My alarm began to blare at an ungodly hour, but I was grateful for it. I was grateful because it was still dark outside and I needed to get all of the way across town to Garden of the Gods before light began to creep over the towering boulders. I chucked the leftovers from the party-for-one I’d hosted into my backpack, scattering my belongings all over the bedroom despite only having one night to do this much damage. Sometimes I surprise myself. Whatever, it was too early for self reflection.
Pulling up to the gardens as the sky began to transform, I was in literal awe. No wonder they called this haven Garden of the Gods. I felt as if I had stepped onto the set of Land Before Time as the jagged rocks seemed to be glowing before the plum-stained skies. Following the paved road until it became a dirt road, I suspiciously looked around me, wondering how I could possibly be the only one here to witness this. If I, the newbie, could easily find a scene like this, I would’ve thought all of the other newbies and locals would’ve been just flocking to watch the magic show that the sun put on here each morning.
Or maybe not. And I was okay with that. I was content with keeping this little slice of heaven to myself.
“How lucky am I,” I thought just as three more guests joined me under the fruitful sky.
However, these were not the guests I’d expected to see. A large mule deer eyed me up and down, then continued about her morning picking sprouts from the vegetation lining the hills. She was accompanied by two of her youngsters, who were a bit more skittish, but began to settle in after their mom gave me the go ahead. By this time, the sun was shining brightly down on the scarlet rock formations and I had yet to fuel my caffeine addiction.
“Soooooo, do you come out to eat here often?” a woman questioned me while sliding into the booth seat across from me.
“This is actually my first time here,” I said, secretly reveling in the fact that she thought I was a local.
“What kind of cam-“
“Hold up. HOLD. UP. What does your sweatshirt say?”
She squinted down at her faded baby blue crewneck, sounding out the words, “Dooooooor County?”
“Shut up; no way. No way! That’s where I’m from! Have you been there?!” I said probably too ecstatically, running the odds through my head of finding someone sporting a small Wisconsin town all the way down in Colorado Springs.
“To be honest, this is, like, my grandpa’s hand-me-down that I stole from the back of his closet. I definitely wore this to bed last night, not gonna lie. I actually had parent teacher conferences at like seven this morning and they went so badly that I came here to treat myself with french toast and a mimosa before heading back to bed.”
And just like that, a friendship was born.
We went on to tell each other our life stories, and I mean our life stories. If someone quizzed me on her right now, I could tell you every single detail about how she became a single mother, how she raced her dog to the hospital after he began seizing, the mystical date she went on the night before where her friend bought an entire gazebo with lights and a band in the middle of nowhere, just so they could slow dance together. I could tell you everything, but I won’t. I won’t because the best part about finding these people who change your day and give you new stories is having these stories for no one but yourself, just like I had felt in Garden of the Gods.
After sharing a few local tips on Pike’s Peak, as she had a brother who used to work at the very top to give-people-air-and-make-donuts-when-bored, we exchanged numbers and hugged each other, knowing it wasn’t a goodbye, but a see you later. I’ll be back someday Colorado Springs, promise.