Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Day 4: Garden of the Gods, Pike's Peak

Remember my great-grandmother's photo in front of Balanced Rock?
Well, the donkeys are long gone, but the rock is still there, and so was I.

Yes, it's the same rock - it's just fiendishly difficult to try to get the same angle as the older photo. Seems the photographer back at the turn of (last) century didn't have to compete with roads, RVs, and other tourists to get a clear shot.

After we took the photo that was sort of the whole point of the trip, everything else that day was sort of gravy. We decided to see if we could cajole Liza into doing the shortest hike we could find in the park, which was less than 1/2 a mile on a paved trail that's handicapped accessible. Even with the altitude difference, there was no reason she couldn't handle it.

Except that when we got there and parked the car and told her the plan, she started singing a particularly tuneful rendition of "I want to go hoooooome, I'm sick of looking at all these rocks." Honest to god, that's a word-for-word transcription of the lyrics. It was too funny. I gave her a piece of sample candy and pushed her bodily in front of me down the trail.

Once we spotted a bunny near the trail, things got easier, and we ended up doing a longer loop - and she managed most of it from someplace other than on my shoulders. She even did some rock climbing.

After all that exercise we treated ourselves to lunch at McDonalds, which we ate in between pushing Liza on the swings at a local playground. Hint: when looking for a playground in a strange town, the smaller the park, the more likely it is to have good play equipment. The bigger parks are usually mostly ball fields.

Anyway, after lunch we had to decide whether to visit a cliff dwelling, a cave, or Pike's Peak. The weather was so picture-perfect that we decided to drive up the mountain. We grabbed our water bottles (to prevent altitude sickness) and started up.

The drive really is every bit as pretty as the guidebooks claim, with the aspens turning color and the road switchbacking and the trees getting stunted and petering out altogether above a certain altitude.

Liza didn't even make it to the toll booth at the entrance to the drive before she conked out ... which meant that while Jason and I swigged down a liter of water on the way up, she had nothing, and was therefore a bit on the irritable side when we woke her up at the top. Hell, who am I kidding? She's always irritable when she wakes up. This time she was irritable, disoriented, cold, and quite frankly pissed off about the entire situation.

I spent about 20 minutes getting her to stop crying, and Jason wandered around taking gorgeous photos of the summit. I know he's the one who took this photo, because the only snow I saw was a patch the size of the palm of my hand that was near the boulder I was sitting on to rock Liza out of her funk.

Eventually Liza was won over by the promise of a lollypop (sigh) and the view of the cloud shadows on the plains down below. She even stopped sniveling long enough to immortalize the day that Jason decided to wear shorts when it was 39 degrees on the top of the mountain. Okay, he didn't exactly know we were planning to do the summit that day, but still - leave a pair of jeans in the car, dude. At least we all remembered our jackets :)

Since we've been home from vacation, Liza has been asked at least 1,500 times what her favorite part of the trip was. Almost every single time, her answer has been "going to the top of the mountain and seeing the cloud shadows and driving down on the twisty road." She loved the descent, giggling maniacally and urging Jason to go faster around the turns. At some point we told her that if we fell off the edge of the road, we wouldn't stop until we ended up at the bottom of the mountain somewhere near Garden of the Gods, and from then on she wanted Jason to go slower! Go slower!

When we crossed the bridge over the reservoir you saw in the earlier photo, we talked about how people like to go fishing in that lake, and Liza said she'd like to fish there, too.

G: What would you do if you caught a fish?
L: I would make a fish pancake.
G: How would you do that?
L: I would smash the fish and stab the fish and cut it with cookie cutters and put sprinkles inside to make it taste good.

Um, yeah. Might have listened to that Nate the Great ("I, Nate the Great, looooove pancakes.") audiobook a few too many times on this trip.

We stopped at an IHOP on the way back to Denver for dinner that night. There were no fish pancakes on the menu, but it was the first time all vacation that Liza was relatively well-behaved and hungry for dinner. Might have had something to do with the ratio of chocolate-to-pancake on her plate, but by then I could have cared less.

Also - pumpkin pancakes? Should be served all year.


mlf said...

I like how Liza's pose on the rock exactly matches your pose in front of the rock.

Gosh, I miss mountains. I miss fall colors. I miss snow. (The high temperature is now hitting the 70s).

Anonymous said...

Recipe for fish pancakes, a Malasian specialty.