Monday, July 22, 2019

Denver 2018 day 13 Rocky Mountain Southward Dri (ve)

August 8, 2018

Today was our long distance trip. Awaking early we drove out to Route 25 and pointed Silvermist the Fabulous Monkey southwards toward Colorado Springs.

Y’know what?  After a lifetime of driving in the New York area, it is incredibly difficult to consciously obey a seventy-five mile and hour speed limit.  Combining my speed issues, with Siri’s predilection for the local herbs meant her anticipated arrival times bounced up and down like a paddle ball game, adding drama and confusion to our plans and timing.

The scenery was, as usual, magnificent. The north-south highway is placed so that on the way down, vast plains are out the driver’s side windows, and the Rockies tower on the other side.  Much of the ride is in the middle of nowhere, featuring gorgeous vistas, and lying wildlife crossing signs.  Rosa took the time and effort to count an impressively huge freight train paralleling our course. It had a hundred and ten cars!

Between Siri’s issues, construction, and a few accidents, the time and directions changed often.  We pulled off at what I think was the Ackerman overlook, yet the memorial and statue weren’t there.  The view of the Air Force Academy was the same, though. Perhaps, Siri’s local herb troubles were contagious.

Detouring around the accident, we passed through some condominiums. Anabelle engaged in a flashback to the previous Disney vacation by shouting “Been Venee Does, Colorado Spraaangs” continually though the town.  Despite her medicinal choices, Siri still proved effective and the route brought us directly to the day’s destination, The Garden of the Gods.

As experienced visitors, we started off in the Visitor Center to grab maps, and also check out the collection of dead animals and their poop we might encounter in the park. 
Similar to much of Colorado, there was a dinosaur section, referencing a new species. 
The remains were found in 1878 and sent to Yale. It is strong evidence of how important most people consider paleontology that it took a hundred and seventeen years before it got a really good looking at, then about another decade to correctly reclassify it as a new species.

The sky was cloudy; looking like a storm was imminent. That inspired us to start the day with the driving part of the tour, parking by Balance Rock. 
We waited on a couple of lines to take pictures near the precariously cool looking giant stone.  Some entertaining young boys nearby were WAY too excited about the possibility of being hit by lightning.

We saw some interesting looking rocks and trees…
Everywhere, but particularly up the hill from us.  The weather looked stable and we clambered up.  There Rosa set the timer using he tripod a couple of times, until the inevitable tipping over of the camera as she ran into shot. 
Ascending further we emerged onto a dirt road. I have no idea which road or where, since I left the map in the car when exiting it to visit a non-hiking site.

Yes, of course it’s my fault.

The shape of the trunks and roots of twisty trees and a few wet spots in the channels cut into the very rock itself was artistic, yet also indicated the power of the deluge we could have gotten if those aerial shock obsessed kids got their wish.

Our random wanderings wound up in a canyon of large boulders.  From one side it wasn’t clear how people got on top of them.  From the other side, since that’s where the random stranger said, “Put your foot here,” it was much clearer.

Leaving me and my acrophobia under a thin layer of camera equipment and backpacks, Rosa and Anabelle took in the view atop the huge rock.  Then had some choice exclamations about how high it was when they saw it again from the less accessible side.

Fortune smiled upon us, as stationary Siri was much less affected by the local herbs, and the “Locate my parked car” function led us directly back down to Silvermist the Fabulous Monkey.

Anabelle and Rosa learned to pack work gloves and knee pads for any future rock climbing trips, ending up as entire body abrasions.  Anabelle slathered herself with Neosporin once we reached the Garden of the Gods Trading post.

We’d tried their awesome grilled Buffalo meat centered Balanced Rock Cafe before.  With the food in the visitor center now titled “Beansprouts: A Hip and Healthy Cafe” clearly joining the enemy in the “Game Carnivores vs Earthy Crunchiness” Colorado food war, we certainly knew which side we supported.

Downing some Bison Burgers and a Chili Cheese dog, we did a bit of browsing, and sampled the ice cream (them) and a cookie (me) at the Colorado City Creamery in there before actively hiking.

