A Layer Cake of Diversity
This is a land whose great diversity is sorted into layers from the bottom of the mountain to the top. Down low, in the deserts around the floor of Mesa Verde, the land grows mostly shrubby and spiky plants, like prickly pear and saltbush, which are home to equally spiny creatures, like the short-horned lizard. A little higher up, you’ll find the world-renowned cliff dwellings of the Ancestral Pueblo peoples, whose ingenuity in making a home out of the ruggedest of landscapes has never been matched by modern humans, but is put to shame by the unique adaptations of the local wildlife, like the pinecone-hunting Pinyon Jay. Farther up the mountain, you’ll find pines and oaks and the beautiful Abert’s Squirrel and Grace’s Warbler. An intrepid few may venture still higher, into the spruce-fir forest of the high La Plata mountains and perhaps even out of the trees entirely, onto the alpine tundra with the pipits, pika and ptarmigan. For variety in a short distance, this trail is hard to beat.