Driving south from Denver, we enjoyed the gorgeous Colorado landscape that was obscured by thick fog the last time we went down to Colorado Springs. Green fields and bushy trees turned into rolling hills before stretching out to meet the Front Range of the Southern Rocky Mountains. Impressive rock formations dotted the landscape, which kept me from noticing the poor deer who were not lucky enough make it across the highway, as Brian later informed me. We continued past Colorado Springs and arrived at Green Mountain Falls, Colorado.
Green Mountain Falls has an elevation of 7,756' and a population of 640, which is even smaller than the mountain town where I grew up in Washington with a population of 2,116. Nevertheless, it made me think of home, and I was happy to be exploring this little corner of Colorado. We pulled into the parking lot at Gazebo Lake and had no trouble finding a spot. To get to the trailhead, we walked out of the parking lot and turned right. We walked for a few minutes and turned left onto Hondo Rd. There is no parking for hikers on this road. I'd read that it was steep--they weren't joking. It was a hard trek for me just to get to the trailhead. We must have stopped at least 10 times on the way.
At the beginning of the trail, there was a little waterfall surrounded by perfect sitting rocks. After the hike to the hike, it was tempting to stay at the bottom of the trail and enjoy the water, but we decided to keep going. Unfortunately, we walked right pass the trailhead despite reading the sign. We ended up going down the opposite entrance point to another road below. Thankfully, it was still part of the lovely forest and wasn't a disappointing detour. When we realized what we'd done, we turned around in search of the actual trail.
The trail doesn't look quite like a trail at the beginning. It's obscured by large rocks. Once you see it, though, it's fairly easy to follow. We went off in search of a larger waterfall. The forest didn't disappoint. We trudged up and up through the pines. Kiki did very well keeping up with us, although she probably could have surpassed us if she wanted to. We saw a lot of other hikers with dogs on the way.
Having made a detour at the beginning of our hike, and feeling like we'd given it a good effort, we turned around about half a mile from the top. I read that the first half is quite difficult and it gets easier from there. It seems that we gave up just before the easy part, and the beautiful view. We ended up hiking for about four hours overall. I'm determined to get into better hiking shape and go back to finish this hike someday. Once we made it back down to the water, we had a snack and tried to get Kiki to swim. She seems to kind of like water, but she gets a bit anxious about it. She's not quite sure what she thinks about it yet.
Back in the village of Green Mountain Falls, we ate at a local restaurant called the Mucky Duck. Everything we read online said to go to the Pantry, and there is a reason for that. We were unable to eat at the Pantry since it was just closing as we came down, so we went to the Mucky Duck instead. It was a bit of a disappointment. The food was flavorless and not worth the money we paid for it. At least we were able to sit outside with a beautiful view of the tree-covered mountains and daydream about buying a little shop down the street.
On our way home, we stopped by the Manitou Cliff Dwellings. I've wanted to see cliff dwellings ever since I learned about them in a textbook in elementary school. These dwellings were relocated from the Four Corners area where the Anasazi lived and made their home. The stones from a collapsed site were used to rebuild them in Manitou Springs. We'll hopefully visit the larger cliff dwellings in New Mexico and Arizona sometime, but this was a nice little detour and a neat glimpse back into history. The one thing I was not happy with was how many Native American products in the museum gift shop were not made by Native Americans. They did have a few items that were signed by Native artists, but I am of the opinion that everything in a gift shop celebrating Native American history should be made by and profit Native Americans.
Getting out of Denver for two weekends in a row was a treat. Denver is a nice city with a lot of green, but I still love the woods and being away from the chaos of the city. More and more I have been wanting to move to a small town in Washington State. I do like living here, but I don't think it will be my forever place. I think I might have one or two more in-between places before I actually find my forever place, but Denver is a good place to be for now. My job and life in general is good, and we're going to see as much of Colorado as we can while we're here.