Paint Mines

Paint Mines

Calhan, Colorado – April 21, 2013

My good friend, Jim Harris, a professional photographer, asked me to accompany him to the Paint Mines Interpretive Park by Calhan, Colorado. I jumped at the chance. I had not been to the Paint Mines since I was in high school. That was many, many years ago.

Jim photographing me photographing him.

I got home from church, changed into some jeans, and drove to pick up Jim. At his home, he lent me a tripod, and then we were off. A short 30-minutes later found us at the south parking lot on Paint Mines Road.
Driving east from Colorado Springs, the terrain consists of gentle, rolling hills with very few trees. As one reaches Calhan and turns toward the Paint Mines, scanning the horizon; one sees — nothing. It is not until the hike in from the parking lot that one begins to see anything of the Paint Mines. After about a half-mile and a couple of switchbacks, there is an overlook.

A panorama of a small portion of the Paint Mines.

My first glimpse of the Paint Mines.
Looking down into a small canyon and a multitude of colors.

It is from this first overlook that one begins to get an overall picture of the beauty of the Paint Mines. The Paint Mines are different colors of sediment that have been exposed by the forces of erosion. Local lore has it that the Indians had used it for war paint. The colors range from whites to reds to yellows.
The erosion has formed small canyons in the rolling hills. The deepest points in the canyons were 30 to 40 feet. So they are not huge, but they are wonderfully unique to explore.
The white formations appear to be a coarse sandstone. The reds and yellows are more of fine silt. Many of those colors have cracks in them like one would see in the desert. The erosion has created some interesting formations.
Jim was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to give me a little one-on-one instruction in photography. He taught me how to shoot in the RAW format, something quite different from the JPEG format I have become so used to using. I like shooting in RAW; it allows so much more flexibility in processing after taking a photograph.
After about 130 photographs we tackled the uphill trail to the parking lot and returned to Colorado Springs.

The colors almost seem otherworldly.
View of a spire with a sandstone cap rock.
The same spire as seen from below.
Looking up into a white canyon.
A bush at the base of a formation, beside a wash.
Jim making his next image in the white canyon.
Looking back toward the spire.
Jim preparing to set up his next shot.
Of course, it is all about the view and the angles.
Multiple spires.
Igneous rocks embedded in what was once mud.
Peering through an opening in the formation.
This area kind of reminds me of Neapolitan ice cream…
Looking down one of the many canyons.
Reds and yellows.

6 thoughts on “Paint Mines

  1. Hi Terry, very exciting, interesting place. What creates all the varrying colours? How are you both going? I’ve just been through the ringer, Waitangi day at Government House for 2500 guests, including Damien Smith from the Embassy.

  2. Hi Damian! It is nice to hear from you!

    The colors are created by varying types of iron oxide in the clay. I remember when I was younger, I was told Native Americans in the area used the pigments for war paint. I do not know if that is factual, but I could certainly see it happening.

    WOW! A party with 2,500 guests is a proper party!! I am sure you were involved in all sorts of behind the scenes activities that made the party come off without a hitch. I am glad that your job is going so well for you.

    We sorely miss New Zealand and our friends there. The good thing…I will retire at the end of this tour. That will be in 600 days, but who’s counting! When we do retire, if you guys ever come through Colorado, we would love to host you.

    I just got home this morning at 10:30. I left the embassy because I have “Bolivian Belly”…again! I was out all week last week. My body said everybody out, two exits, no waiting! In 24-hours, I lost 5kg. Who knows, if we can’t get this bug figured out, maybe I won’t have to wait 600 days to be done.

    Please give our best to Catrina.

  3. Nice to see you finally having time to keep your travel blog going! Great photos. Looking forward to the time when we can have our next photo adventure together.

    1. I am ready for our next photo shoot too! It looks like it might be the second week in August, with any luck.

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