Day 2 (March 23, 2017 – Colorado Springs, Colorado: “Opportunity Knocks”
It was about 5:10am when I woke up without the aid of the alarm. But when I went to put on my work clothes, I realized that I had forgotten to bring my belt. Fortunately, I wouldn’t be needing it to keep the pants up, but I’m sure it’d look pretty tacky to an impartial observer if they pay any attention to me.
After running some errands to pick up the included breakfast and getting Julie some filtered water, we then drove over to the company’s subcontractor’s site for a critical review. We managed to get there at around 7:50am, and that was when I rocked up to the lobby while I left the car keys with Julie so she and Tahia to go back to the Hyatt House to finish breakfast and then have a free day to visit the sights in Colorado Springs (most likely the zoo over there).
The meeting went pretty quickly as we wound up wrapping it up nearly 3 hours early. So I was actually waiting for Julie since around 1:45pm and it wouldn’t be until about 2:45pm when Julie and Tahia showed up to pick me up. It turned out that they only had a little over an hour at the zoo, and so we rushed to get back to the Hyatt House so I could get changed, and then we zoomed over to Seven Falls so I could do the hike while Julie and Tahia would go back to the zoo to experience more of that place.
It was sort of a fortunate divide-and-conquer opportunity to get these excursions in today before the blizzard would occur tonight and tomorrow morning. And that early finishing of the review was just the break I needed to allow the Seven Falls excursion to happen on this day.
Anyways, at 2:55pm, we finally made it back to the Hyatt House. Then, I quickly got changed and brought out Julie’s water and meds. And then by 3:15pm, we were back out on the road.
So the divide-and-conquer plan involved driving to Seven Falls, then I’d get dropped off while Julie and Tahia would quickly drive to the zoo. They had to get to the zoo before 4pm, which was the last admission. So time was of the essence.
Anyways, I quickly made the drive all the way to the gate to get into Seven Falls. That gate was only letting employees and shuttles in. So we did a three-point turn, and then parked illegally off to the side of the road so I could get out, get my pack, and camera (which fortunately Julie pointed out to me before I forgot in my rush to get started).
And so by 3:35pm, I started walking through the pedestrian gate, which was open. Meanwhile, Julie and Tahia headed over to the zoo. Hopefully, they’d make it in time as they had less than 25 minutes. Nevertheless, once I was inside the complex, I then went across to the ticket office, where I paid $10 for myself. I guess with Tahia and Julie not coming, that saved me about $15.
Upon gettin the tickets, the lady at the office told me that the 5pm closure time was the time when the “last ticket would be sold”. So I guess if desired, it was possible to extend the stay well past the “closing time”.
Well, staying well past closing time wasn’t my intent. Instead, I was content to just experience the Seven Falls, but I figured that since I was here, I mind as well go check out all of the viewpoints and lookouts as well as Midnight Falls further upstream of Seven Falls.
The paved road and adjacent footpath continued uphill from the gate and ticket office, but the walk itself was fascinating as it was flanked by tall formations that had imaginative names associated with them like the Three Amigos, Hugging Bears, Tower of Hercules, etc. With the late afternoon sun, when I looked back in the direction of the entrance, the cliffs had a nice orange glow juxtaposed against blue skies.
The walk was every bit atmospheric and pretty peaceful as well as the park didn’t seem overly crowded though it did appear pretty busy for a Thursday afternoon. Anyways, I’d eventually make it to the base of Seven Falls at 4pm after walking past the gift shop, the stairs and elevator leading up to the Eagle’s Nest Lookout, and the 1858 restaurant.
Since up at the Eagle’s Nest still appeared to be looking against the sun towards the Seven Falls, I opted to go right to the base of the falls, and then go up the steps leading up to the top of the Seven Falls. It was interesting to note that they named each of the seven waterfalls though I tended to think of them collectively as the Seven Falls as a single entity.
