We got up bright and early Thursday morning and were on the road by 4am so we could get to Colorado Springs mid-day and still enjoy a lot of the day there. I drove while everyone dozed and it was so peaceful - I even saw a shooting star which I took as a good omen for our trip! We passed beautiful fields of sunflowers, beautiful old churches, groups of the great big windmills and lots and lots of flat land in western Kansas!
The kids were so excited as they began to see the mountains and that right there was enough to declare the trip a success, but it only got better!
Our first stop was The Cave of the Winds in Manitou Springs. The kids have always loved touring caves. This cave was set in the side of a mountain in a beautiful setting and gave the kids their first amazing views. We spent some time taking in the views and touring the cave.
As we finished up in the cave, it began raining. We drove over to the Garden of the Gods and checked out the Visitor's Center, hoping the rain would pass, but after a while, once we were done with the exhibits there we decided we would go ahead to our cabin and spend some time exploring there.
We drove a couple twisting and turning highways and an even more twisty and treacherous-looking dirt road to the cabin we had rented and it was beautiful! We were so lucky to find this cabin still available! The views around it were amazing and we got to truly enjoy the peace of the mountain as we were set on 5 acres. We did some exploring around the cabin, in the woods, ate dinner and crashed hard.
Friday, Bronson and I woke with the sun streaming our windows, fixed our coffee and enjoyed an incredibly gorgeous morning on the porch of the cabin. It was cool enough to warrant fuzzy pajama pants and jackets. We watched little fox squirrels and birds, had hummingbirds buzzing us. Waking to the views we had made it much easier to get up early each morning!
After fixing a big breakfast of bacon and pancakes, we headed out to the town of Cripple Creek - down a winding highway full of breath-taking scenery... Cripple Creek is a beautiful, old-fashioned looking town with lots of historical buildings and tours as well as modern shops and casinos. The first thing we did was take a little steam train tour from Cripple Creek to a ghost town outside of town - the tour was full of the history of the many, many gold mines that were in the area - we learned a lot and got to see more amazing sights.
From there, we drove up to another old mining town, Victor where we arrived just in town for a big thunderstorm so we waited it out in the visitor's center which was also the site of an old jail and firestation. Manning the visitor's center was the sweetest little old gal that had so much knowledge about the area - we had the best time just visiting with her for a while!
We continued to wait out the rain by touring a museum in town and doing a little "panning for gold and gems" at the museum. We scooped panfuls of sand from a trough and panned like the old-timers, collecting little polished rocks and gemstones. None of us came away with any gold, but we had some good laughs and we'll always remember it.
With the rain gone for a while, we headed back to Cripple Creek and just walked the main strip of the town for a while - enjoying some of the shops (especially the candy shop that really liked to give us free samples!) and visiting with some more of the shopkeepers and the look of the town. As we walked, thunder started rumbling again and thunder sounds amazing there!
We did a short hike on the way back to the cabin and got a good look at a huge gold mining operation. It's pretty amazing.
After another home-cooked meal at the cabin, we did some walking around the roads around the cabin - catching plenty of glimpses of deer. Gorgeous. Once we got back in the cabin at dark, we crashed again - getting ready for a couple full days of hiking we had planned.......