Friday, May 1, 2009

Spring In Colorado Springs

Thanks to family members who have been willing to sacrifice their sanity in order to keep my kids alive in our absence, Corey and I have been able to take an annual trip alone together.    Unfortunately for Corey, this trip included an all inclusive breast imaging seminar during work hours and therefore wasn't saturated with leisure and romance.  Alas, Corey can't seem to swallow big chunks of leisure without choking on irritable bones of non-productivity anyway.  This year, our sucker family member was my sister, Carrie, and her 2 year old son Asher.  I know it wasn't all fun and games for her and am looking forward to the day when I can return the humongous favor.

I was born in Leadville, Colorado at 10,000 feet in altitude.  Every time I revisit the state, it is a returning home of sorts.    There is something about being at a higher elevation that makes me feel clean and healthy.   I want to run and eat right and not watch television.  I suppose it would be nice if I could blame the flimsiness of my character on the fact that I live below 5000 ft.   So I will.  If I lived in a loftier place, I would be strong enough to accept responsibility for my sometimes irresolute constitution.

We stayed at the Broadmoor, a 5 star hotel at the base of  Cheyenne Cañon (yes,  canyon is spelled Cañon in Colorado).  It was a little too hoity toity  for me and it gave me the creeps when the employees all offered identical robotic cheery greetings and turned down our covers for us at night.  With all the restaurants, shops, spas, golf courses, and fake lakes, we wouldn't have to leave the hotel campus and apparently many guests never do.  I, personally, couldn't wait to leave the 'Emerald City' every morning.  
My first stop:  Seven Falls
I love waterfalls, but I don't love waterfalls that you have to pay $8 to walk through a gift shop to see.  I love walking up steep flights of stairs, but I don't love it when they are built right next to the waterfall.  I also don't love that they artificially illuminated each of the Seven Falls to correspond with each color of the rainbow.  If I wanted tacky lighting, I would have lingered in the hotel.  I did love that I had the entire place to myself.

Second Stop:  Garden of the Gods
This place I didn't have to myself, but to have elevation plus red rock sandstone was like eating a huge geological hot fudge sundae. 

Next stop:  Big Brother
My brother and his family live just 2 hours north of Colorado Springs.  I am embarrassed to admit that in the 12 years they have lived here, I have never been to see them.  But in all immature fairness, they have never come to see me either.  It has always been more convenient to meet in the family epicenter...Utah.  My brother had seven little sisters and ran away from home when the last one was born because it lacked a Y chromosome.  He adores his three daughters, but it was fun to see him finally holding a baby boy. 

Corey felt rebellious and played hooky the next afternoon.  We drove southwest to explore Cañon City.  The area's main attraction is the Royal Gorge Bridge, which is truly a bridge to nowhere.  Some guy with obviously not enough to do in the 1880's decided he wanted to build the highest suspension bridge in the world.  It is fairly impressive, albeit impractical and useless.  

I am insatiably drawn to abandoned old buildings and these historical structural offspring were almost as plentiful as the yucca plant.  Spotting a cluster off the side of the highway, we pulled over and spent a good part of the afternoon taking liberal liberties in imagining what sort of incarcerated drama might have once here unfolded.

Corey was so smitten with the activity that he dedicated a major portion of his evening to uncovering the mysteries of our casework via google.  It turns out that our wild imaginations weren't flung that far.  Our Warden Roy Best actually starred himself in a 1947 film recreating an actual break-out attempt before being indicted for embezzlement only to die prematurely while en route to reclaim his job after time suspended.  I could go on, but am a little skeptical as to the likelihood that my readers are even at a low level of enthrallment. 

My next morning of solitary sightseeing, I found myself at some Anasazi ruins amazingly preserved for over a millennium.   I was hoping for some peaceful wanderings accompanied by the cedar flute music conspicuously floating up from between the Indian Tea and Juniper plants. Instead, I unsuccessfully attempted to weave a path between school groups while simultaneously extinguishing my protests at the lack of respect I thought these 10 years old should have.  Parents don't let their kids jump on couches, but it is perfectly acceptable to let them climb on the ceremonial kivas of an ancient civilization?  Am I expecting too much? 

A few miles west was the Cave of the Winds.  Confronted by another line of school buses, I recoiled quickly back to the car.  I love love love kids, but I was taking a little break.

Looking for a secluded, field trip free place to spend my afternoon, I found an old railroad bed not located on any tourist map.  It is most likely never wise to enter a dark tunnel without a light or accompaniment.  Even more terrifying than the non-respecters of personal space hotel employees, was the deer that confronted me in the middle of the cave (I didn't know it was a deer until I had exited and saw it running uphill).  My heart was racing for the remainder of the hike, especially when I saw a sign that said mountain lions had been spotted in the area.  I found a few more blasted tunnels.  Did I have the common sense to stay out of them?  No.  Can anyone else resist a tunnel?  I can't.  I next stumbled into some non-tourists enjoying their "Northern Lights" in the dark tunnel.  Harmless.
Also harmless and adorable

Those of you who have traveled with me in the past and are still reeling from disparagement at my lack of passion for taking time to eat anything but french bread and apples, you will be happy to learn that I am completely transformed and now consider an unforgettable meal as an integral part of an excursion.  Memories of our dinner at the Adam's Mountain Cafe in Manitou Springs will be forever carved into my palate.  

Our final afternoon was spent driving as far as we could to the summit of  the 14,110 ft Pikes Peak.  Only about 14 of the 19 miles were open.  I could barely summon the courage to face the wind and take this photo.  Ok, so maybe I am not the embodiment of fortitude at high altitudes after all. 

One of my favorite vacation activities is folkscoping.  This guy is a glorious contradiction with his bowie knife and gun adorning his skirt walking his non-threatening canine.  I really wish he would invite me to dinner so I could make fun of him in person rather than behind his back.  

That was fun.  Where are we going next year?


marymary said...

Amazing. A travel post that's almost as good as a vacation.

I'm drawn to tunnels too, but aren't you afraid of coming up on a vertical shaft w/o warning and falling? Maybe the possibility of this is an urban legend, but that's the mine shaft scenario that has always haunted me.

One of my first dates with Peter was through Buckley's mine in Rock Canyon before it was all sealed off and I couldn't help but love him for introducing me to such a place.

kate said...

Fun! Nicole is alive and well in CO. Tell her I say "HI". Glad you were able to see them. CO. is a cool place.