The Paint Mines Open Space in Calhan Colorado was our first official stop on our trip. I didn't know much about the place going in, and honestly thought it would just be a pull-off on the side of the road with a cool view. It was supposed to be filler, so the ride from Nebraska to Colorado Springs wasn't too boring. It turned out to be a very fulfilling experience. It turned out to not be a pull-off at all, but a park, and was actually a little bit of a chore getting there. We had to go down a few bumpy dirt roads to a parking lot in the middle of nowhere.
The open space itself was on the other side of a big hill, and we'd have to hike a half mile up hill just to see anything.
I was a little hesitant about leaving all of our stuff in the car in such a remote area, but I guess I kind of have a criminal mind. I couldnt help think that if I were a local criminal, this secluded parking lot frequented by out of state tourists would be easy pickings. My more trusting side convinced me that we'd only be going for a short hike, and that everything would be fine.
Our short hike turned into quite an adventure spanning hours longer than we thought we'd be there.
We ascended the first hill not knowing quite what we'd find on the other side. It was a bit of a struggle, but totally worth it when we got to the top.
There was a nice older couple just coming up the other side, and they were nice enough to give us a map. I had photographed the big map at the beginning of the trail, but we completely missed the box that had the paper maps. Having the printed map was a lot more manageable. They gave us some advice on which way to go, and where the best formations were. We rested for a bit on one of the few benches the park had to offer, then we headed down the trail to explore the rock formations below.
Once we got down to the formations, the hike was pretty easy. We spent a lot of time wandering the paths between the formations thinking someone could get lost in there. We were both pretty amazed at the power of mother nature.
Before long the sun started to drop and the formations were generating too many shadows for me to get any good photographs from the trail, so we needed to move on. We were so pleased with what we had seen so far, and how energetic we were that we decided to continue on the trail instead of turning back the way we came. That probably wasn't the best idea for our first hike of the trip.
We not only failed to put on our hiking boots, but we also didn't bring any water with us, because we didn't plan to be gone long. As the trail lead us up a lot higher than we anticipated, it really wore us out. Before long, our feet started to hurt and we were getting pretty beat down. Not having any water made things worse, but we struggled through and eventually made it to the highest point of the trail which put us back on level ground and gave us a wonderful view of a field of windmills.
From there it was mostly down hill, which was quite a relief despite the remaining part of the trail being longer than what we'd already done. We did get some amazing views of the surrounding area, which made the borderline dehydration more bearable.
Before we knew it, we were making the trek up that first hill again. I remember feeling the anticipation of seeing the parking lot on the far side, and hoping that all of our stuff was still locked safely inside the car. The bench we had originally took our first break on was a beacon on the top of the hill calling out to us. If we could just get up to that bench we'd be in the home stretch.
In the end we ended up hiking just over three miles, which was more of an accomplishment than we had any expectation of meeting on our first outing. We got back to the car, which was still locked up safe and sound, and headed off to our hotel in Colorado Spring.
So, that was our first adventure of many. Lessons learned: bring a map, wear hiking boots, and bring water regardless of how long you think you will be.