Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Garden of the Gods

After living so close to Garden of the Gods for four years and yet, never actually seeing it, I finally got to investigate for myself. Oh, and it's fuss-worthy, I can assure you. GoG is 3,300 acres of jaw-dropping beauty located within the city of Colorado Springs. The park offers tons of hiking trails, bike lanes and an endless amount of immense orange boulders, ideal for scrambling over - all totally free.

Reid had made arrangements to stay at Glen Eyrie, a genuine American castle (if there is such a thing) built in 1871 by General William Jackson Palmer, the founder of Colorado Springs. Conveniently located next door to GoG, Glen Eyrie is Tudor gem, boasting 67 rooms and 24 fireplaces. It is also - we couldn't help but notice - THE perfect place for a haunting.

Our redonkulously huge room, The Castle Suite.
Now on the National Register of Historic Places, Palmer had Glen Eyrie built to comfort his wife, Mary, who'd been homesick for her native England. Glen Eyrie was purchased in 1953 by The Navigators, a Christian ministry that regularly hosts conferences and seminars on-site. (Nice of them to let heathens stay there too.) The grounds were lush and filled with giggling children and super mellow Bighorn Sheep. We found a herd of 16, with their famous Joan River 'dos, just chillaxing. Incredible.

Glen Eyrie
We spent the weekend 'ooohing' and 'aaaahing' over the castle's majestic grounds and the stunning GoG next door. The whole area is like one big geologic porn palace. Honestly. Not sure why but the landscape consistently reminded me of food. It had nothing to do with cravings or hunger, it just seemed that food was always the best description.

Exhibit A: "Petrified Bacon"
I also had another one: "Spilled Root Beer Float." Once Reid understood where I was coming from, he offered up his own example: "Chocolate cake with melted strawberry ice cream."

Bighorn Sheep at Glen Eyrie: Are they cool or what?
Other than oogling the scenery and shopping/eating/drinking in Old Colorado City, we noted two things. First, there was something very Twilight Zone going on all weekend with regards to signs and directions. It felt similar to being trapped in the Gaelic section of Ireland (true story) with everybody advising you to take mysterious Trail 14, although never meeting anyone who had actually done so themselves. The situation was repeated on car and on foot ("Um, what are we dong in Manitou Springs?") and we began to wonder what mystical GPS-related hex had been put upon us.

Pottery store in Old Colorado City
Second, I had perceived Colorado Springs as a bastion of white conservatism and unyielding Christianity. It is, after all, the home base for the evangelical Christian group, Focus on the Family, whose website currently offers helpful marriage survival tips: "When a spouse struggles with homosexuality." Good Lord, do they think it's like having a migraine or something?

Hiding you from what?
 Colorado Springs is also home to the U.S. Air Force Academy. I only saw it from miles away but that sucker is ha-yuuuuuuuge. We also spotted some serious Sky Cops during our visit, which is just fine by me.

ANYHOO, the fact that we were lodging at a Christian compound only confirmed my perception. But then, something else happened too. First I noticed that in addition to those attending the conference at Glen Eyrie, there were other regular guests, two of them bi-racial couples. Not a big deal but still surprised to see it. (I have to wonder if Reid & I had been a gay couple, how that would have gone down.)

Bighorn Sheep were all over the grounds at Glen Eyrie.
Then, on Saturday evening, Reid and I ventured 'downtown' to the strip of bars and restaurants along Tejon Street. There, we saw all kinds of people, all races - many of them dressed up and partying down.

We made the smartest decision ever by setting up camp at Jack Quinn's Irish Pub, which provided an ideal outdoor spot for people watching, a super friendly waitress who sounded exactly like Paula Poundstone, yummy fish & chips, and one of the best bands I've heard in a long time - Big Paddy. It's just two guys that play there every Saturday night but the place was rollicking. There were even big, hairy dudes in kilts doing traditional Scottish jigs. FUN. Of course, the Jameson on the rocks helped too.

Note the hairy meatballs in the pock marks - hidden by God, of course.
Then there was the couple who made me rethink everything I'd heard about Colorado Springs. One half of the couple was a tall, tough looking cowgirl in full Western get-up. The cowboy hat, vest, jeans and boots didn't appear to be a costume, it looked like what she wore every day. Her girlfriend was much shorter and rounder, with deep black skin, bright pink hair and some crazy outfit straight from a New York runway. Anyone looking at them could see they were in love and honestly? Nobody (except me) looked at them twice. This was not the Colorado Springs I was expecting.

Guess there's room for Goddesses there too. Who knew?

See more photos from my trip here.


Heidi's heart said...

After departing from your Denver abode in the summer of 2006, Aaron and I headed for G of G. Amazing!

I took note of the passage about getting turned about in Ireland. I remember that well.

ClizBiz said...

Yes, you and I thought we'd have to live in that part of Ireland forever. It was like chasing our own tails.

Lisa said...

Now I'm craving chocolate cake... and it's all Reid's fault!

Great post!

hotdrwife said...

My mom moved to the Springs to be closer to all things Focus on the Family. Blech. However, her house is not far from the Broadmoor & has a spectacular view of Pikes Peak. The scenery is astounding around there. Glad you had so much fun!

ClizBiz said...

Lisa - I'll let Reid knows that he owes you a chocolate cake. He'll have no problem with that.

HDH - The irony of your mother trying to be 'focused' on 'family' is too much. Hey, at least she's smart enough to get a nice view.