Monday, August 11, 2014


I always said I was going to do it one of these days...I went and climbed that "Fourteener" (the term for a mountain that rises more than 14,000 feet above sea level - Colorado has 54 of them).  I climbed it in the comfort of the passenger seat of a car, up 14,110 feet into the air; easing around hairpin turns on a road no wider than two passing cars; drop offs straight down the side; and in CLOUDS (not fog) thick as proverbial pea soup.  Yes, we drove it, but I'm still counting it.  
High above the cities of Colorado and Manitou Springs, it's where the legendary PIKES PEAK INTERNATIONAL HILL CLIMB automobile and motorcycle race takes place every year.  A "Race to the Clouds", indeed.  To and THROUGH the clouds.  Through the clouds AND the snow, this past week!  Though they race from closer to the bottom of the Pike National Forest area (there's also an annual marathon and a bike race), the "hairy" stuff starts around the 11,440 foot mark, at the Glen Cove Inn - a great place to stretch your legs on the way up, and a required brake test stop on the way down, performed by Park Rangers.
Breathtaking scenery abounds at every turn.  You can find a few "wide" (JUST barely) spots here and there for photo ops - more on the downhill "side".
Cars disappeared 10 feet in front of us in spots, where the clouds were thickest on the road.  Countless hairpin curves on this drive - you just take it steady, slowing as needed in the clouds, and following the center line if nothing else (we had an excellent driver that day).  Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep grazed in a large area, almost hidden by the clouds.  We passed a guy that had better determination and stamina than we...walking his bike the last few hundred feet - kudos to him for achieving what I wouldn't even attempt!  
The summit provides PLENTY of panoramic vistas.  This was in the middle of July - you WILL want a jacket (it can be 30-40 degrees cooler than Colorado Springs below it).  The black speck in the rock photos (click on the grouping and click again to zoom) was a young man, sitting on the very edge of an out-cropping - it was a long way down, believe me.  I eased my way out to the memorial plaque, which tested MY nerves on the height thing MORE than enough.
"In recognition of the notable career of ZEBULON MONTGOMERY PIKE, soldier – explorer - The people of Colorado have placed this tablet on the summit of the great mountain first seen by Pike, November 15, 1806..."
We were told at the bottom, to be sure to have the donuts at the top.  "World Famous", they said - "best donuts ever!", too.  "They" were right on both counts.  Deep fried right there in the coffee/souvenir shop on the summit - SERIOUSLY the best donut I think I have ever popped into my mouth.  You notice no frosting?  They didn't need it.  They had an unbelievable line of people waiting for these to be come out.
THE MANITOU AND PIKES PEAK RAILWAY is a cog railroad that operates year-round, from Manitou Springs to the summit, weather permitting.  Want to hike it?  There is the Barr Trail from the east (13 miles one-way, and an 8,000 ft. elevation gain, though only a Class 1 trail).  Another route approaches the summit from the west, at Crags Campground.
It's always amazing to me that you can actually see the curvature of the earth, the higher you get off the ground.  
The clouds were thinning and drifting by the time we started back down hill, affording us more jaw-dropping views.
A few more sheep were seen on these beautiful grassy Alpine areas, as well as the fat Rock Chuck (Ground Hog) that popped up to see what I was snapping.
For more info, visit PIKES-PEAK.COM (click the link here, plus any you may find in the body of this post, to be transported).  "On a clear day, you can see forevvvvvvvvvvvvver"...on a day with patchy clouds, you'll still be glad you "climbed" 'er!  Have the donuts!


Createology said...

Tanya you and your parents are very brave to make this trek...even in a car! The views are amazing and I am very thankful you are sharing as this will be my only way of visiting Pike's Peak. For the earned them dear! Travel Bliss...

Jackie said...

Holy Gaucamole!! Not sure I would do that, not even for a donut!
The pictures are fabulous! you should be a professional photographer!

My Garden Diaries said...

Ok so my hands were sweating from the height in the photos and my mouth was watering when you were talking about the donuts!!! Seriously...could those views be anymore beautiful!!!! You rocked these photos!! Breath taking!!! ON my list of places to take the beans as we love Colorado! Have a great week lady!!! Nicole xoxo

Maywyn Studio said...

Bravo! Y'all have a lot of courage.

I felt faint at "brake check," Chills just looking at your beautiful pictures.

Quinn said...

You are making me miss the Front Range and the Continental Divide SO MUCH, and although I've never been to the top of Pike's Peak, it's only because I didn't know they had doughnuts!
Really, Tanya, as far as capturing the colors and sights and FEEL of the high Rockies goes, this is about the best collection of shots I've ever seen!

ricketyjo said...

Wow, what stunning views! Always best when you get a little foodie treat at the top as well :)

kathyinozarks said...

oh this brought back memories. when I was a kid growing up we always took camping vacations, so when my sister and l lived in colorado back in the late 70s our parents came for a visit to check out more of colorado-pikes peek was one of them-I was scared to death let me tell you-and having the breaks checked really scared me-I remember when we made it to the top-it was super windy and really cold-very beautiful place indeed

Cheryl said...

Amazing photos~! You were as high as the clouds? Thats practically knocking on Heavens door! Wow!
big hugs,

Janina Lynet Rolin said...

Hello Pretty, nice pictures! these place is amaging.

111 LaLa Lane said...

Talk about sitting on top of the world! Your pictures are absolutely stunning. Now, I want to go up Pikes Peak. Don't think I'll have time this go 'round, but for sure on a future trip to Colorado. I think I'll take the train, though. A 13 mile hike with an elevation gain of 8000 feet, yikes. My lungs would be screaming. But I'm sure the views and donuts are so worth the trip.