June 26, 2008 News » Cover Story

This is livin' 

Screw 'vacation.' Nirvana's in your own backyard (or close by, anyway)

click to enlarge SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton

One thing we've learned about heading into the wild in years past: You can't spend money in the woods. Assuming you own or can bum the gear, all a backpacking trip will set you back is a half-tank of gas (or less) and the cost of some dried food. (Well, OK, some hooch, too, for the campfire.)

Thankfully, Colorado is still stocked with ample open space, much of it within just an hour's drive. So when thinking about things to do this summer that won't cost you a ton of travel money, we had to put some hiking/biking/camping-type activities on the list.

Even the laziest among us, though, have options. Tasty options. Refreshing options. Ridiculous, and possibly prosecutable options. Hopefully there's one or a few for you in the pages that follow.

By way of confession: We actually did use the term "staycation" and quite often while talking about this story. We don't think we used it outside the office, thus contributing to its record-setting de-evolution from fairly clever to fiercely cloying. But honestly, we can't be sure. So if we did, we offer our sincerest apologies.

However you choose to spend your time and money this summer, enjoy. Oh, one last note: If you do go into the woods, remember that bears can smell minty toothpaste from miles away and can run 35 miles per hour ... just sayin' ...

Why fly all the way to Paris to see Jim Morrison's grave, when you can much more quickly and easily visit the final resting place of Small Faces founder Ronnie Lane? Lane, or "Plonk" as he was affectionately known, recorded and toured with Rod Stewart and tons of other British rock stars. He also put out an album with Pete Townshend, Rough Mix, that's better than anything Morrison ever did. (It's also completely unlike anything Morrison ever did, so refuting my argument is futile.) Anyway, Lane and his wife moved to Trinidad in 1994, where he lived another three years before losing his battle with multiple sclerosis.

The town's Masonic Cemetery is less than a two-hour drive just head toward Pueblo and keep going. And, if you've got time to kill afterward, don't forget that Trinidad is known as the "Sex Change Capital of the World," so, you know, there's that as well. BF

You're sitting in tub of cold water and dreaming of a cruise through Alaska. Pathetic. Drive to Eleven Mile Reservoir, get a day parks pass for $6, and rent a craft at 11 Mile Sports & Marina. You can get a kayak or canoe for $15 an hour or $60 a day, then glide your way through eye-catching rock formations or out to bird-covered islands. Just don't forget to pee first. JAS

You know there's nothing your typical police officer enjoys on a 90-degree day more than fielding the inane questions of a curious local citizen. So schedule a CSPD ride-along and jump in a cruiser. A few tips: You generally need to be at least 18 and neatly dressed; your typical outing lasts for four hours; and "under no circumstances may you be armed with a weapon." Visit springsgov.com to learn how to sign up. KW

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If one of the mandates of a Colorado summer is to get out to the mountains, why not do it as you volunteer? One option to consider is Six in the Wilderness, a volunteer trail maintenance project in the Mount Evans vicinity tackling six different trails with six different crews this Saturday, June 28. If you can't make this one, Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado organizes projects throughout the summer (voc.org). Or, if the great outdoors isn't your shtick, a number of in-town organizations always need help. (Check our Web site for listings.) MM

Perhaps you're a spurned Hillary supporter, or you're looking for an excuse to dread your hair and relive '68. Either way, the party will be in the parking lot at the Democratic National Convention (Aug. 25-28, at the Pepsi Center in Denver). Whatever "man" you've got a beef with, make sure to secure a permit for organized protest via the Denver police (denvergov.org) to avoid spending the night in jail after getting pepper-sprayed. Or, if you'd rather follow than lead, go to tentstate.org to find local convention protesters organized by students at both CSU and CU-Boulder. Bring your own picket signs. MR

Nothing says summer, at least for the unrepentant carnivores among us, than to head out for an old-school burger experience. For the green-chili-obsessed, there's downtown's half-century-old King's Chef Diner, where the chili's so hot that newcomers are warned to try it on the side before consuming a potentially lethal dosage.

