Note: This is slightly off-topic to mountain living and relates to a recent road trip.
Pikes Peak looms above — its 14,000+ feet of craggy rock casting a shadow, like big brother peering from above. But as I drive ever closer, something in the immediate foreground catches my attention. Large, red slabs of rock — more reminiscent of Utah’s canyon country than Colorado’s high alpine peaks. They are like slices of an onion jabbed into the ground – slabs turned on their sides, their red and orange hues catching rays of the setting sun.
Garden of the Gods is a magical place that attracts those seeking outdoor recreation in various forms — hiking, bicycling, and especially rock climbing. I’m not much of a rock climber, and even I gazed upon them, longing to ascend their lofty heights. Because its craggy walls are so in demand by the climbing set, you must apply and receive a permit before embarking.
My goal for this evening is to get in a good run. So I start on a 4-mile loop that encircles these various slabs, rocks, and other shapes. As I make my around, I see the various different angles, as well as the weird formations given names that belie their odd shapes –Balanced rock, Siamese twins.
On this temperate March evening with blue skies, temperatures of 65 degrees, and cool breezes, I am not alone. A quick scan of the parking lot indicates both locals and tourists are enjoying the beauty of the Garden of the Gods. And all of us owe a debt of gratitude to the family of Charles Elliott Perkins.
Perkins purchased 480 acres back in 1879, some of which included present day Garden of the Gods. I’m sure back then, it was a desolate, forlorn place, of no particular interest to most. The town of Colorado Springs was a mere eight years old and not much of a town. In 1909, his family deeded the land to the City of Colorado Springs, with the stipulation it would be a free city park in perpetuity.
As I take in the dramatic views on this March evening, I ponder what a great legacy Mr. Perkins and his family has given us. With Colorado Springs’ population approaching half a million people, I have no doubt that the land now occupied by this park would have been developed with houses and condos — a prime real estate developer’s dreams. No doubt that if the family had held on to the land and later sold it for such purposes, they could have made a great deal of money.
But instead, he left an enduring legacy of this unique place — a legacy that allows us to marvel over its geological features and natural habitat, and a different type of beauty unique to the Front Range. Thank you for your foresight and your generosity, and the gift that keeps giving to those of us who are starved for nature in the midst of our urban environments.