Pikes Peak or BustOn the Road Again, Day 7: Colorado Springs to Denver, CO
At the top of our agenda today was driving to the summit of Pikes Peak, known locally as "America's Mountain" because Katherine Lee Bates is said to have been inspired to pen America the Beautiful after visiting the top of the mountain in 1893. Considering what road conditions and transportation were at that time, we should be thankful her hymn to America wasn't called America the Hazardous.
When we arrived at the pay station at the base of the mountain road around 9:15, the temp was about 40°. Upon learning that we are from Georgia, the ranger on duty asked whether we were accustomed to 18° days, his subtle way of informing us of the temperature at the summit. 'Bring it,' we thought, as we paid our $12 per person toll and began our ascent.
Consulting our 'current elevation' app, we were surprised to learn that we were already at 7,700 feet. Since we began this trip a week ago in Chatom, Alabama (elev. 170 ft.), our increase in elevation has been so gradual, we would not have guessed we had reached such a rarefied atmosphere. We continued up the road with pine trees on either side until we reached Crystal Reservoir at 9,200 ft. After parking the car, we lit out in search of a letterbox just a short hike away, according to the clue. So we foolishly took no water, no bear spray, no bear bell...but, hey, we did have our letterboxing equipment.
|Something here is just not natural.|
Back in the car, we continued our climb up Pikes Peak. It wasn't long before the mildly winding road through a forest became a steep course with switchbacks followed by hairpin turns followed by more switchbacks on a shelf like road hanging on the artificial ledge. Now we saw a W; it was the map on the GPS screen. Only in the sharpest bend of a turn was there an occasional bit of guardrail. This was truly a road which commanded respect.
|A little more guardrail, please|
|Clearly not enough!|
Then it was time to descend the mountain, an even more harrowing experience than climbing up since gravity was making every effort to speed our journey at a faster pace than was safe. "Hot Brakes Fail," signs warned, as we wondered whether we should have ridden the cog railway to the top instead of driving. With Ken's steady hands on the Acura's downshift paddles, we made it back down safely.
More than half a million people make the pilgrimage to the summit of "America's Mountain" every year, either by car or by rail. Though peeking at the peak was never was on our bucket list, we can now check it off anyway.
Pikes Peak Stats:
- Height: 14,115 ft
- Length of road to summit: 19 miles
- Composition: granite
- First recorded ascent: 1820
- Neighborhood: Front Range of the Rocky Mountains
- Relative height: 31st tallest mountain in Colorado
- Average high temperature at summit: 25.8°
- Average low temperature: 11.9°
A Few More Photos
|Was that bear scat we just saw?|