Sunday, September 25, 2011

Pikes Peak or Bust!

America, the Beautiful!

I don't usually post this many pictures, but this adventure was so awesome I couldn't help it! I hope you will enjoy seeing a tiny portion of what we saw on our trip to the top of Pikes Peak, Americas Mountain. This first view is from near Strasburg, the beginning of our drive south. Pikes Peak stands out farther east than the other peaks in the Rockies.

Colorado Springs is about 80 miles south of Strasburg. Here we are just coming into the city, and this is the view of Pikes Peak from there. The early pioneers used the peak as a landmark on their journey, hence the motto "Pikes Peak or Bust".

At the small town of Cascade, west of Colorado Springs, we got on the Pikes Peak Highway. It cost $12.00 each to enter. There were signs up telling the drivers to use low gears when descending, and Rangers were out and about all the way to assist motorists who might be in trouble. So, being duly warned, we started our ascent up the 19 mile highway to the top. We did have some trouble with our brakes overheating on the way down — had to stop and let them cool.

We had hoped to see some fall colors, and just a few miles up we were rewarded with glowing aspens just beginning their change. 

One of our first stops was this beautiful lake, the Crystal Reservoir. It was the most gorgeous view, with the water outlined by the red shores, and the peak; not to mention the fall colors.

At this point the road began to have many switchbacks, and we knew we were really ascending. Finally we saw this sign, "Timberline", at 12,000 feet. Abruptly the trees stopped and the rest of the journey was rocky and barren, but still beautiful.

In this photo we are looking down on one of the switchbacks, and we could clearly see the abrupt end of the trees, which were mostly bristle cone pines. I kept waiting to see if I would notice the high altitude. We'd had plenty of warnings about that, too.

As we rounded our last sharp turn, we were there! 14,110 feet high! (Click to enlarge to see the sign.) It was a lovely, sunny day with no wind, and just a little snow on top, 39 degrees. There is a gift shop and small restaurant there, as well as several viewpoints with binoculars stationed here and there. It was from this vantage point that Katherine Lee Bates wrote the beloved hymn, "America the Beautiful". We could surely see why she was so inspired. There is an obelisk with the words as a tribute to her. There were lots of tourists at the top, all as awed as we were.

Now, about the altitude. My bag of Cheetos was puffed up so tightly that I thought it would burst. That's how we both felt! Our tummies felt bloated, we were a little dizzy, and breathing was not the easiest. We took deep breaths, and along with that, my heart was thumping. The effects of the altitude were uncomfortable, but we did take time to peruse the gift shop, where I bought a souvenir t-shirt and some postcards, and we ate a donut each which were advertised as being high altitude donuts. (Not very yummy!) I looked over a steep abyss, but Mr. Keith declined, since he was more dizzy than I! Our symptoms did disappear just a couple thousand feet down as we descended.

We took many photos from the top, but here is just one, looking to the east, down at Colorado Springs and probably clear across to the end of Kansas. Who knows how far one could see on a more clear day! The red rocks in the distance are part of the Garden of the Gods, which we visited last winter, another amazing sight.

Just to prove we were actually there!

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

1 comment:

Forry and Char said...

What a trip! Loved your pictures! (got a kick out of the Cheetos bag -- that's Forry's secret vice when driving...!)