There was also note taking of the little “Fork Man” holding the salt and pepper for future party planning.

The wanderings began in earnest as we crossed a field of wild and feral yucca to advance us towards the Siamese Twin trail. 
Horse rules must have changed, or it rained a heck of a lot, as no poopscotch was needed, neither in the trail, or off to the side where we added to my Aunt's acorn collection with some western varieties. 

Aside, I don't think we added to it, as I just found these acorns in my work bag, almost a year after we went.
Up at the twins we took turns walking around to peek through the hole. I ended up in a conversation with a couple up there about how it was tough to figure out what to photograph with everything being beautiful. 
Then, proving my point, I noticed and snapped a shot of the shiny and twisty vein of quartz in the red rock I was standing on.

After my turn up at the Twins, I planned to lead the family up the mountain behind them we’d adventured on last time only to find it roped off. 
I guess without the need to access fresh air above the poopscotch line, free range hiking was canceled.

Much like our previous visit, a Chipmunk ran across the stones to greet us.  I'm not sure if it was the same one, Disney Chipmunk meetings are much easier to classify.

Coming down the water carved path, we detoured onto the Cabin Trail.  Trail is kind of an exaggeration since most of the way was across large rock faces above a dry riverbed.  Basically we wandered in a general direction, made “ooh” and “ah” noises at the flecks of shininess embedded in where we were walking, and stopped when we ran out of stone.

Planning was needed to cover the rest of what we wanted to see, as was some resting after all that clambering.  Speaking of resting, I am quite envious of the guy we saw who clearly drove into Lot Ten to be able to read in a grassy area facing some magnificent Garden of the Gods scenery. 
Not enough to move there…no sense insuring getting arrested when I snap and take a life because I can’t handle the idea that everyone else’s pace is several gears below my slowest one.

Instead of getting lost returning down the Giant’s Head Trail and slipping down through bushes and stones, we made a more challenging day of it and got lost on the way up the mountain. 
The bench near the top was far more welcome that way. I think the exertion may have made Rosa delirious as she insisted on taking a selfie picking the Giant’s nose…
Either that or I’ve been a bad influence.

Scenery up there was awesome both close up- fractal patterned rocks, and far away- the sleeping giant, and the stegosaur plate rocks. 

We also saw a Lizard.
Given that the Chipmunk was the only animal we’d seen all day, the bar was kind of low.

Until we reached the bottom and saw a bird and Carrot South.

It wouldn't be a trip with us to the Garden of the Gods without some random driving about and all of us yelling, “THERE’S THE KEYHOLE STONE!  Oh wait, no.”

Completing that, we brought Silvermist the Fabulous Monkey up to the top of the park to see the main area with the paved trails.  It only took about six passes through the lot to find a space, well below average.

Rosa began our normal “checklist” like approach to the various impressive stones, trying to figure out which named natural monument was which. I helped by suggesting we name them ourselves, “That one is Ed, this one is Phil.”  Oddly, this was not as helpful as I hoped.

We turned toward the surrounding hills and were delighted to find a full grown Bighorn Ram staring majestically down on the park. Much of the delight stemmed from feeling much less guilty about lying to our daughter the last time we visited this location that the bush on top of a nearby hill was actually one of these animals that she desperately wanted to see in the wild.

Rosa switched lenses while we made instant Garden Sheep friends, relating the bush story to some strangers who told us about Deer they saw in town.
Once the Ram Hubbub calmed down a bit we returned to our tour of the area, choosing the back side of some of the massive stones to start.  We had to duck through a professional non-native photo shoot- and drag Rosa away from the professional photo equipment.

Posing romantically by the “Kissing Camels” rock, led to Anabelle needing to pose entertainingly by what she called the “Third Wheel Camel” – a similarly shaped formation near the other two.
A family discussion broke out whether it really was a third Camel or possibly a Cuy or Capybara.  This was followed by working our way through a herd of angry yucca…or just a field enhanced by my “entertaining” descriptions. 

