Saturday, August 6, 2011


Window Rock at Garden of the Gods in Manitou Springs, Colorado.
It framed Pikes Peak across the valley perfectly.

Good night, what a day!  We visited "a place right of history," rode a run-away mine train (well, sort of), and dodged some suicidal deer. 

The entrance to the park was a narrow road that wound
between this balancing rock and its twin.
Tuesday morning we set off early for the Garden of the Gods which is just outside of Manitou Springs.  My sister-in-law had fond memories of camping here when she was a kid, so we decided to check  it out.  It was fantastic!  So primitive!  So familiar... 

I couldn't figure out why the park seemed so familiar until I heard the theme song to "The Flintstones" playing in the back of my head.  "Oh!  That's it!"  Fred and Barney...Wilma and Betty...Pebbles and BamBam. 

We had a great time scrambling up the rocks, imagining dinosaurs walking among the rock formations, and shopping in the unapologetically, touristy gift shop.

Later that afternoon we set off for the Pikes Peak Cog Railway.  If you ever get a chance to do this, DO It!  This train took us about seven miles up to the top of Pikes Peak.  Now, this isn't the tallest mountain in Colorado.  It is a 14er, which is local lingo for mountains over 14,000 feet, but Pikes Peak ranks 31st among the 54 mountains over 14,000 feet.  The views are stunning!  In fact, these gorgeous vistas inspired Kathy Lee Bates to write the words to "America The Beautiful."  I have to admit when our tour guide, Ari, showed the exact spot where Bates felt inspired to write the song, I got a big ol'  lump in my throat! 

We only had 35 minutes at the top of the mountain.  Sad!  They say that this is about as much time as most people can take before they experience some signs of altitude sickness.  I don't know about that,  but there was a very impressive storm coming up and it was COLD.  So we took as many pictures as we could before the rain started to endanger the cameras, nipped into the gift shop to warm up, and then piled back onto the train for the beautiful ride back to the station.
The cutest little chipmunk in the world
decided he would like a bite of
On the way down, Ari and Potsy our tour guides, stopped the train several times so we could get pictures of big horn sheep, marmots, and even a bear and her cub!  Ari told us that a female bear is called a sow.  I never knew that!  I wonder if the male is called a boar? 

When we got back to Manitou Springs, we had some supper and then set off in our two vehicle caravan back to the cabin.  It was pitch dark and very cloudy.  We were happily exhausted and ready for bed.  But the drivers couldn't put our minds into automatic like we would if we were driving home in the metroplex.  There were suicidal deer lurking on the side of the highway, just looking for an opportunity to say, "Good bye, cruel world!" and take out our cars!  Thank goodness my brother was leading the way.  The deer tried death-by-tourist at least five different times!  We couldn't help but think about the Allstate "Mayhem" commercials.  Sure enough, they already have a Mayhem commercial just about deer.

Here's the Cog Railway link.

Garden of the Gods.

Here's the Flinstones' theme song.

One more song.  This is called Swervin' In My Lane 
This song applies equally to the deer and the crazy Colorado drivers!

This poor hiker had the best spot in the park until we plopped down next to her on the rock and
started chattering like a colony of prairie dogs.

Window Rock!

Here we are practicing our best smolders.  We really are a strange bunch.

Wow!  That's some smolder ya got there.

Look, it's Thomas the Tank Engine!

"... for purple mountains majesty above the fruited plains..."

Ari, the tour guide told us that they call this the "Julie Andrews Meadow" because it looks so much like the opening sequence to The Sound of Music.

The last thing Ari said before we got off the train at the top of Pikes Peak was, "If you see lightening or you feel the hairs on your arms raise up, come inside the gift shop." 
But years of living in tornado alley have jaded us a bit.  Storms are gorgeous!

It really was like standing on the edge of the world. 

This is the kind of weather that usually only storm chasers get to see.

Big Horn Sheep. 
 They were so well camaflaged that we weren't sure if we got the picture of not.

Most of our family had never heard of or seen a marmot before, so when Ari mentioned
them on the train full of tourist excitedly chatting away, it led to one of those
 "who's on first?" conversations.

Person 1 - "Did she say varmit?"
Person 2 - "Marmot, not varmit.  What is a marmot?"
Person 1 - "It's just a generic term for cantankerous animal - an ornory creature.  You know, 'Ima gonna git ya, ya yella bellied varmit!'"
Person 2 - "Yea.  But what's a marmot?"
Person 1 - "A pest; a pain!"
Person 3 seeing what's happening and trying to restore some sanity-
"A MAR-MIT, not a VAR-MIT!"
Person 1 - Ohhhhhh.  A marmit varmit!

See art does imitate life!


Anonymous said...

While seeing these pictures and reading your impressions, I was thinking what a huge, magnificent country is the USA, especially the view that inspired "America the Beautiful."

Jane on the Plains said...

You are so right! On a normal day, as I go about my business, I forget how "big and bright" it is out there in the world.