Our plan is to be home by mid June, and to do that we need to get a move on! We also are planning to meet Amy and Jack and kiddies at Disneyland the end of the month. All of this means we have to chose carefully where we spend our time -- a new experience for us.
Today we drove one of our longest days -- 315 miles from Durango to Colorado Springs, over beautiful mountain passes and through "valleys" at 7,000+ feet. We stopped at a rest stop for lunch at 9,000 feet with a waterfall tumbling down from a thousand feet higher yet. Awesome!
Straggling into Colorado Springs, we sought out a place in Manitou Springs. What a find this was! Manitou Springs is tucked in the folds of the Rocky Mountain foothills with lovely parks, yummy restaurants and lovingly restored vintage motels and campgrounds. Many of the "attractions" are within steps of this charming little town.
Before retiring for the evening, we made arrangements to take the Cog Railroad to the top of Pike's Peak the next morning. Even though it was showering and not looking too promising. The owner assured us "this is Colorado -- tomorrow will be great". And she was right -- the morning dawned beautiful, so our layers were reduced to a fleece over our golf shirts. 14,130 feet is HIGH!! We weren't cold with the snow all around us -- but we could hardly breathe! The view from Pike's Peak is incredible -- mountains, lakes, cities and views into neighboring states -- just don't move too fast, or you will be panting -- a very weird experience.
Upon returning to more hospitable altitude's -- still over 7000 feet -- we were able to breathe again at visited the Miramont Castle dating to 1895. Unfortunately this old house had been converted to many uses over the years including a Sanitarium, and had lost much of it's charm.
A drive took us to see the Broadmoor -- absolutely a breathtaking setting, but not enough time for us to enjoy it this trip. We will be back to experience the golf course and the hotel at a later date. While in the area, we drove up to Seven Falls, but at 4:30 in the afternoon (it gets dark at 8!) -- it was closed. We couldn't believe it. We decided we had seen enough pictures of the Falls, and that we wouldn't be back.
We decided to end our day at The Garden of the Gods. In the middle of this granite mountain range, you have a whole valley of red rock formations. This park is fabulous, and you can tell that the locals also enjoy it. We were there late in the afternoon after an 80+ degree day, and the rock climbers were out in force, clambering up many of the faces rising from the valley floor. Moms walking their babies, joggers, bicyclist, hikers, and horse back riding filled the park with late day enjoyment. An invigorating way to end a glorious day.
Our next adventure was to the gold mining area of Cripple Creek. An added bonus for Phil was that Phil Jr. worked in a mine here after high school run by Portland based Nerco. Our mine tour was very interesting. The guide was a "Santa in denim" who has worked in the mines all his life. We descended 1000 feet into the mine where Ed showed us and told us how mining was done in years gone by. How they set the charges, how the air circulated, how they accounted for everyone on each shift, what equipment they used, and what the gold looked like in the mine. Cripple Creek is a small mining area compared to other areas, but the gold extracted here was much more plentiful on a "per acre" basis.
We decide Phil Jr. would hate Cripple Creek today. When he was there in the late 80's, it was dying, but charming. In 1991, gambling was brought to town, and it is a bustling casino town now. Many of the old buildings have been rejuvenated into casinos -- and the seniors come by the bustled up the winding roads to enjoy gambling the day away.
Heading back to town, we headed for the US Olympic Training center as Phil had spied a Volleyball exhibition being held in the late afternoon. After trying to find where is was in this large complex -- we found it was actually in downtown Colorado Springs -- so off we went. We missed the team workout, but enjoyed the players working with kids and teenagers to promote the virtues of volleyball.