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Thursday 6 August 2020

Garden of the Gods

This past weekend we went on two very different adventures. I've already shared Saturday's urban adventure (which you can see here), so today I'm sharing Sunday's nature adventure.

One of the good things about living in Colorado is that there is a wealth of amazing landscapes right on our doorstep to explore. One of the bad things about living in Colorado is that Summers are incredibly hot, which means that we're yet to explore a lot of these landscapes. On Sunday we decided to brave the heat and head south to Colorado Springs for the first time. While there are a lot of fun things to do and see in and around Colorado Springs, our destination for the day was Garden of the Gods.

I'd been wanting to visit Garden of the Gods for such a long time but we'd never gotten around to it either due to heat, snow or the fact that it gets crazy busy on weekends. Visiting on a weekend during a pandemic probably wasn't the best idea, but I knew that Kim would enjoy visiting there too so I wanted to save our first visit for a time when he could come along too. So we packed our masks, sunscreen and lots of water and hit the road for an afternoon out in nature.

Garden of the Gods is located just a short drive from Colorado Springs, which is about an hour and a quarter south of Denver or an hour and a half from Boulder. The park is easily accessible with several ways to explore. Visitors can park at the main parking lot at the entrance and hike through the park. Alternatively, there is a ring route drive called Juniper Way Loop with parking lots in various locations along the way. We decided to go for the second option - mostly because we missed the entrance to the parking lot and couldn't turn around, but also because there was a chance of a storm coming through in the afternoon and having our car nearby would be handy.

We set out on Juniper Way Loop and made our way to the first parking lot near the famous "Kissing Camels" rock formation. This is the most popular spot in Garden of the Gods and where most visitors spend their time. The area features accessible hiking trails, look out points and restrooms.

From the the look out and the start of the trail we had a fantastic view over the rock formations including the "Kissing Camels". Can you see them at the top of the photo below? Admittedly, I only see one clear "camel" here but it does look like it's kissing something!

We set off on the flat and wide trail taking in the views of the rocks while keeping our distance from other hikers. Most visitors here were wearing masks, but not all, so we made sure to stay 6 feet away from other groups when possible. As it was quite busy this wasn't always possible, but we did try our best. I wonder what we'll think in the future when we look back on pics from now of us all masked up? With her mask, sunglasses, hat and (overdue for a trim) bangs, Mathilde is well disguised!

Often when we're out walking we'll move off the side of the sidewalk to let others pass with a safe distance, but here we made sure to stick to the paths. We didn't want to trample any of the plants and we most definitely did not want to come into contact with any rattle snakes!

While most of the rock formations are off limits to all but experienced (and well equipped) climbers with permits there are a few rocks that we were able to scramble up for a bit of fun. Mathilde was keen to climb higher on this particular rock as she'd seen other kids make it to the top, but there was quite a line forming behind us so she stayed fairly low so as not to take too long on the rock. That's one thing that is a plus about Covid - people tend to hang back and let people take turns a little more than they usually would.

That said, there was one area that we would've loved to scramble up, but there were just far too many other people already on it. If you zoom in you'll see that most of these people took their masks off once they reach the top, so we didn't want to risk joining them. We'll climb up next time.

The rock formations at Garden of the Gods are truly amazing. I love the deep orange colors and how the rocks seem to defy gravity as they reach for the sky. Some seem far to thin to stay standing, but stand they do. 

My favorite rock formation was the one that looked like a witch's face. Can you see her? She has her mouth open and her face pointing up to the sky. Can't you just imagine her cackling witch laugh? Or maybe she's screaming as she melts in water like the Wicked Witch of the West.

I loved how the rock formations seemed to spring up out of nowhere. Much of the surrounding land is fairly flat and then there are these stunning rocks that spring up like a mini mountain range.

While we, thankfully, didn't come across any rattlesnakes while we were at Garden of the Gods, we did find ourselves face to face with another creature. A much cuter and friendlier one too! This young fawn was eating grass just off the path. She didn't seem to fussed about us being near by and continued eating as we quietly watched.

After we hopped back in the car we continued along Juniper Way Loop taking a little detour down Ridge Road to High Point Overlook. From here we had a stunning view looking back over the rock formations that make up Garden of the Gods as well as the surrounding area. We could also see from here that a storm was coming so we made our stop quite brief. In fact, while we were taking in the views the rain started and by the time we made it back to the car it had turned into hail. There was a lot of thunder and lightening, but like many afternoon storms we get here in Colorado, it didn't last very long.

Mathilde thought the rain was fantastic - it was a rather nice relief from the heat - and while the others ran back to the car she jumped along the rocks having a grand old time. I love that last shot of her jumping over the gap.

We had a fun time visiting Garden of the Gods and we'll definitely be back to explore Colorado Springs and the surrounding area more.

To learn more about Garden of the Gods visit https://www.gardenofgods.com/

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