The Original South Park

Long before I moved to Colorado, I was aware of this TV show called South Park. I have to admit that I’m not that big on animated shows other than Scooby Doo, who was my favorite in childhood, so I hadn’t really ever watched it. I also wasn’t too keen on the fact that it was a cartoon show but was loaded with f-bombs. I guess that’s part of why people found it funny. What I didn’t know until moving here was that the creator of South Park the TV show is a native of Colorado and that the South Park in question is an actual place.

It’s not actually a town, it’s a vast open meadow located high in the Rocky Mountains. And on Saturday we discovered it. Of course, we had heard the name and had seen it on a map but had never really set out to go see what it was like. Finding it was one of those little moments of serendipity.

You see, every now and then I need to get away from town and people to see some wilderness. I’m not exactly a back country camper, but I guess having grown up in the country in Iowa, I need my space from time to time. So when this happens, as it did on Saturday when I was grumpy because I didn’t feel well and had been trapped in the house for far too long, my husband makes the diagnosis – “Mardee needs some mountains.” So off we set, dogs in tow, for a nice drive in the Mustang through the mountains.

We drove out west and headed up into the mountains on Highway 285. We stopped at Conifer to get some lunch and let the doggies walk a bit. Then we drove out to Jefferson and decided to take a county road south. It was paved (mostly); Colorado winters take a toll on paving and it’s always an adventure driving a low-riding sports car on these roads. (And it always makes me nervous when everyone else on the road is driving a Jeep).

Our route took us past some beautiful parts of Pike National Forest and Lost Creek Wilderness Area, and past a couple of trailheads we had read about in guidebooks. We were driving through the trees, steadily climbing, and eventually above the treeline going over the top of the pass – and there it is, this huge beautiful meadow spread out before us.

We stopped to take a better look and let the doggies sniff and run around a little. Here’s what we saw:

The Original South Park

The Original South Park Colorado. My apologies for the bad cell phone picture; I didn't have a proper camera and the sun was very bright.

The sign where we stopped says that South Park was a favorite hunting grounds of the Ute Indians and was visited by Zebulon Pike in 1806. (He, of Pike’s Peak). It was settled by gold miners in 1859. At 10,000 feet in altitude, it’s pretty high. At 1,000 square miles, it’s vast. And it is certainly beautiful.

Since we’re new to Colorado, we always know that whenever we head to the mountains, we’ll find something new and and interesting. And given the size of South Park, it’s not surprising that we came up on it at some point, but it still felt like a bit of serendipity – that pleasant surprise hidden in nature for us to find.

My wish for you this spring is that you too will find delight in some part of nature. It won’t always be as big and bold as South Park, but perhaps it will help you feel grounded nonetheless. I think as people we need that, especially living in an age where we are surrounded by gadgets demanding our attention all the time. Take some time out, reconnect with the human animal, and find that space to breathe fresh air, appreciate the wildlife, and decompress a little. I certainly came home feeling better; I’ll bet you would too.

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