Monday, July 7, 2014

Garden of the Gods

Kali and I began our 2014 Colorado getaway in Colorado Springs.  The most frequently visited attraction in the city is Garden of the Gods, a large city park with impressive red sandstone formation.  The "garden," which contains the most photogenic rock formations, is actually a fairly small part of the park, which encompasses a valley in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.  There are red rock exposures on both sides of the valley, but the more interestingly eroded fins and spires are on the eastern side of the valley.
The park is very heavily visited.  Kali and I arrived about ten, but but the time we left there were hundreds of people swarming over the grounds.  The trails through the most interesting formations are paved, and visitors are confined to the paved trails by attractive post-and rail-fencing.  If the trails weren't paved, the crush of visitors long ago would have eroded the walkways into unsightly, dusty ruts.
A rock climber (in the crack on the lower right)
Technical climbing is permitted on the rock formations for skilled and experienced climbers with a permit.
"Kissing Camels" 
A pair of Prairie Falcons (Falco mexicanus) had established an aerie just below the opening in the "Kissing Camels" formation (not visible in the image above).  By the time of year we visited, the chicks had fledged and joined their parents in soaring flights among the rock formations.  I did manage to get a (very distant and too dark) image of one of the adults when it perched.
Prairie Falcon adult (perched on the rocky knob dead center)

After we toured the "garden," we decided that we wanted a hike away from the crush of people, so we walked the 0.75-mile Gateway Trail to the Visitor Center.  There was almost no one on this trail, and we had an opportunity to enjoy some nice vistas and wildflowers.  We would have liked to walk more of the park's trails, but by the time time we had walked to and returned from the Visitor Center, it was early afternoon and very hot (our hottest day in Colorado), so we decided against additional exploration.
Yucca flowers
A meadow alongside the Gateway Trail
Pike's Peak, 33rd highest of Colorado's 14ers (14,000+ foot high mountains)
Another view of Pike's Peak, with the western wall of the Garden of the Gods valley


packrat said...

Impressive images, Scott. I especially like the "Kissing Camels" and I love the last panoramic shot. I've been through Colorado Springs several times, but never got to the Garden of the Gods; Dr. K visited the park once, though.

robin andrea said...

Nice to see these photos. I lived in Colorado for four years, but never made it south from Boulder to Colorado Springs. Beautiful red rocks there.

Carolyn H said...

It looks beautiful. The light and clarity is stunnying.

Scott said...

Packrat: Thanks for the compliments, Packrat. I appreciate them, as always. The "Kissing Camels" are even more obvious if the viewer steps back a few hundred feet (or observes them from even a considerable distance away); they're impressive and really live up to their name.

The Garden of the Gods is rightfully the most visited attraction in Colorado Springs, but it was very crowded. I intentionally left as many people out of the images as I could, but as a result the images are not truly representative of the crush of humanity in the park.

Scott said...

Robin Andrea: The Garden truly is impressive. It would probably have been a long day trip from Boulder, but it would have been worth it. With the interstate system speed limit at 65 (or 75 in places), you could probably make it to Colorado Springs from Boulder in a little over two hours now.

Scott said...

Carolyn: We were fortunate to be able to capture these images in the morning. By the time we left about 1 p.m., clouds had started to move in, and the sky was perceptibly more hazy than in the morning.