Today I set forth on my very first adventure in Colorado!
Tired of being home alone, Zoe (another Aussie wife) and I set out on a grand adventure.
First we needed to venture on to the Interstate 25 hwy - the scary 6 lane highway in which going at 70 miles an hour (the speed limit) will see you being run off the road for going too slow! Deciding that we wanted to avoid any peak hour complications, we left home at the more reasonable hour of 9:30 am. This also enabled us to sleep in ;-)
After fighting off the trucks, RVs and speeding cars, we safety made our way down the 45 miles of freeway to Colorado Springs. While the freeway avoids all the little towns, we still got to see the spectacular mountain scenery. The mountains are like nothing you can describe - they jump out of the seemingly flat paddock, in to red, roaring peaks that you need to crane your neck to see the top of. And then, to completely confuse you, many of them have flat tops - like a giant has come along and cut the top off - it is really incredible. Then there are others that tower into the sky forever.
Once we made it to Colorado Springs, we avoided the town - other than to pick up a smoothie - and headed for the mountains.
Pikes Peak is 14,115 foot above sea level. Also known as "America's Mountain", this monster is the most visited mountain in the USA. You can take the 13 mile hike to the top, that apparently takes more days than there miles. You can take the old cog train to the top: a 4.5 hour return trip. Or you can drive up the Pikes Peak Highway, through forests, past reservoirs, and on some truly twisty steep roads. We chose to drive.
And WOW!!! what a drive!! It is 19 miles from the toll gate at the bottom of the mountain (7,600 ft) to the summit. To get to the summit you drive through four major "life" zones: the foothills (6,000 -8,000 ft), montane (8,000-9,500 ft), sub-alpine (9,500 - 11,000 ft) and alpine (>11,500 ft).
At the toll gate at the start of the park available oxygen is 74.9%. As you can imagine, us poor Aussie girls were more than a little shocked by this statistic, so we decided to take it slowly.
Supposedly, the foothills are scattered with wildlife, but all we saw was a squirrel. As we drove up the mountain we stopped at various photo points to ohh and aww - and of course I forgot my camera. There were mile markers along the road so we knew how far we had come, and there were funny signs such as "bigfoot crossing" along the way.
We made it half way and into the Alpine zone and decided to stop for lunch at mile 13. At this altitude you could defiantly feel the difference in temperature, so I got out my cardigan and wondered into a log cabin full of souvenirs and a cafe. We had a terrible lunch of coloured cardboard (cheeseburger) and glue (hot dog). At 11,400 ft the available oxygen was down to 62.6%, so the walk from the car to the loo with a view left me huffing and puffing, so we decided to proceed with caution up a little bit further so we could see the view from above the tree line.
I inched forward, passed the compulsory brake stop on the other side of the road, and up through the most twisty turny road I have ever been on. Hairpin would be an understatement! Further and further we drove, until, seeing a drop straight down to the bottom of the world, I pulled over. I kid you not, the drop off was enough to make your stomach drop and your knees weak. But it was 360 degrees of beautiful spectacular scenery. It felt like we were sitting on the edge of the world, looking down on the world unspoiled by people.
It was at this point we realized that we made it to mile 16 - 12,780 ft (58% available oxygen!!). That was enough! So we decided to slowly descend back into the real world. I made it down safely - with the perfect brake temperature according to the brake stop man. It was funny how I could feel myself picking up energy and endorphins as we went down. It was a very strange sensation.
Next time, we want to take the old cog train to the top. The drive was magnificent, but as a driver I didn't get to see as much as I would like... next time
stay tuned for the next great adventure :-)
wishing you could all share these adventures with me
p.s. Tristan is well too - only a few weeks I go visit him for some more California adventures!