We’ve been lucky enough to enjoy a significant amount of family time over the past month and a half. Much of that time has been spent around the dinner table or in the backyard, but we’ve also taken weekly family day trips with Alan’s parents, Carole and Bijan. On one of our first weekends in Colorado, Alan, Van, Carole and I set out for a day trip to the beautiful mountain town of Salida, Colorado. The drive took us just under three hours and we were treated to spectacular mountain views along the way. Salida is wonderfully situated along the Arkansas River in a large valley with the towering Rockies all around. I imagine that its distance from the Denver and Colorado Springs metro areas keeps it from being overdeveloped, because this is certainly an ideal place to visit or call home. We spent the morning poking around the streets and getting a feel for the place. We had a fabulous lunch at Laughing Ladies, which was not nearly as crowded as it should have been given the quality of the food. I couldn’t get over the view of the mountains around every corner. I clearly hadn’t been in Colorado too long at that point!
On our way home from Salida, I convinced Alan to take a detour to the St. Elmo ghost town. The ghost town was excellent fun to wander around, but even better was the route to town. About fifteen miles north of Salida, we turned left and drove another fifteen miles to reach the ghost town. About half the road was paved, but it was all spectacular. That stretch of road was (up to that point) the most beautiful stretch we’ve driven during this entire trip. The chalk cliffs were on the north side of the road, Mount Princeton was ahead, and a creek and campgrounds that made me jealous we weren’t staying overnight were along the south side of the road.
We finished our day trip with a short jaunt through the river town of Buena Vista (apparently pronounced Boona Vista by locals). This town is definitely in the throes of being discovered, especially by the numerous kayakers and rafters we saw around town. Not surprising given its setting.
The following weekend, we all piled back in the car (this time with Bijan) and drove south to Colorado Springs. Our first destination was the aptly named Garden of the Gods. This is a place I’ve always wanted to see and was so lucky to visit on a gorgeous late-spring day. We spent most of our time in the central garden trails area, but if you wanted to get away from the crowds, this is easily doable by heading out on any of the number of trails that are not in the main, developed area. Van had a blast watching the climbers and running around like a wild man when he was through with being toted around in his stroller.
After a lunch of pizza and calzones, we made our way to the road to Pikes Peak. The drive is a bit different from the drive to Mt. Evans. It’s a lot more expensive ($40 for all of us vs. $3 or free with a National Parks Pass at Mt. Evans), has many more signs warning drivers to have a full tank of gas and to use low gears when descending the mountain, and is wider and generally a little less nerve-wracking. That being said, the drive up (and down) was fantastic, and the two cars we saw being towed down the mountain reinforced why there is that much signage about how to drive properly up and down a mountain. Clearly this road sees a bit more traffic than the Mt. Evans route. The views from the top also could not be more different from the views atop Mt. Evans. Instead of being right in the midst of the mountains, Pikes Peak is set off, which gives you a broad and unique view of the Rockies and the plains. Instead of feeling like I was in the mountains, I felt like I could see forever. Both pretty cool feelings to have!