Monday, January 19, 2015

Springing to Manitou and Review of Restaurants

View from Sunkist Cabin, Crystal Park
I’ve been to Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs during all four seasons and I can’t decide which one I like the best. This winter I spent a week with my friends, Bek and Mr. Twister, playing in the snow. We always start out in Manitou Springs, but this year was a bit different. We did have a quick lunch but rather than wandering around the streets checking out the small shops, we headed ‘up the mountain’ to Crystal Park. Crystal Park, once a well-known tourist attraction, is now a 2000 acre gated community perched on the side of Mount Arthur (one of the several ‘foothills’ of Pikes Peak). This lovely residential area backs up on the Hurricane Canyon Natural Area with great views of Mount Garfield, Cameron’s Cone, Mount Manitou, Pikes Peak and the Garden on the Gods ~ when there isn’t a snow storm.

Once the weather cleared, the fresh powder offered a chance for us to do some hiking through the snow to a Pikes Peak overlook. Wading in snow up to our knees and Mr.
Top L to R: Garden of the Gods, Palmer Trail
Bottom L to R: Icicles on tree, snow-covered Pikes Peak
Twister’s shoulders was great fun, the lack of wind and bright sunshine making the nearly freezing temperatures quite pleasant. America’s mountain gleamed in the light with the evergreens a dark counterpoint beneath it. A few nights earlier some intrepid hikers had made it to the top despite the snow storm to shoot off fireworks in honor of the New Year. From our perch half way between Pikes Peak and Manitou Springs we also had a great view of the Garden of the Gods. The red rocks were still dusted with snow, but it was quickly melting in the warmth of the sun and the higher temperatures at the lower altitude. Walking back down to the car we noticed that many of the trees were decorated with icicles, making the woods sparkle. And as we headed toward the other side of the mountain we had to stop at Crystal Park Lake. The small lake was frozen solid and covered in snow. We did see some deer tracks crossing it, but neither Bek nor I ventured out onto the ice this season. Since the roads had been cleared we were able to head toward one of the more scenic assess areas to Palmer Trail. This afforded us a rare look down Palmer Trail with no hikers on it.

A day or so later, after another snow storm, we had a few visitors. While it’s not surprising to
Top L to R: Buck, Bucks sparing
Bottom L to R: Buck, Bucks grazing
see herds of deer coming down the mountain looking for water, we were privileged to see two young bucks. These two spent quite a while lying under the trees before going back to grazing on the plentiful grasses. Once they did, something in the air must have tickled them because they began dancing back and forth toward each other. This mock battle continued with gently locked horns, a bit of shoving, and more prancing up and down. After another break for nibbles of grass and other greens, they wandered on off toward the thicker part of the forest.

Moon over pine tree and Colorado Springs
All too soon I had to head back to Dallas, but on the way we had time to visit another of our favorite restaurants in Manitou Springs and to do some window shopping. One delightful shop specializes in products from Turkey that are made by women to support their families. Another has showcases the work of local artists including paintings, jewelry, sculpture and other interesting pieces; my favorite sculpture there was a wonderful bronze rabbit. Shops specializing in beads, paper craft, glass, and souvenirs decorate the main street. Even on this rather cold, misty day we had a great time popping in and out to see what surprises each vendor had.

What we ate…

Crystal Park Lake
Manitou Springs and Colorado Springs cater to tourists as well as natives. There are oodles of places to eat (and lots of places to stay even in the winter) that range from walk-up places to very nice ‘sit down’ places. As the venue varies, so do the prices. As with other rather urban areas, all sorts of cuisines are represented with an emphasis on Mexican and Western. I know that over the years I’ve eaten at some not so good places, but I’ve wiped those from my memory. For information about my rating system, see Reading the Reviews.

Four and one-half Carrots
Pizzeria Rustica (2527 W Colorado Ave. Colorado Springs, Colorado 80904, 719-632-
L to R: Salad, pizza, dessert
8121) is a quirky, funky place to eat. The salad we shared was fresh, and with the dressing on the side we could add as much or as little as we chose. We split their Rustica pizza; all pizzas are made to order when you order. The crust was stuffed with ricotta cheese, the house-made mozzarella was tasty and the vegetables were very fresh. We couldn’t eat it fast enough. The Limoncello Combo desert was a luscious blend of lemon sorbet, balsamic fig glaze, and lemon liqueur; it was large enough to share. Service was efficient, fun, and helpful.

Four Carrots
The Keg Lounge (730 Manitou Avenue, Manitou Springs, CO 80829, 719-685-9531) seems
Buffalo Burger
to have been in old Colorado Springs forever. It’s a great place to pop in for a drink and something to eat. This time Bek and I both got a buffalo burger. These come with a bag of chips and we opted for beer and cider. Both were cooked to our orders and were very tasty. The veggies on the burgers were good, as well. Service was quick and efficient.

Bek and Mr. Twister on Pikes Peak lookout

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