Perched on red rock, a climbing novice’s mild, short scramble up to a sloping seat with a view above one of the main hiking runs in Red Rock Canyon Open Space in Colorado Springs. It wasn’t intentional. It was a hike with a pause that turned into thoughts.

A pause and perch from where I didn’t want to distract passersby, people who might feel watched, their roving bubble through nature popped.

Hiking Red Rock Canyon Open Space | Manitou Springs, Colorado

Seen and Heard | Hiking the Quarry

Birds convene … Are they arguing, chittering about food, arguing about who stayed out too late the night before or whose turn it is to … whatever? I’m not a bird-ologist. But I hear them. Lots of them. They are birds …

Two chipmunks chase on the trail below. U-turn into the bushes. Back onto the trail. Into the bushes. Onto the trail. Gone …

A lone hiker, a middle-aged+ woman with a colorful hat dominated by pink crunches the grind of gravel with every step through the quarry. Unaware of my seat, my eyes, ears, thoughts …

Three women with long dark hair pass through the quarry, Nalgene quart water bottles in hand. Laughter. Companionship. One stops to read the trail sign, loudly cluing in her hiking partners, “We’re on the Quarry Pass Trail.” Unaware of me …

The one who briefly lagged to read the trail post quickens her step to catch up to the other two, saying, “My goal is to one day run through here.”

“What?”

“My goal is to one day run all these trails.”

“You’re crazy.” …

A mountain biker crosses my view in the mid distance, heading south, right to left across my elevated view. He’s gliding down trail, cutting across the slope on the other side of the swath of green between there and me. His wheels turn, his legs crank, my view of them mostly obscured by the growth of the season punctured by the gray, scraggly, bare trees that no longer green up with spring …

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Two men and a woman pass through the quarry, discussing how to get back to their car. I wonder, “So soon?” Then realized: I don’t know that it’s soon. Onward …

Three women with long dark hair, the same three as before. They had descended the Quarry Pass Trail and up the other side, on the far side of the green swath, erasing fragments of the mountain biker’s tracks. I didn’t look up from my notes to see them. I already knew their voices. Their volume.

A man, sweaty from his effort, walks the bending trail through the quarry passing below my view with his black Labrador Retriever on leash …

Another mountain biker, this one closer, passing just beneath and grunting his way on the short flat between the terraced remnants of red rock blasted and hauled for history and longevity in area architecture …

All unaware of my perch, my eyes, ears, thoughts.

I rarely stop to sit in Red Rock, either relishing my own grunts and breaths on a mountain bike, or running or hiking the miles of amazing. I rarely encounter others, even on the most lot-jammed days when cars line every road into the joint. There are the miles enough to do that, to get lost in yourself and nature.

It turns out the quarry is a well-used pass. At least on Saturday morning in summer. My perch has become a place I start to feel uneasy, an unplanned voyeur. Yes, I sat and observed for 15 minutes, maybe 20.

I’d meant to sit and tap up my meditation app on my phone (Headspace, I recommend) and close my eyes for a 10-minute breathing sesh. But I’m an observer. A thinker. A writer.

And so my thinking continued with this …

hiking Red Rock Canyon Open Space | Manitou Springs, Colorado

6 1/2 Things I Love | Hiking Red Rock 

1. Mountain viewsPikes Peak, Garden of the Gods, Manitou Incline. The vast sky. I’ve yet to figure out why the sky here, semi-surrounded by mountains is sodamnbig. Compared to Missouri, where I spent so much of my life. Or at least St. Louis, where I spent the 12 years of my life prior to moving to Manitou Springs.

2. The reminder I’m not in Missouri anymore. Red Rock is one of my go-to spots for outdoors awesome. It’s a few minutes’ drive from home. That proximity fits into my regular life, my pre-work kickoff to the day with fresh air, nature and a reminder that the mountain life in Colorado is so, so swell.

3. The steady feel of the red rocks, the wear in the rocks, the smooth edges worn by time, the cracks of wisdom, the silence, textures, layers … What stories are locked inside? We’ll never know. But I like to imagine the men, women and children who crossed here before here was a known here.

I like to imagine the men who worked these quarries, who blasted them, who ached their shoulders and ankles moving the rock once slabbed and fallen. The men who helped to build this area, who provided for their families, who had no idea I’d one day sit on the whats-left of their labors with the ease of nothing more than thinking, and making notes for writing.

3b. My life is easy. That reminds me: My life is easy.

4. A plane flying overhead with people in it, awed by the view below that I am immersed in. This is my gold mine, my red, mountainous, canyonous gold. Maybe some of them also know this place. Maybe they also visit here at least a few times a week. Or maybe they are only passersover, having no idea the way of the Red Rock Canyon and its goods.

5. Connectivity. Not phones. Trails. From Red Rock to Section 16. From Red Rock to the Paul Intemann Trail. From Intemann to Ute, Incline and Barr. From the peak of Pikes down to South Catamount Reservoir, to Catamount Trail, down into Green Mountain Falls.

I don’t know where from there. I’m not even asking Google at this moment. But if no trail will run you back home — or at least my home — I’ve no doubt a friendly ride the sub-10 miles east to Manitou can’t be too hard to score.

6. Duck landings in the lake. Precision, glide, grace. Nature knowing.

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