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10 Cities, 10 Days: Features Editor Katy Ruth Camp's Journey West, Post 4: Arroyo Seco/Taos to Colorado Springs

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Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs

Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs

My PSA for the trip: sunburn in Colorado in the fall is a real thing.

As much as I have enjoyed driving the convertible, a.k.a. the Silver Fox, he played a good trick on me yesterday by fooling me into thinking I could safely go makeup and sunscreen-free on a nearly five hour drive through northern New Mexico and into Colorado. Apparently, the thin air makes it easier for the skin to burn. Oh well, maybe I’ll come back from the West with a nice tan!

After I bid Dyanna and her beautiful Arroyo Seco home adieu yesterday morning, I headed out for Colorado Springs. It was a bright, beautiful day and I could feel my scalp had already taken a beating from the New Mexican sun over my past few days of convertible adventures so, when I saw a Family Dollar open at the bottom of the mountains, I pulled in to get a bottled water, snack and bandana. I’m sure I looked ridiculous, trying to remember how to tie it on over my head, but I figured it out and thus at least my scalp was saved for the next few hours.

After about 20 minutes, I saw a sign directing travelers to Red River and Eagle’s Nest and immediately took the turn. My aunt and uncle, Vicki and Willie Johnson, honeymooned in New Mexico some 20 years ago and, as I was talking to her on Sunday beneath the ringing church bells of Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in downtown Santa Fe, she was saying I should take the scenic route to Colorado through Red River and Eagle’s Nest. By now, if you’ve been reading my posts, you know I’m all about the scenic route so I spent the extra hour or so stopping off and driving through gorgeous mountain ranges and cute little towns.

I was a bit confused by Red River as there wasn’t really a river so much as a small creek but the mountains around it were pretty nonetheless and the shops and saloons lining the road seemed interesting. But after a quick stop to see the river, I drove on through to Eagle’s Nest, which was about 30 minutes from there.

As I came into Eagle’s Nest and was driving through the most gorgeous stretches of mountains you can imagine, Clint Black’s “Ship Comes In” came on the radio and I couldn’t help but turn the volume up, smile and call my Daddy.

 “Maybe I'm only dreaming but it sure seems real

Somehow the wind doesn't chill quite to the bone

Or could it just be the fever I'm running on an uneven keel

Not losing sight of why I'm up here alone”

I grew up on Clint Black, George Strait, Brooks & Dunn, Hal Ketchum and the like so I just had to call Dad and share the moment with him. If you haven’t noticed already, music plays an important role in my life and it has even more so during my road trip. Lyrics have especially become more pronounced than ever and it’s as if I’ve heard some songs for the first time, even though I’ve heard them a thousand times. This awakening makes me that much more excited to see Jason Isbell in concert at Red Rocks Amphitheatre tomorrow night, though I’m afraid I might be that girl in the field tearing up over the first chords of “Cover Me Up.” Oh, well!

I knew I was getting close to Colorado Springs when I spied a giant mountain among others off in the distance. I immediately knew it was Pikes Peak because it was just so majestic. One other thing I saw, though, was what appeared to be rain in the distance. I was planning to walk and hike the Garden of the Gods before I did anything in Colorado Springs so I crossed my fingers that the rain would stay away long enough for me to see the Garden of the Gods – and get the convertible top back on.

Luckily, when I got to the Garden of the Gods, it was cloudy but there was no rain. I did a quick study of the trails map but decided I would just find my way as I pleased.

The rock formations at Garden of the Gods were absolutely beautiful. Their red coloring reminded me of Georgia clay, which made me miss home for a quick second. I walked around for a while until I found a large rock that appeared trekked upon so I climbed as high as I could without getting queasy from the height.

The view from there was gorgeous. I could see mountains, Pikes Peak and these beautiful, natural formations on all sides of me. I am not one for taking selfies or wanting to take pictures of myself but some have referenced my lack of including myself in my photos from this trip so I tried my best to take a selfie from the top of that rock with some of the formations in the background. It was laughable, to say the least, with my wind-torn hair blowing in the ferocious wind and lack of selfie-taking skills. If you follow me on Instagram (@katyruthc) you will see the picture and laugh, I’m sure!

After a few hours of exploring the Garden of the Gods, I headed to my airbnb in an old, Victorian home on Tejon Street. I took a moment to rest then started researching a place to have dinner and a nice cocktail. After some extensive online searching, I found a neat place called The Rabbit Hole, which was a speakeasy-type of place with a booth entrance from the street that led to the restaurant below.

I sat at the bar and began speaking with the bartender. I asked for suggestions and she recommended their grapefruit cocktail, which I loved. As I was perusing the menu for food, I realized it was just me and another guy who looked to be about my age at the bar area. After he closed his laptop, he said something to me so we struck up a conversation. If you know me, you know I could probably make friends with a brick wall so it just seemed natural. I quickly caught his Australian accent and it turns out he had just moved to Colorado Springs the day before as he is part of a group trying to make cricket a recognized sport within the Olympic Games. I had a great time getting to know him and we talked for several hours, although my strong Southern accent and his strong Australian accent were probably funny fodder for the bartender and customers who eventually came to sit next to us.

As I’m writing this, Ryan Bingham’s “Long Way from Georgia” just came on my playlist. How apropos!

“Long way from Georgia

Oh, I'm out on the highway

Well, I have no regrets

Cause I'm a-livin' my way”

I’m going to have lunch today at The Broadmoor Hotel and had hoped to visit Manitou Springs but it is raining here right now so that is yet to be determined. After that, I’m headed to Denver to stay with friends who are taking me in for the night. This time, I’ll remember sunscreen!

Listened to: Brooks & Dunn “#1’s…and then some”

Next stop: Denver

For more pictures from the trip, follow Katy Ruth on Instagram at @katyruthc.

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