But for the classic drive-up burger joint experience, the 55-year-old Cy's Drive In, across from the King Soopers at 19th and Uintah streets, is tough to beat. Why settle for some chain's shallow re-creation of the past when you can get the real thing? Plus, since they serve Ranch Foods Direct beef and buffalo, you can tell yourself you're doing your body a great service by skipping all those hormones, antibiotics and animal by-products. They also fry up their own potato chips and make what's likely the best banana shake replete with chunks of fresh bananas all within viewing distance of Pikes Peak. Now that's healthy dining! Well, probably not, but what the hell, you're on steakation! (Sorry ... ) BF

It's time. You've already waited too long. That one Subaru drivin' neighbor in her righteous Crocs and Earth Day T-shirts keeps givin' you the stink eye and poop-mustache snarl.

Just give in. Xeriscape your yard. Quit wastin' so much damn water on that grass patch that little Timmy stopped slip 'n slide'n on years ago. Get some mulch or rock delivered and hire some labor that you can berate while you pound margaritas in the baby pool. Or, tour the city's Mesa Xeriscape Demonstration Garden to filch DIY ideas. Either way, don't expect sympathy cards for your dead Kentucky bluegrass. MS

Grow a carnivorous plant (as if you really need another mouth to feed). JAS

I was maybe about 6 years old when they hoisted me up on my very first horse, who instantly rose on its hind legs in one of those Lone Ranger poses. Ever since then, I've always been drawn to unruly animals. But that's me.

For those who like their horses to behave, you really need to

go horseback riding in Garden of the Gods (Note: It is a little pricey.). Academy Riding Stables (arsriding.com) offers one-, two- and three-hour rides through a landscape that would make Spaghetti Western characters totally jealous. And since this is a guided leisure trail ride, your horse will automatically follow the ass of the horse in front of it, with a genuine cowboy at the front of the pack to ward off Yul Brenner, Jack Palance or whatever other black-hatted villains might come stepping out of the sagebrush. BF

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Some National Forest areas offer plenty of views, but one very well-kept secret is state Highway 126 going north from Deckers. Sadly, the former campground known as Top of the World no longer is open, because its vistas were no less than remarkable until its closure about a decade ago. But the road has some panoramic turnouts, and trails also are available.

Keep going toward the little town of Pine, until you see Elk Creek Road turning off to the right. Take that winding road for the short uphill drive to Sphinx Park (but don't look for it on the map, because it's not there). Suddenly you'll see the Buck Snort Saloon on your left.

It's truly a relic, with beer, wine, music, pool tables and bar food that for some reason tastes so much better up there. RR

With minimal driving and plenty of extra time, it's possible to find a parallel world stocked with hidden treasures that are invisible to most of us "muggles."

No, we're not suggesting you curl up with a Harry Potter book. Go geocaching and enter a world of GPS-wielding devotees patrolling golf courses, national forests, libraries and other spaces for "caches" stocked with logbooks and objects that a special few regard as treasure.

There are hundreds or even thousands of these caches around here. Some involve elaborate searches and end with caches that can be disguised as golf balls or other inanimate objects.

A global positioning system unit is the only barrier to embarking on hours of joy or frustration, depending on your perspective. Learn more at geocaching.com. AL

Perhaps we don't have Disney-style theme parks in our midst, with thrill rides to create so many memories for the kids. But for the family that can't make it to California or Florida this year, there is one other unusual option nearby. That would be the Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine Tour, beside state Highway 67 just before its descent into Cripple Creek.

This isn't just one of those boring museums. You put on a hard hat and step into one of the cages for a crazy ride, going down 1,000 feet or the equivalent of 100 stories into the mine. You'll see actual gold veins and mine tunnels as well as the kind of equipment used for mining a century ago, when Cripple Creek was a busy city of more than 10,000. This one will cost you $15 for adults and $10 for children 3-12, but it'll be an hour to remember.

