Moving day arrived on Tuesday, September 4, 2018, the 43rd day of our Summer 2018 Tour. We checked in at Garden of the Gods RV Park in Colorado Springs for five nights. We had no problem whatsoever getting reservations. In fact, the RV park never reached full capacity during our time there. We must have entered the shoulder season, that time before and after peak season.
Speaking of peaks, the campground sat nestled below the foothills of Pikes Peak, America’s Mountain, and only three miles from Pikes Peak Cog Railway in Manitou. Unfortunately, the railway had closed due to the need for repairs. Their website now says they plan to reopen in 2021. I hope we are able to make a trip there when the railcars once again traverse the steep grade to the top of Pikes Peak.
Of course, had the railway been running, we would have missed the beautiful drive up the mountain and the many W turns. Vehicles can only drive so far up the 14,115-foot mountain due to the ongoing construction at the top. Parking and shuttles are available at two locations. The first is at the 7-mile marker and the second is at the 16-mile marker. We opted for the 16-mile marker. The less time I spend in the back of a crowded van on a twisty-turny road the better. Motion sickness is not my idea of fun.
When we first arrived at the top, cold seeped through to the bone of my face and legs. Why did I not wear a base layer under my jeans? After a trip to the bathroom and a spin around the gift shop, I walked out onto the back patio and it didn’t seem so cold even though the ground was covered in snow.
With all the construction, melting ice, and snow, we walked gingerly to avoid falling on our butts on the muddy walkways. The need for reconstruction was evident in the condition of the bathroom and gift shop. I’m sure it had been at least 30 years since the building last saw upgrades.
A few people (not pictured) hadn’t planned ahead, wearing flip-flops, shorts, and no jackets or sweaters, in the slushy snow and mud. Crazy.
The views from the peak were the best part of our trip and we saw that the cog railway ended conveniently at the back of the visitor building.
Miramont Castle High Tea
We missed out on tea at the Dushanbe Tea Room in Boulder, so when we saw that Miramont Castle in Manitou served High Tea we called for reservations. They serve the goodies different from what we have experienced in the past. Instead of displaying all the food onto a tiered serving tray, each course comes separately. We started with scones. Then a dish of fresh fruit with strawberries cut to look like a tulip flower, spiraled grapes stuffed with blueberries, and melon balls of cantaloupe and watermelon.
Next came the sandwiches. I liked the fig and chicken Paninis the best. The pickle and mayonnaise sandwich was not as tasty, but I ate it anyway.
Dessert was an assortment of bread pudding, yellow cake with buttercream frosting, and a salted chocolate caramel truffle. I can’t believe I ate it all along with a pot and a half of two types of tea.
Before and after our reservation, we had time to poke around the castle. Contractors Angus and Archie Gillis constructed the building in 1895—adding a wing in 1897—using plans developed by the owner, Fr. Francolon, and his father.
The 14,000 square foot home features 40 rooms, some of which are eight-sided. There is also a sixteen-sided room, a solarium, and arched doors and windows. There are nine separate architecture styles represented in the construction including Queen Anne, Romanesque, English Tudor, and Moorish. With two-foot thick walls made of native green sandstone, indoor plumbing, and electricity the castle was ahead of its time.
Fr. Francolon came to Manitou for its popular healing waters and clean air hoping to restore his failing health. His mother arrived from New Mexico in July 1893, bringing four French-speaking servants because she did not speak English.
It is believed that the Francolons left for France unexpectedly in 1900 taking valuable artwork with them but leaving furniture. They never returned to Colorado.
The Sisters of Mercy, who operated the Montcalme sanitarium nearby for the treatment of tuberculosis, purchased the castle in 1904. After a fire in 1907 destroyed Montcalme, they moved their operation to the castle until 1928 when they discontinued their treatments.
The property then served as a boarding house for the wealthy and a retreat for clergy. It stood vacant until 1946 when it was sold to private owners. Manitou Springs Historical Society purchased the castle on February 17, 1976, and began restoration. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 3, 1977.
Besides a photo gallery, there are five other exhibits throughout the castle including history and displays about the Manitou Volunteer Fire Department and Pikes Peak International Hill Climp, which will hold its 97th Race to the Clouds on June 30, 2019.
Garden of the Gods
We visited and returned to Garden of the Gods a few times during our stay. Our first trip was to the visitor and nature center where they have interactive exhibits on geology, wildlife, and history of the park. On subsequent trips, we hiked one or more of the trails.
The city park, registered as a National Natural Landmark, has free admission. Highlights include red rock sandstone formations that attract over one million visitors each year.
Fifteen miles of loop trails intersect as they wind their way around and through the formations, giving hikers, bicyclists, and horses plenty of places to roam around the 1,364 acres.
Perkins Central Garden trail is accessible for wheelchairs and strollers along its concrete paved 1.5 miles. The city only allows climbing in certain areas with a permit.
We have Charles Elliott Perkins and his family, William Jackson Palmer, and Colorado Springs to thank for public access to these unusually shaped rocks.
A portion of Garden of the Gods was included in 480 acres of land Perkins purchased in 1879. When he died in 1909, his family gave the land to Colorado Springs with the stipulation that it would be a free public park.
When Palmer died, he donated his Rock Ledge Ranch to the city. Today, Colorado Springs parks and recreation staff operate and maintain the visitor center and park.
Old Colorado City
We happened upon a huge farmers market at Bancroft Park in Old Colorado City. The colorful canopies, mouth-watering aromas, and friendly people laughing and talking was a delight to see. Had we known about the market we would not have loaded up on fruits and veggies the day before.
Lunch is what we were after. Bon Ton’s Café looked like a good bet and we were not disappointed.
We both had coffee and the apple streusel pancake. It was so huge it covered the entire large plate. There was no way we could have eaten more. Well, perhaps Jon could have.
Then we spent about an hour scoping out the historic buildings.
It was nice to settle in Colorado Springs for the few days we were there. We had plenty to see and do without driving long distances. This we appreciated after our stays in Strasburg, Lyons, and Rocky Mountain National Park. We saved other attractions for our next visit when we have more time.