August 27, 2013 – Pikes Peak and Manitou Springs

Rising early, the summit of Pikes Peak from our campground was nothing short of stunning in the dawns early light.

We carpooled to the base station depot for the Pikes Peak/Manitou Springs Cog Railroad, the longest and one of only three such railroads in the United States.  Today the types of engines used in the past have been retired from the Pikes Peak line

replaced by newer, multi-diesel motor engines.

Arriving at the train depot

we were “greeted” by a colorful local.

After boarding, the train began its 1½ hour climb up to the summit of Pikes Peak, 1½ miles higher than the depot we’d just left.  The first third of our trip is along Ruxton Creek in Englemann Canyon. Here the steep track follows a cascading stream through dense stands of Englemann spruce, Colorado blue spruce as well as Ponderosa pine trees,

past a waterfall more than a mile higher than Niagara Falls … although not as high a falls,

and occasionally passing trains going in the other direction.

As we continued to climb,

Yes, those are rain drops on the train’s windshield

we began to catch glimpses of the valleys below and mountain landscapes through the trees.

As we approached the tree line, it became obvious that the crystal clear skies over the summit had given way to clouds which were intermittently obscuring the peak.

Slightly below the actual tree line, we passed a bristlecone pine, estimated by biologists to be over 3,000 years old.

Nearing the 12,000 foot line, the trees began to give way to what looked like a gigantic bounder field.

Note how the upslope winds have bent the trees

Looking closely, you can see the tracks climbing the slope from right to left

Glancing back, we’d entered a tundra zone where plants might grow only a few inches a century

Our climb was temporarily halted just a couple hundred feet shy of our goal when a maintenance train crew was working on the tracks at the summit.

Finally, however, we made it … the end of the line.

 

With the wind blowing the clouds

Our visibility varied from partially obscured to sunshine which brought out the red (sandstone), white limestone) and other colors in the rocks … which were formed when they were at the bottom of a great inland sea.

While on the summit we noticed a group of bikers who had been caravanned up the mountain so they could bike (roll )back to the bottom some 19 miles below … hoping, we’re guessing, their brakes are in tip-top shape (one couple we ran into at our campground had taken the shuttle up and found themselves in almost zero visibility on their descent).

Meanwhile, we did the touristy things … post cards for our grandkids, a donuts and cappuccino, and having our pictures taken at various locations.

A monument with a plaque on which “American the Beautiful has been etched”

While the elevation at track-side is 14,110’, the actual summit height is 14,115’

The trip back down the mountain was more relaxing, as, while the landscape was still breathtaking, it was now not new to us and I refrained from snapping off frame after frame.

Among the wildlife we spotted were deer (which appeared on the far side of the train from where I was sitting making it difficult to climb over other passengers to snap a picture, a camera-shy yellow-bellied marmot,

Several species of birds … one actually at the summit

 and big horn sheep.

After returning to the Cog’s Depot, Dave & LaDonna

and Debbie & I took time in nearby Manitou Springs, a small tourist town of just shy of 5,000 residents.  Like so many such communities it relies on visitors to patronize its clothing and gift stores, galleries, restaurants, bars and ice cream parlors.  Unfortunately, however, several successive, slow-moving rainstorms dropped so much water in the surrounding mountains that a series of floods swept through the town, taking at least one life and inundating many homes and businesses along Fountain Creek.

Thanks to the national, and even regional media, which painted Manitou Springs as having been all but wiped out, tourism has been devastated for this season.  And, while there is still evidence of the disaster,

most local businesses are back operating and hoping the tourists return soon.

We found walking the streets of the central part of the town and poking in and out of the various shops, not to mention the ice cream was delicious.

The Barker House

Note the candy cane decorations

A sidewalk love seat

Shoshone Springs, one of many mineral springs in the town

Guess what their specialty is

A gem and precious stone store

St. Andrews Episcopal Church

A stylized bicycle sculpture

Red Mountain Bed & Breakfast

Memorial to a Local Civil War Hero

Colorful Townhouse Lounge

The “Pea” – Sculpture

Local window washer

This evening we got together for another of our outdoor movie nights.

Tonight’s feature was, appropriately, “RV” with Robin Williams.

While looking at a tree painted with an overhead street light in our campground well after dark, I grabbed my camera.  The result was an ethereal shot which almost looks like a painting.

 

 

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