OverviewColorado National Monument sits just outside Grand Junction, western Colorado, near the border with Utah. I was amazed with its scenery during my first visit. What a beautiful place to visit!
Below are some of the images from the most famous climb in the park - The Independence Monument via Otto's route.
A little bit history about John Otto.
John Otto could be described as Colorado's version of John Muir, he was a visionary, a writer, and a campaigner for many causes, including the protection of wild places long before this was fashionable. His eccentric ways were not always welcome - he found himself locked up once or twice in mental hospitals due to an obstinate eccentricity in his dealings with people.
By 1903 Otto was in Cripple Creek, in Colorado, and embroiled in campaigning on behalf of an eight-hour working day for miners. Things became ugly, with riots, deaths, and shootings. Otto left for Denver, where he was arrested for attempting to attack the governor of Colorado. By 1906, he was living and working in Fruita in a beautiful desert canyon studded with dramatic rock formations. Otto stayed on after his construction job ended. He had found happiness, surrounded by the desert's natural beauty. As he wrote in one of his many letters to the local paper, "I live in a tent and pay no rent."
And, finally, Otto had found a worthy and popular campaign that he could pursue with his customary zeal. He persuaded the locals of Fruita that if the poor ranchland where he lived was turn into a park, everyone would benefit from tourism. When, in 1911, after a long campaign, Colorado National Monument was founded, the grateful locals appointed Otto as the first superintendent.
He busied himself with building new roads and trails, the better to attract visitors to the new park. One of his projects was a vertical one - forcing its way to the top of largest monolith in the canyon, the 550-foot tall Independence Monument. His ascent was dangerous, but he was always one to trust his own judgement, and utterly ignore what others said. He reached the summit in June 1911. Otto hand drilled large holes into the rock, then hammered pieces of pipe into the holes. These projected from the rock 3 feet or more on the vertical sections. He'd sit on one piece of pipe, then drill the hole for the next. On less steep sections he would chisel steps.
The pipes Otto places were removed by the Park Service, some in the late 1950s, the rest in the 1970s. But his route remains.