Sunday, August 2, 2015

Pikes Peak or Bust!

There it is--Pikes Peak! At 14,115 feet it is called "America's Mountain."The saying "Pikes Peak or Bust" was a familiar slogan when I was a child. It was a saying that became popular during the Colorado Gold Rush of 1859 when over 100,000 men rushed west to the Rocky Mountains in search of gold, and for pioneers heading west with hopes for a better life. It later became a rallying cry used when someone was trying to describe a dream they hoped to accomplish by every means possible. The phrase certainly fired my imagination! (All photos and photo collages will enlarge for easier viewing if clicked on)

The story of Zebulon Pike's discovery and attempted conquest of the mountain names after him. Click on photo to enlarge. This placard is located on the Riverwalk in Pueblo, Colorado.
This is the third summer we've lived in Colorado, and even before we lived here, I wanted to drive up this mountain that I heard so much about my entire life. My husband and I decided last weekend that the day had finally arrived when we would drive south to Colorado Springs and conquer the mountain! It was not without some trepidation, as last summer we found the drive up the equally high Mt. Evans (click here to read that post) as quite a thrilling drive, and we were a little nervous if the road up Pikes Peak would prove to be the same, and if the weather would cooperate with our drive.

We paid the fee to drive up the 19 miles long Pikes Peak Highway at the road's toll gate and we were on our way!

The road was wide and well paved. We were advised by a ranger at the beginning of the highway to make sure we had half a tank of gas and to keep our car's air conditioner off.

The road was definitely rising higher with each turn, but it did not feel too precarious.

We passed gentle slopes of pine trees for much of the first miles

As we climbed higher the terrain became rockier.

As a passenger, I could see the Pikes Peak Highway and valley views behind us as we drove higher.

We were soon driving above the tree line, at over 11,000 feet, and were at about the 13-mile mark on the highway. You can read about the different climate zones the Pikes Peak Highway passes through on this link.

There were stops along the way on the highway, that allowed visitors to explore different areas of the mountain, but we wanted to drive straight up and not stop, as we were hoping to avoid the usual thunderstorms that occur most afternoons. There is an area near this point called the "Devils Playground" due to the way lightning dances from rock to rock during a thunderstorm.  That must be some sight to see!

The views on the way up the mountain were breathtaking!

As you can see from this photo, the highway is composed of many long switchbacks, which makes the drive up easy to navigate.

Even though this was the last weekend in July. we saw patches of snow!

More winding road ahead.

The higher we rose in elevation,  the more desolate the terrain appeared, full of tundra grasses, mosses, sedges, and lichens. It is at this altitude that the Colorado State Mammal, the Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep live, but we did not see any on our journey up.

I had a wonderful view of the Glen Cove and Crystal Creek Reservoir in the distance.

At one time the last few miles of the Pikes Peak Highway were not paved, but now the road extends all the way to the summit. At this point, the driver can really feel the high grade and sharper turns, but we both felt quite safe.

It was thrilling to feel as if one was driving into the clouds!

We finally reached the summit!  The summit is very wide and flat with plenty of parking space.  We could see the Summit House, which is a gift shop and cafe, and a marker bench sign.  There is also an Army weather station on the summit that is not open to visitors

Some of the summits were extremely rocky...

...but there were plenty of areas that enabled magnificent panoramic views!

Again, the sensation we had of almost being able to reach up and touch the clouds was mesmerizing!

My husband and I hopped up onto the Pikes Peak bench to have our photo taken.

We then walked around the summit to enjoy all the views! 

Thankfully, the weather remained good for our entire visit! The weather at Pikes Peak summit can easily be 30 to 40 degrees cooler than the weather at the base of the mountain, but since it was a 90-degree day in Colorado Springs it was a tolerable 55 degrees at the summit. You can check the present weather on Pikes Peak on this link.  Also, it is good to remember that at this altitude you are only breathing 53% oxygen!  If you are visiting Colorado from another state, and have not acclimated your body to the lower level of oxygen at a mile high, you will certainly feel the effect of being almost 3 miles above sea level!

From an observation deck, we could see visitors exploring the terrain.

