[Sorry, this is not about that kind of high.]
A beautiful place I have yet to blog about is Colorado Springs, a location I have been to several times. It holds a special place in my heart, yet I’m not sure I would want to live there (yes, I am one of those tourists who thinks, “I could live here,” in almost any place I visit, without knowing anything at all about its culture). Colorado’s landscape is literally awesome in its grandeur, but I prefer distant horizons; oceans to mountains. It’s the same reason I don’t think I could make it in New York. I’m a bit too claustrophobic for skyscrapers.
Colorado Springs is the first destination Jen and I ever reached on a vacation together, when we were first dating. I have a friend from grade
school who has lived there for twenty years, and we were visiting him in 1998. I had visited him by myself a couple of years before that, although that trip was more about alone time and I took a 2,000-mile drive around the Southwest to clear my head.
I had been to Colorado Springs a few times with my family growing up, including with my dad’s parents and my aunt and uncle, as there was family living there, too, and we all loved the drive. It is a unique experience to drive from St. Louis, through the flat nothingness of Central and Western Kansas, as the land imperceptibly begins to rise toward the heavens. Near the Kansas-Colorado border, you begin to see giants in the distance.
My dad once drove us north and west out of the Springs, through skiing country (it was summertime) to experience the viscera of the Rocky Mountains, with John Denver serenading us most of the way. I only remember tiny pieces of that trek, but they remain among my favorite traveling memories of all time.
When I was much younger, my parents took my brother and I to the North Pole amusement park, where we met Santa and Mrs. Claus in their natural habitat. We walked across the bridge over the Colorado River at the Royal Gorge, which provides another inspirational view. Twice I have been to the top of Pike’s Peak, including a drive and a ride on the cog railway, and from there have seen the world both reduced to miniature, and shrouded in a layer of cloud. Several times I have explored Garden of the Gods, and posed for a photo while apparently supporting the weight of a rock 1,000 times my size.
I have been to Seven Falls, and Helen Hunt Falls, where I hiked to see a marker naming the author of my recent read, Ramona. There is nothing quite like seeing nature barely touched by the footprint of man, and the slopes, crevices, streams, forests, and waterfalls of Colorado are some of the greatest places to experience that. I have become too much of a city slicker and my allergies are often too debilitating for me to spend a lot of time outdoors, but it isn’t hard to imagine a life in this place long ago, before the modern conveniences we enjoy now; time spent communing with nature instead of typing about it.
I have shopped in Manitou Springs and gamed in Cripple Creek. I have seen a baseball game up the road, at Coors Field. I watched Jen feed a giraffe at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, and eaten a hearty chuckwagon supper at the Flying W Ranch.
Many of these places have since been touched by wildfires, floods, and mudslides, but they persevere and continue to welcome visitors today. They would love to see you! [The Flying W remains closed.]
I planned on taking Jen out there again this summer. She lived there for a few years as a child, and I have seen her places of residence there. I can visualize her challenging walk home from school, uphill through deep mountain snow. My friend still lives there, and I was going to stop in Abilene, Kansas on the way, to see my fourth presidential museum, as well as take a jaunt up to Lebanon, Kansas, the geographic center of the contiguous United States. But my work assignment in Arkansas changed those plans, and now I hope to return to the Rockies in 2016.