Sunday, June 19, 2016

DESTINATION: Colorado Springs, Colorado

We left behind Palo Duro Canyon State Park and the Texas Panhandle and traveled northwest towards Colorado Springs, Colorado.  Our first stop, and base camp, was the beautiful Cheyenne Mountain State Park!

Entrance to Cheyenne Mountain State Park

Cheyenne Mountain State Park is located about eight miles south of Colorado Springs and directly west of Fort Carson.  You are so close to the fort that if the wind is blowing just right you will hear the fort's bugles play “Reveille,” signaling the beginning of the work day, and in the evening, “Retreat” and “To the Color."

We made our reservation at Cheyenne Mountain SP through Reserve America.  Unlike the reservation system for Texas state parks, in which we were familiar, Reserve America has pictures of each campsite to help you make your selection.  Since we were staying two nights, one at the beginning of our trip, and one at the end, we chose the same campground:  Gobbler's Grove.  Our two campsites were #15 and #14.  We were not disappointed with either site! What made this campground even more appealing was the full hookups at each RV site - NO stopping by the dump station before leaving!  There were also clean, spacious restrooms with showers, a game/activity room, and washers and dryers at the camp services center.


Gobbler's Grove #15 - first night at Cheyenne Mountain SP


You know you're in bear country when....

Both of our selected sites sat on top of a bluff that over looked the park and the city of Colorado Springs.  During our first evening at the park a thunderstorm developed north of the city and moved to the eastern plains.  With the twinkling of the city lights, the display of lighting and cool breeze from the storm, we had all the entertainment we needed for a relaxing evening.  We forgot to mention that we even had hummingbirds visit our feeder earlier in the day!

Evening view of storm and lights of Colorado Springs

Cheyenne Mountain itself has an interesting history. Homesteading on the mountain began in 1867 and the mountain was the site of resorts and retreats beginning in the 1880s. Spencer Penrose, who built The Broadmoor in 1918 (see below), bought many of the properties on the mountain and built the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Cheyenne Mountain Highway, Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun, and a retreat at Emerald Valley.  The underground operations center for the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) was built during the Cold War to monitor North American airspace for missile launches and Soviet military aircraft. Built deep within granite, it was designed to withstand bombing and fallout from a nuclear bomb. Its function broadened with the end of the Cold War, and then much of its functions were transferred to Peterson Air Force Base
in 2006.  Looking up at the beautiful mountain it is hard to believe that there are 15 buildings (some 2 and 3 stories) hidden inside.


View from Gobbler's Grove #14 - Second night at Cheyenne Mountain SP

Our stop in Colorado Springs was a short one.  We did, however, manage to drive around and view some of the more "tourist friendly" spots like Pike's Peak, Manitou Springs, Garden of the Gods, The Broadmoor Hotel, and Gold Camp Road.

Pikes Peak, located west of Colorado Springs in the Rocky Mountains, is one of the most famous summits in the United States. The 14,115 foot mountain is one of the many Rocky Mountain fourteeners (a mountain exceeding 14,000 ft above sea level). In a brief essay that appeared ca. 1925, poet Katharine Lee Bates described her 1893 Pike's Peak visit as her inspiration for writing “America the Beautiful,” the poem that would evolve into one of the nation's best-loved patriotic songs.  We did not drive to the top of the peak due to time and closures (motorcycle race) but popular routes up Pikes Peak include hiking up Barr Trail, driving via Pikes Peak Highway, or taking a ride up the Broadmoor’s Pikes Peak Cog Railway.

Pike's Peak

Manitou Springs, a quaint mountain town, sits six miles west of downtown Colorado Springs in a forested box canyon at the base of Pike's Peak. The famous “boiling” springs, so named for the rumbling sound of escaping gas rather than for their temperature, attracted tourists to the area. Now, tourist can enjoy a variety of unique shops, restaurants, galleries, and outdoor activities.


Manitou Springs, Colorado

Garden of the Gods Park is a registered National Natural Landmark that sits below Pike's Peak. You may drive through the towering sandstone rock formation, as we did, or you may stop to hike, rock climb, mountain bike or visit the nature center and museum.

Garden of the Gods

The Broadmoor Hotel is a Five-Star Colorado Springs Resort with impeccable service and distinctive amenities.  Though lavish, the hotel started out from meek beginnings.  The Broadmoor sits on land that was once a dairy farm.  The farm was purchased by a Prussian Count that decide to turn it into an upper-class suburb of Colorado Springs.  After Cheyenne Lake was built the count decided to build a casino.  The casino burned down and a second casino, along with a hotel, was built.  The casino and hotel were then used as a boarding house and a day school for girls.  Around 1916, Spencer Penrose purchased the casino and hotel and set out to create the most beautiful resort in the world.


The Broadmoor Hotel & Resort

View of the Broadmoor Hotel & Resort from the top of Gold Camp Road

Gold Camp Road follows the former railroad from Colorado Springs to Cripple Creek called the "Short Line". In the 1920s the railroad was converted to a car toll road, eventually becoming a free public road. These days the road is mostly used for mountain biking. The road twists and turns as it gains elevation. As we crossed the creek we passed the popular Seven Bridges Trail.  The road continued up the mountain with long switchbacks and several tunnels. From the road we could see Silver Cascade Falls running down the large granite wall.   The trail loops under St.Peter's dome and opens up to some great views of the city. When we reached Old Stage Road (which is open to vehicular traffic and continues on to Cripple Creek) we decided to turn around and head back down.  At the time we drove up Gold Camp Road we were not aware of the ghost stories told about the road but as soon as we found out we had to add the information to our blog.  Click the "What The?" link above to view more information about the Gold Camp Road hauntings.

One of several old train tunnels you drive through on Gold Camp Road

Picture of road from inside truck - example of narrow road

Beautiful views from the top of Gold Camp Road.  This may be Peter's Dome.
There was so much to see and do in beautiful Colorado Springs that we both agreed to come back for a longer stay.  We found it difficult to leave Cheyenne Mountain State Park, as well, but we had another stop on our itinerary  - Grand Lake, Colorado but first we had to cross Berthoud Pass!