So I followed the highway south to Colorado Springs and pulled off at the Garden of the Gods, a famous park on the northwest side of the city. Its Wikipedia article, which I'd come across ages ago while looking into rock climbing, is full of glorious photographs of red stone outcroppings jutting up from an empty hillside--and when the Lars saw those, they insisted we stop by.
|Breakfast, lunch, and dinner.|
Now, if you've learned anything about me from following this blog through 64 posts, you know I'm not objecting to the freeness of the place. So what went wrong with this ol' heavenly rockpile?
Well, when I reached the place, I turned right into the Garden itself on the naive assumption that I'd surely find some parking on a cloudy morning in the middle of the week. But as I wound up the one-way park road, I was gradually forced to confront the fact, lot by vulture-ridden lot, that there wasn't a single spot open in the entire park. Even the handicapped spots were taken. I had no choice but to circle back out and try the visitor center across the street.
It wasn't until I pulled into the center's parking lot (where I finally found a spot) that I realized the scope of the Garden's popularity. Judging by the license plates I spotted and the languages I overheard, tourists had come from all over the globe to jog, stroll, and climb their way through this divine table-setting. Heck, there was even a Segway tour group packing up as I arrived. This trend (minus the Segways) would continue through the rest of my trip; the Garden of the Gods was only the first of several staples of the American West Tourist Experience™®(sparkles) at which I wound up stopping. I ducked through the throngs and into the visitor center, which informed me in no uncertain terms that wandering off-trail was discouraged (understandably so, given the crowds) and attempting to climb any of the rocks without a permit and technical gear would result in immediate expulsion from the premises (...if you're caught). Good to know.
Then I crossed back under the street and entered the Garden itself:
Even at the park's periphery, its paths were full of people: old and young, brisk walkers and dawdlers, families with strollers, dogs on leashes... you get the picture. No hope of solitude at all. I passed through a tunnel of greenery:
and found myself beneath the famous red behemoths:
|Two hundred feet high, piercing the sky like the Fourth of July and oh my I should just stop now.|
They looked a bit silly, fenced off and caged in by concrete paths. I wandered towards the center of the park, where one of the rocks held a plaque commemorating Perkins' gift:
The Lars were quite impressed with the rocks, but all the crowds and regulations had ruined their appetite:
|After all, if everyone who came here took a bite out of that rock...|
Further into the park I came across a low ridge that we were allowed to climb onto:
|But not all the way up.|
|The Cathedral? I honestly couldn't tell them apart--they're all red and lumpy.|
and up towards Pike's Peak:
|The best-known Colorado fourteener, but not the high point.|
...though I might have snuck off-trail on my way out to observe a certain ridge in greater detail.
|Can't leave this place without feeding the Lars, after all.|
I fed myself and the car in town, then turned east towards the Kansas high point.
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