Grand Junction's Statue of Liberty

This morning, predictably, I pick up the pair of binoculars that handily sits on my kitchen counter and look out the south-facing window above my neighbor’s roofline to check on a dome-shaped sandstone feature on the Colorado National Monument. Sometimes my binoculars reveal microscopic humans, up there, but this morning, the bald beauty sits alone.

The hike to Liberty Cap, is only four-miles roundtrip from home, but with its nearly 1,700-foot ascent, it takes me up to three-hours – a sturdy little hike. It’s a spring day, optimal hiking weather for the desert – I decide it’s time for a visit to this monumental feature that has captivated me. I put on my sunscreen, grab my gray desert hat, put on my sunglasses, and head out. Beyond the subdivision, on the low-lying topography, evening primrose, larkspur and globe mallow welcome me, while grass heads wave with the breeze. Dainty sego lilies, vibrant paintbrush, and fuchsia-colored cactus provide their salutation, too.

Above the first crest, at the trail fork, I stay to the south, giving the Corkscrew Loop a rest for the time-being. I draw into the narrow canyon and begin ascending, through a sandy bottom and up onto granite steps. A tilted, jagged sandstone cliff shades the canyon from the eastern morning sun and to the west, black basalt rises defiantly, leaving only a narrow slot of sky. It’s cool in here – a lush microcosm brimming with life, out of character for these parts. I pass wavy, waxy-looking leaves of single-leaf ash, lime green buds on ephedra, and cascading white blossoms on Fendler bush. Little birds dart back and forth with purpose and I hear chick-a-dee-dee-dee.

Further up, the trail veers southwest. Leaving behind the lush microcosm, abruptly I emerge into stark sun where I imagine UV and infrared rays ricocheting off the glaring rock and bouncing around. I ascend higher up and finally, out of breath and pulse pounding, stop for a breather and look below where fields of flat green farmland offer a striking contrast with raw desert above the irrigation line. Below me, and closer in, the trail, seemingly a smooth ribbon, carries several hikers. Above me, I take in the indigo sky, where a buzzard soars and a committee of ravens shoot south like they’re headed to a convention.

Revived for the moment, I head onward, upward, until metal signage denotes the trail forks again: Upper Corkscrew Loop to the east and Liberty Cap to the west, another .5 miles. It’s too early to rejoice, as there is still a bit of climbing left. Stretching to navigate big rock, engaging arms to catapult here and there, alert to the acute drop off just feet away, I tread on, taking breathers when necessary. All the while, I contemplate Liberty Cap, curious about my fascination.

After many switchbacks, now on a ledge, the trail swings east – it’s the final push. The trail levels out, I hug the ledge with the remainder of cliff face above me, heart rate and breath calmed. The trail turns southward and suddenly, there she is: Liberty Cap. I pick up the pace and arrive at the final ledge, where I boost myself up over the last few rocks. I marvel at the 360-degree view and then, amble over to the base, where I sit overlooking the valley. I scan for my subdivision and spot my roof and so tiny, the south-facing window. I picture a microscopic me all the way down there at my kitchen counter, glassing Liberty Cap through the southern window.

I close my eyes. I breathe in flowers, ravens, lush microcosm, fracturing light, indigo sky, and chick-a-dee-dee-dee. Emotions stirring, I recall recently when I felt similarly – it was underneath the Statue of Liberty – a gooey concoction of feeling humbled yet proud, a sense of my own freedom and independence, infused with hope and a softened heart all at once. I let the concoction settle into my heart and rest for a bit under Liberty Cap.

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reader comments

Your descriptions of the area make me wish I were 50 years younger, lol. Love your pictures, too, as always. A

Statue of Liberty. Lisa Lesperance Kautsky. Independence. Women. Excellence. Softness. Humbleness. American birthed feminine strength. Thanks , always, for the blog-:)! AR