We also watched hikers reaching the summit from the Barr Trail that ends at the summit near the Cog Railway tracks. Hiking the trail is a feat of endurance as it is 13 miles long and rises 7,510 vertical feet in elevation from its base, and that is one way! 

Also, located on the observation deck, is the "America the Beautiful" monument, as well as other memorial plaques.  In 1893, Katherine Lee Bates, an English teacher from Wellesley College in Maine was invited to teach a summer reading course in Colorado Springs. She was so impressed by her 2,000-mile journey west and a visit to the summit of Pikes Peak that she composed the poem/song America the Beautiful. You can read the entire story at this link.

There was another plaque in an area near the parking lot that caught my attention.  It was a memorial plaque for Carl Lotave, who died in 1924 and whose ashes were interred underneath it. Lotave was a Swedish born artist who became famous for his portraits and scenes of the southwest and Native American for the Smithsonian Museum

Another summit view.

The ruins of the original Summit House built-in 1873. A timeline of the history of Pikes Peak can be read on this link.

For those that do not wish to drive up and down the summit of Pikes Peak, you can take the Cog Railway. My husband and I hope to take the railway one day to have this experience, and I will definitely blog about it.

Sorry for the blurry photo, but I wanted to show you the famous Pikes Peak donut that you can buy inside the Summit House.  They are the only donut in the world made at over 14,000 feet, using a secret recipe.  They are light and delicious! You can watch a Youtube video about the donuts on this link. 

After enjoying the summit of Pikes Peak for a couple of hours we decided it was time to head back down the mountain and return home.  We were surprised to see that even in the late afternoon there were still many cars making the ascent.

Again, the views were outstanding!

Wildflowers growing among the boulders.

We followed instructions to drive down the mountain using low gear, and to try not to use our brakes continuously.

I could feel the decent grades much more than on the ascent going up.

Some of these rocks that we passed seemed precariously balanced!

We slowly descended back to the subalpine and Montana regions of altitude. 

At the halfway point, near the Glen Cove Inn, cars are asked to stop by a Ranger for a brake check.  If your car's brakes are not overheated you can continue on your way. If your brakes show signs of stress you are asked to pull over for a length of time in the inn's parking lot to allow them to cool, for your safety.  The Glen Cove Inn has restrooms and a restaurant and gift shop.  Happily, our brakes were good so we continued on our way.

Soon we were back to the entrance area of the Pikes Peak Highway, completing our trip and another wonderful Colorado adventure!

One last look at Pikes Peak on our way home.  We did it! "Pikes Peak or Bust!" We conquered the mountain and I know we will be back to do it again someday!

Bookmark and Share


Michelle said...

A great post about conquering the peak!

Linda said...

I just loved this post! We have made the drive several times over the years, my children and I, and it was so good to get to see all this beauty once again with you!

Barb said...

Hi Pat, Glad you got to summit Pikes Peak. I think you'd enjoy the cog railrooad trip. We did it many years ago, taking Bob's parents.We rode in spring just after it opened for the season, and there was still a lot of snow on the mountain. I think I told you that a few of my (crazy) friends have done the Pikes Peak Marathon. Great photos of the mountain!

The Gathering Place said...

Beautiful scenery and the roads looked quite nice. Another fun day in the mountains!

Felicia said...

we drove up the highway too. when we reached the top we were very lightheaded and almost sick as we were not acclimated to the height. It sure has amazing views as you have stated.

Anonymous said...

The scenery is just amazing! What a beautiful sight.

Mersad said...

Really love mountain roads and the scenery from up there is fantastic. The lake is so beautiful. I invite you to share your post at my new photo meme that I have started just now on my blog. Link is down below. Thanks!

Mersad Donko Photography

eileeninmd said...

Hello Pat, what a great post on your drive up to Pike's peak! The scenic views are just stunning. Awesome collection of photos! Thanks for taking me along. Have a happy Monday and a great new week ahead!

diane b said...

What fantastic views from the top of America. It is great that you can get there by car but the railway would be fun too..Great shots.

From the Kitchen said...

Thanks for the "armchair" visit to Pike's Peak! What amazing views. What stamina those early pioneers had!


Cheryl @ TFD said...

