Colorado Springs – Part One

Last month, when we learned that Clay and Weston both had off Columbus Day we thought about where we wanted to travel for the three day weekend celebrating the drunken sailor who destroyed a civilization. While we’re making the most of our Army-sponsored time in eastern Kansas, we’re beginning to feel the effects of living in a land-locked flat state with no large bodies of water nearby. Did I mention that Kansas is flat? So when I casually mentioned to Clay that Colorado Springs is only an 8.5 hour drive from Fort Leavenworth, the lure of the Rocky Mountains was enough to gloss over the idea of spending 17 hours in the car during a 72 hour weekend. And before we knew it, we were planning a quick trip to Colorado Springs!

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Before we hit the road, we went to an event for Clay’s small group (i.e. his classmates) at the Fort Leavenworth Hunt Lodge, which was built by military prison inmates in 1919. A staggering number of buildings still in use today were built by military prisoners so it’s no surprise that the post is known for being haunted (furthermore, the Commanding General’s house sits on the former site of the Enlisted Burial Ground {eek} but that is a post for another day). By 5pm, we were leaving the post gates and looking forward to our westward adventure.

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I-70 stretches across Kansas for 424 miles. For approximately 420 miles of the trek, the landscape looks exactly like above. Exits are far and few between, especially in the dark of night. Despite not leaving until 5pm, we managed to drive through Kansas before checking into a hotel around 11pm (we gained an hour going from central to mountain time zone) in Burlington, Colorado, a small town just over the border.

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Before Friday night, we were unaware that Burlington, Colorado is known for the Kit Carson County Carousel, the only surviving menagerie by Philadelphia Toboggan Company Carousel. Our hotel was overwhelmingly decorated with carousel details and greatly advertised it’s proximity to the museum. The Kit Carson County Carousel is the only antique carousel in America that still has the original paint on both the scenery panels and on the animals. In other words – it’s kind of a big deal to those interested in the antique carousel world, of which we are totally not card-carrying members. At breakfast, I’m pretty sure we were the only people not in town for the carousel (we were also the youngest by about 40 years) and I think I heard carousel music as I drifted off to sleep (Clay did not – he can sleep through anything, a perk of having gone to war).

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By 9am, we were back on the road and excited for the two-hour drive to Colorado Springs. In case you were wondering, eastern Colorado looks exactly like western Kansas. Not a mountain in sight. Womp. Womp.

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Woohoo! Our first mountain sighting occurred about 60 miles outside of Colorado Springs. We kept our eye on the prize as we finished the last stretch of the drive – positively giddy after experiencing almost 500 miles of flatland.

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Situated on Fountain Creek, Colorado Springs is 6,035 feet above sea level (with varying levels throughout the city) and positioned near the base of Pikes Peak (known as America’s Mountain). Pikes Peak is on the eastern edge of the Southern Rocky Mountains and is the second most visited mountain in the world, after Mount Fuji in Japan. We went to the summit of Pikes Peak the following day so more on that in the next post.

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Since we knew we were going to spend the rest of the afternoon hiking in Garden of the Gods, we grabbed lunch at Phantom Canyon Brewing Company. Not only were the beer and food good, the restaurant was extremely kid-friendly as well.

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Garden of the Gods is a public park owned by Colorado Springs that hosts breathtakingly beautiful red rock formations that were created during a geological upheaval along a natural fault line millions of years ago. Popular with rock climbers, hikers, and even those just wanting a leisurely stroll, Garden of the Gods has more than 15 miles of rugged trails and a 1.5 mile paved trail that winds through the heart of the park and the most iconic formations.

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We opted for a more rugged trail because we wanted to climb as many formations as we could (totally encouraged!) and keep away from the tour groups. When we first started, we passed a group on horseback – when the kids are a little older we will definitely partake in such activities but for now, hiking is much more our speed.

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Unfortunately, we realized we forgot our Kelty about 200 miles into the trip but thankfully we always keep the Ergo in the car. I carried Violet on my back for the majority of the hike and Weston was a rockstar climbing and keeping up with me and Clay on the trail.

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There isn’t one bad view in the park.

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Because the weather was perfect, there were many rock climbers on the formations. As long as climbers register with the Visitors Center and have proper gear, climbing is allowed in the park.

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We did our fair share of climbing as well because it is pretty much impossible to pass a bunch of giant boulders without giving into the urge to climb them, even while wearing a toddler strapped to your back.

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Pictured – baby girl completely zonked out on my back.

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The little guy was super thrilled to have climbed this formation all by himself.

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We couldn’t have asked for a better afternoon in the Garden of the Gods. We spent close to four hours exploring the park doing one of our favorite family activities – hiking in the fresh air.

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While driving almost nine hours one-way just to see mountains over a three-day weekend may seem extreme to some, it is extremely important to us to show our children as much as the country (and the world) as we can. During our hike, I was reminded of a favorite quote by Frank Lloyd Wright – “Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.” I can only hope that as parents, we foster an environment that encourages our children to be students of nature.

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And honestly, I can’t think of a better classroom in which to learn.

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5 thoughts on “Colorado Springs – Part One

  1. Erica DeSpain October 13, 2015 / 10:51 am

    I love CO Springs! We were really hoping to get stationed at Carson this time around, but being 6.5 away is a close second! We’ve already visited twice in a year. So much to do. Glad you guys had a beautiful weekend to explore!

  2. Jen October 13, 2015 / 12:05 pm

    It really is such a beautiful place!

  3. Rachel October 14, 2015 / 9:59 am

    I absolutely love Garden of the Gods! It’s one of the first places my husband and I traveled together and will always be a favorite!

  4. Kait October 14, 2015 / 5:01 pm

    Oh this looks so gorgeous! Colorado is on our bucket list! Have you guys ever been stationed in Hawaii? There are so many hikes and outdoor activities here you would probably love 🙂

  5. Jenna B October 22, 2015 / 8:37 pm

    We hopefully will be heading to Kansas as a next duty station and its good to know that there is close(ish) things near by 😉 CO looks beautiful!

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