Colorado Springs: America the Beautiful

Seven Falls

What’s better than one water fall? How about 7! Plus about a million stairs? Ok, maybe not all those stairs.

Notice all the stairs along side the falls?

Seven Falls is a privately-owned park that first opened in 1880. The series of 7 cascading waterfalls is located in a box canyon that is often called “The Grandest Mile of Scenery in Colorado”.

There’s no parking AT Seven Falls but they do offer a free dog-friendly shuttle service from a near-by parking area.

We walked less than a mile along a paved road to where the falls begin rather than take another shuttle. We didn’t want to miss things like George Washington and a few other cool rock formations.


Jeff’s Jokes: What’s the difference between a hill and a mountain?

Hills have Eyes (I’s)…

At the base of the falls, we found two sets of stairs. We could take the 185 steps up to the Eagles Nest (or cheat and take the elevator) or proceed on to the steps to the top of the falls. We opted first for the 185 steps up (and the elevator back down) and were rewarded with a spectacular full view of all 7 falls.

Next up was the daunting (especially after already doing 185 steps) 224 step assent to the top of the falls. The stairs were so narrow, we sometimes had to climb a little sideways to let the downward-bound pass.

Despite some honest healthy fear, we all made it to the top, including Rizzo!

But that wasn’t enough of an adventure so we then set off for the 1.2 mile hike to Inspiration Point! While we heard rumors of a bear in the area, we didn’t spot him on our trail.

Near the top of Inspiration Point is a plaque honoring Helen Hunt Jackson. The nearby Helen Hunt Falls were named after her as the area was the inspiration for her novel, Ramona, written in 1884 and a huge instant success. The book highlights the culture, heritage and discrimination of a mixed race Scottish-Native American orphan girl of the time.

The hike back down the stairs wasn’t nearly as frightful as we expected, thank goodness!

Pikes Peak

After a day of rest and recovery (and office work), we set out for the drive up Pike’s Peak Highway. As with many of the National Parks, Pike’s Peak is now doing timed entry passes for those that want to drive all the way to the top. The alternative was to park about 3 miles down and take a shuttle or hike up. Once we reached Devil’s Playground, so named for the way the lightening dances from rock to rock during a storm, and the first parking lot at around 13k feet, we felt up to the daunting task of ditching the four wheels for two feet.

Alltrails lists this out-and-back 5.5 mile, 1348 ft elevation gain hike as moderate. I’d say they got this one a bit wrong. The elevation gain was only part of the challenge. The altitude, Pikes Peak is 14115 ft above sea level, didn’t help. And then there was the hard scrabble at the end. The lack of clear path and a true feeling of going where few have gone before (sorry Trekkies), made this a really challenging and incredibly rewarding hike.

Good thing we were able to enjoy the WORLD FAMOUS High Altitude Donuts! I found them truly delicious but Jeff thought they tasted a bit too healthy.

It’s truly beautiful at the top. SO much so that it was the inspiration for Katharine Lee Bates to write America the Beautiful.

Don’t let the cheery faces fool ya, once we got to rest for a while, we still opted to take the bus back down after feeling just a bit light headed and wobbly-legged.

While we may not have spotted Big Foot, at least we were highly entertained by the large population of marmots living on the trail. Rizzo thought it was open season on catching one or two but we didn’t want her to go over the side of a very tall cliff so Jeff kept her on a very short leash.

Mollie Kathleen Mine

After ascending a few thousand feet into the sky, it was time to descend 1000 feet below ground. The Mollie Kathleen Mine tour is billed as America’s only vertical shaft gold mine tour, meaning, you have to descend via a very narrow elevator. It was like Human Tetris fitting 6 people in each car.

I’ve been on a couple of mine tours before but this one was, by far, the best. All of the tour guides are miners knowledgeable about the type of mining that was done under ground. Today, most mining happens on the surface and is much safer overall.

The Mollie Kathleen Mine is maybe most famous for the fact that it was actually claimed by a woman and named after a woman. Back then, women were not allowed to lay claims to mines. It was also considered bad luck for women to have anything to do with mines or even be in the vicinity. So for Mary Catherine (aka Mollie Kathleen) to name the mine after herself was a bold move.

If you think mining might be hard work, consider the story of one miner who went to work in the mines near the Mollie Kathleen and found, after just two weeks, that he couldn’t cut it. He decided to challenge one of the local favorites in a boxing tournament in Cripple Creek, CO. Winning this, and many other fights, Jack Dempsey was a much better boxer than he was a miner!

Next up, Rocky Mountain High (and I don’t mean marijuana).