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Except for their size - one is 41 feet in circumference and most all stand taller than the average man - the tree stumps at the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument look unspectacular at first glance.

"White-ish, grey-ish in color," ranger Jeff Wolin says. "You look at them, it looks like wood. But really start looking at them, you'll say, 'No, that's different.' And that's because it is. It's rock."

The massive petrified redwood stumps are what remain of an ancient forest that 35 million years ago covered this area west of Colorado Springs. Their preservation is thanks to a mud flow that buried them in the days long before the Rocky Mountains lifted. And they are the main attraction for the roughly 70,000 people who every year visit this land protected by the National Park Service.

Some of those people come from a place similarly frozen in time.

Cripple Creek and Victor are about 15 miles away on Teller County Road 1. A drive around the mines of Battle Mountain divides the sister towns, located beneath hills where splintered shafts and head frames still stand. They are reminders of the gold rush that made Cripple Creek boom to capital-like status in the late 19th century.

Victor served as camp for prospectors, including famed boxer William Harrison "Jack" Dempsey, whose name is inscribed on the former jail walls of City Hall. The town that once numbered in the thousands is down to about 400 people.

it appears little has changed from the Wild West years. Cripple Creek, however, has transformed with the casinos lining the main street; the municipality was one of three in Colorado approved to establish legal gambling in 1991.

Located at the foot of Pikes Peak, area residents have plenty to do outside. One option allows them a stroll through deeper history.

About 15 miles of trail braid through the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument's peaceful meadows.

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Seth is a features writer at The Gazette, covering the outdoors and the people and places that make Colorado colorful.

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