Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig

Well, we have made it back from our week long journey, refreshed, renewed and ready to get back at it. Wednesdays were our travel days on this trip, and the boys did very well going both directions. Last Wednesday, July 16th, we set out at 4 a.m. and reached Colorado Springs by 3 pm our time. After a meal and a swim we unpacked and set up our temporary home at the Howard Johnson on the north side of Colorado Springs. We had a great view of Pikes Peak from our balcony. That was an unexpected treat.

Raymond, Daniel and Steven at Garden of the Gods July 17th

Thursday was our first day of exploring and included a couple of hikes and also some driving through Garden of the Gods Park. The late morning sun was warm, but there was little humidity, so it was comfortable. We got to watch a group of rock climbers, and were invited to climb. We declined. Later we made it to the Balanced Rock as we drove to the western edge of the park near Manitou Springs.

Steven, Daniel and Raymond next to Balanced Rock at Garden of the Gods Park

While we were so close, we decided to visit the Manitou Cliff Dwellings and the small town of Manitou Springs. At the cliff dwellings we watched Native Americans doing several social dances and then we got to go into the ancient dwellings themselves.

Raymond and Daniel in a tower room at the Manitou Cliff Dwellings

Joe and Raymond outside Cliff Dwellings

There was a museum next to the dwellings, and we explored it as we learned more about the people who had once lived in the dwellings and those that had lived, worked and visited here over the past 150 years. We ran into a few sprinkles as we left the Cliff Dwellings and headed across 24 Highway to the town of Manitou Springs nestled in the side of the nearby mountains. We waited for the light rain to let up and then ventured out for a stroll up Manitou Avenue. We went to the town to try the spring water, and we parked close to the Shoshone Spring and sampled the water there. It tasted much like seltzer water; the taste was very heavy with minerals. They had spring fountains that you could use to fill up your own cup to sample the water. We didn't really care for it at all.

Daniel sampling the water from the Shoshone Spring in Manitou Springs, CO. I think Steven was lucky Daniel swallowed.

Raymond and Danny next to the Navajo Spring. You can see it flowing behind Raymond.

After we walked around for a bit we drove back to Colorado Springs for an early dinner and then went to the Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center. We watched a local theater group as they took on the roles of important people in the history of Colorado Springs and Pikes Peak, including Lt. Zebulon Pike whose party discovered Pikes Peak and attempted to climb it, but failed due to weather and lack of provisions, and Katharine Lee Bates that traveled up to the summit of Pikes Peak and wrote the first several lines of "America the Beautiful". There were others that helped to build the city of Colorado Springs. It was always a tourist town. And then the daughter in the family that donated Garden of the Gods to the city of Colorado Springs, as was the wish of her father. Her six siblings had to agree and did. The performers were very good and informative about their characters. they answered questions in character at the end.

Raymond also went on a scavenger hunt and completed the tasks to earn his Junior Ranger badge and certificate from the park. He was proud, but was embarrassed as they announced his accomplishment over the public announcement system. Way to go Junior Ranger Raymond! You can see Pikes Peak in the distance. The view is looking west.

Friday was my birthday, and we traveled southwest to Canon City and the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park to spend the day. We walked across the bridge first. Joe practically ran as he was not enjoying being on the bridge. The boys and I walked at a slower pace. I enjoyed the view. We stopped to see a few signs along the side. The bridge was also lined with flags from the 50 states. The trolley and a few vehicles drove across the bridge occasionally. Daniel thought that was "freaky".

Sheila, Raymond, Steven and Daniel at the Kansas flag on the Royal Gorge Bridge. You can see the Arkansas River below.

the other side of the bridge we watched a film on the history of the Royal Gorge and bridge they have a Mountain Man Camp, an old west town, you can hire horses for a ride or do like we did and ride in a covered wagon pulled by two mules, Katie and Jake.

Daniel then rode a burro named Nellie.

We passed up the petting zoo (my kids are not impressed by farm animals), and meandered up the hill past the elk, mountain goats and bison. They had three white bison. We watched a few daring individuals do the Royal Rush Skycoaster, which was like the Rip Cord over the gorge. We hiked up to Point Sublime for a view and then rode the aerial tram 2,200 feet across the gorge.

Again, as we started the day the sky was blue and it was sunny and warm, but as the day progressed, there was a threat of rain. In fact it did rain very briefly as we were waiting in line to go down the incline railway. It was raining some as we went down and it stopped a few minutes after we reached the bottom of the gorge.

A view of the Incline Railway cars from the bottom of the Royal Gorge.

The Arkansas River was racing by. We did get to see some groups rafting by as we were down there. We saw the rafters at other points in the day from a loftier view, too.

We went to the top, and walked across the bridge again, caught the trolley to the top of the hill and hiked the 1/4 mile to the aerial tram. Rode across that and then decided to
take the trolley trip around the whole park. Joe enjoyed riding the trolley across the bridge far more than he did walking. The boys also rode the carousel and the little train before we called it a day.

Saturday we got out and visited the Focus on the Family campus. Raymond took many trips down the three story high slide, but I think his favorite spot was the Narnia Room. It was very cool. To get there you have to know to open up the wardrobe in the Foley Museum. When you do it is like you are Lucy walking into Narnia through the wardrobe. Daniel really liked the Camp What-a Nut room and the B-17 Plane he climbed in and pretended to fly. Daniel also did a scavenger hunt and earned a cassette of two Odyssey radio programs. I spent some time by myself at the book store. I bought two books that I had been looking at for a while. I added "Bringing Up Boys" by James Dobson and "Once a Parent, Always a Parent" to my collection.

After an early dinner, we headed up to Seven Falls. I bet you guessed that it was threatening rain again. No sooner had we entered the park and the rain started. We went up the 14 story elevator to the Eagle's nest and waited out the rain in the gift shop there. The rain slowed and then stopped after about 20 minutes. We went back down the elevator and walked past the trout pool and back to the falls. It was 40 minutes until the Native Americans were supposed to perform and the steps going up to the trails at the top of the falls were closed, so we visited with a couple from Olathe, Kansas then fed the trout (they were not hungry).

Soon after they opened the steps and we carefully walked up the 224 steps to the top of the falls. Even Daniel did it on his own (with his hand held of course). When we reached the top we didn't stop long, but headed for the trails leading to Inspiration Point and after viewing the re we hiked to Midnight Falls. We finished up just as they were closing up the trails before dusk.

Yes, this is Daniel sitting on the edge of a cliff to the canyon. He walked to the top of Inspiration point and earned this awesome view.

And this is Raymond and me at Midnight Falls, the end of the second trail. Hiking these trails helped Raymond to earn his Seven Falls Badge.

After walking back down the steps we visited the gift shops and then watched another Native American group perform several social dances (very similar to dances seen at Manitou Cliff Dwellings). We took the elevator back up to the top of the Eagle's Nest and walked back down on the steps (it was getting dark). Raymond had earned his Seven Falls badge, so we picked it up and visited the Falls once more as they were lit up in many changing colors. As this evening ended, it marked the end of the first half of our trip.


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