Recently I drove to Colorado Springs with my kids Kevin and Emily to visit our aunt Dorothy. We were blessed with pleasant weather for much of our five day visit. Our first sight seeing stop was Garden of the Gods which is just a few minute’s drive from our aunt Dorothy’s home. The deep red sandstone rock formations framing Pikes Peak is always a magnificent site. In the afternoon we drove a few miles south to North Cheyenne Canyon for a picnic along an ice crusted stream. My wife Kris often talked about returning to this spot for a picnic, and we are all sure that she was with us in spirit. We drank a root beer toast to her memory.
After acclimating to the altitude, Kevin and Emily and I returned to the canyon for a hike along Seven Bridges Trail. The trail is steep, but the views are gorgeous. We turned around and headed back as the weather conditions deteriorated and occasional snow squalls set in. The mix of Aspen and pine trees along the upper reaches of the trail must make for a spectacular Autumn view.
Although I have been to Colorado Springs a number of times, I have never been to Cheyenne Canyon Zoo located in the shadow of the Will Rogers Memorial Shrine of the Sun. From what I understand, this is the only zoo built into the side of a mountain, and the views overlooking Colorado Springs and the plains is spectacular. The exhibits are modern and both visitor and critter friendly. The Giraffe herd is touted to be the largest of any zoo.
In Colorado as in Nebraska, you never know what the late winter weather might bring, but all in all, we could not have asked for a more pleasant late winter getaway.
Garden of the Gods Visitor Center
From right, Emily Burns and Kevin Burns along Seven Bridges trail in North Cheyenne Canyon, Colorado Springs. CO.
Orangutan at Cheyenne Canyon Zoo, Colorado Springs, CO.
Dorothy Farthing and Vickie Lusk at the visitors center at the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, Co.
From right, Kevin and Emily Burns, along Seven Bridges trail in North Cheyenne Canyon, Colorado Springs. CO.
From right, Kevin and Emily Burns, Dorothy Farthing and Vickie Lusk in North Cheyenne Canyon in Colorado Springs.
View looking east toward Colorado Springs and the plains from Seven Bridges trail in North Cheyenne Canyon, Colorado Springs.
Kevin and Emily feed giraffe at at Cheyenne Canyon Zoo, Colorado Springs, CO.
View of Pikes Peak from Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs.
Giraffe herd at Cheyenne Canyon Zoo, Colorado Springs, CO.
From right, Emily and Joe Burns along Seven Bridges trail in North Cheyenne Canyon, Colorado Springs. CO.
Last week I cleared five days on my calendar and headed to Rocky Mountain National Park with my son. I have visited the park in the past, and I eagerly anticipated the mountain vistas of evergreens, yellow aspen trees and red tinged shrubs and grasses. The cool night time weather and low 70’s daytime temps were ideal for hiking. As I expected, the scenery was magnificent.
What I did not anticipate was the the spectacle of rutting season. In late September and early October, the elk that spend the summer at higher elevations in the park come down to the meadows to mate. The show is nature’s version of “The Bachelor.”
According to a presentation by RMNP Park rangers, during the “rut,” mature bull elk do not eat or sleep. They spend day and night bugling and posturing to attract females, rounding up harems and then defending the harems from from other bulls. During rutting season the bulls can lose up to 35 percent of their body weight.
In the evenings during mating season, tourists and locals with cameras and binoculars line the roads surrounding the meadows to view the show. And just like the reality show, many of the spectators come evening after evening to watch the drama unfold as bulls compete for the attention of fickle females.
We camped at Moraine Park which is prime elk rutting territory. Throughout the night, even in my sleep I could hear bugle calls of bull elk sometimes far away and sometimes near while coyotes yelped in the distance. Rocky Mountain National Park is spectacular any time of the year, but in September/October, it is an extraordinary experience.