By the time I was finished wandering Woodland Park, I’d lost interest in continuing the snaky haul southwest through the Rockies to Cripple Creek, and decided to head back east toward Colorado Springs. I was tired of driving but, to my surprise, still in the mood for high-altitude walking.
Despite my appearance, I’ve come to like the sensation of walking in and of itself, as long as the surroundings don’t bore me and especially if I can walk at my own speed. Years of discreetly running from class to class in both junior high and high school, followed by twelve years of restaurant work in which speed was essential to both service and survival, conditioned me for an above-average pace when left to my own devices. It’s rare that I really get to cut loose back home. If I do, my wife’s cute tiny legs struggle to keep up. I’ve never actually seen my son hurry, and my mom decided in her forties that she’s officially elderly, a few decades ahead of schedule. If I indulge myself, I leave my loved ones eating my dust.
(Please note these sentiments apply to walking only. Jogging and running are a different story. My enthusiasm has its boundaries.)
US 24 took me through Manitou Springs and to the perfect spot to push myself: Red Rock Canyon Open Space. Curious natural sights, varied terrains, and the Rockies for a backdrop. Much more stimulating than the average treadmill grind.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
Each year my wife and I take a road trip to a different part of the United States and see what sorts of historical landmarks, natural wonders, man-made oddities, unexplored restaurants, and cautionary tales await us. From November 1-6, 2015, we racked up a number of personal firsts. My wife Anne was invited on her first business trip to Colorado Springs, all expenses paid from flight to food to lodging to rental car, to assist with cross-training at a distant affiliate. Her supervisor gave me permission to attend as her personal travel companion as long as I bought my own plane ticket and food. I posted one photo for each of the six days while we were on location. With this series, we delve into selections from the 500+ other photos we took along the way.
Once upon a time in previous centuries, this giant patch of land was ugly and colonized and covered by unsightly industrial concerns — a mill, a quarry, some pits, even a landfill. After a series of purchasing, reclamation and refurbishing efforts over time, the City of Colorado Springs took over in 2003 and now the whole area is one big city park. Some parts deemed unfit for recreation are still off limits (quarries don’t upconvert easily), but dozens of miles of trails crisscross its nearly 1500 acres (recently expanded from nearly 800).
I parked at the south end of the park, grabbed a new bottled water from our Estes Park stash in the trunk, and spent quality time traipsing around at whatever speed I felt like, taking in all the flora and the geology and such, and saying hi to a few other nice folks taking their own afternoon strolls.
Some inclines slowed me down, but I steered clear of the more rugged trails. Thankfully their maps are detailed and posted at nearly every trail intersection so you can get your bearings. Red Rock Canyon Open Space has signs virtually everywhere telling you what’s what.
After 50-odd minutes and two fun-filled miles by way of National Geographic, I’d run out of water and was sufficiently walked out for the day. I was curious to know where this mysterious stairway led, but my exploratory resources were all tapped out. Alas, the world may never know.
Before descending back to parking level, I surveyed the surroundings, took many more photos for my wife to see later, and noticed off near the northern horizon stood a set of old friends, The Garden of the Gods, which we saw on our 2012 road trip.
…and then I promptly dragged myself back to the car, swallowed most of another bottled water whole, declared myself done sightseeing and exercising for the day, and drove back to the hotel for some recuperation before my cute tiny wife got off work. Comparing notes between my physical exertion and her psychological stress made for interesting evening conversation.
To be continued!
[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for previous and future chapters, and for our complete road trip history to date. Thanks for reading!]