As we left Lamar and headed for Colorado Springs, we saw there was a historic site along the old Santa Fe trail called Bent’s Fort. So we decided to stop and see what that was all about.
It turns out this was a fort built in the early 19th century, for trading with the Cheyenne and Arapaho plains Indians, and was the only white settlement on the Santa Fe trail between Missouri and the Mexican border.
Today, the fort is a National Historic site, and has been restored to look quite a bit like it (probably) looked in 1833. Here is a photo I took, from the historical graveyard looking at the front of the fort. In the foreground, you can see a restored tombstone, and back by the fort you can see a replica covered wagon, like those that came down the Santa Fe Trail.
Arriving in Colorado Springs
The drive from Lamar to Colorado Springs was relatively short, at just under three hours, so we were able to take our time touring Bent’s Fort and still arrive at our AirBNB in plenty of time to check in.
The GPS on my iPhone took us directly to the house where we had our AirBNB reservation, and I must confess – when we pulled up in front of the house, we looked at each other and grimaced. “Is this really the place?” we said to each other. Here’s a photo I took of it, and you’ll see what I mean:
It almost looked abandoned. I rang the bell, but there was no answer. So i called the number I had for the host (Ceil), and she answered, saying she was out back and would be right there.
She opened the door in less than a minute, and showed us the unit.
Whew! The inside of the unit was actually quite nice. It was the huge entire first floor of a two-story dwelling. There was an unoccupied additional unit in the basement. The unit we had included a full kitchen, full dining room, living room, two bedrooms, and a private bath. This turned out to be one of the nicest places we stayed on the entire trip.
The AirBNB host, Ceil, was a delight. She was so excited to have us as guests and to show us around her property. First she showed us around the inside of the unit, then she took us out back to show us the garden, where there were grapes and tomatoes and all kinds of herbs, and Ceil told us to help ourselves, to pick and use whatever we wanted. In a converted garage out back, Ceil had her painting studio, and showed us several dozen paintings she had done.
Back in the unit, she showed us all the food in the kitchen, and a list she had put together of the local restaurants in the area. The first one on the list was a barbecue restaurant, and because we love barbecue, I noticed that right off.
“Oh, they’re such wonderful people there,” Ceil said. “They had me paint their murals for the restaurant, and now the owner won’t let me pay for anything there. Oh! And you’re in luck! This is Wednesday, and every Wednesday at 7:30, they have live music! If you come here to eat, just call me and let me know and I’ll come join you!”
We took some time to get settled in, then went out driving to see downtown “Old Colorado City,” which is the section of Colorado Springs where our BNB unit was located.
Let me tell you, that area has a lot of character. About a third of the traveling people were on bicycles, and it seemed almost every other person walking had a dog. There were dozens of craft stores and homemade products stores and cofeehouse type gathering places – Oh, yes, and there were pot shops too. It WAS Colorado. it reminded me of a college town, and possibly an artists’ community. It reminded me a lot of college in the late 60’s except with the hippies all a lot older. It was a fun place to see and be for a while.
After looking around Old Colorado City for a bit, we went looking for the Garden of the Gods. It was late in the afternoon, so we drove around that a bit, and decided to come back in the morning around daybreak, with our good camera for the early light, and see more of it then.
On the way back, we went to the barbecue restaurant Ceil recommended, and it was fine. We enjoyed the barbecue and since Ceil asked, I texted her and told her we were there, but were too early for the music and probably wouldn’t stay for it.
Just as we finished our meal and were ordering a dessert to split, here came Ceil. She sat with us and had iced tea while we had our dessert and we had some good conversation. about families and this area and where we were all from, etc. When the check came, Ceil grabbed it and got the owner to comp us the meal! Wow, now that was an unexpected bonus.
Garden of the Gods
We are mostly early to bed, early to rise people, so we didn’t have any trouble at all being up before sunrise the next day. We made it over to Garden of the Gods again, and, well, I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.
