Red Rock Canyon

Sally, Nate, Karen and I spent a couple hours hiking the trails at Red Rock Canyon Open Space. Or at least most of the time we were hiking on trails. I led the group off trail a couple times. Sally was wearing her new hiking shoes from REI and put them to a four-mile test. The shoes were fine. Her hand, after accidentally putting it on a prickly pear cactus was less fine.

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Parts of the canyon were once mined for stone, leaving ziggurat-shaped walls.

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Garden of the Gods a mile or so to the north.

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l. to r. — Pikes Peak and Ute Pass, the Rampart Range, Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs and Red Rocks Canyon.

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Mountain Shadows Restaurant

The specialty of Mountain Shadows is green chili. Sally, Nate and Karen ordered hash browns with green chili. I didn’t, but I tasted theirs. It tasted like salsa. They said it was excellent. I enjoyed my omelet.

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The restaurant is in a tiny house in Old Colorado City. Three front rooms have a handful of tables. We waiting on the front porch for about half an hour before being seated.

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My omelet with Nate’s green chili in the background.

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Skyline Drive

In 1906, the Cañon City government offered inmates in the local prison a reduced sentence if they agreed to build a road along the spine of a hogback ridge west of town. It was open to horse and buggies at first, with cars restricted to Tuesday mornings and Friday afternoons. 

I decided to drive the road at the last minute without preparation. I attempted to take photos through the windshield with mixed results. I was a bit nervous starting out, but by the time I was finished, I just thought it was a rush.

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For three miles, there were no guardrails. There were a few short stretches where the mountain drops off a few inches away on both sides of the pavement, but usually there were rocks on one side or the other. The traffic is one-way, of course. There are some pull-offs, but they don’t have guardrails either.

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The road dumped us in the middle of a residential neighborhood in Cañon City.

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Bishop’s Castle

In 1959, a Colorado teen named Jim Bishop bought a couple acres of woods in the Wet Mountains in southern Colorado. In the early 60’s, after marrying his wife Phoebe, he began building rock cabin on his land. Passers-by thought it looked like a castle, which inspired Bishop to keep building. Fifty years later, it has come to this.

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As of last summer, Bishop was still working on it. He’s been battling cancer in recent years but claims to have conquered it. He has plans to build a wall around the property, with additional castles at each of the four corners.

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He’s started the wall nearest the road, and even it is impressive.

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Here’s what it looks like inside that small structure.

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But back to the castle. Here’s the drawbridge/gatehouse. There were no signs, so I drove through and had to make a tricky seven-point turn on a narrow track to get back down and park along the road.

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Bishop is very proud of and very insistent about the fact that he built the entire edifice by himself. Inside one of the stairwells, there is an acknowledgment that his father helped with the metal column in the center of the spiral stairs—BUT THAT’S ALL!

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There are three levels. The ground level inside the opening in the photo above is mostly work space. The second level is surrounded by colored-glass windows.

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The third level is very impressive.

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Sally and I climbed the tower with the steel sphere at the top. The stairs—and much of the rest of the castle—were unsettling. The wire mesh stairs had patches and dents. The handholds were few. There were many places where carelessness could have resulted in a serious fall. This was the view from the sphere at the top. I found myself hoping that Bishop really knows about welding.

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I climbed down and then joined Nate at the top of the taller tower. This stairwell was even worse than the first one. A trip or misstep could easy lead to a fall down the sides of the shaft or even out a window.

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Here there was nothing to keep us from falling except our will to live. 

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The views were beautiful, but it was cold and my hands were numb from clinging to the metal.

My only mishap occurred as I was walking down some steps to the car to get the red chair. I slipped on snow and went down fast, but survived to tell the tale.

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There was a lot of eccentric signage around the place. Most of them express Bishop’s discontent with government regulations and the swindler who attempted to gain ownership of the castle and turn it into the headquarters for a strange cult.

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I’m sure we’ll be back, but I don’t know that I’ll climb the towers a second time.

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Wandering

Nate, Karen, Sally and I took off on a chilly Saturday morning (after a stop at Horseshoe Donuts for breakfast) to explore. Our only set destination was Bishop’s Castle, an hour and a half south of Colorado Springs. We ended up driving from there to Colorado City to Pueblo to Cañon City to Salida to Johnson Village before heading back through South Park to Colorado Springs. By the time we were through, we’d gone 400 miles. Our route looked like this.

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And there was hardly mile that wasn’t scenic. We drove south through the Arkansas River Valley and up into the Wet Mountains.

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After touring Bishop’s Castle (next post), we had no cell coverage. We picked the direction that we thought would most quickly lead to a bathroom and ended up in Colorado City, out on the plains. We headed north on I-25 to Pueblo. Our first stop was the levee along the Arkansas River. Since the 1970’s, this has been the canvas for local artists who have created the world’s longest mural (so designated by Guinness). In recent years, portions of the levee have been replaced, so it’s not what it once was. We never did find access to the river bank. We did find a less-than-pleasant parking lot in a less-than-pleasant neighborhood where we could see some of what is left.

