Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Palmer Divide

In many of my entries I have written that Zack and I were hiking in an area called the Palmer Divide. After writing this term dozens of times, I realized that I should really explain the meaning of it. The term is not necessarily well known except for the fact that you will hear it frequently on Denver weather forecast. The Palmer Divide is talked about in the Denver weather forecasts due to the fact that it plays such an important role in the weather of the Denver area. Storms will build and intensify over the higher terrain of the Palmer Divide. This means some large Denver suburbs such as Parker and Aurora will be subject to much more severe winter snows and summer thunderstorms. By definition the Palmer Divide is a ridge of hills, bluffs and mesas that run perpendicular to the main north-south orientation of the Rocky Mountains. This ridge runs from Limon in the east to a point several miles to the east of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. It is named for William Jackson Palmer who was the founder of Colorado Springs. This graphic from 9News.Com shows geographically where the Palmer Divide is located.
Due to the height of the Palmer Divide, between 6000 and 7500 feet above sea level, it frequently receives more rain and snow fall than the surrounding region. The vegetation found on the Palmer divide is lusher than is typical for this high-plains desert. Wildlife that has been pushed out of other areas of metropolitan Denver has found a home in the Palmer Divide. Herds of elk, mule deer and pronghorn antelope can be frequently observed throughout the area. Predators have followed these herds and mountain lions can be found in the Palmer Divide. Most of the municipalities that are located in the Palmer Divide have recognized the importance of this unique ecosystem and have protected thousands of acres of land as open space. These open space areas are now the only things that stand between a continuous “monster city” between Colorado Springs in the south and Fort Collins in the north. – a distance of over 100 miles. Because of these open space areas, Zack and I have found many wonderful hiking trails on the Palmer Divide. There are trails that go through open prairie. There are trails that climb the heights of many mesas and bluffs. There are trails that plunge into the depths of canyons and gulches that crisscross the entire Palmer Divide. We plan to return frequently to the Palmer Divide in this coming year. I am sure we will find many adventures there. Some of these adventures will be good – viewing wildlife, observing wonderful sunrises and sunsets and feeling the wind in our hair. Of course some of these adventures will be more harrowing – encountering rattlesnakes, having severe storms surprise us unexpectedly or twisting our ankles in prairie dog holes. Regardless – we will love every moment of it! Peace!


Anonymous said...

But what if you and Zack were to come face-to-face somewhere in the Palmer Divide with one of the predators of the many herds of elk and other deer species, such as a mountain lion? And what about bears? Do you carry more protection with you than a knife? I certainly hope so for Zach's protection, if not for yourself!
Robin in Texas

Jerry Kromer said...

Robin - Good question. Anytime a person is attacked by a mountain lion or bear in this country it usually makes national news. The reality is that attacks like this are very, very rare. For example - there are over 5000 mountains lions in the state of Colorado. In the last 2 decades there have only been 2 fatal mountain lion attacks. Those attacks have usually occurred on very small children (4 or 5 years old). As for bears - I have personally have had 2 encounters with black bears, the only kind of bear native to Colorado, and they are so scared of people they run right off into the brush.

Bottomline - yes - there is some risk in being out in the wilderness but it probably a smaller risk than that we take getting in our car to drive to the trailhead.

Anonymous said...

You are a very brave man, Jerry! Here in east Texas I, personally, wouldn't go into the woods without either a rifle or pistol. There are other critters out there, too, such as snakes - ewwww. Plus, I wouldn't want to meet up in the backwoods with any of the "Deliverance" inbreeds without a gun! ;-)
I am not a hunter, but my husband is and he grew up hunting with his family - not for sport, but for food.
Stay safe in Colorado on your hikes. I've been skiing in Breckenridge several times. Colorado is beautiful!
Robin in Texas