Virginia Dale: A gentle dale in the high plains

The most beautiful scenery early travelers ever experienced along the old Overland Trail, and indeed as modern motorists today find themselves on US Highway 287, north of Fort Collins is surrounding that area known as "Virginia Dale." Earth, sky, grass, cactus, lupine, yucca, piņon pine, all come together here. A land where much of the original prairie has been tamed, changed to farming and ranching country with many different breeds of browsing cattle.

Gentle springs emerge with wild strawberries blooming amidst pink mountain ball cactus blossoms, new-green grass, and the smell of sweet damp earth. Afternoon summer storms move across ancient sandstone formations in ponderous, billowing black clouds, blasting rains into the dry red earth with ear-shattering, heart pounding thunder and lightning. Amber autumns abound: this the mellow season of waving grass and the sounds of geese and ducks heading south once more. All too soon, cold winters blow down from the north, with biting winds and drifting snows.

Climbing over 2500 feet in elevation along the old Cherokee Trail north from LaPorte to it's highest point of 7000 feet at Virginia Dale, one encounters green rolling hills and park-like areas of buffalo grass. The snowy peaked Rockies, standing white and gleaming even in the summer sun, rise 14,000 feet high to the west. As evening comes, soft hues of blue and misty gray blend the foothills into an ethereal setting with the background of the more distant Rockies. The bison are gone, but the pronghorn antelope, once near extinction, are thriving. From rattlesnakes to prairie dog, many of the original inhabitants are still here.

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Created and maintained by Elizabeth Larson
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