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After lunch at Pass Key (which received mixed reviews), we headed west to Cañon City (post after next). 

I drove west on Route 50 through Bighorn Sheep Canyon. By the time we got to Salida, it only made sense to head north to Johnson Village and then back to Colorado Springs on Route 24.

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Coming out of Bighorn Sheep Canyon with the Sawatch Mountains in the distance.

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Heading north from Salida along the Sawatch Range. That’s Mount Antero (14,269′) on the left and Mt. Princeton (14,197′) on the right.

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During the day, we saw huge herds of Pronghorn, a herd of Mule Deer, three Bighorn Sheep, and two Elk (walking across an open slope just west of South Park).

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Ted’s Montana Grill

Ted’s is a national franchise, with many locations in Colorado and throughout the east (and one in Montana). But it has a fairly interesting story and the food was good—which is why I decided to post it on my blog.

Ted Turner decided he wanted to help conserve the American bison. To give farmers an incentive to raise them, he gave them a market—Ted’s Montana Grill, which features bison meat. I think this is a superb idea.

The men from my work got together on a Thursday for a social lunch. There were seven of us (of the nine who work in the office among 21 women). We had a small room in the back all to our own.

My daytime photo didn’t turn out, so I took another that evening when we took Karen and Nate to Bird Dog BBQ next door for Karen’s birthday.

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James, Carl and Jason

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Ron, Austin and Steven

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I ordered a basic bacon cheese(bison)burger. Some bison I’ve had in the past has been dry, but this was a tasty burger and the fries were fresh-cut and excellent.

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Duca’s Neapolitan Pizza

Lindy’s last evening in Colorado Springs was also Nate and Karen’s first. They came out for five days to visit and explore. We all went to Duca’s, which is close to where we will be living.

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Sally and Karen had the Pizza Margherita, with crushed tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella,
pecorino, olive oil, and fresh basil. They said it was good, but not great. The rest of us had the Quattro Formaggi, with fresh mozzarella, provolone, gorgonzola, ricotta, and fresh-chopped tomato. I added pepperoni and mushrooms to mine. It was very tasty, and when Sally tried a piece, she said she liked it much better. The pizzas are plenty big enough to split between two people.

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We listened to Lindy tell stories about living in Germany, and then we went out for frozen yoghurt.

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The Fortune Club Diner

I ate at the Fortune Club Diner back in 2012 when I happened upon Victor during a day of wandering. I enjoyed my cheeseburger so much that I wanted to take Sally and Lindy. Unfortunately, the server told us as we entered that they only offer breakfast on Sundays. We decided to go for it. The food was good, but it wasn’t a cheeseburger.

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The couple that was running the place on my last visit made my time there even more enjoyable. The woman who served us this time was friendly, but it wasn’t the same. I read online that it’s under new management, and the reviews are spotty. I’d like to go back and try the cheeseburger sometime.

After we ate, we walked and drove around town a little bit. We went in a couple stores. I bought a cheap book. Lindy bought a ring.

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The Victor Trading Co.

We left the bustle of Cripple Creek and drove to the almost-empty Victor. Our first stop was The Victor Trading Company, known for hand-made brooms, an old hand-operated printing press and various other crafts and goods.

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The inside was packed with more stuff than one could possible take in during a single visit.

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Sally bought a couple packs of Christmas note cards. I bought a prairie dog. Lindy bought a bottle of gold ore.

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Cripple Creek Ice Festival

Lindy came for a visit from Germany. She landed at the Denver airport at 9:10 on Saturday night. After a lazy start to Sunday, we took off into the mountains in search of adventure.

A couple weeks ago, a coworker told me about the Cripple Creek Ice Festival, but I didn’t think we’d make it this year. We were halfway to Cripple Creek when I saw a sign advertising the event. It worked out perfectly. We arrived after the vendors set up their booths, but before the big crowds arrived.

There was one block of carvings. Many of them were designed to be “interactive,” with slides and steps and photo ops. 

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This was our favorite.

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A close-up of the orange sticker on the Jeep.

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I bought a corn dog. Sally bought a box of thin mints from the Girl Scouts. The Jehovah’s Witnesses had a booth. We didn’t buy anything from them.

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We stopped in this store .. .

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… where Sally bought this old magazine page …

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… and where none of us bought this.

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In another old store, I took a red chair photo.

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And a picture of Lindy with her friend.

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It was about 55° and felt warmer. There was snow on the fields, but the roads and sidewalks were clear. A guy in one of the stores told me the ice sculptures were all melting on the first weekend of the festival.

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By the time we left, there were no parking spaces left in town and the crowds were huge.

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