Saturday, February 28, 2009

Garden of the Gods and Cave of the Winds – Plenty to keep us busy Saturday

This morning Zack and I awoke and decided that we were going to do something different. Around 9:00AM we hopped in the car and headed south on I-25. We went past our normal stomping grounds on the Palmer Divide, over the peak of Monument Hill, past the silent B-52 guarding the entrance of the Air Force Academy – we kept going until we arrived at Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. The Garden of the Gods is a set of unique rock formations on the western outskirts of Colorado Springs. This area was established as a Colorado Springs City Park in 1909 as a bequest from railroad tycoon, Charles E. Perkins. The original bequest was 480 acres which has been added to over the years by land purchased by the city of Colorado Springs. The thing that makes the rock formations of the Garden of the Gods so dramatic is their shape and the coloration of the rock from which they are made. Ancient sedimentary rock of white and red sandstone, conglomerates and limestone gives these massive formations exquisite character and beauty. Many of the formations seem to be in recognizable shapes – such as the famous “Kissing Camels”. All of the rock that makes up the Garden of the Gods was originally laid down when what is now Colorado was at the bottom of a prehistoric sea. The rock was raised up and went from being horizontal to vertical when the great mountain building forces that raised up Pikes Peak and other mountains of the Front Range where taking place. There are many miles of trail throughout the Garden of the Gods. Zack and I chose to hike on some of the less traveled trails. This park is one of the most visited places in the whole state of Colorado. It is frequently overrun with people, so we definitely wanted to get out of the crowded heart of the park. We chose a route that took us around much of the periphery of the park. We couldn’t resist visiting some of the spectacular formations. I got plenty of pictures of Zack climbing on the rocks and with Pikes Peak in the background.

The hike was somewhat rugged as we kept plunging down into ravines and gulches and then having to climb out of them. Though we only covered 4 miles on the hike we did get in a pretty good workout. We spent about 2 hours at the Garden of the Gods before we moved on to our next destination. Since we drove to Colorado Spring I figured we might as well do a couple of things. Our second stop was the Cave of the Winds in Manitou Springs. This is a historic area that is just west of Colorado Springs. The Cave of the Winds is a large cave complex that has been eroded through the limestone of the high walls of the canyon in which it is located. The cave was first discovered by two boys in the 1880’s when they heard the sound of wind whistling over the cave entrance. This became a popular tourist spot for people from Colorado Springs in the last 1890’s and early twentieth century. We arrived at the Cave around noon and bought tickets for the next tour group. Our group left right after we purchased our tickets so there was no waiting around. The tour takes about 45 minutes and leads you through some of the more accessible chambers in the complex. Much of the cave has been excavated from all the mud and muck that made it a difficult journey in the old days. There are many steep grades, low ceiling and narrow passageway, but in general, getting around the cave is fairly easy. There are a number of impressive stalagmites and stalactites located throughout the cave. Zack was very afraid that we were going to get lost during the tour. He constantly wanted to stay at the front of the group to keep the tour guide in sight. It was kind of funny to me, but I think he was a little scared. I wouldn’t let them little man out of my sight as I didn’t want him getting scared and freaking out. Despite being a little bit afraid Zack was excited and definitely enjoyed the tour.

After completing the tour we had to spend some time in the ubiquitous gift shop. I don’t think I will ever be able to take Zack to a place like this WITHOUT visiting the gift shop. We then took a drive through Manitou Springs itself as neither of us had ever been there. McDonalds for a quick lunch was the next required stop as it was nearly 2PM and both of us were famished! Our evening doesn’t hold any great events. Zack received a video game today as a reward for his good parent teacher conferences this past week. When I am finished posting this I will be calling Big Bill’s New York Pizza to order calzones for dinner. Big Bill is a friend of ours so in recent years we have switched our pizza allegiance to him. (His wife was a patient in the Bone Marrow North Unit at the same time as Patty. So I got to know him during those tough days.) As of now we don’t have any major adventures planned for tomorrow – Sunday. We’ll see if we figure something out to do – I am sure we will or Zack will be bursting at the seams! Until tomorrow – thanks and peace to all!

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