Garden of the Gods and Royal Gorge, Colorado, USA 2006

Colorado has always conjured up grand vistas of natural beauty in my mind for as long as I can remember. So when my wife (Engogirl) was invited to speak at a computational fluid dynamics conference in Denver last year I jumped at the chance to go with her.

Once the conference was over we set off early in the morning and headed south to see the “Garden of the Gods” and Royal Gorge. Because of Engogirl’s profession as engineer we often go out of our way to look at large man made structures like dams and bridges. Royal Gorge caught our attention because it is billed as the “the highest suspension bridge in the world”. We had seen the Navajo bridge in Arizona the year before and that was spectacular so we thought we “must” see Royal Gorge near Cañon City.

 The “Garden of the Gods” lived up to its billing and we spent several pleasant hours walking among the unusual formations until about midday. Royal Gorge is about another fifty miles away (down Interstate 25 turning west along highway 50) from Colorado Springs.   We felt we were getting a little off the beaten track, as we turned down highway 50, the landscape flattened, becoming less interesting, less populated as the tourist traps turned cheesier and grew more numerous.

By the time we got to Royal Gorge we were really looking forward to seeing some spectacular scenery to make up for all the garish billboards that were the harbingers of the eyesores that we had passed by. When arrived at Royal Gorge we were confronted by a massive car park with what looked like a theme park at the end. We were a bit confused; we’d come to see a bridge, not some cheesy “family entertainment”.

We walked down the hill towards the entrance of the park and enquired as to where the bridge was. We were told it was inside of the park and to see it we would have to pay $23 each. I’d heard of “bait and switch” before but this was “bait and gouge”!  We just wanted to see the bridge.  The last thing we both wanted, was to go into a money extracting blender in the guise of an up market carnival. I used to work in the carnival and I’m so over, going on rides, like twenty years ago. The park and high ugly fencing obscured the view of the bridge in a calculated way. It was one of the most cynical and rapacious things that I’d ever come across. I would’ve been happy to pay $5 or $10 to walk across the bridge but I really resented being lured out into the middle of nowhere to be confronted by such avarice just to see a bridge. I was so furious I went up to the ticket box and told them how I felt and stormed off. As we were walking back up the hill we noticed a few people walking off to the right through some bushes on an empty lot. So we checked it out and sure enough there was a stone barrier and you could lean over it and crane your neck to see the bridge. Of course there were no signs indicating this vantage point.

Royal Gorge is as spectacular as the attached park is inappropriate.

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