Colorado Trip: Garden of the Gods; Pike’s Peak

At the day’s start, we again enjoyed the delicious continental breakfast at our hotel –

Garden of the Gods

After some driving and traffic,  we reached the aptly-named Garden of the Gods, near Colorado Springs.  The drive itself was gorgeous enough…

Even with the worst of traffic, driving in Colorado often means a gorgeous view on either side of the road.

Even with the worst of traffic, driving in Colorado often means a gorgeous view on either side of the road.

But even with traffic, it was the first glimpse at the park which told me that we made the right choice in venturing forth:

Our first glimpse of the reddish stone outcroppings which characterize the Garden. No gods were available for comment on their Garden.

Our first glimpse of the reddish stone outcroppings which characterize the Garden. No gods were available for comment on their Garden.

The rocks went from their constant grey and tan mottled appearance to a striking, vibrant reddish/orange.  These only got better as we drove into the park.

Along those lines: the whole “people in Colorado spend most of their free time outdoors and in the wilderness as they have nothing else to do” is very true based on the sheer amount of traffic we encountered 1) in the wilderness between two cities and 2) at each location we decided to go to.  Even the touristy sites like the Pike’s Peak cog railroad had a slew of Colorado parking plates in the lot.  No matter.

Just to give a sense of how incredibly cramped (but comfortable) the compact C Class was for our group of tall adventurers.

Just to give a sense of how incredibly cramped (but comfortable) the compact C Class was for our group of tall adventurers.  I spent a great many hours staring at the purdy 3-pointed star on the comfortable wheel… wishing I could stretch my legs out more than “not at all”!

Us: "Oh maybe we'll get out and walk some of the trails." This sign: "Live rattlesnakes present." Us: "Nope!"

Us: “Oh maybe we’ll get out and walk some of the trails.”
This sign: “Live rattlesnakes present.”
Us: “Nope!”

The weather was gorgeous, the park was delightful, the company was excellent.  A good start to our day.

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So much natural beauty - it was often a challenge to frame shots with, to pick and choose what we'd like to be with us in the frame!

So much natural beauty – it was often a challenge to frame shots with, to pick and choose what we’d like to be with us in the frame!

The "Balancing Rock" doing its one and only trick

The “Balancing Rock” doing its one and only trick

Simply gorgeous.

Simply gorgeous.

I love this Bob Ross/galaxy shirt I found. Also: Nature purdy.

I love this Bob Ross/galaxy shirt I found.
Also: Nature purdy.

We grabbed lunch at Adam’s Mountain Cafe, and the vegetarian fare was actually quite delicious.  We had a bit of time to kill so we thought we might take our time driving through the touristy area up to the Pike’s Peak railway… but traffic was horrendous due to tourists and scant parking (another consistent feature of Colorado, we found), so we slowly inched our way up to…

Pike’s Peak

We reached the parking lots for the Pike’s Peak Cog Railway, with our pre-purchased ticket confirmation ensuring us a seat on the train and a copy of this handy dandy topographical map with its concerning choppy altitude gains over short distances:

A map of the cog railway up to the top of Pike's Peak

A map of the cog railway up to the top of Pike’s Peak

And the pre-purchase of the ticket turned out to be very necessary – all 240 odd seats on our train were filled to the brim!   We had a sizable and energetic Nebraskan family next to and around us, their kids being the most energetic of the bunch.  At a certain point – a 6 year old asking how steep a hill is before it is impossible to climb is a trap one never escapes.  It may even become a black hole – we weren’t there long enough to find out.

The cog railway is not named idly - it uses this pair of toothed rails in the middle of the normal rails, with cogs on the bottom of the train driving the train along the teeth. This is how it can climb inclines (up to an insane 25% grade, at one point).

The cog railway is not named idly – it uses this pair of toothed rails in the middle of the normal rails, with cogs on the bottom of the train driving the train along the teeth. This is how it can climb inclines (up to an insane 25% grade, at one point).

Me, being incredibly uncomfortable due to the immense height of the mountain and the immediate drop to either side of the train at times. OOOOOF.

Me, being incredibly uncomfortable due to the immense height of the mountain and the immediate drop to either side of the train at times. OOOOOF.

As the above picture fully shows, I am *not* a fan of heights, and this trip was certainly a good series of boundary-pushing experiences on that front – but we just kept going up, with people and possessions alike sliding off the seats at times!

Ahead, the next train up is visible on the steep slopes.

Ahead, the next train up is visible on the steep slopes.

The insane road up to Pike's Peak which none of us felt comfortable driving. Especially me, the driver. Thanks, cog railway!

The insane road up to Pike’s Peak which none of us felt comfortable driving. Especially me, the driver. Thanks, cog railway!

Arriving at the peak, nothing immediately felt that weird.  For me, walking didn’t affect me – but jogging up a very slight incline to get a photo before the crowd got into the frame and I was definitely feeling the altitude.  Astonishing, the sensation of the body realizing “OH RIGHT – THE AIR ISN’T ACTUALLY GOOD HERE… I OUGHTA SIT DOWN REAL QUICK” was for each of us in our ways.  Not Richard – that fit SOB skipped around and was basically there to tell us “… WHATEVER.”

But my goodness gracious, the views were excellent.  Being so high in the air meant that the weather shifted with ease (there was some snow on the ground when we arrived; it was clear as we got off the train; a cloud rolled in and made it “foggy”; and then near the time for us to depart one side of the mountain again became clear, where we took our group photo below).

All of that said: I still do not trust heights, as they are likely out to get me.  But I am thankful we got to have this great experience pulling a Leo, and being on top of the world.

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To quote someone on the trip, though this is a 14,000+ foot peak, “its not a real 14’er”

The three of us, the super thing oxygen content around us, and dat view tho

The three of us, the super thing oxygen content around us, and dat view tho

I captured a big horn sheep in the middle of this frame, amidst the alpine tundra of the mountaintop.

I captured a big horn sheep in the middle of this frame, amidst the alpine tundra of the mountaintop.

The trip down was tiring but fruitful (see the big horn sheep above) in its own way – and the peak was just such a rush to experience in person, that it made the lengthy train commuting on either side well worth it.

We zipped over to the nearest Crave Burger at the suggestion of Google, and Google slam-dunked that one.  Our food was amazingly delicious (and, if you peruse their menu, wildly unhealthy as you’ll see).   We drove back to the hotel and a coma once again ruled supreme for each of us.

And so, the fourth day of our trip ended. The best, as you’ll see, was yet to come.

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