Monday, September 07, 2009

Colorado Springs - Pikes Peak

One of the great things about visiting Colorado Springs is that, while it's a wonderful place to visit in its own right, it's also very close to lots of other things worth seeing. Over the next few days we'll revisit the great places we saw this past week, starting today with Pikes Peak.

Pikes Peak is named for Zebulon Pike, an explorer who was surveying the area around Colorado Springs, part of the Louisiana Purchase. Mr Pike never actually made it to the summit, probably because he (rather unwisely) tried to climb the mountain in November. Duh.

Here is a picture of Pike's Peak from the parking lot of our hotel in Colorado Springs...

There are three ways to get to the top of Pikes Peak: climb, drive, or take the Manitou and Pike's Peak Railway cog train. Climbing didn't look too inviting (especially for a pair of geezers in training), and driving also didn't look very good (lots of hairpin turns, steep grades, and no guardrails). We decided to take the train. Here it is as it arrived at the station in Manitou Springs...

The scenery changes quite a bit as you head up the mountain. At the base, near Manitou Springs, there is beautiful mountain forest, dotted with rock formations...

As you go further up the mountain (the train manages grades as steep as 25%), the trees thin out and yield to mountain meadows and more rock formations...

Once past the tree line, rocks and hardy small plants predominate...

And the views looking back down the mountain from the train get to be ever more spectacular...

We finally reached the top and the train stopped just short of the end of the line...luckily (yes, that's a sheer drop on the other side of the bumpers). This picture also gives you a good view of the center, or "cog" rail the train uses to pull itself on the way up and brake itself on the way down the mountain...

At the summit, we had our obligatory touristy picture taken...

And admired the view...

At the summit, you really notice the thin air. I found myself gasping for breath when I jogged from place to place to take pictures, and felt almost drunk the whole time we were there.

The train stayed at the summit for a bit more than half an hour, long enough to take pictures, use the bathroom, and (of course) visit the gift shop before the trip back down the mountain.

We enjoyed the trip very much, not just for the pleasant trip and the marvelous scenery, but also for the great commentary provided by our young conductor, who was quite funny and who also seemed to know everything about the mountain, the flora and fauna, and the history of the area. If you ever visit the Pikes Peak region, I recommend the cog train trip. It's a bit expensive ($63 round trip for both of us), but worth it.

Tomorrow, we'll visit Seven Falls and the Manitou Springs Cliff Dwellings Museum. Be here.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.

Bilbo

5 comments:

Amanda said...

The changes in landscape looks amazing. Its hard to imagine exactly how high 14000 ft is but those changes put things into perspective. Good to hear that you enjoyed the train ride up there. It sounds reeaaaly expensive, especially when you convert it to Ringgits.

The Mistress of the Dark said...

Gorgeous!

John said...

Beautiful!

Mike said...

"I found myself gasping for breath when I jogged"

No s**t? At 14,000'? What a wus! You were doing WHAT at 14,000 feet? You may not make it to retirement.

Leslie David said...

I've never been to Pikes Peak--the train looks like fun. I may have the opportunity to take a cog train to Montserrat. If you are jogging you're not as old a geezer as you think.