Dinosaur tracks stretch across the former basin of the Purgatoire River in southern Colorado.Text and Photography by Robert Hurst

About 50 miles south of the Arkansas River, my dad’s Toyota was blasting across the washboard, rock-strewn surface of County Road M at a highly inadvisable velocity, throwing up a space shuttle-esque rooster tail of dust while hurtling straight into a black storm of tumbleweeds and swirling haze from multiple out-of-control wildfires. It was about that time that I started to question the wisdom of the whole adventure.

“We’re sure getting out here,” I said, becoming convinced we would never make it back. I imagined opening the spare tire compartment and finding nothing, or just a shriveled prune. Baby head-sized rocks slapped and crashed against the unprotected oil pan as the Toyota charged forward at highway speed. Are you crazy dad? Do you think our phones will work out here? Can you hear me now? The incredible volume of tumbleweeds pouring over the road and piling against the fences was at once frightening and mesmerizing, like some sort of biblical event. Where are they all coming from and how could there be any left? Where the hell are we going?

But dad knew exactly where he was going. Suddenly we were cruising into Picture Canyon, protected by improbable walls of sandstone. He stopped the car. Instantaneously our ears were filled with the deafening silence of gravel not pummeling the undercarriage.

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