Monday, September 2, 2013

Denver 2012: Day 14

July 16th 2012

The plan was to get up early and leave quickly, take the shorter drive to the northern end of the Garden of the Gods Park and enjoy a full day of hiking and sightseeing there. As we left the house at 10:10 AM we vowed to, once and for all, stop making plans that depended on the phrase “get up early and leave quickly.”

By this point, we’d finally named the Impala. The black sedan did look somewhat like Anabelle’s suggested “Batmobile.” However the distinct lack of “oomph” in some hilly highway scenarios proved that it was missing something needed to be named after the Caped Crusader’s vehicle. Therefore, we christened our ride, “The Atmobile.”

On the way down, I needed a pit stop. Sadly we had passed all of the service filled exits on Interstate 25. I pulled off a ramp somewhere in the 180’s, just before the long stretch near the Air Force Academy where there are no exits of any kind. A somewhat panicked and desolate drive through what appeared to be an uninhabited farm town finally yielded The Larkspur Park playground, complete with facilities. We all took a breather and a stretch (after I took a sprint), and Anabelle had some more climbing fun before we continued south.

We stopped at the Visitor Center first this visit, grabbing maps and also purchasing a photo album and guide book of the sights that had inspired us to return this quickly. Rosa and I stealthily bought “Kissing Camels” postcards to hide for each other upon my leaving, because we’re cute that way.

There was a woman at a nature information table covered with various animal skins. Anabelle was surprisingly calm and unperturbed at seeing the flayed remains of “Carrot” which identified him as a Cottontail Rabbit. This is because, she informed us, it was only, “Carrot’s second cousin five times removed.” She also enjoyed holding a bighorn’s big horn, as we learned more specifically where the best place to see the sheep in the park would be, if we were actually in the park at the right time of year.

By then, it was already lunch time, prompting us to drive through the park, down to the buffalo filled selections of the Trading Post. The lean and tasty meat was a hit in all three varieties we ate it in: burger, tacos, and a wrap. Once we had restocked our dangerously low jerky and roasted almond supplies, it was time again to put our hiking boots to use.

We drove over to the first of a couple areas we hadn’t time for three days before, the Giant’s Foot Print. However, yet another anomalous rainy day was upon us, forcing us to switch tactics and try car based sightseeing for a bit.

The rain died down significantly as we reached the Overlook, allowing us to get out and take advantage of a few shelter spots, and some amazing views. Most amazingly, was the view of Mount Rosa…Cool!

The rain slowed enough for us to wander out of the parking lot shelters and along the Old Colorado Town Trail.
Following it was hard as it ran almost completely over long rock outcroppings, making what was “trail” and what was “section of rock that inevitably leads to a injury causing drop off” difficult to identify. We used the signs as guidepost, picked a general direction and enjoyed the complex shapes and mineral veins in the hunks of stone we were walking on.

We also enjoyed the complete lack of Poopscotch required as the rocky and tortuous paths were too risky for horses. At the end of the trail, where it overlooks Old Colorado Town (truth in advertising) we were treated to a splendid view of a valley. More splendidly, within the valley was Stegosaurus Ridge, a series of rocks sticking out of the freakin’ ground that LOOKED like plates of a dinosaur.

The rain completely stopped, thereby lessening the chances of us plummeting off the edge of the stone paths we were hiking on. We drove back into the main loop of the park, exited the car, and headed up Ridge Trail. On yet another appropriately named trail, we climbed up, up, and more up until we found a truly beautiful sight. A bench dedicated to all the tired hikers in the park.

As we ascended we were able to see some climbers on an insanely precarious looking promontory, which turned out to be the feet of the Sleeping Giant formation. We all pretended to sleep along with the Giant on the truly welcome bench, before enjoying some more outstanding scenery. I finally remembered to bring my clubs somewhere impressive looking and engaged in a bit of mountain top juggling.

We wanted new experiences, and tried going down the other side of the loop than we went up. We certainly got a new experience, because we completely lost the trail and ended up forcing our way through bushes, and jumping off the occasional crumbling bit of rock until we finally reached our starting point.

Down at the car we saw a couple of impressive sites. One was a large Mule Deer doe.
That sounds a lot dirtier that what it is doesn’t it?

She powerfully leaped across the road as we steered the Atmobile to our next hiking destination. Before her, was the other, far more impressive sighting. We had been debating hiking the Snake Pit Trail. We decided against it as:

1) It went down into a grassy field instead of up, or through the renowned rock formations the park is famous for.
2) It was called the SNAKE PIT TRAIL!

Returning to our Impala, a parade of Impala’s from the 50’s 60’s and 70’s passed by, as if in greeting to their modern day descendent. There were other car surprises to follow as we went in search of the few named formations we hadn’t seen yet.

We had already taken several random photographs in the direction of where the Keyhole was supposed to be, and Rosa continued this practice en route to the Giant’s Footprint trails. On the way there we saw THE BIG ORANGE SISSY!
A Dodge Caliber with a Kansas license plate, the same car we rented on the previous year’s Colorado trip!

OK, the plate number didn’t match, but isn’t the story a lot better if it was the same car? Reality can throw such a damper on a good narrative.

