From the gardens of mortals to the gardens of the gods, with stops in between.

As the game of thorns draws to its inevitable seasons end, winter comes after fall after all, we had the opportunity to travel West. From the mild to the wild west we planned our vacation so that gardens, unique restaurants and Tiki bars were available. After battling the monotony of interstate commerce and the never-ending corn field of middle ‘Merika, these islands of quiet and consumption often proved welcome relief. I’m very pleased to say that our gardens absolutely stand up to those I saw. Not in a competitive Our thorns are sharper than your thorns kind of way, but in having a better understanding how much planning and constant work goes into the maintenance and presentation of a garden. Conversely, I was just as often impressed with the beauty and non-planning in the natural arrays of roadside flowers and mountain meadows.

The Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden is an exceptional place with a variety of gardens in a variety of settings. I could go on and on but that’s what pictures are for. Also, in Des Moines is the original location of Fong’s Pizza, if you’re looking for a real Tiki drink and / or a very good pizza, this is the place. Hidden Idol in Denver was the other Tiki bar we got to and is indeed hidden away, but worth the hunt. Adrift, also in Denver, was closed, and there was a tiny place in Estes Park that looked more deserted than closed.

Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs is a beautiful place that is swarming with people in a never-ending parade of vehicles, not unlike an amusement park ride, but through natural wonder instead of exploding monsters. We were part of this hive for a while and got out of the car a few times when we could find a parking spot. I hadn’t been there since the late 1970’s and was very humbled, as I was several times throughout this trip, with how small I felt in such an extremely powerful place. It wasn’t an uncomfortable feeling, just the opposite. It was more of a reaffirmation of place and scale. Part of the near overwhelming sense I feel in mountains is trying to understand a larger then a larger, then a larger scale of time and place.

We had a day hike in an area outside Estes Park, CO known as Lumpy Ridge. I like the desert and more arid parts of the west, but I deeply enjoy being in the subalpine and alpine mountains. When I’m there I do wonder why I left for MN in 1985. I know why, there were a lot more whys than why nots to move, but I do long for mountains and realize this whenever I get the opportunity to return. On one occasion there was something moving in the corner of my eye. I do know that rock-face didn’t move, but it looks like it might have for a moment in its slow, 30,000-year liquid dance that rocks like to do. That one looks like a person sitting, and that one looks like a pile of rocks on top of each other. The trees sneak around slowly too. How many decades were spent finding the right spot to grow into, slowly twisting those limbs or making that graceful curve?

The CSU Flower Trial Garden in Fort Collins, CO, was also very nicely laid out and displayed. I enjoyed how the same flowers were presented in pots and planted rows. 

The Central Gardens in Clear Lake, IA was a great place to stop for a long lunch on the way back home. A wonderful example in every respect of community involvement.

The panorama setting on my camera doesn’t come close to expressing the scale and distance of mountains or the dense variety of gardens, but these pictures are pretty good. The Mtn shots are along Trail Ridge road in RMNP.

Stereotypes of the fictionalized West. We saw Buffalo Bone Cowboy from the road. I know that the lighter tones on his boots are supposed to be shading but they look like bones to me. As we were driving into N. Platte, NE for the night, I was really confused by this. Why would anyone paint a big cowboy to look like this? The dinosaur wearing hand crocheted chaps just down the road made me realize that this was a useless question. The next four pictures are from around Loveland, CO. The drive-in theater and church signs were down the road from each other. The picture of John Wayne was in one of our hotel rooms and the portrait of the guy wearing Chuck Taylor’s in a restaurant. The last picture I saw on an early morning walk outside of Hastings, NE. I didn’t catch the imagery right away.

After we were back home and all of the phone and camera pictures had been assembled together, I was looking at them all in a folder together. I found my eye drawn from this image to that one, seeing similarities and contrasts between particular images. Of the six sets shown here, some have strong contextual similarities and others with nothing in common but seem to match up well. Picture locations are Rocky Mtn National Park and the Greater Des Moines Botanical Gardens.

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