As we passed through, there were a few high up sights.  While a climbing lesson proceeded on a smaller outcropping, expert climbers used the last of the day’s light to ascend one of the HUGE camel bearing rocks.  There was also a hawk, or some other bird of prey perched up high.

Yes, there is no danger of me abandoning engineering to be a nature documentary narrator.

Approaching a dotted line on the map that would be the final non paved trail of the day we passed a second professional photo shoot, this one of native Latin costumes.  It’s hard to tell if Rosa was more tempted to steal the outfits or the cameras.

The day’s last trail took us up to the “Giant’s Toes” on the other side of the rocks we’d scaled earlier.  The woman climbing barefoot was surprising, but not nearly as stunning as the astonishing number of people with no regard for their own health and safety wandering into the “don't walk here or you may tumble into the abyss” zones.

More self-preservation geniuses frolicked around the “Falling Rocks” caution zones back near the paved paths by the “Three Graces” stones.  We posed in and around some nearby “much less likely to drop bits of themselves and crush us” outcroppings.  The cave like space between those stones had some Bats hidden in the back…or maybe Birds…no wait, they are Bats…no those are definitely Birds…wait, they are Birds but those are Bats up there.

It was a long confusing conversation about winged animals, and we’ll leave it at that.  Whatever was in there, we braved in the vacation long quest for Christmas Card pictures.

There was a dead Bat on the ground next to them.  WOO –HOO! NATURE!

Back near the parking lot, we found the rest rooms had an upscale renovation featuring lights and flush mechanisms.  WOO-HOO! TECHNOLOGY!

After our little potty party, we went back to the car.  Nearby was a vehicle that was either caught in a massive hailstorm, or was parked in the receiving area of the Colorado Rockies bullpen.

On our way out of the park, we passed the actual Keyhole Stone!  WOO-HOO!  


Or is that the back of the camels again?

We stopped at the entry sign for pictures, and made another instant friend: a woman who was “Retired Air Force…like everyone here,” and her daughter.

It only took about thirty-seven tries to get the timed photo of us jumping. Not bad for us.

I used the wonders of the internet to find a local barbecue place that sounded good.  Sadly, food quality is not based on sound. The interior was highly trough based and the menu didn't match what was online. Plus it had a Sizzler kind of “order up front” arrangement.  As my Dad walked us out of the only Sizzler my family ever entered when he saw they didn't take orders at the table, I kept the family tradition. 

Seeking food elsewhere at night in the “Get up at the crack of dawn to hike, cycle and eat bean sprouts” mentality world we were staying in proved problematic.

We didn't really want to eat at a chain, but just about all food service places on our route closed at nine or earlier. In fact, El Rancho closed at eight on weeknights.  Yes, the bar and grill attached to the brewery closed earlier than most locations for human gathering. How do those people survive?

At each exit we’d get near, Rosa would check her phone and call out, “Ooh, *name of restaurant* is ten minutes away…and closing in three minutes.”

We reached all the way back to Littleton before we found an open Subway, also almost ready to close.  Anabelle and I ran in to what appeared to be a deserted location.  Subway Guy was hiding, scrunched down on the floor behind the counter and scared the hell out of us when he finally spoke.  They were out of meatballs, guacamole and about ten other ingredients making our selection sparsely limited.  He grudgingly cobbled together some takeout before locking the door behind us.

We ate in silence since the rest of the gang had gone to bed before our arrival, complaining quietly that the buffalo sauce they did have was concentrated in two square centimeters in the far end of our sandwiches.

For future reference we noted that Chili’s was open until Ten PM.  Before turning in, a survey of local parks with hiking trails was conducted to plan the next day’s fun.

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JoAnn said...

Jeff, I haven't read any of your blogs recently but I'm really glad I read this one. Just reinforced my admiration of how you can make everything so interesting to read, and love your little innuendos. So happy to read that you are having such fabulous adventures with your family. Carry on!

Jeff McGinley said...

Thank you so much for reading and replying. I am having a wonderful time...doing other stuff. I had a wonderful time last summer doing this. I'm a thorough writer, but not the most efficient one.

thanx again