As all vacations do, our summer road trip from Santa Fe, New Mexico up and through the beautiful state of Colorado came to a close much too quickly. The day arrived when we were to drive from Colorado Springs back to Santa Fe, and then fly back to our home in Maine from there. Thankfully, the 24-hour virus I’d had the night before lasted just under 23 hours, and miraculously, I began feeling better almost as quickly as I had fallen ill. We left our hotel to another perfectly clear Colorado day and watched as the Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak passed by our car window. At the last minute, we decided to make a right turn and have lunch in Manitou Springs, as the foot of Pikes Peak. After all, it was only about a six hour drive to Santa Fe, and we were not really in a hurry.
Manitou is the home of nine mineral springs in the area, and the name Manitou means “spirit.” Once a popular health center for tuberculosis and other infectious maladies, Manitou Springs is now a popular tourist town with eclectic antique shops, restaurants, and specialty shops that cater to the feel of the old west as well as the modern ideology of multiculturalism. Manitou is colorful, fun, and incredibly diverse. We strolled around town a bit and had lunch at a local cafe. The shops offer something for everone, and at the top of the hill is the beloved Cog Railway that takes visitors to the summit of Pikes Peak – the very railway we were forced to forego because of my illness. Still, our time in Colorado had been wonderful and we were sad to leave.
Finally, at about 2:30 that afternoon, we headed south on Interstate 25 toward New Mexico. I drove while my mother and my two daughters slept and I relished the quiet as I took in the Colorado prairie lands. Other than the fairly decent sized city of Pueblo, the towns are few and far between in that part of the state, but the beauty, although different, is no less breath-taking than that in the rest of the state. I watched as the afternoon shadows across the prairie became longer and longer. It was a mesmerizing site.
We stopped for a break in the quaint town of Trinidad, just north of the New Mexico border. Trinidad is known as the jewel of the west, as it is an unusual town with a Victorian Old West look mixed with the adobe of the heritage from being on the Santa Fe Trail. The surrounding bluffs hug the town with its brick streets and historic buildings. We wanted to stay for a visit, but we had a quick snack, stretched our legs, and then drove on up Raton Pass toward New Mexico. After the steep pass, the highway stretched back out into the prairie lands, and we once again began seeing the famous Pronghorn Antelopes. We saw them by the hundreds, as they stood grazing very near the edge of the highway. Then came the very rare treat when we saw a small herd of elk cross the highway in front of us. They hopped the small wire fence alongside the road and trotted off into the sunset.
We finally arrived in Santa Fe just as the spectacular New Mexico sun was setting behind the mountains in the distance. We were glad to be back at my mother’s house and it was time to pack to go back to Maine. We sat out on her flagstone patio, enjoying the warm evening and bemoaning the fact that the very next day would find us back in New England, amidst the black flies and mosquitoes that are so prevalent in June. Still, our trip had been a special one – a wonderful venture of reminiscing for my mom and me and a new adventure for my two daughters. We had seen so much in so short a time – mountains, wildlife, geological formations, tourist attractions, quaint towns, and most importantly, old friends. We had learned more about the geography of the area and we learned more about each other. It was the perfect summer vacation. We only hoped that one day we could do it all again very soon.