It’s only coming from the flat prairies of the east that you can fully appreciate the rocky mountains when they come into view. The jagged heights the snowy mountains reach just seem so amazing in contrast to the flat dry chaparral that surrounds them. It’s awesome.
Just outside Colorado Springs is a place called Garden of the Gods. Giant red rocks are set out in the plains, rising up out of the dusty ground. It’s even more dynamic with the snow covered mountains in the background. It’s so close to the city center that people come here to walk their dogs and take their morning jogs. What an otherworldly landscape for such mundane activities.
From Colorado Springs I head west to take a scenic loop around the mountains. I stop at Florissant State Park and find petrified giant redwood stumps left behind after a volcanic blast millions of years ago preserved the bottom portions of the majestic forest. Prehistoric insects and plants are also preserved in fossilized layers of shale available for viewing at the visitors center.
I continue on and find myself in Salida, a unique small town at the base of the rocky mountains. For a town of less than 6,000 Salida has an active historic downtown with a wide variety of eclectic shops and restaurants.
During my second day there I drive up the mountain to a hiking trail. At first my boots only sink a couple inches into the frozen snow that remains on the trail, but the higher I climb the deeper and slushier the snow becomes. When I occasionally start sinking down into the snow up to my knees I decide it’s time to turn around. To warm up, I head to Mount Princeton Hot Springs. In addition to two pools filled with the spring waters, a diverted pipe brings the hot waters into a rocky stream where piled rocks create small Jacuzzi-like pools that are surprisingly comfortable. I lie back and gaze up at the beautiful mountain scenery while the warm sun shines on me.