Thursday, July 10, 2014

North Cheyenne Canyon

Helen Hunt Falls
After Kali and completed our hike at Mueller State Park (see previous post) about an hour west of Colorado Springs, we headed back into town to shop for Southwest Indian jewelry at the Garden of the Gods Trading Post.  This establishment, located adjacent to the southwest corner of Garden of the Gods Park but not affiliated with the park, has been a fixture since 1907.  The building is huge and the majority of store is an unspeakably tacky souvenir shop.  But an addition at the back of the store (dubbed the "art gallery") contains high quality artwork and jewelry in a refined setting.  Kali had been looking for some "boulder turquoise" jewelry for herself and for a colleague, and the trading post had the best selection we'd yet seen during our travels.  ("Boulder" turquoise is turquoise still embedded in some of its native mother rock, so jewelry made from boulder turquoise tends to have brownish or greenish mother rock shot through with dramatic streaks of sky-blue turquoise.  It's very attractive if well-designed.)  Kali bought a pair of earrings for her colleague and an earring-necklace set for herself.  Very classy.  Our salesperson, a transplant from Lansing, Michigan, was a wonderful, warm, funny and helpful person; I felt great about the whole transaction when we left. 

When we had completed our shopping, we still had a few hours left before dinnertime, so Kali asked if I wanted to tackle a hike at Garden of the Gods.  I told her that I had another idea, and we set out for North Cheyenne Canyon, another Colorado Springs city park set in a deep, narrow eponymous canyon.  At the head of the canyon are two waterfalls:  Helen Hunt Falls and Silver Cascade (or Spoon) Falls.  Helen Hunt Falls, named for a Colorado Springs writer and abolitionist who loved the canyon, is immediately adjacent to the road and has been "loved to death."  It was challenging to get the image of the falls accompanying this post because, most of the time, the falls is festooned with kids.  Helen Hunt's earthly remains originally had been buried near the falls in the canyon, but she was so beloved that her grave site was constantly overrun by people paying their respects, so her family had her remains interred elsewhere.  Poor Helen.  
The stream above Helen Hunt Falls
Silver Cascade (or Spoon) Falls is located at the top of a short (0.3-mile) but very steep trail above Helen Hunt Falls.  The drastically overused trail is in terrible condition, with water bars and wooden steps installed by the city long ago knocked out of place and the trail itself an eroded and trampled gully, but we joined the throngs slogging their way to the top.  Silver Cascade is more of a long slucieway over a huge slab of tilted rock rather than a free-falling waterfall.  It gets its nickname (Spoon Falls) because midway down the slope a rock juts up into the flow, and when there's enough water sliding down the slab this rock forces the water into a fan (the naturalist at the park called it a "rooster-tail") or a "spoon" of water.  There wasn't enough water flowing to create the "rooster-tail" when we visited, and the falls wasn't even impressive enough to photograph.  
View northeastward down North Cheyenne Canyon toward Colorado Springs and the prairie
Nevertheless, the view down North Cheyenne Canyon to the city of Colorado Springs and the plains beyond was almost worth the grueling climb to the top.

I wonder what Helen Hunt would think of North Cheyenne Canyon today.  Perhaps she'd be glad it was protected as parkland (even if it is swarming with people) rather than developed with McMansions with "million dollar views."


Mark P said...

I'm enjoying your Colorado posts. My mother loved turquoise jewelry and bought some every time they went on an RV trip out west. We have a lot of it now, but no one in the family wears the kind that she liked. My father got into it, too, with rings, belt buckles and string tie clasps. I have several buckles myself.

packrat said...

So glad to learn that Helen Hunt Falls wasn't named after the actress. I particularly like that first image, which has a decidedly Japanese-painting/Zen painting feel to it. It's wonderful to have resources like this park readily available to the citizenry, but, as you point out, people often love these places to death. Interesting post!

Scott said...

Mark: One more Colorado post tomorrow--Rocky Mountain National Park--then that's it for this year. Kali loves Southwest Indian jewelry and buys some every time we get anywhere near the Four Corners. And, she wears it, too. I remember a recent post of yours in which you featured some of your parents' turquoise.

Scott said...

Packrat: Every time I hear the name of the falls, I can't help but think of the actress. It seemed that a large majority of the folks using the North Cheyenne Canyon Park were Hispanic. It may be the only "natural" area readily accessible to the neighborhood, so it's undoubtedly invaluable open space.