Rocky Mountain High

Trip Start Jan 09, 2013
Trip End Ongoing

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What I did
7 Falls, Manitou Incline, Pikes Peak

Flag of United States  , Colorado
Thursday, July 12, 2012

It rose up in the road in front of us like a defiant giant. It refused to let us see what was on the other side of it, as if to say, "The only way to see what lies beyond is to conquer me." In the distance there it stood, the Rocky Mountains and Pikes Peak

 This was fine with us. Chris, 12, and myself had taken a hike down the White River in Batesville, Arkansas, a couple of months earlier, and the subject of hiking Pikes Peak came up. We started making plans to do it this summer, if possible. Now, here we were. We had driven out of Arkansas, across Oklahoma and Kansas. Now, just outside of  Colorado, we suddenly see it in the distance. Neither of us are deterred from its' massive size, but instead, the excitement explodes within us. Chris grabs the camera and gets some shots of our first view of Pikes Peak through the windshield. I think of a Dr. Suess quote, "Today is your day, your mountain is waiting, so get on your way."  From this point on I will refer to it as "THE PEAK".

Our destination is Colorado Springs, Colorado, where we will spend the week with my nephew and his family, Darren and Deana, and the boys Jessie and Carson. They were evacuated from their home a couple of weeks earlier because of the Waldo Canyon Fire. Here is the Wikipedia version:

Waldo Canyon Fire

"The Waldo Canyon fire, which started on June 23, 2012, sparked three miles west of Colorado Springs. Three days later, on June 26, the fire exploded eastward toward and into the city, engulfing the neighborhoods of Mountain Shadows and Peregrine. Evacuations peaked on June 27 at 32,000 residents. After an investigation, Colorado Springs Fire Department and United States Forest Service announced that 346 homes were destroyed and two people died during the course of the fire in the Mountain Shadows neighborhood. On the night of June 26, the Waldo Canyon Fire became the most destructive fire in Colorado history, passing the High Park Fire of 2012. Upon reaching 100%25 containment on July 10, 2012, the total number of acres burned totaled 18,247. The cause of the fire remains under investigation. As of September 25, 2012, the city offered $100,000 to any lead of the cause of the fire."

 Today, the family would be allowed back into their home. As it turned out we arrived about 45 minutes after they got home. Fortunately, they didn't have any fire damage but some of their friends did and much of the beautiful countryside was destroyed. Pikes Peak had been closed and Chris and I thought our climb was not going to happen. Just a few days before our scheduled trip, Pikes Peak re-opened and our plans were back on!
Soon after arriving, Darren and the boys took us on a hike that started just across the street from their home. The weekend was spent hiking and mountain biking with the family and a trip to the local Zoo. The family was a great host and we thoroughly enjoyed our stay with them. Chris and I both enjoyed them so much, and we will never forget their hospitality. Darren would be flying out of town Monday morning on his job for the rest of the week, so from here on it would be just Chris and I, doing what we came to do, "THE PEAK"

Manitou Incline 
Up the side of this mountain at a 68%25 grade is a climb to be remembered. It's the Manitou Incline and we are determined to climb it today. We wanted to do this as a sort of training exercise before doing "THE PEAK".

 Manitou Incline was built as a cable car to carry materials to build pipelines on Pikes Peak. It was closed by a rockslide in 1990. The Incline was closed down and the rails removed.  The rail ties are still there and the locals started using it for a tough workout climb. It gains 2,011 feet in elevation in 1 mile. Looking at the pictures you will see what a difficult but fun climb it is. 

We start out early while it is still cool but soon work up a sweat on this extreme climb. The old railroad ties are sometimes out of place and spaced far apart, especially for a boy Chris' size. But, carrying our camelback water bottles we stay with the task at hand, stopping when needed to rest or enjoy the views. At one point we see the summit. Or, do we? On arriving at the top we discover it is not the top at all. It is what is called a "false summit". There is more climbing to do. Once we do reach the real summit the views are gorgeous. We take photos and instead of taking the Incline back down, we take the Barr trail. This one mile portion is the trail that leads to "THE PEAK", and gives us an idea of what to expect on our hike in a few days.

I thought it was a fun and challenging hike but Chris says, "I liked it but I don't think I want to do it again!"

7 Falls
It has been called the “Grandest Mile of Scenery in Colorado”.

 This day Chris and I are on our own. Our host family has gone back to work and taking care of other domestic chores. Each day we stayed busy from early to late. We wanted to acclimate ourselves to the altitude before "THE PEAK" as much as possible. 

This day found us at 7 Falls. Located in South Cheyenne Canon, Seven Falls cascades 181 feet in seven distinct steps down a solid cliff of pikes peak granite. Crystal clear water from the southern most edges of the Pikes Peak watershed have, over the ages, carved this unique scenic masterpiece in an easily accessed location. Getting to the top of the Falls requires climbing a 224-step stairway. Once at the top we found a system of trails. We chose to do the trail leading to "Inspiration Point". There was an amazing view of Colorado Springs and the great plains. Going back down the 224 steps was just as scenic.

