Monday, July 11, 2016

Garden of the Gods

T has an awesome Godmother who lives in Colorado Springs. She's really good about giving him presents for his birthday and xmas that are things they can do together (she's also very generous) and this year she got him a season pass to Cave of the Winds. That season pass entitled them to ride the Terror-dactyl, plus all of the other things the COW offers, including media to go with their adventure. We scheduled Saturday, July 9th, for the trip to CS to meet up with her so the boy could go have fun.

It was a great opportunity for me to do another ride that has been on my bucket list. We arranged with K to pick her up at 8:30, packed the trailer the night before so all we had to load was Ashke and water, got the boy out of bed at a criminally early hour, fed and settled in the truck, then headed south.

The only part of this ride I was dreading was the drive. We took I-25 straight south to CS and then (despite being given different directions) we took Hwy 24 West to Manitou Ave. Then we maneuvered around in a small square and turned onto Garden Drive. This looked like the most direct route using the highway for as much as we could. J did not want to have to drive the horse trailer through the park in order to reach the trailer parking area (of which there is only one). About a quarter mile up that road was a sign that said "no trailers, RV's, big trucks" use a different road, which did us absolutely no good, considering there was no way to turn around at that point. J was grousing about why that sign hadn't been on El Paso road prior to us turning onto Garden Drive (which is where it should be) when we reached Balance Rock. The road out of the park is nice and wide, running between Balance Rock and the Sandstone Rock on the other side of the road.

This is the approach from within the park.
See that big rock on the left side of the picture?

We turned between the big rock on the left and another rock right next to it on the south side. It was tight and very narrow. J spent a good five minutes maneuvering the truck and trailer between the two rocks, asking for a little more space with each breath. I was not allowed to move, speak, watch or breathe, as she did so, since any action on my part meant more tension for her. We both think the rocks moved back just enough for us to get the truck and trailer through. The problem was made even more difficult by a car parked just as you exited the passage way, which J cleared with less than an inch of room. The tires on the trailer cleared the rock with less than an inch. Both J and myself were shaking with adrenaline by the time we were clear and heading for the trailer parking lot. I really wish I could have gotten a picture of the space we drove through, but I was too busy holding my breath.

The parking lot is paved and hot. There is no water available at all on this ride, so for anyone thinking they want to do it, bring water with you. I booted Ashke's front hooves, since he has been very tender on them and I was very happy I did. The review I read said boots or shoes were not necessary and Eddy did okay, but Ashke would have been very footsore by the time we got back if I hadn't. Can't wait for shoes.

Tacked up and ready to go.

J taking a picture of me while I'm taking a picture of her.

J's first picture of the rocks.

One of the other things we didn't realize about this park is that there is only a fairly small number of bike paths for J to ride. In order to get to them, she had to ride on the road and we had to ride on horse trails to the far east side of the park. We located a parking lot to meet at and K and I set off to meet her there.

There was no flat.

Ashke was very excited and a touch looky.

Inline cavalletti

Lots of rocks to look at.

A lot of sandstone slick rock.
Those white patches are from trail horses scraping the rocks with their shoes.

More rocks.

K and Eddy led about half the day.
Eddy is part mountain goat.
Most sure footed animal I have ever been around.

Ashke struggles with Eddy in front, but we are working on it.
I hate the S-hack. It has left rubs on the under part of his jaw both times.

Skeptical ears.

The views are stunning.

We found J at the parking lot where we expected to, after I fought with Ashke for fifteen minutes or so about letting Eddy lead on a wide trail. There might have been a lifting of the front feet off of the ground and lots of leg yields back and forth across the trail. He had been okay until we met up with a group of stable riders and then had to leave them. That combination was too much for the Ashke brain and it melted.

He really hated the S-hack as well. I didn't feel as comfortable or safe as I do in a bit.
I think that it was pinching around his face when there was any pressure on the reins, which was causing pain.

We found a great lunch place with both grass and shade.
J was struggling with the heat and the altitude, battling a migraine. 

I tried to change the hackamore around, although I did not take K's suggestion that I create one out of parachute cord. I asked her if she would be willing to trust Eddy to do so and then grinned at the look on her face.

I have no idea why J took this photo.
Ashke ate some grass, some of the red dirt and some of the tree.

Eddy just ate grass.

The view from our picnic spot.

Ashke not really hungry.

The rocks are incredible to look at.

More rocks.

And more.

After lunch, J had to take the road back and K and I rode north around that end of the park, making a big loop.

