As much as I like going to new destinations for travel, there are few places that I keep going back to. Come winter time and I dream of Colorado. Last December, we hit the road from Houston, TX towards Estes Park, CO via Colorado Springs. The drive itself was interesting as we drove through different terrains in Texas, New Mexico and Colorado. It is now a family ritual to give a shout-out every time we pass a State border.
If you have to do only one thing in Colorado Springs, it has to be Garden of the Gods for its dramatic views, towering cliffs, balanced rocks and snow capped mountains as its backdrop. The name itself peaked my interest. The park is a registered National Natural Landmark, given to the city of Colorado Springs in 1909 by the children of railroad magnate Charles Elliot Perkins, in fulfillment of his wish that it be kept forever open and free to the public. It still is free and will always be “Kept forever free to the world.”
The balcony at the Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center makes a great spot for a panoramic view of the park and Pikes Peak. You can learn interesting stuff about the park’s topography and geology through the Exhibits. I was stoked to learn that a dinosaur skull was discovered at the park in the year 1878 and was identified as the Camptosaurus dinosaur. But it was a case of mistaken identity when in the year 2006, on reassessment of the fossil, it was revealed that it belonged to an entirely new dinosaur species, and was named Theiophytalia kerri, meaning “belonging to the Garden of the Gods” after James H. Kerr who first discovered it.
I have never been amused by rocks before until I came here. The rock formations are a work of wonder. Although you can drive around the park but I recommend walking the trails as the rocks look different from every angle. The trails throughout the park are properly marked and are mostly flat and easy to walk.
Next head to Pikes Peak, an alpine wonderland in Colorado Springs. This 14,110 feet summit can be experienced in many ways. You can choose to drive, hike or take a train to the summit to gaze at resplendent vistas. I imagine it would be a different experience taking the cog train to the peak’s summit. Prior reservations have to made for the train that will take you through canyons, dense forests and timberline.
The entrance to the Pikes Peak Highway is located around 15 miles from Garden of the Gods. You will find the tollgate just after the Santa’s Workshop Amusement Park, which is a fun stop for kids.
Along the winding road you find popular vista points – the North Slope Recreation Area, Crystal Creek Reservoir, Historic Glen Cove Inn, and the Summit House. The Crystal Creek Reservoir was covered in a blanket of snow and it almost looks like a painting. I liked the fact that there were hardly any people around and I had my own winter playground.
Crystal Creek Reservoir
I noticed a huge dip in the temperature at Glen Cove, so much so that my husband cum photographer could not handle baring his hands for the camera and in hurry, I stepped on slippery ice and fell. Even when you have been cautious around snow, it can take less than two seconds from the moment you slip until you hit the ground HARD. My husband says that when I fell, I had this child-like scared expression mixed with self-pity. It was followed by a lot of comforting, apologies and a free pass to buy anything from the gift shop (if only there was a Louis Vuitton store). With the after pain still fresh, I jolted myself to vacation mode.
From Glen Cove, we headed back because the road was closed due to bad weather. This was my second visit to Pikes Peak and both times I could not make it to the Summit. I reckon it is best to visit during summer time and also call to inquire about any road closures.
Colorado Springs makes for a great weekend getaway. It is popular for mineral rich hot springs that have restorative and relaxing properties. Some hot springs have been left in their natural state, while others have been remodeled into resort style pools and hot tubs. You will find mineral springs called manitou in the nearby town of Manitou Springs. The historic downtown has lots of restaurants and shops and I highly recommend the Heart Of Jerusalem Cafe, for some middle eastern flare.
I can go on and on about Colorado but you really have to see it to believe it. Let’s just say that there is a Kodak moment everywhere you look.