Bishop's Castle... castle building the hard way

Hot, hot hot… we bolted for lower elevations, and stopped in Manitou Springs. This is an old town that's full of historic buildings and cold mineral springs, with fountains and monuments. It was probably once very charming. Now it's just touristy and crowded, with not enough parking (Get those cars off the main road and things will be much better!) We stopped for an earth cache and a cold drink, and more allergy pills, then headed for New Mexico.

We headed south again, and took a scenic drive recommended by a Colorado visitor's guidebook, called "Frontier Pathways." It took us west out of Pueblo across the prairie toward the mountains (which are much farther from I-25 in southern Colorado. After the extremely straight-as-an-arrow highway running due west (my grandfather would have been proud), we began to see tall rock formations, the road began to curve around the geology, and things began to look interesting. and into Hardscrabble Canyon, and the Wet Mountains. Lots of wildlife pathways, but we didn't see anything but antelope. The canyon was gorgeous, though.

The most interesting thing along the way was Bishop's Castle. We swung around a bend in the road, and blew right past this fantastic stone castle. I recognized it from our scenic drive print-out, and we did a U-turn and went back.

It's a fantastic structure made from stone, with a glass roof and stained glass windows, fanciful wrought iron balconies and railings, plus ornate trim. It even has a working fire-breathing dragon. No entrance fee, just a box for donations (a local woman later told us that he brings in about $1000 a day during tourist season). But it was worth the $5 we pushed into the box. We spent an hour there, trying to photograph it all. It's so big, even with my camera set to wide angle, I couldn't get the entire structure in a photo.

People were clamboring all over the structure; I kept hearing parents calling to their kids about where they shouldn't go, but it was pretty futile. This place is like the ultimate amusement park feature, with no padlocks keeping you out of anything. (There is a prominent sign about a required signing of the liability waiver, however.)

The stained glass windows were gorgeous. We found it interesting that the interior is unfinished. There are a couple of spiral staircases to get you to different levels, and there are antique kitchen fixtures in one corner. But no sign of plumbing or wiring. I was particularly taken with the wrought iron work, and have since read that custom iron work is the family business.

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