Mission San Juan, December 30, 2017

Mission San Juan, December 30, 2017
Mission San Juan, December 30, 2017

Sunday, July 16, 2017

A Tropical Rainforest...in Colorado? Part 2 - Friday, June 16, 2017

Once we were cooled off and educated about Castlewood Canyon in the Visitor Center, we headed to The Old Stone Church Restaurant in Castle Rock for a gourmet lunch. Susan and Darren had eaten there before and rated it highly.

Stained glass in The Old Stone Church
Stained glass - Mary
Interior of restaurant
History of church, then restaurant

Restaurant interior showing choir loft
Choir loft stained glass
Time to bring on the food. For an appetizer, we chose baked brie with baked garlic and a chutney served with pita bread that was wonderful. 

Baked brie, garlic, chutney and pita
Appetizer gone
We asked our waitress to leave the appetizer plate. Susan and Darren wanted to soak up the remaining juices with their fries.

For lunch, Susan M. ordered a cheeseburger and fries, Darren ordered a homemade veggie burger and fries, and I had mountain trout topped with crab served with jasmine rice and a side salad. We each loved our food and, like magicians, we made it all disappear!

Darren's homemade veggie burger
It was the middle of the afternoon and we still had to check into our motel in Colorado Springs. Our rooms were ready. The motel had a very bizarre layout. To get to our rooms, we had to lug all of our stuff down a flight of stairs, then we could put it on a cart to go up the elevator. The elevator was so small it was hard to get a cart and a person in at the same time. If you didn't want to lug all your stuff down a flight of stairs, you could get a luggage cart and wheel your belongings around through the lobby and make a circuit of the inside halls of the motel to finally reach your room. 

This particular motel had locks on every door: the outside door, inside hallway doors, the pool, etc. It seems they must have a problem with security which became apparent later in the evening. A bicycle/foot path stretched along the edge of their parking lot on the inside of a freeway sound barrier. Homeless people traversed the edge of the parking lot on their way to a local park where they spent the night. Around 10:30 p.m., I had to go to the van to look for an item I forgot to take to the room. There were strange people hanging around and I hurried to get back to the hotel.

But I digress. After we checked in, we headed to Broadmoor Seven Falls, a private waterfall/adventure area owned by The Broadmoor Hotel. Parking (including the tram ride to the entry gate was free) at The Broadmoor Hotel lot specifically for Seven Falls. 

Seven Falls (181') at the head of a box canyon is touted as "Colorado's Grandest Mile." Along the edge of the waterfall, clinging to the cliff face, are 224 steps that will take you to the top where hiking trails await. Midnight Falls is one of the trails and we hiked to that waterfall as well.

Seven Falls is a bucket list item for me. Susan and Darren came along for the ride. With our discounts (senior for me, military for Susan and Darren), it cost $12.50 per person to get in just to see the waterfalls and hike the trails. With the senior admission, you also get a wristband to ride the tram 1/2 mile each way to the base of the falls. I didn't use the wristband because I'm used to walking. 

You could add a Soaring Adventures zip-line tour, following rope bridges and end in a rappel down the cliff.

History of Seven Falls: (information from http://www.visitcos.com)

In 1872, Nathaniel Colby inhabited 160 acres that included the present-day Seven Falls and South Cheyenne Canyon. He sold the land to Colorado Springs Land Company for $1,000.00. In 1882 James Hull purchased the land for $1,300.00 from the land company.

Mr. Hull was an environmentalist and a businessman. He thought the scenic splendor of the canyon was being ruined by people cutting down all the timber. 

Hull understood the value of the property as a scenic destination. He improved the site by constructing a road through the canyon to the base of the falls and put in a stairway alongside the edge of the waterfall. He also put in a toll gate at the foot of the canyon and proceeded to do business. 

Back then, a local entrepreneur paid Hull $500 for the privilege of taking passengers by carriages, burros or horses to the falls for 25 cents each. Business flourished and Seven Falls became a prominent tourist attraction.

From 1905 to 1946, Seven Falls was owned and operated by Melvin Weimer and his wife, Frances.

Seven Falls was purchased by Texas oilman Al Hill in 1946 and was in the Hill family for almost 70 years. In 2011, Philip Anschutz, whose corporation bought the Broadmoor hotel, fell in love with Seven Falls. Anschutz's interest in Seven Falls coincided with that of Hill family members who wanted to find a long-term owner for the property.

The whole canyon and the falls were shut down from mid-September 2013 to August of 2015 due to a big flood that scoured the canyon and damaged the road. The sale of Seven Falls to the Broadmoor hotel took place in April 2014. The Broadmoor planned to spend more than $1 million on rebuilding portions of the attraction before it reopened. [Information from the last two paragraphs is paraphrased from an article in The Denver Post, by THE GAZETTE, updated April 27, 2016.]

The time was 6:00 p.m. when the shuttle bus dropped us off at Seven Falls entry station, and they closed the park at 8:00 p.m. The canyon was already in deep shadow when we arrived.

Hiking the park road to Seven Falls -
Pillars of Hercules ahead
The Three Amigos formation
South Cheyenne Creek
Darren taking the "low road" along the creek
South Cheyenne Creek
Rope bridge on the zip-line tour
The Broadmoor Hotel does a wonderful job landscaping along the roadway where you walk to the base of the falls.

Landscaping courtesy of the Broadmoor

The canyon as we approach the falls
Wrestling Bears formation
Colorado columbine
I  couldn't resist

We have made it to the main attraction - the falls and the stairs to the top! You may have seen these stairs before. Extreme Weight Loss TV show uses this set of stairs as a final test of their contestant's endurance. Now we're going to give it a go...224 steps. I must confess I held onto that railing for dear life!

Yep, that's where we went! All the way up.

Bottom part of falls
Darren and Susan heading up
Looking down from the first platform
Darren and Susan resting -
first platform
Another part of the falls
Darren and Susan by the uppermost

Proof I made it up the stairs
View from the top
Looking down over the canyon
Things to remember. LOL.
450-year-old Ponderosa pine tree
Info about the tree
It was about 1/3 mile to Midnight Falls
Midnight Falls
Colorado columbine

After Midnight Falls we had the option to do a more difficult hike to Inspiration Point and a grave site. Susan and Darren went for it. I decided to head down.

Another shot of the falls
At the bottom, I waited, and waited, and waited for Susan and Darren to come down. I walked back to the tram and decided to meet them back at the van.They said I was smart for not going with them as the hike was very strenuous and they ended up having to come back the same way I did. For some reason, Susan thought that part of the trail went down a different way using an elevator. Nope. They still had to come back down all those stairs!

ALL those stairs
While I was waiting at the bottom, I kept an eye out for people coming down the stairs from the Eagles Nest, a viewing platform of the falls and canyon. If there was a loop trail, Susan and Darren could be coming back down the Eagles Nest stairs or the elevator from the Eagles Nest through the rock down to a tunnel out to where I was waiting.

Stairs to Eagles Nest (way up
near to right in the photo)

In Cheyenne Creek, a water dipper bird lives on small creatures it finds at the bottom of the stream. Water dippers have little membranes that close off their beaks when they're swimming.

I took the tram back to where the van was parked. Susan and Darren arived two trams after me. We headed back to the motel for the night.

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