Sunday, June 23, 2013

Ride to the Top of Pikes Peak

An example of the cog wheel and gears
Written by Karen.
Every year there is an automobile and motorcycle race held near Colorado Springs, Colorado.  The race to the top of Pikes Peak is called "Race of the Clouds" and includes 156 turns - mostly without guard rails - and has an average 7% grade as it winds back and forth up to the 10,114 foot summit.  The current record set in 2012 for the 12.42 mile race up the mountain is 9 minutes and 46 seconds.  

We chose to neither race, drive or walk to the top of Pikes Peak.  Instead, we took the Manitou and Pikes Peak cog railway to the top.  This particular cog railway turns out to be the highest cog railway in the world. It's a scenic, historical, and restful way to travel - and besides - we didn't need to make it to the top in less than 10 minutes. 

While this wasn't a typical train ride on the rails, the clickety-clickety-clickety sounds of the cog catching the gears in the mostly original rails allowed us to travel straight up the mountain.  At times, we were clicking up the mountain at a 28% grade with the first train car being the equivalent of three stories higher than the third car.  It was enough of a grade that it forced everyone to hang on to their seats so they wouldn't slip out!

We didn't reach the summit very quickly; instead, it took us 1-1/2 hours to reach the top.  There was also a fairly significant temperature difference as we chugged up the mountain.  We entered the cog train at Manitou Station, where it was a warm 89 degrees F at 6,571 feet above sea level.  It dropped to a chilly 32 degrees F, with even chillier winds at Pikes Peak summit, which is some 3,500 feet higher in elevation.  

But, the reason why we had all ridden up to the top of Pikes Peak was for the views.  The endless 360 degree vistas that ranged as far as the eye can see.  You can see some 180 miles in one direction and 120 miles in another. You can see rugged mountain peaks dusted with snow. There are lush quiltworks of varied grassy greens and shades of brown hills and valleys spread out before you, unbounded by any towns or cities.  You can see tall trees that are now dwarfed by size and distance. There are hazy purple mountains that stand proud above the valleys below. There are red and tan rocks that have tumbled down the mountain long ago that lie scattered below us.  We could see multiple blue crystalline lakes that shimmered in the distance.  There are patches of white snow that practically leap out of the dark mountain shadows.  Everywhere you looked you could see something in nature that shouted for your attention.

It was these views from atop of Pikes Peak that inspired Katharine Lee Bates to pen the song, "America, the Beautiful," in 1853, and it was all about the views again on this suddenly chilly and sunny day that was definitely worth the long ride to the top.  

At the summit of Pikes Peak

Passing a train on the way down the mountain 
Looking behind as we climb up the mountain
You can see the gears in the middle that catch the spokes to provide momentum to the cog train car.
We rode in the middle car.  The wooden seats have a capacity for three people on one side, while on the other side there is the capacity for two people to sit.  The guide referred to each side as either the "three seater" or the "two seater" when pointing out points of interest out the window. The large windows slide down for excellent photo coverage or all the way up if the air gets a little too chilly!
End of the line - top of the mountain!


Anonymous said...

Quite a ride up the mountain! Did you take any photos of train--both inside and outside? Steve S

Anonymous said...

great picture of you both..love dad

Jennifer Chase said...

Awesome! Great pics. And where does your journey take you next? :)

Observers of Life said...

Hi Steve!

It was a great trip, and pretty interesting to learn a bit about the cog railway system. I added a few photos that shows a bit more of the inside and outside of the train.


Observers of Life said...

Thanks Dad! :)


Observers of Life said...

Hi Jennifer!

Thanks! After we leave the Denver area, we are planning on heading northeast to see Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons and Mount Rushmore. We should be seeing some pretty awesome scenery!