Sunday, June 11, 2006, Colorado National Monument, CO
(near Grand Junction)
Wednesday morning we drove the remainder of the short distance from the campground into the very German sounding, Walsenburg - the name was where any Germanic character finished. It makes you wonder about the people who named these places when you drive through and recognise names from so many countries. Walsenburg was the place we joined the Interstate 25 which heads directly north to Denver.
We hadn't planned to be in Denver until Thursday and so decided to stop in Colorado Springs to see if there was anything interesting to be seen. We stopped at the tourist information centre and a very nice woman helped us with as much information that she could pile up for us. We had a drive around the downtown area and found the city to be fairly attractive, but did notice a plethora of churches!
Then we headed out of town in westerly direction on Colorado Avenue, which runs parallel to the 24. Colorado Avenue begins to pass through older style housing and eventually becomes the main street of Old Colorado City. This is a very attractive area with lots of old shops, some of them less than two metres wide! The contents tend to be tourist 'tack' and therefore not really that interesting, but we really liked wandering up and down this street for a while. We also stopped for a good lunch in a café where they made their own bagels - very good, simple food!
Leaving there, it was not far to the Garden of the Gods Park. This park is full of more eroded red sandstone in some of the most amazing shapes - the shapes here tend to be finer and more pointed than we have seen elsewhere, so that although they are still very high, they appear in some way more delicate (if a giant piece of rock can be described as delicate!!!). It wasn't a day for walking the trails- although there are plenty - as it was the middle of the day and very hot. We drove the ring route and made several stops and found the scenery once again quite amazing.
Next along this route is Manitou Springs, interesting because it is the starting point for the cog railway that goes right to the top of Pike's Peak (14 110 feet). It is the tallest mountain that you can drive to the top of, as there is also a road right to the peak. We include this information for your interest but must confess that we didn't make the trip. Altitude is having its effect on me and so we decided against it. Also near to Manitou Springs is the Manitou Cliff Dwellings. This is an historical site of Anasazi cliff dwellings, which were built at least 700 years ago. We also include this for your information and confess to not having been there. We read about it in the information magazine, and judged it to be much too commercialised. We may be wrong, but driving through Manitou Springs itself, we were overwhelmed by the number of tourists in the streets in the middle of the week.
We finally made the decision not to drive on to Denver that day, but to continue further west to the Mueller State Park and spend the night. On the way we stopped in Woodland Park and utilised a T-Mobile hot spot to update our webpage and check and answer a few emails. Mueller State Park is about 25 miles west of Colorado Springs and 9600 feet high. It is once again in the region of pine forests and we had a very pretty campsite overlooking a small lake and the forest. The local rangers had an evening talk about birds. They brought a red-tailed hawk, a kestrel and a barn owl. All of these birds had been injured in some way and will never be released to the wild, as they can't fend for themselves. The information was very interesting and the birds were amazing.
After another cold night, we headed back to Colorado Springs and on to Denver. We checked into the Chatfield State Park at around lunchtime, another campground on a lake that is really a reservoir. Plenty of available sites on Thursday, but totally booked out for the weekend. We had come to Denver primarily to visit with an old friend of mine. Danica and I had studied in Germany together in 1999-2000 and so haven't seen each other for 6 years. Since she was at work, we decided to drive into Denver downtown and check it out. The traffic in this city is almost as bad as in Los Angeles! We decided that from now on we are going to leave downtown areas in big cities alone, unless there is really something there that we know we want to see!
Continuation on > Page 2 > !