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Bluestem Prairie

As soon as you step foot onto Bluestem Prairie Open Space you feel like an interloper- a cacophony of sharp barks fill the air. Focus your eyes on the vast open area spread out in front of you and you will see tiny heads poking out from mounds in the ground, prairie dogs. This is their kingdom, with numbers in the thousands you would be hard-pressed to find one acre of this area without one. They are not the only animals which call this area home, Bald Eagles use this area for wintering, antelope race across the plain, while songbirds flit about, their notes intermingled with the braying and barking of the prairie dogs alerting each other of your presence.

Bluestem Prairie was once part of the enormously successful Banning-Lewis Ranch which covered 30,000 square miles of the shortgrass prairie and operated for decades, providing meat to the city of Colorado Springs. Today it is the largest swath of land covered in Bluestem grasses, a rarity in modern-day Colorado. As development continues around El Paso county, the rolling hills of Bluestem Prairie allow you to feel totally isolated by hiding the houses popping up on the perimeter.

Standing in the middle of the property, observing the yucca stretching into the sky and the wildflowers blooming beneath your feet, the sun beats down on you. There is no tree cover, you will feel exposed, on edge, though it’s a difficult feeling to identify, you are wholly unprotected from the elements. When it’s sunny it’s sunny, when it rains, it pours. It is a harsh, unforgiving climate where you can understand the Prairie Dogs’ propensity to dig underground. Even though a bald eagle couldn’t pick you up it would still be nice to have a place to hide, some sort of shelter.

This is where you will find the beauty, this is not a place of passivity- every step you take on the property you will be confronted, by the Prairie dogs’ barks, by the oppressive sun, and by the antelope staring you down from the top of the hill. The beauty is in the complete otherness of a landscape, this is no strenuous hike in dense Estes Park, it is something completely its own, harsh, dangerous, and beautifully exciting.