On Monday morning (our second day) Courtney and I woke up bright eyed, bushy tailed, and ready for adventure! I started making breakfast burritos while Courtney finalized our plans for the day. Once our bellies were full we took off for Manitou Springs, a touristy little town not far from where we were staying. As I mentioned before, we were trying to get acclimated to the high altitude- walking around a small town seemed to fit the bill.
On the way to Manitou Springs we discovered that even Wal-Marts are cooler in Colorado. Why doesn't my neighborhood Wal-Mart look like a log cabin? Not fair.
Anyways, once we got to Manitou Springs we walked around, shopped, got some lemonade, and generally just enjoyed the amazing weather. Not only was the temperature usually in the 70's or 80's, but the total lack of humidity made it absolutely pleasant outside. Here is a shot of Manitou Springs:
While we were walking around I was looking for a cool hat and Courtney was looking for a Father's Day present (and anything else she wanted). I never did find a hat but Courtney found some good stuff. After walking up and down every street we decided to move on to our next destination... Garden of the Gods.
If you talk to anyone that has been within 7,000 miles of the Colorado Springs area you will hear about Garden of the Gods:
"You can't miss Garden of the Gods!"
"OMG... Colorado Springs... you going to see Garden of the Gods?!"
"I would sell my first born for 15 more minutes with Garden of the Gods."
"I tried to legally marry Garden of the Gods, but Arnold Schwarzenegger had beat me to it."
Needless to say, we had to go see the place. It was just a short drive from Manitou Springs and we were there in no time at all. The first thing you see entering Garden of the Gods (other than 2,200 tourist) is Balanced Rock:
If it wasn't for the fact I had seen old black and white photos of Model T's parked next to Balanced Rock I would have thought it was going to fall at any moment! It was pretty cool. After Balanced Rock we headed down some trails and checked out the landscape nearby:
Next we headed to the "main garden" and I proceed to take a gazillion photos. The place was very amazing, but the amount of tourists there was a little distracting (and this was on a Monday, I thought we were being smart). You should check out our entire Garden of the Gods gallery, but here a few pics to wet your appetite:
Can you see the climbers in two of the next three shots?
One interesting fact I heard secondhand is that most of the anchors in the rocks are 50-70 years old and they are not replaced unless experienced climbers see signs of metal fatigue or an anchor snaps while someone is climbing (yikes, and it actually happens). According to this article, and many other web sites, quite a few climbers and "rock scramblers" have died at Garden of the Gods. I guess I now understand why Courtney was mad at me for my own bouts of rock scrambling (sorry poopy)!
All of these pictures don't really give the proper impression of how enormous everything is. I guess I could say that about most of the pictures we took the entire week though. After Garden of the Gods we drove to the nearest book store and bought Best Hikes with Dogs Colorado and then proceeded a place called The Mason Jar in Colorado City for lunch. The Mason Jar claims to have the best chicken fried steak in the world and that claim certainly peaked my interest. I don't know if it was the best CFS in the world but it was pretty darn good (the gravy was certainly the bomb). The portions were also so large that we ended up skipping dinner- a good problem to have.
Once we got home we jumped back into our hiking shoes and checked out a local trail called Outlook Ridge. Although Outlook Ridge didn't have the immediate wow that Garden of the Gods had, it was completely devoid of tourists. We didn't see anybody the whole time we were out there.
You can check out the rest of the Outlook Ridge pictures here.
That was pretty much it for the day. We went back to our camp site, watched some Band of Brothers and went to sleep early for our next day- a hike along the Waldo Canyon trail!
Stay tuned for follow-up posts outlining the rest of our trip!