Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Warm Before the Storm

Castle Rock (the rock itself) towers over Interstate 25 (note the bridge)

My town is one of those places that was a small dusty cowboy retreat and rail road stop for many years, about a 5-hour ride by horseback from Denver. 

Over a hundred years later,  Denver grew so large that people began seeking homesites in the wide open spaces, and now Castle Rock is growing very quickly. The outskirts of the big city are only a 20-minute drive on the Interstate. We also have a large outlet mall that is a big draw.

We found our current house under construction just about exactly 2 years ago from today. We wanted a house where "we wouldn't have to climb the stairs to go to bed," as I told our realtor.  We also wanted as much of a view of the mountains as our finances would allow, and a few other lesser requirements.

While we don't have the view from our house that I would have liked, we do have more of one than our close neighbors, and we only have to walk about half a block to see some amazing sights in every direction. I am thankful for that and we enjoy it very much.

Earlier this week we had what our local weather people refer to as "the warm before the storm," meaning a delightfully warm and pleasant day prior to the arrival of a snow storm approaching our way. My plan for the day was to get a lot done in my sewing room, which is large and wonderful but it's in our unfinished basement... a bit of a dreary place when the sun is shining outside and only a light jacket is needed.

the Challenge Steps at Philip S. Miller Park
I abandoned the needle and thread and Food Network to lace up my walking shoes.  We have a new park in town that is huge, the land donated by a wealthy benefactor who is now deceased. Just in the last few months this park has opened, although it is far from completion.

Beloved and I came across the Challenge Steps a couple of weeks ago and I knew I would be back to tackle them. So I drove just a short distance to the park and began the climb. 

Ha! By the time I reached the 30th step I was "sucking air," so to speak. Oxygen is thinner here than at sea level, but I tend to forget that.  

I kept myself to the far right of the stairs so the young and fit could go running past me (running?! really??).  There were no hand rails and to miss a step would put me immediately into brush and brambles, so one pretty much feels compelled to make only the very briefest of stops and then continue up.

the view from the top, looking northeast
There are 200 steps with a rise in elevation of 178 feet. I was pleasantly surprised that the climb took me only 9 minutes, although my knees were literally wobbling with exhaustion when I reached the top. (what was I thinking?!!)  

chairs facing west

Fortunately, there is plenty of room to walk around at the top, and for those needing it, two chairs were placed artistically near the drop-off. 

a zip line station
A zip line station is currently under construction just yards away from the Challenge Steps and should be ready for business by spring or summer ($59 for residents; $89 if you live outside of Castle Rock). It will be interesting to watch people riding those lines, although that's not for me. This impulsive trek up the steps is about as adventurous as I get.

Pikes Peak to the south
I'm up there just for the views. I also like to look across the miles to another high point and to be able to say, "I've been there!" And I have. We drove to the summit of Pikes Peak some 25 years ago.

Sleeping Indian
And I've been there, the Sleeping Indian (also referred to as Devil's Head). Last summer my hiking buddy Denise and I climbed to the ranger station that's at the highest point on the "body" (the stomach, according to the ranger when I asked him).

the snow-covered Mount Evans and the Continental Divide of the Rocky Mountains

And I've been there. Beloved and I had our first date in 1968 on a family picnic at the base of Mount Evans. After lunch we piled into the car to drive to the very top.

Rattlesnake Butte
Now this is a place I've not been to, although it's not for lack of trying. My house is on the opposite side of this mountain. Last summer Denise and I skirted around the base of it, thinking the trail would lead us up but it never did.  

Now I don't want to scale this one because I learned from a park employee that this is called "Rattlesnake Butte" and it is closed to public traffic because there are 2 water tanks up there. 

Snakes. I'm not into snakes.  I don't even like night crawlers. 

We had dubbed the mountain "the ant hill" because that's sort of what it looks like with the loose rock leftover from mining rhyolite (an igneous, volcanic rock that is found in abundance here; we have buildings made of it).

the town of Castle Rock, Colorado
I spent several minutes just enjoying the views and snapping pictures with my cell phone. The familiar dingle of email got my attention and I saw that my mother was trying to reach me. Her email service has been troublesome of late, so she was asking if I had received that message and if so, would I please reply as soon as I could?

It was fun to reply and send her pictures, telling her where I was, on a mountaintop on a warm sunny day, in stark contrast to her location, in a snowstorm in the midwest. 

With a last glance at the town below, I was reminded of a verse that comforts those of us who know the Lord.

For the eyes of the Lord
range throughout the earth
to strengthen those whose hearts
are fully committed to him.
II Chronicles 16:9

Now for the trip back down!
Post Script: there is no cost ($$) for climbing these steps.


  1. Well, I'm really glad you didn't have to pay to climb those steps!! Wow!! Great views though, and thank you for explaining what we were looking at!! I can see the sleeping Indian!! Cool!

  2. Okay, I'm very tired after reading this and if I had climbed those steps I would be panting I'm sure. Such beautiful landscape! Enjoyable post!

  3. Beautiful pics! and I'm proud of you for tackling the Challenge Steps! I would do them with you if I weren't so far away! I'm not sure I like the idea of the zipline right there at the top -- could mean too many people??? We did a zipline in Puerta Vallarta a few years ago & to my surpise, I LOVED it! As much as I am afraid of heights, I felt very secure being connected to the trees as we went along -- I never felt like I might fall, so I could relax & enjoy the views. And the "ride" itself was fun! I'd do it again!! Don't put it on your NEVER NEVER NEVER list!! :-)