I have always had a longing for the mountains.
It is true that I have never been much of a “beach person”, always preferring cooler climates to the hot and humid. I can appreciate the calm of island life and thoroughly enjoy an early-morning walk along the beach, but the grandeur and majesty of millions of years of plate-tectonic activity are so alluring and inspiring to me. If I ever left Missouri, I believe I would travel Northwest.
On a whim I purchased heavily discounted flights to Denver during a Southwest Airlines flash sale. The trip was both to celebrate the end of a busy season of photographing weddings and to explore the Rocky Mountains – something I have never seen before. In fact, the only time I had ever been in the state of Colorado was during a layover en route to Los Angeles. And to my dismay – the mountains are far from Denver. I couldn’t have seen the mountains from the airport, anyway.
After excitedly booking our flight and securing an Airbnb in Colorado Springs, I anxiously awaited our trip to the Centennial State. Taking in recommendations from friends and scouring the internet for things to do, I found that there was simply too much to see over our three-day visit. I decided to stick with a few staples: Rocky Mountain National Park, Garden of the Gods, Pikes Peak and Manitou Springs.
We arrived early in Denver on a cool and misty fall morning. We wandered around the River North Art District (referred to as “RiNo”) and ended up at Crema Coffee House to hash out our day’s plans over some stellar lattes. After taking in the city views and enjoying our desperately-needed caffeine, we traveled West to Estes Park and to the base of Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP).
As we approached Estes Park, my sense of wonderment started to kick in as the landscapes became more and more dynamic. We intended to explore RMNP but due to the persistent rain, opted to tour Estes Park and the entrance of RMNP instead. We saw several elk while there. It was beautiful.
Garden of the Gods
The next morning we set out to explore the Garden of the Gods. Following a hearty breakfast and nice chat with our waitress at Over Easy we drove towards the park. As we approached the park entrance, I literally gasped.
These photos look nice, but they can never recreate the feeling that overwhelms you as you first lay eyes on this amazing place.
It was a personal goal to capture incredible sunrise and sunset photos while in Colorado Springs, but we were met with rainy, drizzly and foggy weather conditions. Initially defeated at the lack of sunshine, it did not take long to appreciate the interesting conditions the fog produced as it rolled across the landscape.
Crafted millions of years ago, there are many interesting geological formations within the park, most notably “Balanced Rock” and “Kissing Camels“. Garden of the Gods was primarily inhabited by the Ute people, a tribe that supposedly lacked a historic migration – I can understand why. I think that if I had found myself here, I would not have a desire to leave, either. Uncovered stone hearths and Petroglyphs dating back nearly 3,000 years indicates the gardens were revered as a sacred place by its inhabitants and visiting tribes. Interestingly, Garden of the Gods (originally referred to as “Red Rock Corral” by visiting Europeans) was purchased by American-born railroad magnate Charles Elliott Perkins in 1879 and upon his death, was given to the City of Colorado Springs.
Later that day, we briefly hiked in Red Rock Canyon, where I was able to capture this image of the distant Garden of the Gods.
On our last day in Colorado Springs, we wanted to experience the Pikes Peak Cog Railway, a 3-hour (total) train tour to the summit of Pikes Peak. Located in the quaint and charming town of Manitou Springs, the Cog Railway Depot was founded in 1889 and officially opened in the late Summer of 1891. We boarded the Leadville Train Car to experience an exhilarating ride to the summit.
Along the way we saw a few adorable marmots and bighorn sheep. As we reached the summit, the effects of the high altitude were readily apparent. I had difficulty concentrating and my head was aching. It was cold – just under thirty degrees. I truly regretted not having gloves, and after taking in the enormous views we retreated indoors to grab some coffee and their “special” donuts.
I can honestly say that, despite the rainy weather, Colorado is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. I was consistently in awe of the surrounding landscape. It’s hard to imagine having a bad day; you would only need to look around you to be uplifted. This was the first of what will hopefully be many visits to this beautiful part of our country.
I may or may not have already be plotting ways to retire in Colorado.
Technical: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV DSLR Camera + Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM, EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM
Lindsay Blum is a St. Louis, Missouri-based travel photographer who enjoys spending her free time sipping on lattes, observing the skies, and adventuring outdoors to photograph Missouri’s wild and diverse beauty.
This article was re-published with permission (and gratefulness) on Resource Travel Magazine.