My first thunderstruck encounter with Colorado was when I laid eyes on Pikes Peak; my parents’ back deck had a breathtaking view of this extraordinary mountain cosseted in the Rocky Mountain Range (oft referred to as the Front Range; should you cross over the mountains and stand on the slopes, it would not be the back range.)
I’ve touched the top of Pikes Peak. I ventured up there when my Aunt Helen came out for a visit. We boarded the Cog Railway and ascended into the clouds. It was a lovely (and lengthy) trip filled with beautiful scenery. Once we passed the permafrost line (lichen or bust) we found ourselves gasping for oxygen and surveying a landscape of ice, brown granite rocks and solitude. There is a gift shop up there.
The City of Colorado Springs is ecstatic about its association with Pikes Peak. Their website has much to offer in the way of history.
Pikes Peak was named for Lt. Zebulon Pike, who first saw the mountain in 1806, but never reached the top…and predicted nobody ever would!
The earliest carriage road up the mountain was opened in 1889. The Pikes Peak Highway was built in 1915, at the then-staggering price of $350,000.
Katharine Lee Bates wrote the words to the classic American anthem "America The Beautiful" after her trip to the summit of Pikes Peak in 1893.The annual Pikes Peak International Hill climb hosts top race car drivers who challenge the Peak at speeds of over 100 miles per hour.
The first Race to the Clouds was run in 1916, making it the second-oldest race in America…second only to the Indianapolis 500!
Every year, hundreds of hardy souls take part in the Pikes Peak Marathon, running from Manitou Springs to the summit…and back again!
Each New Year's Eve, a local climbing group [The Pikes Peak AdAmAn Club: http://www.adaman.org/] hikes up the mountain and presents a spectacular fireworks display that is visible as far away as Denver.
Pikes Peak Timeline
1803- Mountain is acquired by the United States in the Louisiana Purchase
1806- "Discovered" and unsuccessfully climbed by Lt. Zebulon Pike
1820- Dr. Edwin James of the Long Expedition successfully climbed the mountain
1858- Mrs. Julia Archibald Holmes was the first woman to climb the mountain
1869- Gold rush lured prospectors and explorers to the Colorado Territory - "Pikes Peak or Bust"
1889- The first Carriage road was completed
1893- Katharine Lee Bates ascended the mountain in a prairie wagon, inspiring the words for "America the Beautiful"
1916- The Pikes Peak Auto Highway opened to the public
1963- Land above 14,000 feet declared a National Historic Landmark
Source: City of Colorado Springs - Topic Pages
I am captivated by the ecology and geology found here. My love of paleontology and the rock formations found in Colorado, Montana, Utah and Wyoming grew with each passing year. I was avid in my exploration of these areas prior to meeting Better Half – the marine biologist. I do not know if he found anything alluring about a bunch of old ugly rocks in the Badlands.
Pikes Peak is not a volcano and has never been one. The granite rock of which the mountain is made was once hot molten rock located as deep as 20 miles beneath the earth's surface. The molten rock hardened and cooled below the earth's surface as much as one billion years ago. Great forces within the earth's crust pushed the rocks upward through a process called uplifting which created a dome-shaped mountain covered with a thick layer of soil and softer rock. Erosion and weathering loosened the softer layers and carried them away.
After hundreds of thousands of years of erosion and weathering, a tall granite mountain lay exposed like a large piece of stone waiting for the sculptor to shape it. Anyone seeing this ancient mountain would not have recognized it as the mountain we know today as Pikes Peak. It took the movement of huge glaciers that once existed on the peak to sculpt the mountain. The glaciers lasted about one million years and that ice age ended around 11,000 years ago.
Acting like a giant cookie cutter, the powerful bodies of ice gouged out the rock and left deep, straight-walled basins like the Bottomless Pit with its sharp drop of 1700 feet. The u-shaped canyons that lead down Pikes Peak were carved by the following "rivers of ice". Other v-shaped valleys owe their existence to ordinary streams.
Source: City of Colorado Springs - Topic Pages
I wish that I could return to that period in my life. (I would bring Better Half with me, of course.) If there is anything that I do miss about this area, it surely is having dinosaurs in my back yard. Ohio, for all her green splendor, hasn't anything like that.
Pikes Peak has live-time cameras set up. These views are from this afternoon:
These were taken this afternoon:
City of Colorado Springs - Topic Pages
Manitou Springs, Colorado at the foot of Pikes Peak, near Colorado Springs and Garden of the Gods
Pike National Forest, Colorado
Pikes Peak AdAmAn Club
Pike's Peak Cog Railway - The world's highest cog railroad, the highest Colorado railroad AND highest train in the United State