Part 2 of 3: A CO Canyon, Meditation Center & Bike Ride

After a delicious breakfast at may favorite cafe in LaPorte, I spent a couple of hours bird watching at Watson Lake. At first, it was so quiet I wondered where are the birds! Then squawking Canada geese, about 50, flew in. A couple of mallards and two common mergansers were on the lake. I checked the eagle nests, as I always do when here, and no eagles around. 

Common merganser
American robin staring me down
Watson Lake

A visit to Poudre Canyon was recommended by a friend, so it was my next place to visit. Since I always like to see more the countryside, I drove a road to the north … Red Feather Lake area to circle down to the canyon area. I guess if you look very closely to your Google map you’ll see the approximately 15 mile dirt road, but I figured if there is a Boy Scout camp on the road, it cannot be bad. The road was perfect until 2 miles after the camp. It was drivable and the van had no problem. All of a sudden I see a stupa, hidden and off in the distance. I back-up the van and drive into Drala Mountain Center. Okay, their roads were rutty and I wondered if this was a good idea, but I wanted to see the stupa.

All I saw of the stupa from the dirt road

Did I mention it is raining now? Also, I see signs thanking firefighters. From this area and to my eventual Poudre Canyon, there definitely was a wildfire. I work my way up to the stupa … it is huge! So huge you can go in and meditate along with what looks like it could hold 50 seated people. No one ever stopped me while I was on the property and others were meditating in the stupa with me. One woman did say hello, otherwise some were returning from a hike. This place is at 8,000 foot elevation and 600 acres. 

My research indicates Drala Mountain Center offers Buddhist meditation and yoga retreats. The center did survive the Cameron Peaks wildfire which lasted 62 days and burned over 200,000 acres, encompassing Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests in 2 counties and Rocky Mountain National Park. Finally contained December 2, 2020. It became the largest recorded wildfire in Colorado’s history, surpassing the Pine Gulch Fire that burned near Grand Junction in 2020.

Stupa at Drala Mountain Center

The Buddhist statue within the stupa is the “Teaching Buddha”, appropriate for those who are either studying or are interested in learning more about spirituality at this center.

Teaching Buddha

Wildfire scars and burned areas are still evident in the Poudre Canyon area. It is a beautiful area to visit, many campgrounds in the national forests and places to fish. It is almost impossible to capture the huge rock formations in a photo, but here are a few:

Stream in Poudre Canyon
Profile Rock
Huge rocks … see Profile Rock?

The next day was a non-driving day. It looked like rain, and did rain, but then I hopped on my bicycle and enjoyed a ride on the Poudre River Trail. I veered off when close to downtown Fort Collins and went exploring. That was fun!

An AZ Canyon Visit During Covid

Canyons are deep gorges where rivers run, or once did flow, over and through rock with great water pressure. The weathering and eroding of the surrounding rock through hundreds of centuries created steep sides and often narrow passageways within what we ultimately refer to as a canyon. Even if a river is not currently flowing through a canyon, precautions need to be taken to assure yourself in not entering a canyon that may be subject to a flash flood while you are there. The rains may be happening a days worth and miles away upstream so always research the geography and weather of an area and/or hire a guide familiar with the canyon you wish to hike. Death can happen if you are caught in a canyon during a flash flood! 

I visited Lower Antelope Canyon in Page, Arizona during Covid; unfortunately we are still in the throes of that virus/pandemic these days. Entrance tickets to this canyon are only available from the Native American family business operating the canyon on tribal land. The Navaho were proud of the vaccination rate of their people, yet even so they operated their business at 35% of their usual capacity to keep themselves and visitors to the canyon safe. This allowed us to be in groups of 6 people and we were required to wear a mask at all times in the canyon; yes even while taking photos of each other. The rule was if anyone in the group of 6 took off their mask we all were not allowed to continue on the tour.

Lower Antelope Canyon is beautiful! When one thinks about a river flowing through for millions of years creating this geologic formation it is really amazing. On this tour we walked to the entrance and down a few flights of steps all on ladders. Within the canyon walls we were within narrow passageways and wider areas, but as we would look up the steep walls we knew we were walled in with sunlight peaking down on us in the majority of places.

So many beautiful spots to photograph and depending on the light it changes every minute. Here are a few more photos:

At the end of the canyon tour we climb some ladders and emerge from a crack in the ground. Notice the woman’s hat and the next photo it is the same spot without her there. Can you imagine so long ago looking over the landscape, seeing the crack and then wondering what was below? It is how they discover these places and I love imagining what I would feel like being the first explorer here …wow!

In the past I visited Upper Antelope Canyon. It too was beautiful! But, on a tour with 20 plus people there, I know I did not get the same sense of awe as I did in this canyon with a smaller group. With a large group it was difficult to hear the guide and really feel the space in the canyon. Our guide at Lower Antelope Canyon told us the business owners are considering their guide’s input to not return to the large groups when Covid is no longer a concern. Guides enjoy the smaller groups, especially when their goal is to be educational and informative, and there is no doubt in my mind the general public do too! If you get a chance to visit these canyons, do so and remember your camera!

Hope this gives you a sense of size!