A Train Ride through the Royal Gorge

Trip Start Jun 01, 2009
Trip End Oct 16, 2009

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Flag of United States  , Colorado
Sunday, July 19, 2009

One of Don's goals while in Colorado was to take the train along the Royal Gorge which leads to the headwaters of the Arkansas River.  The train leaves from a depot in Canon City.  This community is south of Colorado Springs and this area seems to offer a lot of interesting things to do.  I wouldn't mind coming to this area for a more extended visit.

The trip to Canon city took about three hours because we avoided hwy 50 in order to continue along the scenic drive through Florence.  The area along the Arkansas River is very dry and brown compared to the Denver area this year and one local commented to me that she wished that the dark clouds overhead would bring some rain!

It seems that at one time mining was a major industry in this area but this endeavor has fallen on hard times.  You can tell that many of the small communities along the Arkansas River are struggling.  Canon City seems to have successfully refocused itself as a tourist destination in a way that preserves it's heritage without become too glitzy.The main street has a number of interesting shops and great architectural features.  The pub where we had lunch was great. I think that this town also benefits from the proximity of major military bases and the accompanying personnel.

The train ride faced a difficult task as we had enjoyed the Verde Canyon train ride so much a couple of years ago.  The Royal Gorge train started its run in 1999 and is building its momentum.  The ride itself is 45 minutes out, a stop and back, travelling through a very narrow gorge with towery shear rock walls on both sides.  In places the gorge is so narrow that the train track runs on a bridge suspended from the gorge walls.  The river is immediately adjacent to the tracks and is a popular white water rafting destination.  At this time of year it offers some excitement, but generally a pleasant drift down river.  We never did find out the percentage grade of the railway but it was significant and the river falls at the same rate.

Just outside town, the gorge is spanned by a suspension bridge.  This bridge was built in 1929 and is billed as the world's highest suspension bridge.  It spans a distance of a quarter of a mile and is 1053 feet above the river.  We didn't have time to walk the bridge but maybe we will get a chance to do so in the future.

On our return trip we took hwy 24 to Limon and then I-70 back to Strasburg.  Some of the towns along this road indicat that their elevation is approximately 1000 feet higher than Strasburg. There is no wheat in evidence.  This is cattle grazing country.  I wonder if it is an elevation, soil or moisture difference that has determined land useage in this area.  On the map,  I-25 (runs north-south), I-70, and hwy 24 form a rough equilateral triangle with the apex pointing east.  There are virtually no roads, at least not paved roads, running north/south parrallel to I-25.  There is one road, County 86 that runs from the apex in Limon to Castle Rock with is approximately halfway between Colorado Springs and Denver.  This road seems to roughly demark the break between wheat and cattle.  The creeks seem to all run straight north from their headwater near hwy 24 suggesting that this road runs along a ridge of high land.  It was not a heavily travelled road and would be a bad place to be caught in a winter blizzard.  You are surrounded by rolling hills, this time covered with prairie grass and cattle, where one can see for miles.  Questions and more questions.  North American is certainly a land of varied attributes.
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