Now that we were "loosened up" with climbing and hiking up the Falls, we were ready to tackle the Eagles Nest platform. It is located next to the falls. There is an elevator blasted 14 stories straight up through solid granite, a mountain elevator safely transports all who venture here to the “Eagles Nest” observation platform, where the most spectacular view of Seven Falls is experienced. 
We decided to climb the 184 steps up to the platform rather than use the elevator. Later, after climbing up and down a few times we decided to try the elevator at least once.

At night, each fall is lit up with rotating color lights. It's a sight to see. We enjoyed the sight and got some good pictures.

Manitou Springs, Co
 The city of Manitou Springs is at the base of Pikes Peak. We enjoyed seeing the sights in this wonderful town. There are pictures of Chris next to some chainsaw wood carvings here and also of the visit to a castle we did. If you look in one of the photos of Manitou Springs you can see the Manitou Incline in the background as it goes straight up the mountain. We enjoyed eating in the Airplane Restaurant one day, also. 

Garden of the Gods
The rain in Colorado is cold, even on July 9. We mounted up for our two hour ride through the Garden of the Gods and 5 minutes into the ride it started to rain. Except for 15 minutes when it stopped raining once, it rained the entire two hours of the ride. Beautiful and fun, even though very cold.
 Several times we visited the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. It contains numerous trails for hiking, walking, mountain biking, technical rock climbing and horseback riding. There are more than 15 miles of trails. The name of the park dates back to August 1859 when two surveyors helping to set up nearby Colorado City were exploring the nearby areas. Upon discovering the site, one of the surveyors, M. S. Beach, suggested that it would be a "capital place for a beer garden." His companion, the young Rufus Cable, awestruck by the impressive rock formations, exclaimed, "Beer Garden! Why it is a fit place for the gods to assemble. We will call it the Garden of the Gods." The beer garden never materialized, but the name stuck.

In 2006 a dinosaur species discovered there, was named after the park.While visiting the Garden of the Gods, "THE PEAK" was always in the background and always on our minds.

Pikes Peak or Bust
The day arrived to climb "THE PEAK". I had been on top of Pikes Peak on numerous occasions. I had lived in Colorado for 12 years before moving to Texas 18 years ago. But, I had driven to the summit and taken the cog-railway, but never had I hiked to "THE PEAK".

The first American sighting is often credited to members of the Pike Expedition, led by Zebulon Pike. After a failed attempt to climb to the top in November 1806, Pike wrote in his journal that the snow was middle deep and the temperature was 4 degrees below 0. He believed no human could ascend to the top. His men were not dressed for that type of cold and he aborted the climb.

 14 years later, in 1820, the first American ascended to the peak in a couple of days. 

Gold was discovered in the area of present-day Denver in 1858, and newspapers referred to the gold-mining area as "Pike's Peak." Pike's Peak or Bust became the slogan of the Colorado Gold Rush. 

 In July 1893 ,Katherine Lee Bateswrote the song "America the Beautiful", after having admired the view from the top of Pikes Peak. It appeared in print in The Congregationalist, a weekly journal, on July 4, 1895. A plaque commemorating the words to the song was placed at the summit.At 14,110 feet, it is one of Colorado's 54 fourteeners, mountains that rise more than 14,000 feet above mean sea level, and rises 8,300 feet above the city of Colorado Springs.

 We were up and on the trail by 6 a.m., July 11, 2012, with 'Pikes Peak or Bust' on our minds. Each with backpacks loaded for a two day climb, we found the fist two miles extremely steep and tiring. The terrain changed constantly from the trail winding through a forest to walking along a mountain side with spectaclular views to climbing over rocks. What an interesting hike. We rested and admired the views often. 

 By noon we had arrived at our camp spot, Barr Camp. It was a rustic camp with a cabin that had cots for 18-20 hikers. There was no heat but we stayed comfortable in our sleeping bags, which we brought with us.

In the afternoon we busied ourselves by resting some and feeding the resident chipmunks. After a little rest we took a few short hikes from the camp site for some good views. The evening was spent sitting around the cabin chatting with the owner and other hikers. There were many interesting stories that were shared by everyone before sacking out.

We were up and leaving camp at 6:45 a.m. Still somewhat tired from the day before, hitting the chilly air was a real challenge. Nevertheless, we put one foot in front of another and continued on our goal. The trail was different from the day before, because we were climbing ever higher in altitude. At times the trail was very steep or rocky and other times flat and smoother. The views just kept getting more amazing and the air cooler. By the time we reached timber line the trail started the switchbacks called the Golden Stairs. These became more difficult because of the thin air in the high altitude at 14,000 ft above sea level. The air was now cold and very windy. 

 We reached the summit and, at 2:15 in the afternoon, we stood on top of "THE PEAK". The temperature was 43 and the wind chill was 38. We were so excited to have reached the summit. We walked around in the cold to experience the views and take photos. Many people congratulated us for making the climb and others could not believe we had climbed the mountain carrying all our gear and backpacks. I was so proud of Chris for completing this climb that is a challenge for even the best in-shape adult. 

 For me this was a bucket list item to scratch off.

We had reservations to take the cog railway down the mountain to our waiting car in Manitou Springs. Chris was a delightful hiking companion and I will always remember the trail, but more importantly I will remember the time I spent with this amazing 12 year old boy.
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