Plains to Peaks
After mountain road closures due to snow and ice, rain, chill and morning frost along Colorado’s Front Range the day dawned with crisp blue skies. A halo of clouds hugged the shoulders of Pikes Peak. A day too perfect to stay home and attend to chores.
We headed southeast of Denver to Castlewood Canyon State Park outside of Franktown. The park straddles five different life zones from short grass prairie and caprock to coniferous forest and riparian. The mixed shrubland has begun its autumnal color transformation. We drove the unpaved road along the west side of the park from CO86 to Lake Gulch Road. The route passes the Lucas Homestead Historic Site, the popular Westside Trailhead and the ruins of Castlewood Dam which burst in 1933 flooding downstream Denver with a 15-foot wall of water.
On our way out to CO87 we passed a yak farm. As Bob snapped a few pictures of the long-haired Asian bovines I noted the farm’s website – www.greeneggsandyak.com. We didn’t stop to purchase either yak or eggs but I did come home and visit their web pages. Now we’re intrigued and Bob’s ready to try yak.
Avoiding Interstate travel we skirted Colorado Springs on the east and were amazed at the growth and development.
Our next destination was one of Colorado’s newest state parks, Cheyenne Mountain, south of the city west of US115. A stop at the “crown jewel” Visitor Center gave us a bit of history and information on the facilities and trails. Twenty miles of joint use (hiking/biking) trails span terrain from grasslands to mountain slope pine forests. Campgrounds and picnic sites are nicely situated among scrub oak and mountain mahogany.
Hungry tummies directed us to Conway’s Red Top, a Colorado Springs classic famous for their burgers filling a 6-inch bun. Never fear, you can order a half burger. We split a half cheeseburger and a half Senor Red Top with jalapeno and pepper jack cheese. Bob indulged with a cherry milk shake so thick the spoon was much more useful than the straw.
We chose the pastoral, foothill horse country between Palmer Lake and Sedalia for our homebound journey. Peaceful and unhurried we happily left behind the aggression of I-25 traffic, soaking in mountain views bathed in autumn sunshine and color.