Almost to the top of Pike's Peak - Sept 25, 2009

This morning Pike’s Peak was clearly visible. Our reservation was at 2:40 so we drove out to visit Old Colorado Springs. That was a good decision – the town is full of interesting shops, and is very attractive. The first art store we stopped in is a cooperative of 19 artists. They rotate managing the shop, and had a really nice variety of excellent work. Unfortunately we don’t have much room in the RV for additional art. We also stopped by a leather store, The Crafty Cow, to buy the advertised 25 cent sodas, and decided to buy a couple of hand-made bowls that can be used for cereal, soup, etc. We have been talking about getting some bowls this size, and these are beautiful – one is white and blue and the other is white and red. At the Army Surplus store I simply had to buy an army-green gas mask bag. I figure I can use it today to carry our binoculars and gloves. For lunch we stopped at Bon Tom CafĂ© and got a pancake/egg/bacon plate, and a chili relleno plate. Then we went to the Honey Shop and bought some great local honey.

A little after 1:00 we headed back to Manito and stopped at the Ute Chief mineral spring fountain. That has the best mineral water in town, and we filled a couple of jugs. While we were waiting to board the train we looked at one of the old steam engines – pretty neat engineering! They have another one that they are restoring to be able to run. 
We learned that the train would not go all the way to the peak because of blowing snow (it was dry and sunny at the base but the peak is a different climate), but they did expect to get to 13,000 feet, so we decided to take the trip anyway. On the train we were assigned to some pretty good seats. For the first third of the trip the terrain was a combination of forest and huge granite rocks. The rocks here are Pike’s granite and are very porous. There were some of cliff formations, some huge boulders the size of a train car, and some formations that almost looked like granite waterfalls. There was a “town” along the way of one person, who lives there Monday thru Friday to maintain the area, and lives 60 miles away on the weekends. 
As the train climbed up, you could see all of Colorado Springs below, and a large reservoir. The track incline increased to 25%, and the terrain changed to all forest, sloping down the mountain side from the track. Then we crossed the tundra line, where trees won’t grow. The only building up that high was a stone worker’s building, by the side of the track. The terrain was rocky ground with a few hardy, low mossy plants that spread out about 3 inches in 100 years. That is why old tracks are still visible. We could see another mountain range 100 miles away. We also saw 4 bighorn sheep. These were female, so they didn’t have the big, curved horns. 
There are marmots here also, sunning themselves on the rocks. 

We reached a spot where the snow had been shoveled off the track, and the snowdrift was as high as the train window, but just on one side.
To the left we could see the mountain range of the Continental Divide. But between 12,000 and 13,000 feet, the train was not allowed to go any further.  So we went back the way it came. They have an engine on both ends of the train so they don’t have to turn it around.  It was sort of a shame that we couldn't go that last little bit, to the top, but it was a great trip, anyway.

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