During day two of our drive west, the words “Cripple Creek” had caught my eye while scanning the atlas’s map for Colorado. In a flash, my mind made the connection with Linda Goodman, perhaps the most famous astrologer of the 20th century, whose 1968 book, Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs, became the first astrology book to make the New York Times bestseller list. Goodman went to Cripple Creek on the advice of a guru, and the diary she kept while there became the basis for her book Star Signs. She later returned to the town, where she lived until her death in 1995.
Immediately my heart longed to visit and see the surroundings that had inspired Goodman’s most mystical writings, but our queries about making the journey met with discouragement, as Cripple Creek is at least three hours from Denver. It seemed too long for a day trip, but something in me held on to the idea and trusted that if it was meant to be it would happen.
On Wednesday of our vacation my altitude sickness had passed, so we rose early, had breakfast, and drove due south out of Denver. We missed the main exit for Garden of the Gods, our intended destination, so we drove into Colorado Springs and stopped at the visitors center to get revised directions. After asking the staff about Cripple Creek, we learned it was just an hour west…and suddenly a trip there seemed not only probable but fated.
We drove the short distance into Garden of the Gods and felt the requisite awe at its massive red rock formations jutting jaggedly out of the earth. The day was hot, so we decided against hiking and instead drove slowly through the park twice to drink in the scenery, enjoy the sunshine, and take pictures. By then we had agreed we would make the trip to Cripple Creek, so we headed west.
In a few minutes, we saw a sign announcing “Cliff Dwellings” and, in keeping with the spirit of Mercury retrograde (and serendipity), we decided to stop. When we pulled up, young Indian men clad in colorful garb were entertaining a small crowd with ceremonial dances. After watching a while, we explored the nearby pueblo; built on a mesa and inhabited until 1984, it now houses the Manitou Springs Cliff Dwellings Museum filled with tools, pottery, and weapons. Afterward, we strolled over to the cliff dwellings that the Anasazi Indians carved into the rock centuries ago and enjoyed the self-guided tour that led us through window-size openings, up and down wooden ladders, and through cool, dark passages connecting the dwellings’ many rooms. Peering out from the pueblo revealed a spectacular view of the nearby mountains and evoked deep feelings of peace and connection with the people who settled here so long ago.
Leaving the cliff dwellings, we made our way down a steep road with several switchbacks into the town of Manitou Springs, where we drove the bustling and picturesque main street and stopped at the Stagecoach Inn for lunch. Returning to Highway 24, we passed several towns and Pike’s Peak before taking the mountain road that leads to Cripple Creek. The way grew steep and narrow as we climbed higher, with the mountain’s bulk and the lane for oncoming traffic to our left and the edge of the road and a sheer dropoff (and no guard rails) to the right. As we drove, the elevation—and our anxiety—increased, and aspen began to outnumber the other trees.
When we finally arrived, our first sight of this small city of just more than 1,000 people was one of its nearly two dozen casinos. Just up the street, we found the Cripple Creek & Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad, where the next tour aboard its more than century old team train was departing in ten minutes. We bought tickets and on board we saw a young engineer in the locomotive shovel coal into the firebox to heat the boiler that produced the steam to power the train. He also drove the train and gave the four-mile, 45-minute tour, telling Cripple Creek’s colorful history as a gold mining town, how it grew to nearly 50,000 inhabitants, how it survived floods and fires, and how underground mining gave way to today’s pit mining, which still extracts millions of dollars in gold and silver every year. During the trip, two antelopes in an aspen grove to the left of the tracks looked up at us before bolting away. On the other side of the tracks, the town stretched before us, a tiny flatland tucked away in a lonely corner of the mountains.
Back at the depot, Laura, one of the young women on staff, sought us out. When we had bought our tour tickets, we’d asked if anyone knew where Linda Goodman had lived; Laura said her grandmother had been one of Goodman’s best friends, and while we were on the train she had driven to the house to obtain precise directions for us. So it came as no surprise when we learned she was a Libra, a sign famous for its hospitality.
With the afternoon waning, we hurried to Hayden Street for a glimpse of the house. On our first pass, we drove right by it because it sits below street level and a mass of trees shields the structure from view. Reaching the end of the road, we made two left turns and found ourselves on the next street over, where we could spot the house easily. It was set into the hill perhaps two or three dozen feet above us, a two-story house with a one-story section to the right holding a pool and enclosed with windows to provide a panoramic view of the town below. We drove back to Hayden and parked; my husband waited in the car during my expedition to the house. After only a few steps, the elevation of nearly 9,500 feet had me breathless and gasping for oxygen. The entrance nestles in a nook along the house’s front, the trees at the roadside adding another barrier and increasing the sensation of a fairytale cottage enveloped in mystery. My mind’s eye imagined Goodman there, walking through her front door carrying groceries and setting them down before going into the pool area to gaze out her windows and feel the depth of No Time, or what she always called the Eternal Now.
Her brash Aries spirit still seemed to permeate the area, and something inside me felt her snap, “I’m not here!” to me (and to anyone else making the pilgrimage to this place). Yet her personality dominates the house, with its stained glass windows filled with images dear to her heart: St. Francis with an angel and rainbow, the annunciation, and the nativity. Walking to the side of the house and looking out at Cripple Creek and the ridge of mountain tops far beyond it helped me see what brought Goodman to this magical, haunted, “slipping off the time track” town.
By then, the sky was darkening as a storm gathered, and we had just enough daylight to get back down the mountain in the light. With a last look at the house and a silent thanks to Goodman for luring me there, we left for Denver. This time, our journey took us on the mountain side of the road, where our car could hug a reassuring edge bolstered by a mass of granite. We made it down the mountain before dark and reached town by dinnertime. Goodman always used to say, “Expect a miracle,” and even in death she’d granted me one with our unexpected journey to Cripple Creek.