Of the photos I took, I kept 109 of them, but will only show a few here. If you want to see more, let me know and I’ll build a gallery page with most or all of them. Meanwhile, here are a few:
We spent quite a bit of the morning there, even hiking some of the trails. Later on that day, we went to …
This is an attraction near (in?) Colorado Springs that is a river that falls down into a deep valley, making seven remarkable waterfalls on the way to the valley floor.
We first took the elevator from a cave in the valley floor up to an overlook, where we got a neat view of the valley. You can tell from this video that the observation overlook was only about 2/3 the way up the side of the canyon wall. This is best viewed in full screen. It’s less than a minute:
After we came back down the elevator, we decided we were up for the challenge of climbing the 224 steps up to the top of the falls. These steps are the first HALF of the stairs up to the top.
The total distance of the falls is 181 feet, and there was a nice hiking trail at the top, where we could mosey along for a while as we caught our breath before heading back DOWN those same steps.
Seven Falls is an attraction owned by the Broadmoor Hotel and resort in Colorado Springs, and we were pleased to see they did not charge admission to get into the area to climb the steps and see the falls.
Our trips to Garden of the Gods and Seven Falls pretty much took up the day, so we returned to Old Colorado City and walked around “downtown” for a bit.
When we got back to the BNB, we mostly packed up so we could leave directly from tomorrow morning’s jaunt to …
Rather than drive up the multi-switchback road all the way up to the peak, we elected to reserve seats on the Pike’s Peak Cog Railway.
Pike’s Peak is a very interesting piece of American History, and for some reason I had an image of it in my mind that it had a pointed top, like Mount Shasta in California. But no. It is just the highest “mound” in that stretch of the Rocky Mountains, and for the most part, the slopes up to the top were relatively gentle.
The tree line – the altitude above which trees do not grow – was at about 11,500 feet, and the peak itself is at 14,400 feet.
Having been above tree line on some mountains in the state of Washington, I was sort of expecting there to be grasses covering most of the ground there, but no. It was almost all rock, with the occasional wispy tuft of some hardy grass.
Once the train got to the top, we were really glad we’d brought our winter coats, and were even more glad they had a visitors’ center building up there (with rest rooms). The visitor’s center had plenty of souvenirs and food for purchase, but we didn’t find a thing we had to have, so we didn’t get anything.
Here’s some photos from that part of the trip.
After a very interesting and tourist-mission-fulfilling trip to Pike’s Peak, we departed Colorado Springs, heading northbound. However, since I spent 20 years in the Air Force, I absolutely could not come to this area without visiting …
The Air Force Academy
The first thing that surprised me about the Air Force Academy was the sheer size of the property. According to Google, the “Air Force Base” that contains the Academy is ten square miles. That’s huge.
Once we got onto the base, we drove quite a while before we came to the Academy proper, which took up only a small proportion of the land area of the base.
We spent some time in the visitor center there and learned a lot about the history and future of the USAFA, and bought a couple of souvenirs in the shop there.
We spent about an hour driving around the base, marveling at the amount of space they had there, then we left, headed northbound again.
We drove until we started getting tired – hey, it had been a pretty taxing day, and stopped in a pretty nice hotel about 20 miles south of Denver.
That turned out to be a pretty good decision, because the price in that hotel was quite reasonable (under $80, I think). I’m confident that if we had gone more into the Denver area, the prices would have zoomed.
(ASIDE:) Have you ever wondered at the disparity of price differences between hotels and gasoline, close to and at a distance from cities? If you haven’t noticed, the tendency is that the closer you get to a city, the higher the hotel prices get. However, the opposite is true for gas prices – the closer you get to a heavily populated area, the lower the gas prices. I’m sure it has to do with the law of supply and demand. (End of Aside.)
That’s it for this installment. In the next installment, I’ll tell you about our arrival in southeast Wyoming and what we did there.