In the summer of 2020, before the second wave of coronavirus cases hit, I traveled to Colorado Springs to visit my ailing grandmother. I’ve been there throughout my life, but I always appreciate the majesty of the Front Range rising up out of the plains and the incredibly cool rock formations.
While I know Garden of the Gods well, I had never walked around Red Rock Canyon Open Space, just across US 24 from it. Just as beautiful, if not quite as spectacular rock formations, and even more sweeping views of the Rockies.
That didn’t stop me from hiking around Garden of the Gods, too.
Right in between Red Rock and Garden of the Gods is Old Colorado City, the one-time capital of the Colorado Territory back before it was a state. Very cute and historic architecture.
One of the most amazing parts of my trip was when I went camping for two days in the heart of the Rockies. On the way out there, I walked around Florissant National Monument, which features petrified tree stumps.
I came to a picnic area with a stunning view of the Collegiate Peaks, so called because each major mountain is named after a famous university in the United States.
I traveled for a time alongside the Arkansas River in its uppermost reaches. Hard to believe this is the same lazy, broad river that flows through Wichita, Tulsa, and Little Rock!
And at last I arrived at my destination: Twin Lakes, right in the shadow of Mount Elbert, the highest in the entire Rocky Mountains at 14,440 ft (4400 m). Here words truly failed me to describe the awesome grandeur of the mountains. I can only show you pictures and hope that you can feel what I felt!
The first evening I was there, I ate dinner at the Twin Lakes Inn & Saloon. Had a steak with blue cheese and fried onions, and apple pie for dessert, which were delicious, but unfortunately I didn’t get any food pics. I did, however, get a picture of one of the many hummingbird feeders hanging outside the restaurant. I’ve never seen anywhere close to that many hummingbirds in one place before; there were dozens of the little guys zipping around. Their wings actually buzz quite loudly when they fly or hover close to you!
My second afternoon there, we got rained on a little bit. Immediately before the rain started, I got this crazy video showing gorgeous weather in one direction and then torrential thunderstorms in the other!
The morning after I arrived, I drove up a valley to Independence Pass, on the Continental Divide, at 12,095 ft/3687 m. It’s a different world up there. Up above treeline, the landscape becomes softer, hushed, eerie, almost alien. It would blow my mind to travel to a place so far north or south that it looked like this at or near sea-level.
Coming back down from Independence Pass, I had some gorgeous view of the mountains, the forest, and the rushing creek.
Twin Lakes itself is a historic if tiny town, and there was once a lakeside resort there, which has been restored but requires quite a hike around the lake to get to.
Nearby is Leadville, the highest incorporated city in the U.S. at 10,152 ft/3094 m. A beautiful town with tons of Victorian architecture. Unfortunately there was a lot of construction going on, but I shot around it as best I could.
On my last morning, in picture-perfect weather, I hiked partway up Mount Elbert. I had dreams of maybe making it all the way to the top, but it quickly became clear I didn’t have enough time and was very unused to exertion at high altitude. Still, I got some beautiful views, and hiked through a peaceful aspen forest.
Got a few more good shots on my way back to Colorado Springs. I drove on US 50 alongside the Arkansas River through a spectacular narrow canyon, but the weather was bad in spots and there weren’t any good places to stop for pictures, so I didn’t get as many as I could have. Next time!
I did get to swing by the famous Royal Gorge Bridge.