Travel Journal: Trapping the Wild Tourist

They are out there, little roadside attractions like a two-headed critter, or a zoo of oddities, or something just big and silly, like the world’s largest ball of string… And then there are the big ones, always “ready to relieve you of a sou or two…”

August 16, 2007 Colorado Road Trip

Sunrise at Royal Gorge–fine way to start the day!

We had over-nighted in a free and vacant campground about a mile before the bridge over Royal Gorge. To find such a place in such a place was a great and delightful surprise.

Royal Gorge is one of those spectacles of nature that has been appropriated as a means of emptying the pockets of tourists by concessionaires who have built an amusement park around the entrance to the walking bridge over this deep, deep canyon of the Arkansas River. They charge $28 per person to play, but you can simply walk out on the bridge for only $13.

No, thank you.

Charlie commented wryly on the signs around the parking lot, and the fences they hung on, that warn of danger to anyone passing beyond that barrier. The danger, clearly, is not that of falling into the gorge, but of getting a good view of it for free. Where there is only a real danger of falling, there are no warning signs or fences.

We discovered this tourist trap 10 years ago, and knew what to expect of the place. So why did we bother?

These hills are pink and white feldspar and quartz with great inclusions of mica, that shiny, transparent bit that makes some stones glitter, or, in large plates, used to be used in surreys with fringes on top, as “…isenglass windows you can roll right down… “

Outside the boundaries of the park (under the auspices of Canyon City) 10 years ago we collected some lovely specimens, and we went back to see if we could find more. We did, in fact, and got a few pictures this time, too.

This shiny surface of a book of mica–a cluster of flat leaves that occur all together– reflects the blue morning sky. If a single layer is flaked off this natural mirror, it is transparent enough to read through.

So… a lousy site for seeing the natural Royal Gorge, but very nice for rock-hounds and geology students!

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