Today's plan was to explore and acclimate elevation so, armed with a tiny bit of information about what I might like to explore today I set out from Manitou Springs and headed west on US24 to find something interesting!
My first stop was Walmart in Woodland Park. I was thrilled when I discovered there was a Walmart and a Safeway in Woodland Park because if was on my route for today and it didn't involve going back into Colorado Springs! After I picked up a few necessities (and things I'd forgotten!) at Walmart I went to Safeway to get the rest of the food I needed. With the errands out of the way it was time to play!
The next stop was Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. I'd never heard of Florissant until I saw it in a road trip book my mom recommended. It looked interesting and I could get my passport stamped. Can't resist a passport stamp! The area around the fossil beds really reminded me of Custer State Park in South Dakota. There were big green fields with mountains all around. At the visitor center I watched the movie where I learned that millions of years ago there was a volcano nearby and when it erupted it sent a lahar through the valley that covered everything with mud! This mud was what preserved the plants and animals into fossils and created a huge fossil bed. The other cool thing is that back then there were redwood trees in Colorado and the lahar's mud came up their trunks about 10-15 feet and the stumps are now petrified! The tops of the trees fell off and decayed, but the bottoms, entombed in volcanic lahar mud, are now petrified!
After the movie I went out to check out the stumps and other hiking trails. They have 15 miles of trails! More than I was expecting! After the quick 1 mile interpretive trail to check out the stumps I hiked the 2.5 mile Sawmill Loop which took me through lovely ponderosa pines and Douglas firs as well as past meadows filled with wild flowers!
Next I drove down to Cripple Creek, the same road trip book had suggested that this was a must visit town. The town looked a lot like Telluride with its western facades, but it didn't have nearly as much character! They did have a herd of donkeys that apparently roam freely, and ice cream, but the rest of the businesses were casinos.
I made a loop to get back from Cripple Creek, so I didn't have to go back the way I'd come and on the route back there was a state park to check out!
Mueller State Park was my find of the day! Wow! Huge park with a ton of trails to hike. They also have a huge campground 132 sites! If only I'd known, it's close enough to Pike's Peak I could have stayed up there! If I'm ever in the area again, this is where I'm staying!
The visitor center parking lot had expansive views all around! Mountains as far as the eye can see! And these mountains are different from other Colorado Mountains, they are greener, less rocky. Lots of evergreen trees and fields. The rocks that are here are smooth and rounded, not as jagged as the rocks elsewhere.
I didn't have as much time here so I picked a shorter hike. I hiked out Outlook Ridge (trail #7) to a spur trail (trail #9) to a view of the pond and some rocks. It was a very nice trail! About 2 miles, out and back. I could have made a loop out of it it but that would have added a mile.
After my hike I started the trip back. I stopped again in Woodland Park at the Safeway gas station to top off for my trip up Pikes Peak tomorrow. After that I just put the van in lower gear and literally costed back to Manitou Springs! There's a canyon you have to come through with big smooth red rocks on either side and it's got a whole bunches of curves but it must be well built because we all were going 45 and taking the curves and moving along! I wish I could have captured it because it was a fun drive!
Back at the campground I did some chores and cooked dinner! Saving the laundry for tomorrow night so I can leave here with all clean clothes!