When my then-boyfriend, now husband, and I began dating, we started what would flow in and out of our lives as a weekend ritual.
Back then, it involved a trip to Dunkin' Donuts on Centennial Boulevard to pick up a chocolate glazed for me, a lemon-filled for him, and two bottled orange juices. We'd drive south to Mesa Road, ending at the Garden of Gods overlook.
Munching on the sugary treats and slurping down from-concentrate beverages, we'd stare west at the burnt-red Kissing Camels monolith with Pikes Peak looming behind. Conversation would ramble from my latest course on Shakespeare and Chaucer at Colorado College, to his Air Force roommate who liked, annoyingly and against policy, to fry up chicken legs in their tiny shared space.
We dreamed of our future lives at this spot, never imagining that 18 years later we'd still be visiting it.
A few months ago, we brought up trans-fat-free cranberry-walnut scones and mugs full of locally roasted coffee. (Older? Definitely. Wiser? We're trying.) Two sweaty, spandex-geared cyclists sat on the ground, chugging water. A family of five, dogs in tow, posed in matching jeans and red-and-green sweaters for what would likely become a Christmas card photo. They gathered around a memorial rock bench, dedicated with a small brass plaque by the friends and family of Steven E. Merrill: "Life is short ... Ride hard." Another couple stood at the edge of the ridge, quiet, staring at the unobstructed view before them.
It was as it had always been.
Except for the sticks.
At odd intervals all around the open space, were 3-foot-tall pieces of thin wood, fluorescent pink plastic flags fluttering from their tops. On closer look, each had some version of "Point on west line, plot 2," written in black Sharpie.
I looked at my husband. He looked at me.
We visited again a few weekends later. Added to the sticks were pink spray-painted words in the parking area, referring to lot curves and numbers.
Back home I consulted my trusty friend Google. I made a few calls, sent a few e-mails. No one seems to know where the sticks and markings came from, or what they mean.
City spokesperson Cindy Aubrey tells me that the property is owned by the Garden of the Gods Club and the Alinda Hunt Hill Trust, and that the Planning Department is not familiar with any pending development in the area. Billy Peterson, the Club's general manager/CEO, says he's also unaware of anything being done.
Over the years, houses have popped up in the area. The property just to the south has added tall metal fencing and a security system. In perhaps the most somber marking of the passage of time, the Waldo Canyon Fire burn area to the north is particularly visible from this spot.
And yet, the people coming to the overlook have not changed.
How many high school senior portraits have been shot here? How many holiday cards feature families smiling in front of the rocks? And how many tourists have taken photos home with them to be shared with friends and families?
Memories have been made here.
It's possible that these sticks, which as of last week still poked out of the land, do mean nothing. That they're as passing as the decades-long, on-again, off-again rumors about this space. That this spot won't be developed into what I can imagine as two single-family-home properties, shutting down access to the thousands who pass this way each year.
I remember after I graduated from CC, the administration moved three sorority houses from the west side of campus to the east, desiring that prime piece of property in the shadow of Pikes Peak to be shared by more of the student body. The Greeks weren't happy about it — I know because I was one of their advisers at the time — but in the end it was hard to fault the college for wanting more access for more individuals.
I'm crossing my fingers that the opposite won't ever happen here.