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Colorado 2008 Trip

Day 8 of 10

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Friday, July 4th
Drive to Pikes Peak, Colorado Springs

We packed up our camp site and left by 10am. On our way out of the park, we stopped at the Beaver Meadows visitor's center. There's a small gift shop and some exhibits here. It seemed much smaller than the Alpine Visitor's Center.

Our destination today was Colorado Springs, about 3 hours away. Along the way, however, we decided to drive up to the top of 14,110 foot Pikes Peak. Now, Jean has had problems with altitude before so I wouldn't take this drive lightly. However, we had just stayed two nights in Denver (5280 feet) and five nights in Moraine Park campground (8200 feet), so I figured if we ever were to be acclimatized for a drive up to 14 thousand feet, this would be the time.

Pikes Peak is always described as the mountain that inspired the song "America The Beautiful". It is also, according to one source, the second most visited mountain in the world behind Mount Fuji. There's a train that goes all the way to the top (reservations required), as well as the 19 mile road we drove. It's a toll road, costing $10 per adult (or $35 per car) at this time. Be sure to fill the tank before you go, since there isn't any gas along the way.

View from Pikes Peak Road on the way up

View from further up the road (still in the car)

Only about half the road is paved. Once you reach about mile 10, the road becomes dirt, although it's in pretty good condition for a dirt road. There are some steep drop-offs and no guard rails, so just be prepared to stomach that. There are some nice rock formations off to the side of the road at about 10,000 feet elevation that reminds me of the Alabama Hills. We stopped there on the way down.

View from the top of Pikes Peak

God's beams at top of Pikes Peak

Train letting off passengers at top of Pikes Peak

At the top is a flat building housing a gift shop and snack bar, a huge parking area, and a display of the lyrics for "America The Beautiful". I never even knew there's a second verse.

Posing for pictures on top of Pikes Peak

View from the top of Pikes Peak

As you can imagine, it's one big tourist trap. We ordered some of the doughnuts from the snack bar, since they are supposed to be special (recipe only works at 14 thousand feet!). To be honest, they were actually pretty good. Nice and crispy on the outside, unlike any doughnut I've eaten. Worth the dollar it costs for one.

Plaque with the lyrics to America the Beautiful

I was a bit light-headed from the altitude, so I made sure to drink lots of water at the top. Other than that, I felt ok; I didn't have the pounding headache that I had at the top of Mount Dana. It helps that I didn't have to exert myself at the top. We took some pictures, staying at the top for probably a bit less than an hour, then drove back down.

Rock formation at about 10,000 feet

Rock formation and view

Once in Colorado Springs, we found a Walmart to pick up some groceries, then tried to find the cabin we were renting. Unfortunately we took a wrong turn and ended up at the wrong cabin (although we didn't know this, since the address matched the receipt we had, and the directions were suspect ("bear right" is not the same as "sharp right"). In any case, we called and left a message for the owner, then scrambled to find a hotel room (it was the Fourth of July, after all). Luckily, we were able to find something for the night. It wasn't as nice as the cabin, but it did allow us to get cleaned up after 5 nights of camping.

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