We did manage a bit of a canter along the trail headed north.


Do you get that there are lots of rocks to look at?

Those cars are the road J was on.

The north end of the park.

J on her bike. We wanted to make sure she got to the top of the uphill before we took off, since she was struggling a little bit with the heat.

Giant column of rock

And then we went downhill.

A very steep downhill, where I spent a lot of leaning back using the front of my thighs to balance myself. My legs hurt a lot on Sunday.

The trail disappeared into the scrub oak.

There was some up.

So, this was an interesting part of the trail. The trail went behind the big tree to the left, next to the two pillars just left of center. The approach was up slick rock and had a small saddle between the pillar an another rock (which is hidden by the tree). I got off and told K that I didn't think it was rideable. The saddle was about three feet wide with a drop off of 2 and a half feet to a ledge, and then another step off about a 2 foot ledge to solid ground. K thought she would ride it until she got to the saddle and then she got off. Eddy was a rockstar and didn't move a hoof waiting for her. We called him Eddy VanHalen after that.

This is the trail we came down on the ground. I could see evidence of the stable horses going up and down it, but I simply was not that brave.

We got back to the trailer shortly after that to find J waiting for us in the shade of one of the trees. We got water for the horses (Ashke drank well) and waited to find out where T was. We were a little bit early but soon realized we would have an almost hour wait due to T and Tia needing food. The three of us wandered over to one of the picnic areas out of the sun to let the horses graze. There had been several groups that had come by to greet Eddy, but I had not engaged. As I've stated earlier, I don't like people petting Ashke and I wasn't interested in answering a bunch of questions (yes, I am a bitch).

While we were sitting at the picnic area, a black family walked up and asked if they could say hi. They had a little boy about four who really wanted to pet the horses. I just couldn't bring myself to say no, or to tell them that Ashke is not fond of kids, or any of the other things I say to keep the public at a distance from my horse. There was no way I would say those words to this family. Not after this week. My heart has been absolutely broken by all the death, by the injustice and the commentary on social media. I could not tell that little boy no. Instead, Ashke and I took a half hour to introduce a little boy to the wonder and magic of horses. He finally got brave enough (after our brief discussion of horses eating grass and him being people) to stand next to Ashke for a photo, and even briefly rubbed Ashke's forehead between his eyes, which Ashke was willing to lower his head to enable the boy to reach him. Ashke was very affectionate with everyone who came up to pet him, in between lipping me and trying to steal my hat. It was like he knew this was something special and for me it was. I really wanted to give them all big hugs and tell them to keep him safe, but instead settled for letting my Last Unicorn spread both peace and love.

I love the look in his eyes.

Loving on Eddy.

I think they will really enjoy being at the same barn with each other.

Tia and T finally showed up and we hit the road at about 3:15. It took us two and a half hours to get home, due to traffic along I-25. Ashke seemed to enjoy the cold water rinse at the barn before being tucked into his stall with a watery mash (98 F at the barn at 6 pm). We were all pretty tired by the time we got home, but the dogs did great with no accidents despite the long day, and I got dinner on in record time. It was nice to mark this ride off my bucket list and to know that I won't want to repeat the experience any time soon. For whatever reason, I do not like the feeling I get from the earth there: maybe because it is such a tourist trap, or it wasn't sacred in the past, or it's not being tended now, or it's too close to Manitou Springs. I don't know. I just know it was too far and not enough fun to do again. There are other places I like better.

What Tia and T were doing while we were riding. From their perspective.
T had texted J "I'm gonna die".

Watching their faces as it happened the first time.
My son makes me laugh. He is so funny, with a dry, sardonic wit.

The guy who was running the ride was counting down from 10 and let them go at 3.
T is saying "He lied" as they go screaming down the canyon for the first time.
It is a 200 foot drop to the canyon floor. The ride hits 185 mph in the first swing.


  1. There is so much fun in this post! I love it all. What a great day for everyone. =)

  2. I've been to that park. I really liked it. But I was on foot, not a horse. I wouldn't want to ride over that slick rock.

  3. Gorgeous, love all the rocks! But I know that feeling of why you don't like it. I ride at a place like that, I call it Disneyland. For me it's just a little too manicured, too organized, to be a true "outdoors" experience.

    But that amusement park/experience for your son, that place looks super fun!

    Oh, and thank you for letting that family have some time with Ashke. The world needs more nice moments, and sometimes it is the little ones that make a difference.