I really enjoyed your photos and hearing about your car ride up Pike's Peak! Many years ago, BG and I took the cog wheel train up and it was so much fun! I'd like to see Colorado Springs again, it's so beautiful there. Have a great week!

Betsy Banks Adams said...

Oh My---this post brought back great memories. We love Pikes Peak --and it's great to see it in another season. We were there in mid/late September --and there was alot of snow on the top (luckily not on the roads)...We too drove up and back with no problems. AND--we had to have (JUST HAD TO HAVE--ha) a donut and some hot chocolate. It was cold on top --and that hot chocolate tasted good. We also had a little trouble walking around up there due to the altitude adjustment. We are NOT used to those high altitudes. ha

Thanks for the memories.

JLS Hall said...

What an amazing adventure! I'd love to see Pike's Peak someday (my hubby is a descendant of the Pike family), but don't think I could do it all in one day -- I have a real problem with heights. And I'd definitely want to avoid those thunderstorms around the Devils Playground. But the donuts are certainly tempting! Great post.

Happy Blue Monday!
~ Joy @ Joysweb

SmilingSally said...

Hi Pat,

I was scratching my head while reading until you said, "At one time the last few miles of the Pikes Peak Highway were not paved . . ." Then I understood! When we drove up, there were some truly terrifying moments. There were no Rangers checking brakes. I'm glad it's improved so much.

Thanks for playing today.

Happy Blue Monday!

LV said...

Thanks for the memories. Wish I could go again, but not climb Pike Peaks now.

Sara - Villa Emilia (My Woodland Garden) said...

Thank you so much, Pat, for this beautiful, informative and very interesting post! The views are stunning.
Happy Mosaic Monday and have a lovely week ahead!

Su-sieee! Mac said...

Gulp, gulp, and triple gulp! And, I'm sitting very safely at my desk in California. Your wonderful photos have jostled a memory of long, long ago of my car stalling at the top of this peak. My brain only recalls that one view I saw as the car rolled down the road to jump start it. Thanks for sharing the spectacular views. :-)
The View from the Top of the Ladder

Anonymous said...

Wow! That is high. Glad you are acclimated to being a mile high already. The views are really amazing the the different terrain so interesting.

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

Loved the post ... And the memories! Our son and DIL took us, driving his Jeep. It was their first time by car as they had done the train when they first moved to CO. We all loved the drive, especially my husband who enjoyed being a passenger for a change! We were surprised about the brake check on the way first, . I thought we were going to have to pay another toll to leave ))).

Your pictures are great ... Loved it as I loved our own trip. (And just like on Mt Evans trip, I was inordinately proud of myself that I was able to breathe up there! )

Joyful said...

Fantastic scenery!

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

That's quite a trek...even in a car! Wow! I know you enjoyed taking photos and I always appreciate your background info and the links you provide! Enjoy your week sweet friend. Hugs, Diane

Judith @ Lavender Cottage said...

My goodness Pat, what incredible views from Pike's Peak. Seeing the winding roads reminded me of our trip on the Cabot Trail in eastern Canada.
And yummy donuts at the top - life is good!
Thanks for linking to Mosaic Monday.

Annesphamily said...

Pikes Peak is the only fourteener I have climbed and it was a long long time ago. Nick trains up there and it is quite a workout! When I was a teen I loved to watch the Pikes Peak Hill Climb and once saw one of the Andretti's from the Indy 500 racing family race there. My childhood home had a perfect view of Pikes Pikes from the living room window and I never take for granted the beautiful state I was born and raised in and still live in today. I love Colorado! Great photos!

Annesphamily said...

Pikes Peak is the only fourteener I have climbed and it was a long long time ago. Nick trains up there and it is quite a workout! When I was a teen I loved to watch the Pikes Peak Hill Climb and once saw one of the Andretti's from the Indy 500 racing family race there. My childhood home had a perfect view of Pikes Pikes from the living room window and I never take for granted the beautiful state I was born and raised in and still live in today. I love Colorado! Great photos!

Mary Howell Cromer said...

As many times as we have been near there, lived near there, we have never made it to the summit, so this was fun!

Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

The scenery and terrain are gorgeous there. What a fabulous experience. And you can see forever at the summit. I love to imagine what it would have been to see it for the first time, practically untouched, or been a part of the excitement of the gold rush days. I really have a soft spot for pioneers and what their lives were like.

Ciao Chow Linda said...

Wow what breathtaking scenery Pat. How wonderful that you and Vinny got a chance to do this. I remember being in Colorado in July and seeing snow at the various peaks too. My kids made a mini snowman at the time. I love the idea of the donuts at the top - what a sweet treat for making it to the top.

Donna said...

I have taken the railway drive and boy do you see some incredible of my favorite things to do again....visit Pike's Peak.

Rue said...

Hi Pat :)

This was such a fun post! They always are though, since you're such a good tour guide.

Pikes peak is double the elevation where I live. I can't even imagine going up that high.

Thank you for sharing this!


Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Stunning scenery.

Beth said...

What fabulous scenery, Pat! God's amazing world!!! I enjoyed seeing Pike's Peak and the way up through your camera lens. We are in Estes right now and recently drove up to the Alpine Visitor Center so were also above the tree line. Today I'm looking forward to horseback riding. Hubby won't go, but that's okay. I enjoy it. And experiencing Roosevelt National Forest on horseback should be a great experience.

Pamela Gordon said...

Wow! What an incredible drive to the top of Pikes Peak. The views are amazing and the road appears to be wider and not as scary as Mt. Washington. :) Thanks for sharing your beautiful photos with us Pat. I really enjoyed seeing the views and landscape. Amazing!!

Sally Wessely said...

You did a great job reviewing your trip up, on top of, and down America's Mountain! I have not driven this for a number of years. I no longer do well over 8,000 feet, so I'd be afraid to drive this highway to the top again. My husband would never drive it, and to be honest, I wouldn't drive with him is he did. LOL I've always done the mountain driving since I learned to drive driving Colorado mountain highways.

The train ride up is a fun trip also. You get a different view. I did that trip four or five years ago and barely survived the altitude. It breaks my heart not to be able to do those high mountain trips these days.

Loved all the photos. Made me homesick to go up again.

Judy said...

This brings back so many good memories. We rode the cog railway up to the peak...and enjoyed the donuts up there as well. Of course!!! So beautiful.

A Colorful World said...

Wow! The views are spectacular! Your photos are wonderful! When we were in CO last summer we opted to do Mt. Evans instead but wish we'd had time to do both. Still, we thoroughly enjoyed Mt. Evans, and maybe we'll have a chance to do Pikes Peak on a future visit. I hope so! It looks like a "not to miss" experience.!

Yogi♪♪♪ said...

Great post. My sister and BIL live in Colorado Springs out on the plains to the west of town and they get to see Pike's Peak every day. We rode the cog railway up to the top. It was definitely something worth doing.

Jacqueline said...

Wow, I think I will take the car rather than the hike! That would be an endurance test! So beautiful. I can imagine the thunderstorms as we were in some backpacking in the High Uintah's early in our marriage. Thought we were going to die with nothing but a tent as protection!

arv said...

that's a nice pictures that you have posted! and pretty detailed blog post!...great! I really like the pictures with contrast of reddish/brownish rocks against the blue sky! pretty clear nice shade of blue sky!

Gracie said...

The place is stunning! And the beautiful.
I've been in the mountains too, for our summer vacation we choose Austria this year....

Share my Garden said...

I came to your site because the title made me laugh and have really enjoyed joining you on this trip - without having to worry about vertigo or overheating brakes! A lovely series of photos, I appreciate a comprehensive description like this of places that I am never likely to experience for myself. So glad you had such a good time and didn't bust!

Sarah said...

This post takes me back to my youth when my family would take summer vacations to Colorado. An aunt and uncle lived in Colorado Springs, so we always spent some time there. Trips up Pike's Peak were always an adventure! ;-)

Deb @ Frugal Little Bungalow said...

What a great post...I loved every minute of it! :)

Anonymous said...

Wow that was some trip! We made it to the garden of the gods, but not to Pike's Peak, because the snow was falling n May (!) in the valley, and we didn't have warm clothes with us. And to 14000 feet - no trouble breathing? Thanks for sharing!