the pinyon-juniper woodland of colorado national monument

The mesa tops of Colorado National Monument are covered in a high desert woodland of pinyon pine and Utah juniper.  This pinyon-juniper woodland extends over cliffs and into canyons.

I found myself fascinated especially by the Utah junipers, dead or alive. The dominant tree in this environment, it conserves water with its scaly leaves and waxy, bluish-gray berries.  Many of the twisted, gnarled junipers here are over 800 years old, or dead.

The pinyon pine thrives at higher elevations and has short paired needles and round woody cones.  The tree spends a significant amount of energy producing its nutrient-rich seeds, better known as pine nuts.  Ute women harvested pine nuts using long harvesting poles and cone-chaped burden baskets. Providing up to 3,000 calories per pound, these were a vital food source in winter.

Both trees survive on a meager 10″ of annual precipitation.


Utah juniper berries


Pinyon-juniper woodland on the mesa top and down into the canyon – Canyon Rim Trail


Utah junipers


dead Utah junipers



The pinyon-juniper woodland provides some of the only greenery in this harsh environment.


gnarled and twisted junipers


woodland on the mesa


pinyons and junipers


pinyon pine


Pinyon-juniper covered overlook near Grand View


junipers & pinyon pines


pinyon pine

The Saddlehorn Visitor Center has some great displays about the pinyon-juniper forest.


“PHOTOGRAPHY” INVITATION:  I invite you to create a photography intention and then create a blog post for a place you have visited. Alternately, you can post a thematic post about a place, photos of whatever you discovered that set your heart afire. You can also do a thematic post of something you have found throughout all your travels: churches, doors, people reading, people hiking, mountains, patterns, all black & white, whatever!

You probably have your own ideas about this, but in case you’d like some ideas, you can visit my page: photography inspiration.

I challenge you to post no more than 20 photos (fewer is better) and to write less than 350-400 words about any travel-related photography intention you set for yourself. Include the link in the comments below by Wednesday, July 4 at 1:00 p.m. EST.  When I write my post in response to this challenge on Thursday, July 5, I’ll include your links in that post.

This will be an ongoing invitation, every first and third Thursday of each month. Feel free to jump in at any time. 🙂

I hope you’ll join in our community. I look forward to reading your posts!

the ~ wander.essence ~ community

I invite you all to settle in and read a few posts from our wandering community.  I promise, you’ll be inspired!

Thanks to all of you who shared posts on the “photography” invitation. 🙂