Friday, June 15, 2012

colorado - arriving in the wild west

After surviving the crowds and endless party that is Bonnaroo, followed by the epically boring drive across Missouri and Kansas, we finally made it Colorado to begin the real adventure out in the great American West. As we drove from I-70 onto I-24 towards Colorado Springs, the Rockies made their first appearance, with Pike's Peak (14,114 ft) being the prominent peak. A massive wildfire raging north of Denver in Fort Collins sent smoke down to make the view a little hazy, but a mid afternoon thunderstorm on the plains made the view quite intense. Lighting strikes illuminated the smoky sky, while high winds blew dust tornadoes across the barren plains. Pikes Peak still stood triumphant above it all, beckoning us closer to Colorado Springs.

When we made it to the Springs, we had nowhere to stay. So being the adventurous idiots we are, we decided to seek out a remote campground at 10,000 feet elevation in the Pike National Forest. We ended up on an ancient gold mining stagecoach road, a dusty, single-lane affair with warning signs of two way traffic. The road went over cliff drops with no guard rail, through hand-cut tunnels in the granite of Pike's, and high above Colorado Springs. The van felt quite unfit for the road, but the view of the metropolis of Colorado Springs at night was well worth the turmoil. We descended back down to the city to sleep in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Quite a pedestrian end to a wild ride. 

The following day we met up with our friend Ben Bryson (who just returned to his hometown of Colorado Springs to seek employment) to climb at Garden of the Gods. The Garden is a 1000+ acre tract of incredible monolithic sandstone spires stretching up towards the backdrop of the Rockies at heights of 40 to 300 feet. Some are blood red, some are pure white, and all look as if they were sculpted by some high- powered architect. The Garden was owned by a railroad magnate whose children donated the park to the city with the stipulation that it remain 'forever free to the peoples of the world.' The climbing was so-so as we had purchased a terribly shitty guidebook, but the few routes we did complete were fun with amazing exposure and epic views of the city and Rockies. Ben acted as climbing photographer. After the climb we headed to his parents' horse ranch on the outskirts of the Springs to enjoy some authentic goulash (his mother is 100% German) and an epic Rocky Mountain sunset. 
front range sunset from the bryson horse ranch - photo by dylan jones

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