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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

Garden of the Gods‏

November 11th, 2009 · No Comments

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Colorado Springs and Boulder are polar opposites in their culture.

Colorado Springs has the United States Air Force Academy and Focus on the Family.

On the other hand, Boulder is home to the main campus of the University of Colorado, the Buddhist-inspired Naropa University, more outdoors people and athletes per square mile than any other city, and Jared Polis, the first openly gay man elected to the House of Representatives (Barney Frank of Massachusetts came out after he was elected).

Boulder has a well-deserved reputation as a pocket of liberal political views within a largely conservative state. Some people call it “The People’s Republic of Boulder.”

Colorado Springs, 70 miles south of Denver, is Colorado’s second city with 360,000 residents. Boulder, 25 miles northwest of Denver, with about 95,000 people isn’t even in the state’s top 10.

In one way, however, the two cities are alike. Both have spectacular red sandstone formations. These so-call Fountain Formations stand along the Front Range with Boulder’s Flatirons and its Red Rocks at the northern pole and Colorado Springs’ Garden of the Gods at the southern.

Near Denver are two more beautiful examples of these formations. One is the Red Rocks Amphitheatre, where I was delighted to see and hear Leonard Cohen this summer. The other is Roxborough State Park, where Susan and I explored the Fountain Valley Trail a couple of weeks ago.

Twice before I briefly visited Colorado Springs. In 1953 my family drove through on our cross-control summer vacation. I vividly remember visiting the Broadmoor Hotel where my mother shocked me by buying a small figurine of a nude woman (no longer shocked, I now keep it on my desk). I’m sure that I would remember the Garden of the Gods had we visited it. On my second trip here I rushed through the city en route to nearby Pike’s Peak, where I drove to the 14,115 foot summit.

Especially this year I have concentrated on experiencing our 58 national parks. So far I have I been to exactly half of them — 29 — and visited 15 national parks this year alone. But the Garden of the Gods isn’t a national park. It isn’t even a state park. It is just a little park of the city of Colorado Springs.

In 1879 Charles Perkins, a friend of General William Jackson Palmer, who founded the city, purchased 240 acres of the Garden of the Gods, later doubling the size of the land he owned there. Exactly 100 years ago his children deeded that land to city, stipulating that, “It shall remain free to the public, where no intoxicating liquors shall be manufactured, sold, or dispensed, where no building or structure shall be erected except those necessary to properly care for, protect, and maintain the area as a public park.”

Not until yesterday and today did I explore the Garden of the Gods, figuring that, unlike many landscapes, the season wouldn’t degrade its beauty. I arrived about noon after driving straight through from home in less than an hour and one-half.

Arriving when I did might not seem to make sense for landscape photography. It’s more about light than any other photography, even nature photography. We can capture the beauty of wildlife, flowers, and insects even in the harsh light of midday. But landscapes are the most beautiful in the first hour after sunrise and the first hour before sunset.So the reason why I arrived at the Garden of the Gods just after noon was to plan my shots for yesterday evening and this morning. I needed to see where to be when.

Nevertheless, I carried my camera with me for my introductory walkabout. Just in case.

I was glad that I did, since I captured two of my favorite shots on my first visit.

Click to enlarge

Holding Steady

A Flock of Birds Circled Around and Around this Red Rock

A Flock of Birds Circled Around and Around this Red Rock

Click on image to enlarge
When I returned for the day’s last hour of sun, I knew where I wanted to be — on the west side of the central rock outcroppings. The rock climbers were already there.
Climbing with the Gods

Climbing with the Gods

Birds on Finger Rock

Birds on Finger Rock

"The Three Graces"

"The Three Graces"

Click on image to enlarge
I especially wanted a shot of the “Kissing Camels.” All of the books about the Garden of the Gods show it, some as the cover photo. You can clearly see how this part of the rock got its name in this view from
the west.
"Kissing Camels" from the West

"Kissing Camels" from the West

Click on image to enlarge

For my third visit to the Garden of the Gods this morning I left my motel room about 6:30 to capture the views from the east side of the Garden of the Gods. Assuming that I would need to take morning photos was the reason why I stayed overnight in Colorado Springs. Otherwise, I would have had to get up too early even more me!

Even after scoping out the scene the day before, I was surprised that the “Kissing Camels” were making out in full view from the east.

"Kissing Camels" from the East

"Kissing Camels" from the East

"Balanced Rock"

"Balanced Rock"

Click on image to enlarge
Still, the main reason why I knew I had to photography the Garden of the Gods in the morning was to capture Pike’s Peak to the west in the background.
South Gateway Rock, Pike's Peak, and North Gateway Rock

South Gateway Rock, Pike's Peak, and North Gateway Rock

Click on image to enlarge
My three walkabouts through the Garden of the Gods gave me a good workout. My pedometer says that I walked 15,000 steps yesterday and 2,300 so far today.

My plans worked out. Even the weather cooperated. Just a week ago we got 23 inches of snow in Boulder. And Colorado Springs probably got as much or more because it’s considerably higher (ranging from 6035 to 7200 feet, while Boulder’s elevation ranges from 5300 to just 5600 feet).

But the warm weather since then melted all the snow, except on the peaks. Yesterday’s weather prediction for both Boulder and Colorado Springs was sunny skies and temperatures in the 60s, and cloudy with temperatures in the mid 70s today. I had a little concern that the sky over the Garden of the Gods would be overcast even when I was shooting. The three shots above that I took the first thing this morning show that everything worked out for the best.

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