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  • Candace Ahlfinger

Our Family Adventure Continues...Colorado Springs

Garden of the Gods

After our stay in Denver, we headed to Colorado Springs to explore more of the beautiful state. One stop along the way was at the Garden of the Gods.

So why is it called Garden of the Gods? The story goes that the land was being considered for use as a biergarten. The surveyor, Rufus Cable, exclaimed that it was a place “fit for the Gods to assemble.” And so, the name was born. From the Visitors Center, we gazed at the beautiful red rocks jutting proudly toward the skies, but our destiny was not to hike them. (Remember the family revolt against hiking that we had experienced?!?!) Instead, we enjoyed the Visitors Center, drove through the Garden of the Gods, and experienced the nearby Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Park that is in the shadows of Garden of the Gods.

Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Park

The Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Park features homes and barns from various time periods of Colorado’s history. The Native American area features handiwork and displays about food and tools used by these settlers. Unfortunately, rain that morning had chased the regular display inside, but the docents were very educational and interesting. The older granddaughter of our multi-generational trip enjoyed the visit to the 1907 Orchard House the most. It was difficult to believe that some of the features--such as electric lights, hand-run vacuums, electric irons, and more--were in homes of that day. The Blacksmith Shop and the barns also called our names as we explored the area.

Manitou Springs Penny Arcade

Our next stop was The Penny Arcade in Manitou Springs for some fun rounds of games. (They do cost more than a penny, but we had a great time.) It seems as though every old and new arcade game is represented there—from skeeball to pinball to many games in between. Our family favorite was the horse races where all of us could compete by rolling balls into different colored holes. There were games for every age which provides a fun, but not inexpensive, diversion for a day. We wandered through Manitou Springs which has lots of shops and restaurants. Our next stop was the Principal’s Office in Ivywild School in Colorado Springs.

Ivywild School

The name sounds as though we were in trouble, but the inside of the school is different than the name suggests. The building has been turned into a community collaboration with restaurants and stores. Bristol Brewing Co. was a great place to stop for a pre-dinner beer flight before walking to Edelweiss German Restaurant where we introduced the girls to another part of their heritage with schnitzels, pretzels, and wursts. Our fun dinner was accompanied by an accordion player who entertained us until it was time for us to head to our home for several nights, the Drury Inn and Suites in Colorado Springs.

Drury Inn and Suites was not close to any grand tourist attractions except the Air Force Academy, but it was in a large parking lot connected to a movie theater and Scheel’s Sporting Goods, which, with its aquarium and Ferris wheel, is worth a visit in itself. The movie theater, also in the parking lot, provided another good break from sightseeing. The Drury also has breakfast and happy hour included which is nice for a large group.

River Rafting on the Arkansas River

We took it easy the next morning before heading to Cañon City to Echo Canyon River Expeditions. I had arranged, through multiple phone calls, a river rafting trip on the Arkansas River. Everyone at the company was very patient and helpful through my multiple phone calls. (I wanted to make certain we wore the correct items and that the route we took was the most appropriate for our group.) The business continued their helpfulness when we arrived. From check in to the bus drivers to our guides—everyone was wonderful.

The company takes pictures and videos, so we opted to follow their recommendations and not carry a camera or phone on chance of losing them in the river. Our guide, Jenae, was wonderful. We loaded into the raft under sunny 92° skies ready for our adventure. Although the water temperature, a chilly 65°, sounded cool, the splashes felt wonderful as a way to negate the heat of the day and the sweat we later worked up paddling. We pushed off from the shore, practiced our strokes and rescue techniques under the watchful eye of Jenae, and were ready for our ride.

To say that our granddaughters were hesitant about the rafting experience is an understatement. In fact, the older one kept saying, “You are trying to kill me,” over and over again. However, after the first rapids, they were hooked. We successfully paddled through Class 1, 2, and 3 rapids with, somewhat, synchronized strokes. We only had one fatality for the day—an oar! We had a great time traversing each new rapid, and no one went overboard. Our youngest granddaughter may have expressed it best when she commented while laughing hysterically, “This is awesome!” In fact, the family voted the rafting trip the best part of our time in Colorado Springs. As our daughter stated, "Our family believes hiking is a "no," and river rafting is a "go."

(We wished we had arrived earlier and had time to eat at the 8-Mile Grill that is in the Echo Canyon River Rafting building, but we stopped there as soon as our rafting trip finished and enjoyed great wedge salads and burgers to top off our adventure as we waited for our pictures to load.)

Broadmoor 7 Falls

The next day, our last full one in Colorado Springs, was jam-packed. We were off to do the Broadmoor 7 Falls Hike. We did learn facts that I wish we had known before we started. You have to take a long bus ride to get to the falls. We had not allowed sufficient time to casually visit. When we arrived at the falls, we entered the gates and started up the paved road along a river and past beautiful rocky outcrops. There are several options to get to the top of the falls, including stairs and an elevator that whizzes visitors up to get closer looks at the sets of falls. The falls are pretty, but lack of rain made them less spectacular than they probably are in the spring.

Pike's Peak and the Broadmoor Manitou and Pike's Peak Cog Railway

Our next stop was back in Manitou to park and ride the Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway to the top of Pike’s Peak, Katherine Bates’ inspiration for “America the Beautiful.” (Note: Parking near the railway is limited, so add time to park further from the station and catch the free bus.) We had gotten tickets online and so had no problems getting onboard. The conductor made the ride up interesting with stories, but the 1 ½ hour ride up and down was too long for all of us. We had opted for the train instead of hiking (remember that is a bad word for our family) or driving since the road is very twisty and we were in a large vehicle. We only had 40 minutes at the 14,115-foot summit, which was too quick to sample the awesome high-altitude donuts, see the views, and visit the small museum. On the other hand, it was too long for those in our group who had headaches due to the altitude. (Note: I would recommend driving instead of taking the railway unless you simply want to say you have ridden on the world's highest cog railroad. Also, only water can be drunk on the railway…no food or other beverages. Take water with you since it is expensive at the restaurant on top.)

View from the Top of PIke's Peak

Our trip to Colorado Springs came to an end the next day with lunch in old Colorado Springs and a lazy stroll around the area before heading to Denver to catch our flight. We left the area with many things, such as the Manitou Cliff Dwellings and the Air Force Academy, still on our to-do list, but there is always next time!

For more information on our Echo Canyon River Rafting trip, go to Ellis Downhome.

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