Scenes from a Colorado overflight

We recently did a bit of family travel — on our way from Denver to Phoenix, we were fortunate enough to have relatively clear skies and a late afternoon flight.  Perfect for some aerial twilight photography of various spots in Colorado and the four corners region of the U.S.

First up for you, Colorado Springs (top of frame) seen over the snow covered Rampart Reservoir, not far west of town.

Over the Rampart

Colorado Springs is one of those places I normally see while driving through (in this case, on I-25) — from that perspective, the mountains form a wall to the west of the city.  But from above, the fact that the mountains are essentially a (tall) rumpled plateau is much more evident.

Next up on our route, Pikes Peak.  Again, this mountain (topping out at 14,115 feet above sea level) is far more prominent from all the cities to its east than it is when compared to its neighbors above the timberline.  Pikes Peak was a landmark (almost a beacon) to fortune-hunters headed west during the Colorado gold rush of 1859.

Pikes Peak

In this shot, the peak itself is on the left edge of the sunlit and snowy elevation — it’s the mountain with the nasty cliff on its east (left) side.

Fly a bit further south and west, and we get to Cañon City — for those of you who’ve been watching “The Man in the High Castle,” I’m afraid the reality is a bit… drier and flatter that what you’ve seen on TV.

Shadows on Cañon City

For trivia buffs, one thing you’ll find near Cañon City is ADX Florence, a.k.a. Supermax, a.k.a. Alcatraz of the Rockies.  Wave goodby to the most dangerous men in the U.S. as we fly on past…

More miles go by to the southwest, and we reach the Sangre de Cristo mountains — here, looking south along them to the Great Sand Dunes National Park (just above center frame), and the Sierra Blanca Massif behind it.

Toward the Dunes

Should you ever find yourself in this part of the world, the dunes are both photogenic and a load of fun — take a beat-up second-hand snowboard on your trip, and sandboard down them!  They’re the tallest sand dunes in North America, if you were curious (they top out around 750 feet above the surrounding valley’s floor).

A bit more flying and we reach the west side of the San Luis Valley; in this shot, the Rio Grande river lazily snakes out into the valley (to upper left), through the little town of Del Norte, Colorado (population 1705).

Twilight comes to Del Norte

The river was originally, formally named Rio Grande del Norte (Great River of the North) in the 16th century — the town of Del Norte takes its name from the river that flows through its heart.

Finally, we come across this interesting leaf-like set of canyons (in New Mexico maybe, or Arizona?).


I was struck by both the beauty and the irony of this formation — a near-copy of the veins of a leaf, in a land with few leaves to be found!