 to 2000 feet above Grand Junction, CO. It’s not large as Monuments go: 20,500 acres which include a visitor center, a campground, the Rim Drive and lots and lots of sheer-cliffed canyons and formations. And amazingly unknown: in 2016 there were barely 400,000 visitors, many of whom just make the drive through, stopping at overlooks and enjoying the view. Since 1919 when NPS started keeping visitation records, Colorado NM has seen only 23 million people pass through. Compare that with Grand Canyon National Park, which sees about 6 million people per year, and 205 million since 1919.
We had a lovely campsite right near the rim on a loop that had fewer than 1/2 dozen other campers among lots of empty campsites. That was the last-minute loop. The reserve-ahead loop was slightly more populated, but not by much. Sadly for us, it was unusually warm, with daytime temps over 90. Since the hiking trails are exposed, it made exploring beyond the campground and visitors center a bit…uncomfortable. We came down off the plateau a day early and headed for our next stop, a little higher in elevation and, thus, a little cooler. I’ve put Colorado NM on my list of places to come back to.