Garden of the Gods is Colorado Springs’ most popular tourist destination. It got its name when Rufus Cable, a young poet, said “Why, it is a fit place for the Gods to assemble. We will call it the Garden of the Gods.”
I have not seen many gods come by since then, but it is now a fit place for groups of tourists taking Segway tours and herds of stay-at-home moms speed-walking through the trails. I have always lived within ten miles from the Garden, but it became a meaningful escape a few years ago.
The night before my first day of high school, my older sister became my tour guide through the park. We stopped at every parking lot and pulled off and she told me her memories of each one.
Juniper Loop (the main road through the park) was like a scrapbook of her time in high school. The handicap parking lot was where she had her first kiss, pull-off number four was where she got to know her best friend, and High Point was where she celebrated her eighteenth birthday with her first cigar.
Garden of the Gods is more than just an attraction; it is an emotional landmark for her young adulthood.
Juniper Loop had the same importance to my high school years as it did my sister. My favorite memory of the park was last year when I had first joined cross-country. We jogged down to Garden of the Gods and then ran through the uneven rocks and trails that would only fit one person. It was drizzling and foggy, like a scene out of a horror movie, but it was a refreshing feeling. The rain stung my cheeks and washed off all the sweat and emotions of a long day at school. Even though there were about thirty of my teammates running in front of me and behind me, I didn’t see anything but the muddy ground moving beneath me.
Few of the visitors in the park can say they have felt moved by the Garden as much as I have. First dates, break ups, and friendships have all happened under the watchful eye of the Kissing Camels. Garden of the Gods is a place people visit and they take pictures of the rocks. My pictures are not of the rocks, they are of my life in front of these rocks. Garden of the Gods is not a place I visit; it is a place I live.