Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Day 9 - Colorado Springs

Canon City has 13 penitentiaries in its economy. That was the most interesting factoid about the city. We skipped the Royal Gorge b/c we had been so chicken at the Rio Grande Gorge. So instead of taking the hazardous "Phantom Canyon Road" up to Cripple Creek (dirt, no guard rails, at places only one car wide) and then the Florissant National Fossil Beds Monument (which had been the plan for the day), we drove to Colorado Springs instead. Our first destination was the Garden of the Gods.

We visited the Visitor's Center, and I bought a silver-dipped aspen tree leaf, and a beautiful opal-like ring.

Next we took the tour bus around the main loop of the park. Sorry some of these are blurry... the bus was moving and we didn't have the camera set up to take instant pictures.

This one is "Signature Rock" with "White Rock" in front of it:

I loved the moon setting over this one:

This one is called "Kissing Camels":

Here's what happened when I used "Auto Photo Fix" on the Kissing Camels photo. Very strange:

The rock on the right has a "thumb" on its edge. To the right of the thumb is a "crying Indian"... the hair is at the top of the rock, then there is a forehead to the left, then the nose, and there is a hole like an eye, that has a dark streak running from it (the tears, when literally flows with water when it rains enough to fill the hole up). Can you see it?

On the left is "Steamboat Rock" and on the right is "Balanced Rock":

We then visited the Trading Post, where they had lots of tourist junk, but also some very nice pottery, jewelrey, rugs, and art. I love the grace of this glass sculpture...makes me think of seraphim:

We had buffalo burgers for lunch at the Trading Post:

Very tasty and lean. Next we waded through much much traffic over to Manitou Springs. They were having an art festival, and also the firemen were blocking an intersection to do their "fill the boot" fundraiser for Jerry's Kids. Finally we made it to the Manitou Depot for our trip of the Pike's Peak Cog Railway.

The train starts at 6,570 feet and ascends to 14,100 feet (the summit) in a little over eight miles. The maximum grade on the track is about 25%, which is nearly twice the steepest road (around 13%, but 8% is more common). Adhesion trains (regular trains) can only use track that is no more than 8% grade. It doesnt look so bad from the outside, but when riding in the train, it feels scary like a rollercoaster that is climbing that first hill. There are three places in the route where uphill and downhill trains can pass each other:

Lots of pretty scenery up and down:

There were lots of pretty waterfalls in the creeks running beside the tracks.
Every tour guide must mix facts with humor, and here is a (joke) boulder that the conductor said he had to push off the tracks earlier in the day and prop up with some smaller boulders to hold it in place:

Once you reach the treeline,

its less about the scenery and more about the view:

I was surprised by how much area is covered in raw rockfall. Its like a river of rocks.

Yes, it was raining and there was even some hail and lightning. That bluish stuff between the rocks is the hail that accumulated.
This is "Windy Point" at 12,130 feet:

This is "The Saddle" area, around 12,750 feet:
And here we are at the summit at last:

It was chilly but not too cold. It was stilly cloud-covered with a light rain. So we all packed into the depot/gift shop. Long lines for bathroom and food/drink. The trip up is about 1.5 hours and the trip down is slightly shorted b/c they go faster on the way down. Apparently their donuts are famous. We shared one and they were fine, but not earthshatteringly special. As we were boarding for the trip down, the cloud cover broke open for just a few seconds. Long enough to get some photos of Colorado Springs 8000 feet below:

And then the clouds closed up again. On the way down we also saw a fox, which the conductor said was extremely rare to see. Can you see him?

No? How about now:

A nice adventure that I do not need to repeat in this lifetime. Well, maybe perhaps I could be persuaded to go up again during the peak of fall colors...

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