Sunday, March 17, 2019

Can We See Forever?

Some folks insist they can see forever. Especially those who have driven (or walked) up Skyline Drive in Cañon City, Colorado.

The upturned Dakota sandstone “hogback” supporting the scenic roadway has jutted above the floor of the Arkansas River Valley for thousands of years, geologists say.

But since the early 1900s, most people who scale its heights just say, “Wow.” Especially if they’re white-knuckling their way along the single-lane, three-mile stretch that snakes 800 feet above the valley floor. Sometimes they say other things too.
View atop Skyline Drive in Canon City, Colorado. Photo courtesy Jeffrey Beall.
For safety’s sake, signage is clear, warning of slow speed limits and bicyclists and hikers sharing the path, but no guard rails separate the blacktop ribbon from sheer drop-offs on either side. If you’re driving, you don’t look around much. If you’re lucky enough to be a passenger, you can get an eyeful.

For more than a century, people have climbed or driven the spiny ridge, beginning with inmate-labor crews who constructed the narrow roadway in 1905, according to sources from the Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center. An inmate could earn ten days off his sentence for every month he worked on the project.
Photo by George L. Beam, early 1900s.
Originally intended for horse-drawn conveyances, walking, or bicycling, vehicles were prohibited because they frightened horses and had led to several close calls involving skittish animals and sheer drop-offs. In 1907, vehicles were finally allowed, but only at certain times on certain days of the week.

Skyline is accessed about three miles west of Cañon City via a stone archway built in 1932, also with inmate labor. The archway was constructed using a stone from each of the forty-eight states (excluding Hawaii and Alaska, not yet states).

Walkers ascend on the eastern side of the hogback, entering at its base near Floral and 5th Street in a residential neighborhood. Exercise enthusiasts claim the trek it's one of the best workouts available. What’s another 800 feet when you’re starting out at an elevation of 5,315? The climb quickly accelerates the heartrate, they say, and the view is breath-taking.

If there’s any breath left to take.
Dakota Ridge trailhead atop Skyline Road. Photo by author.
However, people were not the first creatures to make the climb. Topographically speaking, the scenery may have been a bit different, but in the distant past, extinct breeds of animals trotted, raced or meandered along this section of the Dakota Hogback Ridge, a geological formation that runs from New Mexico into Wyoming.

A sharp-eyed paleontology student in 1999 noticed unusual patterns along the upturned lip of the Skyline protrusion which turned out to be a dinosaur trackway I mentioned in last month’s blog. The fossilized footprints are viewed as if from below ground as they protrude from the slanting rock. Signage at the site offers a fascinating historical overview. 
Convex ankylasour footprints protruding above the roadway on Skyline Drive. Photo by author.
Skyline Drive is opened year-round, weather permitting, and for locals and visitors alike, anyone willing to take the time to meet the sky will enjoy the thrilling view of “forever” atop the razor’s edge.
Author's photo from atop Skyline Drive. 
A continuation of the uplifted Dakota ridgeline can be seen in the background.

Bestselling author and winner of the Will Rogers Gold Medallion for Inspirational Western Fiction, Davalynn Spencer writes heart-tugging romance with a Western flair, both contemporary and historical. As the wife and mother of professional rodeo bullfighters, she’s always #lovingthecowboy. And she’s fairly certain her previous career as an award-winning rodeo journalist and crime-beat reporter prepared her for life in Colorado wrangling Blue the Cowdog and mouse detectors Annie and Oakley. Learn more about Davalynn and her books at


  1. Thanks for the post. I love traveling with all of you.

  2. I had no idea that was there! How fascinating!

  3. OK, now I want to see this in real life. Can you imagine how terrifying it must have been for the people who first built it?

    1. I know. I white-knuckle it when I drive up there!