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|Garden of the Gods, Pike's Peak, Colorado
by Carl Burnham
Garden of the Gods Park is a 1300-acre free park at the base of Pike's Peak where the Great Plains meet the Rockies. The area was given to the city of Colorado Springs by the children of railroad tycoon, Charles Perkins. There were many towering red sandstone formations with footpaths winding all through the park that you can explore. The more adventurous can rock climb, though be sure to register at the Visitors Center. Allow for at least two hours to hike around the trails. Be sure to also visit the free Museum of Natural and Cultural History in the park, that tells you about the rich history of the area and the pioneers who first lived here. After a thunderstorm, the area colors and hues of the rocks appeared quite vivid and pronounced.
We next decided to head west to the South Park area to see some ghost towns. We took Hwy 285 down to Fairplay, Colorado. It is a partially winding road until it reaches the bottom of a valley, which is the South Park basin where the old towns of Jefferson and Como are.
I visited the old Jefferson Railroad Depot, built in 1879, now a store. Be sure to stop in, shop, and sample their burgers. We then drove through Como, which is being restored by a private investor. Each of these towns was thriving in the late 1800s during the gold and silver mining rush in the area. In the early 1930s, the railroad line was discontinued to the towns, and the population declined. It was interesting to see the old buildings and imagine what the towns used to look like in their heyday. We saw numerous mountain peaks in the distance, which actually had snow on them.
In Fairplay, we spent the rest of the afternoon at South Park City, which is an authentic restoration of a Colorado mining town between 1860 to 1900. It includes buildings moved from area ghost towns, including a school, saloon, general store, courthouse, drug store, railroad station, and assay office (where appraisals were made on miner "finds"). Plan to spend many hours here so that you can meander through the buildings, and imagine how it used to be. There is also a vintage Denver, South Park and Pacific Railroad narrow gauge steam locomotive, railcars, wooden wagons, and numerous mining memorabilia.
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