Monday, September 26, 2011

Hiking, Goldmines and Fossils

Post Originally Published in My Trip Journal on May 18, 2011

We've had an action packed couple of days, yet there has still been time for Bill's afternoon naps which are a non-negotiable on our trips!! Planning what to do when has been tricky because we've had less than ideal weather conditions which mostly haven't been as bad as predicted, but couldn't be ignored.

On Tuesday, we hiked the 7-mile Waldo Canyon Trail. It is rated easy, but we still had to be mindful of the fact that we were hiking at 7,000 feet to an elevation of 8,000 feet at the high point of the trail. This trail was recommended to us by the very helpful folks at the Manitou Springs Welcome Center (as was the Mt. Culver trail we did on Monday) and it was an excellent choice. It has a little of everything including breathtaking wide open views of Pikes Peak. We moved a little faster than I would've liked because of predicted afternoon thunderstorms, but it was still a wonderful hike that I would love to do again someday.

We needed a few things from the grocery store and to gas up for Wednesday's driving adventures, so after dinner, we headed out to King Sooper's (Colorado's Kroger affiliate) and happened to pass
Josh & John's, the local ice cream shop we had discovered in Manitou Springs. Unfortunately, their main shop is in downtown Colorado Springs, less than a mile from our house. Not good for me!! I can highly recommend the Vermont Maple Walnut flavor.

We were up and out early today (Wednesday) for our planned trip to
Cripple Creek and Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. Visiting both places would be about a 120 mile roundtrip.

Cripple Creek has a fascinating history revolving around the discovery of gold through one man's perseverance and then becoming a wealthy boom town from 1890-1910. The drive to Cripple Creek from Colorado Springs takes you along the west side of Pikes Peak and rises to elevations above 10,000 feet. Cripple Creek is at 9474 feet. Our first stop was at the relatively new Cripple Creek Heritage Center to view the highly rated 30 minute film about Cripple Creek's shall we say "colorful" history! What a gem that whole center was - one of the best I've ever visited. Three floors of exhibits, a great film and a volunteer/employee who obviously loves his job and loves living in Cripple Creek. What we WEREN'T able to experience were the 3-story floor to ceiling panoramic windows looking out over miles upon miles of mountain ranges. At least that's what the charts said! We mostly looked out over clouds and fog! The snow and rain were moving in rapidly. We were disappointed to learn that both of museums we wanted to visit in town were not yet open for the season except on weekends.

We drove into town and walked up and down the main street finally heading into a coffee shop for a mid-morning cuppa joe. I don't know all the history of casinos in Colorado, but Cripple Creek has been designated one of the communities that allows gaming, so most of the old buildings have been restored and are now casinos, but thankfully, the restoration required that the original architecture be maintained. So the main street looks much as it did in the late 1800's. It was a fascinating visit and I've not even begun to tell all there is to see and do. It was one of those times we had to go, but I just felt like I wasn't finished with Cripple Creek....maybe another day!

Wind was whipping around and clouds were gathering, so we were happy to head down a couple of thousand feet to the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. One of my travel goals is to visit all the National Parks and National Monuments so couldn't pass this one up but I'll admit, I hadn't done much research and had no idea what to expect. Once again, we were not disappointed and ended up spending a couple of hours viewing the movie and hiking about 1 1/2 miles of trails through the fossil beds. Follow the above link if interested in learning about the fossil beds, but to whet your appetite a bit, who knew that there were petrified GIANT (and I do mean giant!) redwood trees in Colorado? I've never been much of a science person, but the story of how these beds were formed was amazing. The goal of visiting all the parks and monuments was beginning to feel overwhelming, but seeing this one today made me want to attack this goal with renewed vigor. Our parks and monuments are absolutely incredible!

We headed back down towards Colorado Springs through pretty heavy rain arriving back at our house in time for Bill's nap and my quiet couch and surfing time! Rain is predicted for most of tomorrow, so we are planning a slow paced day running some errands and visiting the Air Force Academy museum.

Thanks for reading!


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