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This is a guest post from my dad, Grandpa Points. He and my mom are in their mid-60’s, are (mostly) retired, and are ticking off “bucket list” destinations quicker than they ever thought possible thanks to miles, points, and travel deals. They have an intense love of this country, of its National Parks and treasures, and have no problem with a clean budget hotel room and an economy airline seat on a budget airline as long as it gets them where they want to be. A photographer by trade, his adventures are usually captured not just in his mind, but in his camera. He shares his thoughts and travels here from time to time, and I’m excited to share another one of their adventures.
On a recent trip to Colorado and Rocky Mountain National Park, we decided to first go south to Colorado Springs so that we could include seeing The Garden of the Gods and avoid the record setting crowds expected in the Park on that day.
Garden of the Gods is a free park that consists of geologic formations that can be viewed easily via paved walkways, by auto on a road that winds through the park, or a combination of the two. Consequently, you can expend as much, or as little, personal energy as you desire. There is a lot of land available for horizontal traversing, and there are spires and rocks available for vertical ascending – for those qualified and permitted.
It was a beautiful but quite warm “be sure and put on sunscreen and grab a bottle of water” early fall day as we made our way into the park. The rocks here are estimated to be 290 million year old and took eons to mold, fall, morph and erode into their current uniqueness.
Not surprisingly, in the context of millions of years, they pretty much looked the same as on my last visit 50 plus years ago when I remember photographing them with a box camera and black and white film.
One of the highlights of the park has always been The Balanced Rock where EVERYONE stops to take a photo.
One tidbit of info provided there was the story of a entrepreneurial photographer who in about 1890 realized the photo worthiness of The Balanced Rock and bought the site and some surrounding land for $400.00 He charged 25 cents to take this souvenir photo in the days when precious few visitors would have had a camera of their own. To enhance the experience, he had props available including burros. In the early 1900’s the photographer claimed one burro had already been in 53,000 photos. Being the ever-minded businessman, he eventually built an on site studio so that he could quickly develop the images for the buying public. He also constructed a concession area so his clientele could get something to eat and drink while waiting for their prints to be processed.
I figure with the two iPhones and two Nikons we were using, in today’s dollar, we would owe about $236.25 for the number of images that we took. In time, as more visitors acquired cameras, he built a wall around the rocks to prevent any “free” photos from being made, and a 25 cent admission charge was put into effect.
After several decades, the private ownership became public, and the entire park has remained free ever since. A very nice info/visitor center lies across the highway from the entrance and is worth the stop. We ate lunch there, and our food was quite tasty, very fairly priced, and the view from the deck was like a free, delicious appetizer.
While cruising through the park, we did not see any formations or rocks that looked like gods. No Venus, Apollo, Thor or Zeus. But we might have seen reminders of an unknown, third tier set of down to earth gods there. You know, Rocky, Cliff, Clay, Stoney and Sandy. Their evidence was everywhere. Just my weak attempt at some “dirty” humor.
We are so glad we went and toured The Garden of The Gods. It is easily accessible, obviously affordable, and a great and valid reason to get outdoors and enjoy something different and interesting. And if you go in the next 10, 20, 50 or even a million years, it will probably look a lot like it does today. That, in itself, is reassuring.