The stairs themselves were somewhat steep but nothing like the Mayan pyramids at Chichen Itza or the Wat Arun in Bangkok where you’d literally had to walk hand-over-feet without the benefit of handrails no less. And so about 15 minutes and 224 steps later, I managed to get to the top of the Seven Falls just past the Ramona Falls. I guess with being acclimated to the altitude at Colorado Springs after yesterday’s experience, going up these steps did make me a little out-of-breath, but I wasn’t lightheaded or showing other symptoms of altitude sickness anymore.
Beyond Seven Falls, the trail then went past a shelter with some signs and a map sign showing that there was a trail leading to Midnight Falls and a separate trail leading to the Helen Hunt Jackson Inspiration Point. I first decided to go quickly to the Midnight Falls Trail and it didn’t take long before I reached the falls at around 4:25pm. By this time, the clouds had already taken over and the sun was pretty much muted for good.
Midnight Falls was a pretty puny waterfall exacerbated by the low flow as apparently Colorado had been experiencing somewhat of a drought. It appeared this area didn’t benefit much from the bombardment of heavy rains that had hit much of California this Winter season.
Anyways, I besides checking out the falls and a small alcove next to the falls, I didn’t linger here much longer and quickly made my way back to the junction with the Helen Hunt Jackson Inspiration Point Trail. There, I followed a few switchbacks as it zigzagged its way up to even higher elevations. When I got up to the straightaway hugging a ledge while also heading to some shelter (with signs saying I’m on camera), I did notice looking to the left that there was a tall waterfall way in the distance as well as some interesting mountain formations.
Beyond the shelter, the trail ascended a bit more before reaching some lookout called Covered Wagon. And then just a few minutes further, the trail then descended past a couple of what appeared to be zipline stations before finally ending up at the Inspiration Point.
At this viewpoint, I was able to get a partial look back in the direction of Colorado Springs as well as the canyon housing Seven Falls and the cliffs and mountains looking all the way to the left where the clouds seemed to have been rolling in.
This viewpoint was apparently said to have been the inspiration for writer Helen Hunt Jackson’s book “Ramona”. I guess that would explain some of the nomenclature of the falls here as well as why they called this lookout “Helen Hunt Jackson Inspiration Point” for indeed this place was where she was inspired to write her work.
I got up here at 4:50pm, and it didn’t take long before I had my fill of this spot. Knowing that Julie and Tahia wouldn’t be long before they’d be out of the zoo, I knew I had to hurry to get back to the falls and check out the Eagle’s Nest Lookout before leaving the facility.
I’d be back at the top of the Seven Falls at 5pm, where I then decided I should take a long movie of me showing all the different waterfalls seen along the way as I was going down the steps in real-time. It might be a bit dicey given how a misstep on the steep steps could be fatal, but I used the neck strap for the camera and ensured that I had at least one hand on a handrail the whole time.
It turned out that I made a 6.5-minute video of the experience, which made for a pretty long and beefy file, but it pretty much captured the entirety of the intimate Seven Falls experience. When I got back to the bottom of the falls, I then went over to the Eagle’s Nest trail, but instead of taking the elevator (I thought I had to pay for it), I decided to go up the 185 steps.
Once I got up to the top, I was a little bit out-of-breath and breathing heavily, but I did get a good workout out of it. Up at this viewing deck, I got the full comprehensive view of the Seven Falls as one giant waterfall with the infrastructure in the canyon down below as well as the tiny people on the stairs adjacent to the falls acting as subjects to provide a sense of scale for the falls.
While I was up here at 5:15pm, Julie texted me and said they were leaving the zoo. The timing was pretty good as I was going to head out of here the moment I had my fill of this view. And so after spending a few minutes more of documenting the experience, I was about to text Julie the photos before my iPhone inexplicably died even though it was nowhere near drained.
After having my fill of the Eagle’s Nest View, I took the elevator back down to the bottom (in hindsight, I should have taken the elevator up and the stairs back down) and then I caught the $1 tram at 5:25pm, which took me back to the entrance gate. I didn’t have to pay the $1 as the lady at the gift shop said that I was good as the shop had closed for the day.
