So, here we are again in Manitou Springs, Colorado. This morning, we were booked on the 10:40 Cog Railway trip up to the top of Pikes Peak! After breakfast at the hotel, we headed down the road about 2 miles to the Cog Railway Depot! We were already in the hills at this point, and I swear we parked the car up the mountain. Then we had to walk down to the depot. Of course, that means we had to walk up the hill on the way back, but then that was after we “climbed” the mountain
Pikes Peak was discovered in 1806 by Lieutenant Zebulon Pike, who like Lewis and Clark, was doing explorations of the Louisiana Purchase for the government. By the late 1800s, trails and a road were carrying tourists to it’s summit, but it wasn’t till 1890 that the railroad opened. The design is a cog system like many cog railroads in Switzerland, and in the beginning little steam engines pushed you the 8 miles up to the top of Pikes Peak. By 1963, Diesel/Electrics built by the Swiss started taking passengers to the peak, and today we rode in a newer version of that train.
We had tickets for the 10:40 AM train, and arrived 30 minutes early as advised. At about 9 AM this morning, we checked the weather on the top of Pikes Peak, and the temperature was 32 degrees, with winds blowing at 50 MPH, and a wind chill of 15 degrees. We were shocked at the number of people waiting for our train, who were dressed in shorts and t-shirts, and nothing else! Once word got around about the temps at the top, the gift shop did a brisk business in hoodies! Promptly at 10:40, our train pulled out and started the 1 hour and 20 minute climb to the top. The views were beautiful on the way up, but the hard plastic seats we had to sit on were not! Eventually we made it to the top, added our fleeces to our sweats shirts, and left the train. Yes, the wind was blowing, yes it was cold, and yes the views were incredible!
Some views of the trip up and down
From the Summit of Pikes Peak
Trying to not get blown away!
At the top, there were not only people from our train, but hundreds of folks that had driven themselves up the Pikes Peak Highway! The 19 mile toll road is from Cascade, Colorado to the top of Pikes Peak, and is made up of innumerable switch back turns, often with little or no guard rails. Having driven in Yellowstone, and just Saturday driven over the Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park, we opted for the train! You start at an elevation of of 6570 feet in Manitou Springs, climb just over 7500 feet, and an hour and 20 minutes later reach the summit at 14,115 feet, making this the highest cog railway in the world! The air is thin, making it difficult to breath, and causing you to feel a little off. Having experienced that in the Rockies, we were happy to be on a train and not trying to negotiate the curves on the highway!
This is the parking lot at the top and a view of the Pikes Peak Highway
When we got back to the “ground”, it was almost 2 PM, and we decided to make a quick trip to Colorado Springs, and the US Air Force Academy. Once we proved who we were at the guard booth, we drove around and looked at the campus. As this is Labor Day weekend, many cadets were returning with their families. In fact, we spoke to a family at the top of Pikes Peak, who were returning their Cadet son to the Academy and then catching a plane home.
Tonight we decided to treat ourselves to a “nice” dinner, and found a place down the road in Old Colorado City called Jake and Telly’s Greek Taverna. We had a wonderful meal staring with a Hummus plater, followed by Greek salad, and a very tasty Gyro meal. It would have made a restaurant in Astoria, NY proud, and here we were in Colorado!
An interesting thing in Colorado, you can legally buy an ounce of pot a day (is this connected to some of the strange characters we’ve seen in the state?). It seems to be a major business in this area, because there are as many retail marijuana stores in Manitou Springs as there are liquor stores! Big Business I guess!