Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center

 

 

20160520_100526So, back in May (yes, I know this is so delayed), my husband and I got to take a trip to Colorado Springs. He had been to the state a couple of times during his childhood, but I had never been except for the few hours when I had to catch a connecting flight somewhere at the airport. I was prepared for a red, barren, parched desert kind of climate. I was pleasantly surprised when Colorado reminded me a lot of Oregon.

20160519_170120The mountains and plains were gorgeous and if it weren’t for the hassle and uncertainty of employment, I would totally have suggested we move there. We were visiting for the weekend to celebrate my brother-in-law’s graduation from Charis Bible College and my in-laws proceeded us in the trip, driving the entire way.

When I found out we were going to Colorado, I immediately did a happy-dance because #1 on my list was to visit the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

I picked our hotel carefully, making sure that we would be a fair distance between the college, my in-laws’ hotel, and the preserve. That landed us in Manitou Springs around Pike’s Peak and the best hotel to stay in was The Cliff House at Pike’s Peak.

20160519_193411Hands-down, this has been the best hotel I have ever stayed in. The service was outstanding. Even the valets were attentive and friendly. The history of the hotel didn’t play much of a factor in my choice of hotels, but I was blown away by it nonetheless.

The hotel was built in the winter of 1873, starting out as a 20 room boarding house for travelers and miners drawn to Manitou Springs and Colorado Springs. Many of its first boarders were trappers and hunters. Later, it became a prime vacation spot for people such as Thomas Edison, Charles Dickens, Clark Gable, Ferdinand Crown Prince of Austria, F.W Woolworth, and many more. The hotel’s halls have display cases of artifacts and herilooms spanning the last hundred and forty-some-odd years since the hotel has been standing. The suites are named after various special guests that had stayed there, such as the P.T Barnum Suite, Teddy Roosevelt Suite, and Henry Ford Suite.

20160522_042641Every turn, I was gapping at the fine decorations, the curtains, the vases, the mirrors on the walls, and when I found out we had been upgraded from a Deluxe Suite to the General John Pershing Suite, I nearly squealed. The room was stunning with its high ceiling and antique furniture. We had a roundish room, so I knew we were positioned in one of the corner towers of the hotel that overlooked Manitou Springs. The bathrooms were fully renovated and featured a tiled shower with body sprayers. I wasn’t too fond of the feature, but my husband loved them. Not to mention the towel warmer rack and the butt-warmer on the toilet. I think I spent nearly thirty minute fawning over the room alone.

20160520_085704A breakfast was served every morning in the dining hall. I was not disappointed. The breakfast buffet boasted gourmet dishes that all tasted fantastic. We were even served hot coffee at our table. The dining hall was also breathtaking, with its tall windows and ornate door casings, crown molds, and other finishing flourishes that gave my husband (trim carpenter) way too many ideas. I admit I got a little spoiled with the white-glove treatment and we had only been there one night!

On our first day in Colorado Springs, we went to The Garden of the Gods with my in-laws. The Garden of the Gods is a national park with free admission to the public to drive through these 300 foot tall sandstone rock formations. I’ll be honest that my first thought was “It’s rocks. I can see rocks at home or on the computer”. No, you can’t see rocks like these at home. It’s really an experience to see these wonderful, nature-crafted landmarks in person. My husband and I had a blast climbing up where we could (and yes, you’re allowed because everyone else and their dogs were doing it). I hadn’t climbed like that since I was a kid and I’d love to do it again.

After browsing through the two gift shops and visiting with family for a while, Jared and I ventured off to the Manitou Cliff Dwellings just about a mile from our hotel and wandered around in ancient, primitive homes of the natives to Manitou Springs. The walk was short and insightful. My husband got a few inspirations for his roleplaying game system that he’s being toying with for while.

That evening, we ate dinner at the hotel and I was blown away again by the outstanding service and incredible food. I stretched myself and ordered the Elk steak. I have never had a better steak in my life. It was so tender and succulent. We later brought my husband’s parents and his brother to the restaurant on our last night in Colorado so they could experience that kind of classy dining.

cliff-house-pikes-peak-2-2So, on Saturday afternoon, we got to go to the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center. Y’all, I have been dreaming about a close encounter with wolves my whole life and I finally got it. Yes, this is surprising, given what I write about and the fact that there is a wolf preserve less than two hours from where I live.

We arrived early to the preserve, way up on the mountains in Divide, Colorado, and browsed some of the gift shop before the tour started. Much of what the tour guide told us, I knew already. Wolves are an endangered species, hunted to near extinction in North America and they are just now starting to make a comeback in the mountains of Utah, Idaho, and Montana. Many of the wolves that the preserve rescues were previously adopted by college students who couldn’t accommodate the high protein diet that wolves need, nor handle their wild nature in their tiny cramped apartments. Others were taken from other organizations that used wolves as tourist attractions or photo sessions for anyone who would pay. They shelter Artic wolves, Timber Wolves, Mexican Grey Wolves, Coyotes, and foxes.

For the first part of the tour, we weren’t able to see any of the wolves in the enclosures, but as we progressed through and some of the volunteers coaxed the wolves out with meat, we got to see the wolves in all their glory. Pictures and nature photographers do not do them justice. If you love wolves and have not seen them in person, even behind the safety of a fence, I highly encourage you to take the opportunity. They are beautiful, majestic animals and it’s a shame that they have earned such a bad reputation in the history of man.

But, the highlight of the visit was when we paid an extra donation to actually get INSIDE the enclosure with the wolves themselves. They were much larger than I expected them to be, and behaved somewhere between a dog and cat. They had the gait and appearance of a canine, with its love for meat treats. But, if they weren’t interested in you or the treat, they had a mind of their own and wandered off after they got bored.

The photographer on staff there took our photo with Keyni and Kekoa. I don’t look the greatest in these, but the wolves outshined me even on my best hair days. I will always remember the way their golden eyes looked up close. If I didn’t love wolves so much on a personal level, this would have been the best chance to do research for my novels. But, since I have loved wolves since I was a baby and learned how to say the word, this was probably the most amazing thing I have ever done in my life and I don’t know what else could top it besides having a baby… But this wasn’t painful at all, so this still may be the best moment of my life. I’d gladly go into debt visiting this place every day. Glad there’s a preserve so close by at home.

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