Afterward, take the long way home, back through Victor (with lots of mines, some active but most abandoned, along the way) and down Phantom Canyon Road to U.S. Highway 50 east of Cañon City. RR

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Assuming you have the capacity and permission to make such foolish decisions on your own, there are plenty of justifiable reasons to bike Powers Boulevard. Here are just three: 1. The rotaries (or roundabouts) near Best Buy, Dick's, etc. super-fun to circle at high speed. 2. The ability to tear through parking lots at a faster speed than cars stuck in gridlock. 3. Cool little stores in strip-malls nearby. (Try Asiana Market, which offers among thousands of other things nutritious and fun-to-prepare nori for great prices.) KW

Sometimes summer fun just boils down to five easy words and a hyphen: Three-man water balloon cannon. MS

If you don't remember the last time you attended a live radio broadcast taping, slid down a three-story slide and had your kids entertained all day, perhaps it's time to take that expedition to Focus on the Family. The basic visit mandates a 45-minute tour, a stop at Whit End's Soda Shoppe and a peek into the extensive bookstore. Whether you're a Christian-lit junkie or a curious observer, you can hit the latest releases here or peek behind the cover of that How to Make Your Gay Child Straight book.

For wiggle-releasing kids' entertainment, the Discovery Emporium features a puppet stage and Narnia Adventure Room. However, to attend a radio recording and get a coveted glimpse of Dr. James Dobson, leave the kids under 10 at home. The new A-Bend-A-Go corkscrew slide provides a more kinetic alternative to all; there are no age restrictions, only height. MM

If you can't or wish not to make it to a place with a significant body of water, why not build your own triathlon right here at home? Start with a mile of laps in the Manitou Springs pool, for instance, followed by a bike ride through Garden of the Gods to downtown. Then (if it's Tuesday evening), scamper off with the Jack Quinn's Running Club. See how easy designing that was? Now all you have to do is train ... MS

Did you know that you actually have more musical talent than today's average rock star? OK, maybe you don't, but if you can strum and do a bit more than hum, there's no better time to set aside your inhibitions and get thee to an open mic. Just turn to our Playing Around listings to find the night and neighborhood that's right for you, give yourself no more than two weeks to restring, retune and rehearse (any longer and you'll give it up and start jogging or something), and you're good to go. Just think of it as karaoke without the training wheels.

If you're still hesitant to hit the club, you can always stage your own dress rehearsal at Guitar Center just plug into an amp and start wailing. Note: Music store clerks especially love it when you play "Stairway to Heaven." BF

If attending a Christian father-son conference on sexual purity doesn't sound like a great way to see the inside of William Jackson Palmer's Glen Eyrie estate north of Garden of the Gods, think about heading up there for a pot of tea (and more).

Cream teas are served at the castle Monday through Saturday at 2:30 p.m., and formal "Victorian" teas are available Sundays at 11:30 a.m. (Reservations are required, and can be had by calling the Navigators at 634-0808.)

These teas actually offer a number of food choices, but the highlight will likely be the cream tea, which is basically a scone served with jam and clotted cream that, at its best, obstructs coronary passageways merely by sitting on the table. AL

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Buy a foreclosed house and flip it. JAS

Being a miser doesn't mean resigning yourself to acid wash or the dog-print couch you found in the garbage. Get your cheap self some classy threads and thoroughly unstained furniture as you tour the chain of excellent resale shops dotted throughout downtown. Make a day of it: start at HQ Company in Old Colorado City to stock up on cheap army surplus fatigues, basic T-shirts and all the blaze-orange gear you could ever want. Then head east on Colorado Avenue to Eve's Revolution for reasonably priced consignment clothing and accessories. Next, hit up Goodwill Industries downtown for Perry Como records, "#1 Grandma" mugs, and an abundance of other great used gems before checking out the huge Salvation Army on Platte Avenue for more dirt-cheap thrifting. Finish on Academy Boulevard at Plato's Closet, filled with enough rejected brand-name duds that you'll be elbowing Abercrombie-clad teenagers out of your way. MR

"Did y'all have anything like this back in California?" asked the woman next to me at the bar at Buck's Mountain Saloon (in Woodland Park, not to be confused with the Buck Snort Saloon near Pine.) "Well, we did have Buck Owens, but he died," I began to answer as I turned to watch Rosalie DuPree work her magic at Buck's Sunday country jam.

