You know all those places you always mean to get to that are nearby to wherever home is for you?
And then 20 years go by, and you still haven't gotten to them?
I've decided to actually start visiting the places on my "tourist" list for Colorado Springs, the surrounding areas, and Colorado more generally — which is quite long, thanks to years of working at the Colorado Springs Independent — and report back here as to whether they're worth the trek or not.
Meet my new series: "Travel local."
We'll start today with Paint Mines Interpretive Park.
Worth visiting? Yes.
Worth visiting more than once? Yes.
Worth it for non-locals too? Yes.
Pets? Leave the pups at home. They're not allowed.
Musical inspiration for the trek? The self-titled album by Tow'rs.
Paint Mines Interpretive Park is perhaps one of the coolest local places I've visited in many, many years. Owned and run by El Paso County, the Paint Mines are located east of the Springs, near Calhan, about a 40-minute drive from downtown. Your ride out will be punctuated by rolling hills, black and white cows, and if you're lucky, some pronghorn. That's about it.
Which is why the Paint Mines are such a surprise.
Park at one of two lots (the one closest to Calhan has a restroom facility), take a peek at the map to figure out where you are, and jump on the trail. Within a 15-minute hike toward what's labeled "formations," you'll start seeing out-of-place-looking rocks. Then large swaths of geological formations, including spires and hoo-doos. Colors in the rock range from black to white, and a whole variety of reds, pinks, oranges and yellows. It's stunning, really. (American Indians used the colored clay in their art way back when.)
Wander four miles of trails on the 750-acres — it's easy hiking, but bring hats, water and sunscreen. There is a distinct lack of shade out here. And leave the pups, bikes and horses at home; they're not allowed on the grounds. (Though we did see a guy hiking with a parrot on his shoulder.)
Right now, there are lots of wildflowers out and about the Paint Mines too, and I imagine with all the rain we've had, it'll stay that way for awhile. If you're so inclined, take your camera and plan to spend some time not just shooting the rocks, but photographing a wide variety of blooms too.
I give the Paint Mines two thumbs up, so my recommendation is to get out and travel local!