Next, I waited for the complementary shuttle to get back to the parking lot near the Broadmoor, and by about 5:45pm, I was finally back at the car park before the Golden Bee Restaurant, which was right across the street from the larger parking lot for the Seven Falls shuttle.
When I caught up with Julie and Tahia again, Julie was making a call for a reservation at the Rabbit Hole, which was a place that my coworkers had recommended after having dined there last night. In the mean time, Tahia and I were taking photos in front of the impressive facade of the Broadmore Hotel. There were other fancy homes and hints of the Rocky Mountains in the distance in the background, but with the clouds already well overhead, there wasn’t much color to the scene, and so we didn’t linger here for long after taking our obligatory hotel shots as well as Tahia shots.
So as Julie made 6pm reservations for the Rabbit Hole (and it was already about 5:50pm), Julie quickly picked us up, and we were headed for dinner straight away. We’d eventually get to downtown Colorado Springs and find free parking near a city park, and then we walked for a couple of blocks to the Rabbit Hole entrance. And once we got all the way down to the underground restaurant at 6:15pm, we were seated and then we could finally relax over dinner.
The dinner turned out to be quite good though it was a lot of food because Julie got her filet mignon steak while I decided on getting a butcher’s block, which was a bit assortment of the meats that the Rabbit Hole was famous for. Tahia and I shared most of the Butcher’s Block while Julie also had a few bites of my stuff at the risk of aggravating her rashes.
Eventually at 8pm, we were back at the car fully stuffed from this evening’s meal, which pretty much lived up to the hype. About 15 minutes later, we then drove right over to the Trader Joes not far from the Hyatt House, where Julie could make one last quick grocery run and get a couple more waters just in case. Tahia also had to make a really urgent potty run after not telling us that she had to go until we were just getting onto the I-25 after leaving downtown Colorado Springs.
At 8:40pm, we finally made it back to our room at the Hyatt House. By now, the skies still seemed benign though it seem like the winds were picking up. The storm still hadn’t come yet, but we knew it was coming eventually. Having never been in a snow storm since our first Mammoth trip together back in 1999, it made us wonder if we might have issues trying to get back to Denver tomorrow evening.
Speaking of getting back to LAX from Denver, Julie and Tahia were successfully able to check in to their flight, but I wasn’t. Apparently, my reservation was not in the system anymore. And so I had to call customer service to see what was going on.
Once I got connected with an agent, I was told that my reservation was cancelled because I was a “no show” for my earlier flight from LAX to Denver on Wednesday, which clearly wasn’t true. I don’t know why they cancelled the original booking (though I suspected that the original United agents really wanted to make an example of me for some reason), but now they charged another $250 to re-issue my ticket for something I never cancelled myself.
So the grand total for these erroneous change fees was now about $638 and change. I sure hope our company could stomach these charges on the expense reports because if it was my own money, I’d be royally pissed. I guess this experience told me that the customer service on United Airlines was very bad, though I wasn’t sure if it was a United thing or something that was just consistently bad across all the domestic carriers.
This was the biggest reason why flying domestically sucks, but then again, I’m sure everyone has had a horry story concerning airlines at one point or another. I guess this would be my horror story, especially if my work doesn’t eat this cost. All I know is that on the expense report, I’d have to put in TSA-related delay and uncooperative United Airlines agents as the root causes for these exorbitant change fees.
Anyways, it wouldn’t be until about 10:30pm that I got my confirmation that the ticket had been re-issued and I’m good to go for tomorrow. Good thing I called because I’d otherwise be stranded in Denver without this being resolved. I guess the ripple effects of the drama that occurred on Wednesday morning could still be felt even on this night.
Boy those agents on that fateful Wednesday morning really seemed to have it out for me for some reason…
And with that, it was time to finally sleep and probably sleep in for tomorrow morning knowing that we’re probably going to see quite a bit of snow. With no activities planned for the day other than to get out of here and to the airport further to the north, it was time to get cleaned up and rested while seeing what happened during March Madness on this day…