Northeastern Colorado doesn't particularly evoke images of idyllic campsites, nor is it a place where I'd prefer to spend much of my time - I've driven through the region en route to Indiana on multiple occasions ... there's nothing there! Well, that's not entirely true; it's the location of Pawnee National Grassland.
In the early 1900's, the now desolate towns of Keota and Grover were once booming as homesteaders and settlers migrated to the area in search of grazing land and farming opportunities. In 1918, the population of Keota peaked at 140 ... before the onset of a deadly influenza epidemic, several droughts, and frequent periods of inclement weather producing tornadoes, deep snows, and hail. Farms were literally blown away as this "Dust Bowl" area became a virtual desert.
A record amount of snowfall has found its way onto our mountains this year, which means that it's still too chilly to enjoy camping anywhere beyond the foothills. So, Justin and I (as well as our pup, Kona) traveled east to the grasslands on Mother's Day weekend in anticipation of warm weather and pleasant conditions. However, instead of warm, we found hot - I mean, above 80 degrees hot! It was also windy - as grasslands typically are. But, we managed to find an ideal windless campsite, and even a few splotches of colorful wildflowers on the yucca and cacti-studded terrain. Once the sun began to set, everything became unusually still ... I have never experienced a peace and quiet like it. We slept sans rain fly with a prime view of the stars above, and upon waking felt extremely refreshed and well-rested. Initially viewed as a lesser alternative to mountain camping, Pawnee is unique and desirable in it's own right and I do want to return when the landscape is just a bit more lush and green.