Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Colorado Springs - Together Again

Roger here...  The picture above was taken from the top of Pike's Peak.  Do we look happy?  It is good to be back with my family in Colorado. 

The first full day after my return was a day of rest.  Rest and reading in a perfect setting.  It was a perfect day for some quality time in the hammock.  The wildlife views from our campsite continue to impress.  

On my second day back we headed for nearby Manitou Springs and Pike's Peak......

Whoa there, Nellie... (Dianne here.)  There are just a couple of things left for me to talk about before Roger's return to Colorado:

  I ventured out a few times on my own.  Each time I ended up getting lost, which will come as no surprise to our long-time friends.  It's scary to think that I'm Roger's navigator when we travel, because I have absolutely no sense of direction.

My first adventure was to attempt a 4-mile hike in the nearby Aiken Canyon Preserve.   I was all suited up with my boots, hiking belt, bird book, bear spray and snacks.  No dogs allowed, so I was all alone, and there was not a soul around.  

The trail crosses and follows in and out of a dry wash.  Unfortunately for me, this really cool cairn marking a turn onto the dry wash was set in the middle of two branches of it.  I was not smart enough to figure out that the rocks across the left side meant don't go that way.  I assumed since the trail was a loop, that it didn't matter which way I went.  So, being directionally challenged, of course I went left.  I followed the dry wash for a mile and a half and, after having to crawl on hands and knees under downed tree branches and overgrown sticky shrubs, finally decided I indeed was not on the trail and backtracked to the cairn.  

At about this time, Roger called from Indiana and I assured him I was fine and on my way back to the car.  I told him I'd call him when I reached the car.  Well...I made another wrong turn and it took me so long to make my way back to the car that Roger called again, alarmed that he hadn't heard from me.  By then my pedometer registered 5 miles, and so I gave up on my big solo hiking adventure and went home.

Concord Stagecoach
My other misadventure was using our old auto GPS ("Sacajawea," a/k/a "Sack of @%#!") to try to find the Ghost Town Museum in Colorado Springs.  Had I simply followed Mapquest I would have been there in about 30-40 minutes.  By using the GPS, I spent an extra hour driving aimlessly around Colorado Springs in heavy, aggressive traffic before finding the museum.   I finally did make it, and here are just a couple of the displays that caught my eye, with captions.  I know I would have enjoyed the museum more had I been in a better mood when I finally got there!

Display of Antique Toys
Cutter One-Horse Open Sleigh

1903 First Cadillac Model
Okay, back to Roger....

OK, back to the Pike's Peak story.  Dianne and I had seen Pike's Peak on other visits to the area, but we had never made the trip to the top, at least not together.  (I once sat in the backseat of our car while my dad drove our family to the top when I was a kid.  I am pretty sure that all dad saw was the roadway on which thankfully he successfully maneuvered the car.)  This time we opted to take the cog railway to the summit.   I know, the cog railway is a pretty touristy thing to do.  However, unlike the cheesy night trip on the Colorado River near Moab, this excursion was very well done -- worth the $36 per person for the three-plus-hour trip.  

We intended to eat lunch before the trip in Manitou Springs (by the way... no wildfire damage);  however, we were not able to find a place to park.  We ended up in the cog railway parking lot well before our intended arrival time.  (Dianne here:  This will come as no surprise to Roger's friends...)  We used that time to eat an overpriced lunch at the depot and to watch one of the trains depart.

These trains have been running since 1891!  The railway cost a million and a half dollars and took years to complete.  The railway cars were made in Switzerland.  Is something that old, safe?  We took a picture of the "teeth" that enable the cars to ascend and descend at a 25% grade.  They looked pretty sturdy to me.  As the trip began, the perky young conductor announced that in all the years of operation, there has not been a single, unintended, fatality, insinuating that fatalities could be arranged for those ignoring the safety rules.  She then went into an explanation of those safety rules. 

The thirteen-mile ascent in the comfortable train car lasted about an hour and twenty minutes.  During the trip, the scenery changed from pine trees surrounded by boulders, to tundra, to stark rocky surfaces with little visible plant life.  While the temperature dropped from 85 degrees to 42 degrees.

The conductor asked if anyone in the car was from Texas.  There were a few raised hands.  She then said, "Everything in Texas is big, right?"  She went on to say, "In Colorado, we refer to this as sand."

Nice panoramic views as we neared the summit.

A good perspective of one of the cars going up a 25% grade near the top.

We were only allowed a half hour at the summit before the return trip.  Supposedly, people would be more likely to experience altitude sickness if they stayed longer.  I was skeptical of this until I stood up to get off the train.  Whoa!!!  It felt like I had consumed a couple bottles of wine.  Breathing was forced.  It was difficult not to stagger when walking --- a constant state of dizziness.   Dianne and I put up a brave front as our pictures were taken, but it was an effort.

Notice that I was clutching the rock wall in this picture.

One more look at the amazing view before heading back to the train and taking a look at the track that we would be taking over the edge.

Here is a shot of one of the trains heading up as we were heading down.  Since there is only one track, there were special places to pull over in order to wait for oncoming trains.

Yesterday, it was back to the weight-loss and exercise program.  I have been carefully watching every calorie since returning to Colorado, and have already lost a few pounds.  (Dianne again:  At the RV Dreams rally last May I learned from another attendee about a really cool iPhone app to help monitor food intake and weight loss.  It's a free app, and is called "Lose It!" if any of you want to check it out.  Roger just started using it when he returned from Indiana.  I've been using it since the first week of May, and so far I've lost 7 pounds, just by keeping track of what I eat.  Back to Roger:  

 As everyone knows, exercise is essential to any weight loss program.  So, we did a four-mile hike at nearby Cheyenne Mountain State Park.

The hiking trail at Colorado's newest state park was immaculate.  The excellent trail blazes along the way actually included the GPS coordinates.  The hike through the pine trees and boulders held three highlights.

I was able to convince Dianne to climb onto one of the boulders to pose for a picture.

Nancy R. alert:  You know what's ahead....

The bull snake that Dianne spotted sunning itself on one of the rocks next to the trail --- scared the crap out of me.  I had to swear a little bit to keep Dianne from chasing it.  

The thriving ponderosa pine tree that was growing out of one of the boulders.  Really cool. 

We leave Colorado Springs tomorrow, heading for Creede, Colorado.  I have heard nothing but great things about our new destination.

The pet picture of the day shows Charlie as he makes sure that Bandido does not get too frisky.


Gin and Syl said...

I think that we would have to do the train too when we get out there. Our little Suki probably wouldn't like the steep grades and altitude one bit.

Nancy and Bill said...

So glad to see you two back together out doing things you love. Thanks for the tour to Pikes Peak!!