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Grand Junction, Colorado: Trees as Inspiration


On a recent visit to Grand Junction, Colorado, the trees inspired me.

We’ve known our dear friends Gene and Linda for nearly half a century and have visited them in various homes since they moved from Lawrence about 30 years ago. From a sailboat in the Turks and Caicos, to Telluride, to Crested Butte, these people know how to choose a picturesque locale! On this occasion we traveled, via car, 757 and a scary puddle jumper to see their new home in Grand Junction, and the scenery on this particular trip blew me away. As always, I was focused on the trees, and the particular species in this majestic place were inspiring. These trees are fighters. Let me introduce you.

Trees Are Tough

The predominant trees in this area are pinyon pines and Utah junipers, the older ones gnarled and twisted, some reaching up and others seeming to mostly crawl along the soil and reddish rock. Both are far shorter than the taller conifers found elsewhere, but equally magnificent. Many are missing most of their bark, exposing their tight grain, knotholes and crevices that can cut clear through the center of the trees. Even with limited numbers of needles they are still alive; formed by the extreme desert climate, they are survivors. Both species are extremely drought resistant, and the junipers have high concentrations of resin, preventing decay, but I like to think of them as just plain tough.

Trees Are Beautiful

The tops of buttes in the Colorado National Monument just to the west of Grand Junction are visible from Gene and Linda’s back yard. On a car ride along Rim Rock Drive atop the monument we were treated to gorgeous views of tree and rock and stopped at the Saddlehorn Visitor Center, which contained great info. on the composition of the various rock formations. A former trail guide, Linda quizzed me later on the different layers of rock and I could at least remember the reddish chinle layer! Not bad for an old guy. 

Trees Are Givers

The visitor center exhibits included a cross section of a juniper that was only about 18” by 12” wide yet the tree was 300 years old!! I could barely make out the thin tree rings—one for each harsh winter and summer the tree had made it through. One of Gene and Linda’s coffee table books noted that pinyon pines can can reach 700 years in age and junipers 1,000 years. A different species than the junipers we call red cedars here in eastern Kansas, seeing these magnificent trees made me take another look at our junipers after my return home. I discovered that the blue “berries” on both (good for treating aspergillus mold allergies, Beka the healer might point out) are really small cones. 

Excellent cooks (they really could be chefs), Gene and Linda prepared one dish with pine nuts from pinyon pines. I can see why these tasty and nutritious nuts are a popular addition to meals and have been so important to the native Utes that have lived in western Colorado and Utah for centuries. They also feed pinyon jays, turkeys, other birds, bears and other mammals.

As always, I was inspired by these trees that have adapted to their environment, stood the test of time, produced helpful things for the world around them, and given us beauty beyond measure to witness. I’m thankful for them, and for our dear friends who we plan to visit again and again, even if they move somewhere downright ugly.

Interested in more info. about trees? This post gives you ten interesting facts about them you might not know.


  1. Portia Blackman says:

    Fascinating info, John! Your passion about trees is contagious!

  2. Ann Day says:

    Nature is awesome. We only need to look to find it’s wonder?

  3. teri mills says:

    So informative and a great read!

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