Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods

Trip Start Aug 29, 2013
Trip End Sep 15, 2013

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Flag of United States  , Colorado
Saturday, September 14, 2013

I got up at 7:15 and had a shower, then Larry and Derek got up.  We had breakfast downstairs and it was white table cloths and linen napkins, a very good breakfast with all kinds of choices.  We got on the bus at 8:30 and went to the station for the Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway.  It was a beautiful morning early, almost clear.  But as the morning progressed we got more and more clouds.  When we left the station at 9:30 the board said it was 31* at the top, but with the wind chill it was 21*.  Most of the people in our coach were on the tour.  It was a tight squeeze because the seats were small and also uncomfortable.  There were two seats on one side of the aisle and three on the other and the seats faced each other, so some people, like us, went up the mountain backwards.  The first part of the 8.9 mile trip was through forests of pine and aspen and the aspen are beginning to turn yellow.  On the way up we saw a waterfall that is higher than Niagara Falls (it is at over 8000 ft.).  We saw the remains of old cabins and a small hydro-electirc dam.  In the distance we could see the panhandle of Oklahoma and the plains of Kansas.  We also saw a working Gold Mine near Victor, CO that mines about $1 million of gold per day.  Once we were above timberline we had sweeping views of Colorado Springs and the frontal range of the Rocky Mountains.  During the ride we went up grades as steep as 25%. 

At the top we were at 14,110 ft. and it may be the highest we have ever been.  We are going to have to check how high we were in the Alps in Germany.  I started feeling light-headed and so did Derek.  We walked through the gift shop and went out to the edge to get a view.  There were more clouds by now but there was still blue sky too.  We took pictures by the sign for the summit.   We walked to the side where there was a memorial to Katharine Lee Bates who wrote the words for America the Beautiful after having visited Pike's Peak.  We checked out the gift shop and Larry bought six donuts for us to eat on the way back down.  We had only 55 minutes at the top.  Before long it was time to get back on the Railroad and head down.  We had ascended at an average of 10 MPH, but the descent was a top speed of  8.5 MPG.  By the time we left I was feeling pretty bad from altitude sickness.  There were other people at the top who had driven up, hiked up, or biked up.  There was also a tour company that bussed you to the top and then gave you a bicycle to ride down.  It took us an hour and 20 minutes to get back to the station.  We got on the bus and went back to the hotel.  Derek was feeling pretty bad because of his cold, so we asked the doorman where we could get some Sudafed  and he told us where to go.  We walked there and got cough drops and something like Sudafed.  He took it with mineral water from the springs here.  It is 4000 year old water and is supposed to be good for you.  I thought it tasted yucky!  Then we walked to Patsy's Candy Store and Larry and I got ice cream for our lunch.  Derek wasn't hungry.  We walked a little way through the shops and then back to the hotel. 

At 2:30 we boarded the bus again and headed for Garden of the Gods.  Not all of us went.  Natalia was our tour guide again and Mark stayed behind at the hotel to print out boarding passes etc.  We went in the main entrance and parked at the main parking lot.  We got out and walked about to the center of the central part of the park.  We saw people climbing in two places.  We definitely had a better day there last week than today.  It was cloudy and spitting rain.  We spent about 45 minutes there, then drove to Balanced Rock where Larry and Derek got off the bus, in the rain.  I stayed on the bus.  We got back to the hotel about 4:15 and had some time before supper.  So I started the blog.

We left for supper at 6:00 and drove into Colorado Springs to Bambino's Italian Buffet.  Don't let the word "buffet" fool you, this was great Italian food.  There were 8 kinds of pizza, lasagna, Fettecini Alfredo with chicken, salad with house Italian, and garlic bread.  It was all delicious!  For dessert there was peach and apple stromboli made like a pizza.  There were also open bar on wine, beer and soft drinks.  We were in a banquet room on the second floor and the joke was going around that we were having our Last Supper in the Upper Room.  Natalia joined us for supper.  Larry, Derek, and I said our goodbyes at the end since we have to take a private shuttle, earlier tomorrow morning.  AAA told us to get flights leaving after 11:00 and it was supposed to be 1:00.  When we got on  the bus it was raining really hard.  On the way back in the bus Marian read a poem she wrote about our week together and it was really funny.  Then we decided to sing Row, Row, Row Your Boat in a round and we did pretty well.  Then we decided it was appropriate to sing "America the Beautiful."  Then we sang "Home, Home on the Range" and when we got to the last line, "And the skies are not cloudy all day," we all just burst out laughing.   When we got back to the hotel there was water coming up from the manhole in the street beside the hotel.  If you go to NBC.com you can find a picture of this same manhole that looks like a fountain.  Larry and Derek decided to go see how the creek was doing, it is called Fountain Creek by the way.  When they got back they said the creek was really high and running really fast.  

It has been a great first time tour.  We highly recommend any tour with Mark Warther.  Just go to the website for the Warther Museum and check them out.  We are considering doing the Southwest Tour and he is putting together a Shakespeare Tour in England that sounds interesting.  So tomorrow we are up at 6:45 and leave for the airport at 7:45.
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