Rosalie is most likely the finest septagenerian full-blooded Native American entertainer currently working either side of the Rockies. She and husband Mike Denver and whoever else is playing along in any given week can be relied upon to provide heartbreaking renditions of "Blue Bayou" and "Pancho & Lefty," plus ribald lounge-style takeoffs like "Help Me Fake It Through the Night." "When you're 70 years old, trust me, I've got to fake it," says DuPree, who worked Vegas before relocating to Divide. She also plays bass, piano, spoons (!) and harmonica, when not wandering through the crowd and guiding folks onto the dance floor.

At the moment of my bar-neighbor's inquiry, the group was finishing up a version of Neil Diamond's "I Am ... I Said," Rosalie crooning the coda, eyes closed, with a reverence that made a song I'd once dismissed suddenly sound heartfelt and meaningful. "Nope," I said, turning back to the bar, "we didn't have anything like this." BF

Cañon City has much more to offer than just the touristy suspension bridge and raft access to the Arkansas River (both good things). Plan a day to visit the Winery at Holy Cross Abbey's tasting room and also the Museum of Colorado Prisons' gift shop. At the first, sample a handful of wines and decide which one you want to buy a bottle or case of to haul home. At the second, purchase a unique arts-and-crafts item made by an inmate. (Seriously, where else are you going to find that?) MS

Hey you know that tattoo you've said you always wanted to get? That elaborate back piece that would be equal parts pop-culture nostalgia and a statement of your moral and political values? The one that would pretty much sum you up in one shot, for passers-by to just get what you're all about? (That is the passers-by that are smart enough to interpret Tony Danza holding hands with an alien who's flashing the peace sign at a rodeo.) I say get that tattoo. It's time you tell this world what you're all about. MS

Almost everybody has been to a Sky Sox game at one time or another, which always has been a much cheaper alternative to seeing the Rockies in Denver. But for the family looking for something different from just baseball, the real treat is going to Security Service Field for nights with postgame fireworks.

And thanks to a favorable home schedule for the season's second half, you have nine choices in the next two months, including a highly unusual five consecutive Friday nights. There's the Independence Day Extravaganza on Friday, July 4, followed by a bonus fireworks display the next night. If you miss the show on July 11, you've got the five Fridays in a row: July 25, Aug. 1, 8, 15 and 22. One more fireworks on Fan Appreciation Day, Saturday, Aug. 23, wraps up the displays.

Just to be sure, it might be smart to call 591-SOXX (7699) and reserve your seats in advance. The prices are $8 for adults, $6 for kids/seniors/military in the upper sections, $11 and $9 in the lower boxes. Go for the better seats if you love the baseball, but the upper areas are just fine for the pyrotechnics (and the people-watching). RR

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I've often wondered how much more fun golf would be if I had a chance of shooting par. So this summer, I may play nine at Gleneagle Golf Club, where a brand-new "family-friendly" setup includes shorter tees and holes that are eight inches in diameter almost three times the size of a traditional hole. Prices for the public range from $14 to $26, but the club will be offering some deals for juniors and beginners. (Thus furthering the "family-friendly" idea, as opposed to my "let a hacker shoot a better score" idea.) Visit gleneaglegolfclub.com for more. KW

Contributors: Kirsten Akens, Bill Forman, Anthony Lane, Mandy Moench, Maddie Rogers, Ralph Routon, Matthew Schniper, J. Adrian Stanley and Kirk Woundy.

