Sunday, September 20, 2009

Pikes Peak

The day after we climbed Mount Elbert, we woke up to see the surrounding mountain tops covered in snow. A family staying at the Ores & Mine Bed and Breakfast that had planned to do Elbert decided against it. We decided to do a fourteener the easy way, take a train! It was a fairly long drive from Twin Lakes to Manitou Springs, outside Colorado Springs, where we caught the Pikes Peak Cog Railway. The elevation of the train station is 6,571 feet. The train travels 8.9 miles to the summit of Pikes Peak which is 14,110 feet.

We sat across from a couple from Texas who had attended the Texas v. Wyoming game in Laramie.
If you don't have to work for it, you just don't appreciate it as much. We enjoyed the views of the changing mountain scenery and changing weather from the comfort and safety of the train. As we got to the top a nasty looking cloud was approaching and shortly after a pretty good hailstorm erupted with decent winds. Below, the train as seen from the observation platform.

A view of a lake below. The lake is drinking water for the city of Colorado Springs.

From another side of the peak, a little more rugged dropoff.

From another direction, the parking lot on top.

Finally, the shop on top. Like most of the people on the train, we spent the majority of the time on top in the gift shop, drinking hot chocolate, using the bathroom and perusing the cheap trinkets. No effort, no pain, no appreciation for the summit. I did notice that the fluid in my lungs which had pretty much subsided over-night, after Elbert, started to return on Pikes Peak.

A view of the road near the summit, from the train.

The best part of the trip came on the way down when we spotted some bighorn sheep. Several of them had been tagged with yellow collars.

As we got further away, we mostly got rump shots.

We also saw a coyote. The guides were quite excited by that. One said she had taken the train over 2,000 times and had only seen coyotes 3 times. From our perspective of Redlands, where we get serenaded most summer nights by the howls of coyotes and see them trotting brazenly down our streets, it was not anywhere the thrill that the bighorn sheep were.

I think I'll try and stick to hiking up them rather than riding up them, although, oddly enough, I have no desire to hike to the top of this one, when I can catch a ride.

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