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Colorado2014_28

Now it’s time to tell you all about our trip before we made it to the Grand Canyon. Please don’t think this part of the trip was boring — it was far from it. It’s just that once we experienced the grandness of the Grand Canyon (see what I did there…) it overshadowed the rest of the trip and if I wrote about Colorado first it’d be like burying the lede (<– tossing a journalism term at you!). Plus, now I have the Colorado photos edited — woo hoo! It’s been a month since we left on our Grand Vacation — it’s about time! :)

As you read in this post, I was so excited we were able to fit a road trip into this vacation. David had never been to Colorado, so this was the perfect opportunity to visit because we had to drive across the whole state anyways to get to Utah.

We stayed in Manitou Springs, which is super close to Colorado Springs, in a little motel where we could see the mountains when we stepped outside our door.

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One day we visited Garden of the Gods and one day we rode the cog railway to the top of Pikes Peak.

Garden of the Gods

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Garden of the Gods is my favorite tourist place in Colorado. (And I guess right now it’s my favorite place in Colorado because I haven’t ventured outside this area yet.) We managed to spend 8 hours there! I’m pretty sure we did everything you can possibly do.

We started on the Trading Post side, not the Visitor’s Center side, and walked all the way up to where the main area was — where we could see Kissing Camels and the Cathedral Spires, as well as the other red rock formations. The whole park was gorgeous. I loved that we could see all these red rocks but then turn around and see the Rocky Mountains.

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If you have climbing knowledge, equipment and a permit, you can climb Garden of the Gods.

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Kissing Camels. Can you see them?

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Cathedral Spires. Look at how little the people are below!

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After having our fill of the main area, we walked to the Visitor’s Center to grab lunch. I was impressed with their veggie burger and David enjoyed the (real) buffalo burger. (Yes, actual buffalo meat, not buffalo sauce.) This is probably a good time to share a little-known fact about me: I don’t enjoy hamburgers that much. I’m not a vegetarian by any means — I could not live without chicken sandwiches or ground beef tacos — it’s just that I prefer the taste/texture of black bean/veggie burgers. If I ever order a hamburger, I usually have a couple of bites and then I’m done and over it.

Once we had food in our bellies, we wanted to explore some more and decided to follow a 3-mile hiking trail. We quickly realized that the best views are found from the trail. We walked a couple of feet off the trail to see the most spectacular view we saw that day. The view deserved many pictures and for us to sit down and take it all in.

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Although we could have stayed sitting there for awhile longer, we pried ourselves away and headed back to the trail to continue exploring.

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David and I got a peek into what trail running is like. You see, we still had a ways to get to our car when it started raining. Because we had my nice camera and we didn’t have any rain gear, we made a run for it. It was exhilarating — an adrenaline rush for sure! We took cover under a building’s roof. Thankfully, the rain didn’t last long and we were back on the trail less than 15 minutes later.

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I got the explorer look down.

Looking back, I suppose this was the part of the trail that was a good mini practice run for heights. Maybe. The “heights” pale, of course, in comparison to the Grand Canyon, but I still got nervous nonetheless when David would climb these big rocks. Garden of the Gods is like a giant adult playground.

Siamese Twins.

Siamese Twins.

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Balanced Rock.

Balanced Rock.

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It was a wonderful, but tiring, day. The only downside? We took sunburns back to the motel with us as souvenirs.

Pikes Peak

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The next day we did what is probably considered the most touristy of all: visiting the top of Pikes Peak.

To make it a more memorable experience than driving up to the summit and to also relive a memory from my childhood, we bought tickets for the cog railway trip to the top.

Once we got to the train station, we realized we accidentally purchased four tickets, instead of two. Darn crappy wi-fi at the motel. It turned out to be serendipitous (<–hopefully I used that word correctly!). We were able to return the two extra tickets and get two people, a mother and a son, that hadn’t reserved seats to board our train and sit across from us.

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These two certainly made the hour and a half train ride up and down much more enjoyable. We learned they live in the pacific northwest and the mother, who is a biologist, home schools her son, who is 13. She has studied algae in Antarctica — how cool is that?! We got to talk shop about backpacking locations and equipment. The kid had quite a lot of opinions about gear (read: much more than David and I have) — I was impressed!

Once we made it to the summit, we had to take our pictures fast. We only had 20 minutes to walk around at the top. At first I was bummed we’d only have a short amount of time — I mean the train ride itself is 3 hours total! — but once I felt the very cold 30-degree temperature at the top, I was totally OK with taking some pictures and hightailing it back down to where it was warm.

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My hands started to lose feeling it was so cold!

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Supposedly on a clear day, you can see Kansas. I waved to people back home. They didn’t wave back. How rude.

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Once the train blew the warning whistle, I quickly realized we hadn’t gotten a picture at the actual legit summit sign! I told David to book it to the sign. Yes, running at 14,000 ft wasn’t the smartest idea, but we got those pictures! And…after all, we’d have the long train ride back down to catch our breath. ;)

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On the way back down, we got to see some yellow-bellied marmots and bighorn sheep hanging out in the sunshine on the arctic tundra part of the mountain.

Bighorn sheep. Normal view // Zoomed in

Bighorn sheep. Normal view // Zoomed in

Yellow-bellied marmot. Normal view // Zoomed in

Yellow-bellied marmot. Normal view // Zoomed in

We closed the evening out with some fabulous food and drinks at the Manitou Brewing Company (more details about that in the next post!) and grabbed some chocolate goodies from Pikes Peak Chocolate Company for dessert.

Keep an eye out for one more Colorado post (why yes, I do know how to drag out vacation posts) — one that is completely dedicated to the local breweries there!

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