Since my 70th birthday came on a Friday when we had to work, John took me out to breakfast at the Hungry Bear in Woodland Park. We had read that they served some of the best pancakes in Colorado and I have to agree. My berry pancakes were delicious. John really enjoyed his southwestern scramble, too.
To continue the celebration, yesterday we rode the cog train to the top of Pikes Peak.
This was my third trip to the top of the 14,110 ft peak, which was first spotted by Zebulon Pike in 1806. He failed in his attempt to climb it in November of that year (no wonder, they were climbing through waist-deep snow), but it was named after him. This was John's fourth trip up the peak. He went with his family as a child and we took our sons on the cog train when they were children. More recently, we drove up with John's cousin Birgitta, from Sweden. We must have adapted to our life here in the mountains because this is the first time I didn't have trouble walking from the train to the Summit House.
The cog train ride is 8.9 miles long at an average incline of 16%. The steepest grades are 25%. The trip up the mountain is beautiful. First the train goes through dense conifer and aspen forest.
This large tree is a bristle cone pine, thought to be 2,200 years old.
When we crossed the tree line or timber line (the altitude at which trees can no longer grow), the vistas were larger.
There are several sidings where we passed other trains, as well as a work train.
At times we could see where the track was ahead of us.
When the track was very steep, the front of the train was 3 stories higher or lower than the rear--and the train was only 2 cars long. Maybe you can get an idea of that from this photo. I took it looking straight ahead so you might be able to see that the front is downhill from where we were sitting.
After Katharine Lee Bates visited Pikes Peak in 1893, she wrote a poem that we know as the song "America the Beautiful." that poem is contained on a monument at the summit.
Several bicycle riders had ridden to the summit in a van and then headed out to ride down the mountain. It must be an exciting ride with the cold and wind, as well as the steep descent.
This is the end of the line for the cog train. We were so glad the train stopped in time.
The views from the summit were amazing. And look at how blue the sky is.
From the summit, we could see an open pit gold mine near Cripple Creek and Victor.
The Cripple Creek district was the last great gold mining boom area in Colorado. It is also where my mother was born and raised. Cripple Creek is 44 miles southwest of Colorado Springs, near the western base of Pikes Peak. According to Wikipedia,
"Through 2005, the Cripple Creek district produced about 23.5 million troy ounces (979 1/6 troy tons /888.3 metric tons ) of gold. The old underground mines are exhausted, but open pit mining has operated since 1994 east of Cripple Creek, near its sister city of Victor, Colorado.... $500,000,000 worth of gold ore was dug from Cripple Creek."
Of course, we had our picture taken under the summit sign.
The rail line crosses the automobile road to the summit. We passed this car on the road.
When we returned to Manitou Springs, where the cog railroad station is located, we continued on down to Colorado Springs to do some shopping. We could look up at the mountain where we had been only a couple of hours earlier. At the summit, we had been wearing down coats and hats. In Colorado Springs, it was 91 degrees and we wished we were in shorts.