The Giant’s Footprint area was less of a trail, and more of a natural set of monkey bars. The three of us did lots of climbing and posing (and a bit of juggling) throughout the stone mazes. We saw one guy climb onto the top of a very tall pointy rock for a picture, and get stuck there. His girlfriend/wife/ lady he was fooling around with in the bushes had to help him down, once she stopped laughing.

In taking the various pictures of ourselves in random assortments atop the many and varied boulders and mountain bits in the area, we learned some lessons.

I learned:
When I juggle, all of my instincts tell me to take a big step forward when I start. As this would be problematic when perched precariously above a rocky surface, I resisted. I also learned resisting this urge when high up immediately induces very strong vertigo.

Rosa learned:
In order to fit us all in a photo when we were climbing up on various crazy outcroppings, she had to set up the Super Deluxe Magic Camera on its tripod quite a distance away. This required her to run, leap and scramble over and across about a football field’s length of obstacle laden terrain to get into the shot before the timer went off.

Seriously, it’s amazing that Anabelle didn’t end up driving us both to the Colorado Springs Hospital.

She did, however, genetically combine Rosa’s camera skills with my love of special effects to take a photo of me juggling while standing on her hat.

That’s my girl!

We took pictures of rocks that we decided looked like a “Giant’s Footprint” and a “Grey Rock” deciding that no one would tell us any different anyway. All that was left was the Keyhole. We thought we saw it driving to our next destination, and pulled several U-turns attempting to photograph it. Completing the set had now obviously surpassed enjoying the beauty of the place. We passed the Big Orange Sissy again, and found a Maine plate for Anabelle’s list. After even attempts at filming while we passed failed, Rosa finally got a shot of it.

At that point, we realized it was directly across from the Scotsman Trail Head, meaning we’re pretty sure it was one of the first things we took a picture of, before we knew any names.

The last hike of the day was a return to the Siamese Twins Trail. We all liked the views and formations up there, and I also wanted to show them the areas I’d seen when I scaled the mountain behind it solo.

Anabelle had been a real trooper all day, but by this point fatigue was starting to overtake her spirit of adventure. It didn’t help that she had the beginnings of the snifflyness that we would all end up succumbing to by the time we left Colorado. This was no doubt due to the excessive amount of clean air we were unnaturally forced to breathe over a long period of time.

The other problem that had to do with breathing was that every other trail we had been on that day was far too rocky for horses to travel on. Possibly because we were there on a Monday, following a busy weekend, the Poopscotchocity of the Siamese Twins Trail was over and above anything we’d seen.

Anabelle complained the entire way up that she couldn’t breathe, and threatened me bodily harm anytime I tried to lighten the mood with a “Smell the nature,” comment. Once we got on top of the mountain and above the Poopscotch line, her mood improved considerably. She happily greeted Slimy the lizard again, and enjoyed more clambering and exploring around another set of amazingly convoluted and groovy rock formations, plus those twisty trees that I’m still too lazy to look up the name of.

After the final of many pictures, we had a problem. The only way back down to the car was back through Poopscotch Central and Anabelle wanted no part of it. She decided, in her exhaustion, to sit on the nifty rock formation off to the side of the mountain top, forever if need be. Rosa’s sighting of lightning on another, nearby mountain top threw us both in to parental psychology speed mode. Somehow, we managed to talk her down without referencing possible electric bolts of death coming from the sky.

With two days of hiking through all sorts of trees, rocks, bushes, dry riverbeds and all other fall inducing items with no effects, Anabelle tripped over the curb at the end of the last trail and put a massive scrape on her knee. The suggestion of anything resembling walking after that, even on the paved pathways of the Garden Center, was met with a flat, unwavering, “no.”

A pit stop at the Trader’s yielded her an extra squashed penny for her trauma, and then we all waved farewell to the Garden of the Gods.

There was a brief stop in town to fill the Atmobile. We also bought another Powerball ticket, figuring if it hit, they could send a private jet to New Jersey to bring me back for the rest of their vacation. (Hey…ya never know.) We also bought a “Millions of Wins” scratch off, which Anabelle wanted to register a formal complaint about the inaccuracy of its name.

We had all, yet again, passed well beyond crazy hungry, and decided to drag ourselves into a place called “Black Eyed Pea” because Anabelle likes, “I Got a Feeling.” See, there is a method to our madness. It might not be a very logical method, but there it is. The “Stanley” security sticker on the door assured us we had made the proper choice.

We had arrived for their “Chicken Fried Monday!” Therefore, I ordered grilled salmon, having long passed my “Leave me alone, I’m on vacation,” quota.

We drove northwards towards home, following defeating one more run in with “crazy hungry.” In yet another example of the insane and abnormal weather we were forced to deal with, the ride home was marked both with excessive rain, and excessive sun glare.

Anabelle (and I) spent most of the night drawing pictures and moping about my leaving the next day. At her bedtime I read her an unprecedented and unequalled amount of Harry Potter until she finally passed out with a death grip on my arm.

After the last of our nightly camera wars, (no real winner due to the sheer volume of shots taken at the overly scenery infused Garden of the Gods) Rosa and I were ready to collapse as well. I did my sit ups next to Anabelle’s air mattress, and fixed her covers when I finished. She grabbed my arm again in her sleep, and I stayed down there for a while.

Whatever the heck this is,
did not help Anabelle's mood on the last hike down.

Day 15
Days at Distance

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