Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Colorado 2014 - Pikes Peak

As a treat this year, we took the kids on the Pikes Peak Cog Railroad from Manitou Springs up to the summit of Pikes Peak at 14,115 ft (4,302 m). Unfortunately, when we got there, it was about 63 degrees with heavy, overcast skies and raining off-and-on. Didn't exactly make for nice views... However, the rain didn't dampen the kids excitement of being on a train. 

 The train has gears on the bottom that fit in those teeth and pull it up the track. Those teeth allow the train to climb 25% (14 degrees or 1 foot up for every 4 feet forward) slopes. 

 The clouds plus the obvious Pine Bark Beetle damage made for a slightly eerie view.
 There used to be a caretaker for a small hydroelectric plant on the mountain, but now it's all automated, so nobody's home.
 Dang clouds...
 Lake Moraine, a high, natural lake that was expanded into a reservoir.
 The Yellow-Bellied Marmot, one of the few residents of the higher zone of the peak.
 Even with the clouds, the fields of flowers in the tundra were pretty.
 Fortunately, when we got to the top and had a few minutes to rest (i got winded just walking off the train...) the clouds cleared off the peak and gave us a cool view from above the clouds. Ezra asked if we could walk on them. :)

 While it was in the 60s down at the bottom, it was in the high 30s at the summit with a heck of a wind blowing constantly. (The sign says 14,110 ft, but I guess more recent surveys have put it at 14,115.)
 It was like you could just step off the edge of the world.
 The original summit house.
 We caught a glimpse of a herd of Bighorn Mountain Sheep.
 The clouds parted for some of the ride down and gave us a nicer view of Lake Moraine
 and the wall of cloud we'd be going into.

  We stopped on the way down at this way-station to pick up hikers. This is apparently a regular occurrence to drop them off to hike up from here and then pick them up on the way down. 
 The littles were tuckered out on the ride down.
When we got back to the station, the engineer showed the kids how he ran the train. They thought all the knobs and lights were confusing. :)

While the weather may not have cooperated, the trip was fun and the kids had a really good time. Just a note: if you are considering taking a ride on the train, make reservations several days in advance. they fill up quickly. Also, this is not a cheap ride up. We didn't have to pay for the two youngest ones and it was still 
$140. However, we felt that it was a better idea (and potentially cheaper) than driving our van up the Pikes Peak Highway and potentially causing problems being at such a high altitude.

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