Friday, July 22, 2016

A Castle in the Hills

It wouldn’t be summer without my semi-annual trip to Colorado. Once again I spent a
Top L to R: Ice Falls,
Cynthia and Twister at Pikes Peak Lookout
Bottom L to R: Hummingbird at feeders,
Pink Shooting Stars
substantial amount of time at Sunkist Cabin staring at the beautiful mountains, and listening to the chattering creek and the songs of the myriad of birds that make this place home. You’d think that I’d seen and written about it all, but of course I haven’t and I doubt that I ever will. The summer scenery is wonderful, with the rich greens and the colorful wildflowers. Of course, America’s mountain, Pikes Peak, looks a bit different in the summer; there’s not as much snow and the red rock stands out in contrast to the evergreens that dot its lower slopes. Hiking is a bit easier, too, since we could actually see the trails rather than stomp through snow. On our visit to Ice Falls we got to play in the water and see some Shooting Stars; we miss both when the snow is deep on the ground.

This year we visited the grounds of the Glen Eyrie Castle. Glen Eyrie is in Queen's Canyon just north of Garden of the Gods and is owned by a religious group, the Navigators. Our first
Top L to R: Young buck in stream bottom, Guard house
with Garden of the Gods in background
Bottom L to R: Glen Eyrie, Bridge on grounds
stop was, of course, the guard house where we were given a permit to visit the Carriage House with its gift shop and snack bar. Driving toward this area, we passed through lovely manicured grounds and across a rock-paved stream that was currently serving as a pathway for a young buck. Just past the Carriage House, we got our first glimpse of the Castle. This structure was built by General William Jackson Palmer, a decorated Civil War hero, who made his home in Colorado Springs. In the 1800s he brought his wife, ‘Queen’ Mary Lincoln Mellen, to Colorado. Although she wouldn’t live in the castle any substantial length of time because of her poor health, letters between she and her husband indicate that she loved the area. After her death in 1894, due to heart failure, her daughters would return to live there with their father. Palmer only survived until 1909; shortly thereafter, the daughters tried to give the castle to the city of Colorado Springs. City officials declined the gift due to the high cost of maintenance, thus the castle was sold. By 1925 the castle had fallen into disrepair and was for sale on and off until it was purchased by the Navigators in the mid-1950s. For the last 60 years the castle has been used as a spiritual retreat, but it is also open for tours and events. Hopefully, the next time I’m in the Springs I’ll get to tour the castle.

Hummingbird on feeder
There was another treat on the mountain this year and that was the broad-tailed hummingbirds. I kept thinking I was hearing cicadas flying around, but once I spotted the hummingbird feeders I realized I was wrong. These lightning-fast jewels of the class Aves are noisy critters – or at least the males are. The females are almost silent, while the males whir and chirp as they speed through the air. It’s quite astounding to see them fly straight up to an astounding height, then drop like a rock, only to level out and head for a bright flower or a tree limb. Bek says that it’s the males showing off, and she’s probably right. In any case, I spent an inordinate amount of time hanging over the deck railing peering down at the feeders.

One view from Sunkist Cabin
There are ample things to do in the Manitou/Colorado Springs area; see the three blogs Back in the Springs, Springing into Manitou, and Colorful Colorado to find out about other activities. Bek and I ate at our three favorite places and they were just as good as they always are: The Keg (730 Manitou Ave, Manitou Springs, CO 80829, 719-685-9531), The Wines of Colorado (8045 W. Hwy 24 Cascade, CO 80809, 719-684-0900), and Pizzeria Rustica (2527 W Colorado Ave, Colorado Springs, CO 80904, 719-632-8121). Maybe someday we’ll go somewhere different – or not.

Birds in the wind

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