A Garden of the Gods
Nearing the half way point of a ride across the U.S. we headed to the intriguingly named: ‘Garden of the Gods’ to greet the dawning of a new day.
In 1859 while on the hunt for a suitable location for a new townsite (Colorado City) two surveyors from Denver stumbled upon the sandstone features of the garden: one exclaimed ‘what a fine place this would make for a beer garden’ ‘A beer garden?!’ the other replied. ‘Why this is a place fit for the gods to assemble’. The area was then known as “the garden of the gods’ and the settlement, now ’Colorado Springs’ was established nearby.
The 4:30 alarm rings and we are reluctant to stir, the second alarm sounds and I begin to mobilise; sitting up, I unzip my sleeping bag and slide effortlessly into my riding clothes. This provokes Theron and we begin grabbing our pre-packed breakfast (banana pancakes) and coffee supplies.
We emerge from the basement of our gracious host into the apocalyptic silence of a city yet to wake. We turn on our lights and Theron leads the way as we begin the 40 or so minute ride out of Colorado Springs via weaving bike paths and deserted roads.
As we approach the edge of town the first signs of day seep into being: the night sky reveals the vague blue outlines of a sharp mountain backdrop, and the first shady glimpses of the garden tease at the spectacle that awaits…
We barely utter a word throughout the journey: while our bikes and legs work effortlessly our brains remain resistant, rusty, and are slow to creak into gear. All mental capacity remains focussed on navigation, and the mesmerising spotlights we chase just a few meters ahead of our wheels.
As we approach the edge of town, the first signs of day seep into being; the night sky reveals the vague blue outlines of a sharp mountain backdrop, and the first shady glimpses of the garden tease at the spectacle that awaits. We find our seats (front row) and wait for the show to begin.
In the meantime we sit patiently, and I fire up the stove for that much needed injection of caffeine. But, just as I'm about to pour we hear the faint but unmistakeable sound of grass being torn behind us, turning around, no more than a few meters away: a deer. Noticing us, she freezes, and we engage in a still silent eye contact for a timeless moment. Slowly, Theron brings his camera to his eye, the shutter fires - she is gone.
We return to the view satisfied, pouring ourselves a rewarding hot cup of black. Clasping our steaming cups tightly like a treasured possession, we await the warmth of the suns rays and congratulate ourselves on a well timed excursion. Our less enthused zombie like selves of an hour earlier become a distant memory. Now alert, we are ready to reap the rewards of that initial struggle.
As the light starts to make its way over from the east the show begins to unfold: the dark curtains slowly melt away unveiling a masterful display of natures silent symphony: the dull browns of the sandstone monoliths are suddenly ignited, burning a luminous fiery orange. We watch enticed by the subtle transformations of the display, that was today, for our eyes only.
As the brief intensity of first light fades into day, intrigue encourages us to inspect the forms more closely: I run my hand over their smooth ancient surfaces as I feel the years of experience and resilience taken to get to this stage. Continuing deeper, we begin to weave our way between yet more curious formations as they emerge spontaneously throughout this unusual landscape.
However the suns bliss is short lived, and the day takes a turn for the grey as a cold breeze sweeps us into shudders and storm clouds amass overhead. We sense the danger brewing and a swift retreat is ordered. We begin to turn up the pace as the temperature begins to plummet and raindrops begin penetrating the defenceless weave of our shirts. We flee the park at full pace, frantically attempting to out run both the weather and each other as we engage in a light race back to town. We seek shelter at 'Loyal coffee' for yet another fresh cup of black.
While most of us are not quite as fortunate as the residents of Colorado Springs to have something so dramatic at the edge of our urban environments. There are always places that can reap just as much reward in the dawning of a new day: A spot with a view, a place away from the concrete chaos, where we can sit, watch, and enjoy the fleeting impermanence of that early morning show. All before the first coffees are poured and the autonomous cogs of city life begin to turn.