Colorado Springs, CO
July 2, 2014
No trip to Colorado Springs is complete without a ride on the Pikes Peak Highway. Last Wednesday was our day to take the 19-mile trip "to the clouds" and explore America's Mountain.
" From the gateway at an elevation of 7,400 ft., you'll encounter some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world as you wind your way through an alpine wonderland of scenic beauty."
As we entered Pike National Forest, we were a little concerned we had chosen the wrong day. The fog was very thick and restricted our views.
|Jade leads the way...|
Ronnie, Carol and their daughter Shannon, who is visiting, led the way...
Larkspur, a bright purple/blue wildflower was growing all along the road in beautiful patches mixed with pink wild roses and clover. "Stop..." and "Oh my!" were the words of the day along with many oohs and aahs. Stopping to take pictures is tricky...lucky for us, there wasn't a lot of traffic.
After mile marker 3, we began to see the sunshine peeking thru the trees...yeah!
and a few miles later, we were looking down on the clouds.
|Ronnie, Shannon and Joe|
Our first stop for everyone to get out and stretch came just after mile marker 6.
...we were surrounded by incredible beauty!
From this point, it was easy to recognize the dramatic changes in scenery.
The subalpine zone (between 9,000 and 11,000 ft.) with its Rocky Mountain Fir trees...
...followed by the alpine zone(above 11,500ft.)...the land of no trees. Can you believe the growing season here is between 6 to 8 weeks? There were still signs of winter...
The plants here are dwarfed to escape the harsh winds blowing just inches above them. But they sure have showy blooms.
These marmots spend about 80% of their life in their burrows but are commonly seen in the early summer mornings or late afternoons enjoying a bit of sunshine.
The alpine zone is followed by boulders...nothing green at all
and then the summit!
In 1859, the earliest record found, the altitude of Pikes Peak is recorded at 14,500 ft.. In 1909, a survey reset the altitude at 14,107, again in 1951 at 14,110 ft., and in 2002, yet another measurement reset it at 14,115. As you can see, the sign still reflects the earlier measurement. Lets just say it is dang high...so high, we were all light headed and woozy. It was quite breezy and chilly at the summit too...at noon it was 52* without considering the wind chill. No wonder long johns, sweatshirts, and blankets for sale filled the store. Yummy smells of doughnuts, coffee, and warm cinnamon pecans filled the air.
The ride down was a hoot...this twisty winding road was built in 1915 and today is maintained by the City of Colorado Springs. An earlier road up the mountain, Pikes Peak Carriage Road, dates back to 1888. Thousands of tourists traveled it to the summit until it closed in 1902.
There is a mandatory brake check right at 6 miles from the top going down. It really is steep and curvy! The Ranger uses an infra-red wand to determine how hot the front rotors are...anything 300F and over has to wait there.
It was an exhilarating day! Can you believe the same foggy clouds that had greeted us at Pikes Forest were there to say "Come back soon."?
Just a few post cards from our day...I took over 300 pictures, enjoying every second!
Have you traveled Pikes Peak Highway?
Shouldn't it be spelled Pike's Peak? In the early days it was, but in 1891, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names recommended against the use of apostrophes in geographic names.
Happy Birthday America!
Until next time...