Mountains, Dwellings, and Gardens

Note: I meant to post this in October, but I accidentally left it in Draft status. Oops! Anyway, here’s the second part of our trip to Colorado. The first part is here.

Manitou Springs is just as beautiful in the morning as it is at dusk. Instead of neon lights, it’s the sunlight on the mountains that settles the soul. On Saturday, October 12th, Samantha and I started our day with breakfast. Not all breakfasts are remarkable (though it’s the best meal of the day, any time of the day) but the little place we dined at near our motel was literally worth writing home about.

Friends, Uncle Sam’s Pancake House is the bee’s knees. We arrived near 8:00 AM, which just beat the morning crowd. It seemed like everyone else that came in was known by name; some of them had their drinks waiting for them by the time they’d parked their car and come inside. Everyone was super friendly. Although I’m not normally a pancake guy, it would’ve been dumb NOT to get some with my normal bacon ‘n eggs. It was the right decision; EVERYTHING was delicious. Samantha and I were both very happy; in fact, it ended up being our best meal on the entire trip.

Since we’d started our day so early, we made it to the nearby Cliff Dwellings right at opening. These Puebloan structures were actually from the ‘Four Corners’ area in far southwestern Colorado, but in the early 1900s they were relocated and rebuilt as a museum. We got to walk in and around the structures, which made it easier to picture what life must have been like back in those times. The Anasazi Museum on-site had a lot of interesting artifacts and displays which further told the story of that particular native culture. The complex is well worth the small entry fee if you find yourself in the area.

Not far away was our next destination, Garden of the Gods. I’d visited a few times over the years so I felt like I knew what to expect…but I did not expect to encounter the fifth annual Fossil Day celebration. The place was packed! After doing a loop in the car, we finally found a place to park so we could take a short hike. It was shaping up to be a beautiful, sunny day and although Samantha had twisted her ankle at the Gorge on Friday we took our time to enjoy the scenery and a few quiet moments among the crowd.

Next on the list: Buffalo Bill’s Grave. It’s on Lookout Mountain in Golden overlooking the Denver area. I was surprised at how many Spanish-speaking families were on-site; I wouldn’t think a wild west-era showman would hold much appeal for that demographic. When Bill died, there was a dispute about his will and final resting place. An older version stated he was to be buried in Cody, Wyoming (a town he founded) but his most recent will stipulated burial in Colorado. Bill was buried on Lookout Mountain beneath several tons of concrete to prevent theft and relocation. On the surface, though, it’s simply a beautiful stone marker near a curio shop and museum.

We had a 40 mile drive to our next destination in Nederland: a 1910 carousel! The Carousel of Happiness began its life at Saltair Park near Salt Lake City, Utah. There it stood for nearly 50 years before it was moved to a nearby school, where it served local amusement needs for a few more decades. In 1986, someone bought all the wooden animals, leaving only the frame and mechanism. A Vietnam vet bought what was left and moved it to Nederland, where he spent the more than two decades hand-carving new animals. Today the restored carousel provides joy to new generations, complete with music from a cool 1913 Wurlitzer band organ. We took a ride, of course, and it was magic!

We stayed overnight at the Eldora Lodge, a quiet little motel nestled nearby on Coal Creek Canyon Road. A quiet mountainside evening was just what I needed; of course, the personal hot tub didn’t hurt either! The next morning, we ventured to Boulder to have tea at the Dushanbe Teahouse, a gift to the city from Tajikistan. What stunning craftsmanship!

The tea was excellent and the atmosphere was a delight; you can read more about the teahouse here. Suffice to say, if you find yourself in Boulder you should stop in. Downtown Boulder was a lovely place for a walk, too, with a great pedestrian mall and the scenic Flatiron mountain range in the distance.

Our last evening in Colorado was spent visiting our friends KC, Nancy, and their pup Spencer. KC is a photographer/videographer I met at a Route 66 festival some years back and relish any chance we get to visit. It was a lovely evening on the back patio, sitting around the chiminea telling stories. It was the perfect cap to our long weekend in Colorado.

About rhysfunk

Rhys Martin was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1981. In 2009, he sold everything he owned and left the country, living out of a backpack for ten months. He discovered a passion for photography while traveling throughout Southeast Asia and Europe. After returning home, he looked at his home town and Oklahoma heritage with fresh eyes. When he began to explore his home state, Rhys turned his attention to historic Route 66. As he became familiar with the iconic highway, he began to truly appreciate Oklahoma’s place along the Mother Road. He has traveled all 2,400 miles of Route 66, from Chicago to Los Angeles. He has also driven many miles on rural Oklahoma highways to explore the fading Main Streets of our small towns. Rhys has a desire to find and share the unique qualities of the Sooner State with the rest of the world. Cloudless Lens Photography has been featured in several publications including This Land, Route 66 Magazine, Nimrod Journal, Inbound Asia Magazine, The Oklahoman, and the Tulsa World. In 2018 he published his first book, Lost Restaurants of Tulsa. Rhys loves to connect with people and share his experiences; ask him about enjoyable day trips from Tulsa, locations along Route 66, and good diners or burger joints along the way.
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