If there's one thing that downtown Colorado Springs surely needs more of, it's options for Middle Eastern food ... is what I'd be saying if we didn't already have five options in a three-block radius. Spend a day in the Falafel District and determine who's the real fried chickpea king, dolma pimp and shawarma slinger. On two-hour intervals, go from Heart of Jerusalem Caf to the Pita Pit to the Persian Grill to the Mediterranean Caf to the Arabica Caf and put down some grub.

Walk it off, reflect and then blog your heart and oily fingertips out. MS

Shopaholics: Remember it's not what you spend; it's how much you save. With this bit of wisdom in mind, cure your cravings as you spend a day at the Ross Auction and the Colorado Springs Flea Market.

Ross Auction is open at 9 a.m. every Saturday at 109 S. Sierra Madre St. Be smart. Check out the goods first at rossauction.com. Then walk in, register and outbid your competitors on everything from furniture to collectables. When you've had your fill, head over to the Colorado Springs Flea Market on Platte Avenue, one mile east of Academy Boulevard. You'll pay $1 to get in on Saturday, and $2 if you go on Sunday. You'll need cash, but there's an ATM if you forget. Forage the piles of stuff at vendors' stands, eat, listen to live music, and let the kids play on the inflatable slides. From jewelry to power drills, it's all here, and it's all cheap. JAS

Great eight
There's a reason why something becomes a stand-by. Don't forget to consider:

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. Start with giraffes, then move on to meercats, wallabies, budgies, Pallas' cats (the oldest living cat species), and then the new Rocky Mountain Wild.

Garden of the Gods. If you're scaling the red rocks, rather than walking or running around them, remember to read the rules and register at the visitor center.

Free concerts at city parks. There's close to a hundred city-sponsored shows happening this summer. For the full listing, click on this issue's winner of the longest Web site URL: springsgov.com/units/parksrec/Sports/08%20concert%20series.pdf.

click to enlarge SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton

First Fridays. On the first Friday of every month, Old Colorado City's art galleries open their doors to art patrons. Bonus: There's often free food.

Hike the Crags. For those who know better than to go to the top, you still can enjoy hiking to a basin that's actually below Devil's Playground, then turn back.

Hot springs. Put aside your inhibitions and drive to Penrose, about 35 miles from the Springs, and check out either Dakota Hot Springs (formerly known as the Well) or Desert Reef Beach Club.

Pueblo. It's time we give something to Pueblo beyond our wastewater. Like, perhaps, our patronage?

Mini-golf. We'd recommend Hitt's (3402 N. Academy Blvd.), where it costs just $2 to play a round on any one of three unique, 18-hole courses. If you do this well, you should earn the awe of all the little kids. If you don't, you may creep out the parents and earn a trip in a squad car. Walk that tightrope and make like Zebulon Pike, post-Peak attempt. Dress in your favorite early-19th-century ensemble, dirty your face, maybe scrape up your knuckles, and amble into the Pioneers Museum saying, "No one will ever make it up that mountain!" Point out the window often, making excited references to elk, Native Americans and broken horseshoes. Rant incoherently about "deserters." Harp on the trouble with cooking marmots over open flame. All right, if you want to stay on the parents' good side, maybe you skip that last idea. KW

Near tree line on Pikes Peak's southeastern face, the landscape opens up into sparsely vegetated, slightly rippled, bucolic, high-altitude meadows. The view across such meadows for passengers ascending on the cog railway stretches hundreds of yards before it gives way to dramatic views of open grassland.

It is in such a meadow, roughly 200 yards from the rail line, that were one to stage a bear attack on a backpacker to terrify tourists, I'm sure he would be met with great success.

Required: a rented bear costume, a backpacker getup and a sizeable rock to duck behind until the train draws near. At just that moment, the hiker should dash into the open in a limping skip, shedding his pack and hiking poles with drama. Next, the bear cohort should break cover in a believable, fast crawl and close in on the hiker, pouncing him upon arrival.

Just as the wind carries shrill cries of terror from above, the bear should charge in its direction, leaving the hiker splayed motionless.

Good no, great times.


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