Sometimes my travels take me to places that elicit an audible response, “my eyes hurt from looking.” Garden of the Gods, Colorado is one such place. If you should journey there, the beauty will appear before you in a continual unfolding as each nuance of light hits the towering rock formations. Around each curve in the road or along every trail, the scenery calls out, “Come, immerse yourself in my beauty.” And so it was that as I spent two weeks in Colorado Springs, I did just that!
Garden of the Gods
The Garden of the Gods is a National Natural Landmark covering about 1,300 acres of sandstone rock formations. These towering rocks reach altitudes of a little over 7,000 feet, though the park itself is a mere 6,400 feet high. To put it in perspective, a journey to the top of snow-covered Pikes Peak will bring you to an elevation of 14,000. You better be drinking lots of water, taking many rest breaks, and using an abundance of sunscreen at those altitudes.
America the Beautiful
In 1893, Katherine Lee Bates joined an expedition up to the top of Pikes Peak. There wasn’t a train or automobile for the journey – just a covered wagon. It was on that trip that she was so overjoyed with the breathtaking beauty that she wrote a poem. We know the poem by the title, “America the Beautiful.”
Though I didn’t sit for any length of time to ponder the words of a poem of my own, I was deeply touched by the beauty. So much so that for the fourteen days I was at the Glen Eyrie Castle, I drove over to the Garden of the Gods at least once each day.
The visitor center at the entrance of the Garden of the Gods Park is well worth your time. The museum, interactive stations, displays, restrooms, gift shop, and snacks make it a wonderful place to start your visit. The staff is both helpful and pleasant.
Visiting the park on weekends and holidays will be a bit crowded. It seems everyone wants to be there, and for good reason. It’s beautiful. I discovered that there is a wonderful overlook parking area just before coming to the visitor center with a spectacular view of the entrance. I was there at sunrise, sunset, and during a rain storm. All the moods of the mountain – breathtaking.
Rock Formations throughout the Park
With names like Balanced Rock, Cathedral Spires, Kissing Camels, Keyhole Window, Steamboat Rock, White Rock, Gray Rock, and so many more, I was intrigued to set out and discover each of them. Many are accessible only by foot traffic – which I was not inclined to do during the times I was there. This would be a great time to explain, I had a pretty severe knee injury during the weeks I was in Colorado, so was unable to walk much past parking lots and very short trails. Every picture on this post was taken with those limitations. The beauty can be easily enjoyed from the car with ample spaces along the way to pull off the road and enjoy the views. Many of the hiking/biking trails are paved.
I saw bicyclists, baby strollers being pushed by moms and dads out for a day of exercise, families with backpacks, and picnickers at almost every table area. The park is set up for maximum enjoyment of this great natural resource.
My journey into Colorado Springs was during the month of May. Being unfamiliar with weather patterns, we were concerned about what to expect. To our sheer delight, the Newscaster reported his forecast for the next few days; “Expect 70 degrees or three inches of snow.” And so it was that the next morning we had the wonderful surprise of seeing the Garden of the Gods under a covering of several inches of snow.
Not Just Garden of the Gods, but God of the Gardens
My time spent in the beautiful Garden of the Gods became a personal, quiet, and meditative time. There were many places that I sat in the car at a pull-off to just sit quietly and look. Look. See. Feel. Experience. Be IN the moment. It is in such moments as these that I reflect upon many thoughts that if written across a page, may seem lofty or somehow intangible to explain.
I wonder if Adam and Eve, the first humans to experience the very presence of God in His beautiful garden, felt some of these things I am feeling. To see Gods handiwork and to walk and talk with the Creator – how much better could it be? Genesis 1:31 states that “God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good.” Perhaps David in writing the Psalms felt the need to rejoice in all of creation – and when he could find no other words said, “Be still…”.
Shades of Evening to Reflect on all the Beauty
As the day comes to an end, the quietness settles around me here in the Garden of the Gods. The birds are calling to each other across the canyons, the breeze is gently stirring the nearby branches, the shadows are lengthening, and I am at peace. I’ve discovered a time and place to step away from routine and be in tune with the God of the garden.
Leaving the Garden
Each time I drove away from one of the beautiful vistas where I had soaked up the essence of surround sound and marveled at the joy of sight, I did so with praises in my heart and a song on my lips. Julie Andrews had nothing on me when she sang, “the hills are alive with the sound of music.” I discovered the words of Isaiah the prophet were as real for me today as they were the day he wrote them during the eighth century, BC. “For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you with singing, and all the trees of the forest will clap their hands” (Isaiah 55:12).
Have you been to the Garden of the Gods? Did you hike? I can’t wait to go again and explore more of the beauty that is there just waiting.