Pikes Peak, the tallest peak in the front range of the Rocky Mountains at 14,115'. To gain entry to the 19 mile drive, we pay to reserve a 2 hour slot, during which, we are allowed to begin the drive. For $32, it is way, well worth the expense.
The opening scene of the drive is benign as we pass through the tree lined road but eventually, the views open. The average grade of the entire drive is 5.5% but that is skewed by several flat or down hill stretches. There are many 10-12% ramps and then as the oxygen quality diminishes, it would be a tough slog for the hikers or cyclists who we passed as we drove onward and upward.
The mountains have their own climate and it seems clouds/rain gather each afternoon.
At around 12,000', we reach the height of the tree line.
Images do nothing to demonstrate the thrill/fear of driving along a road edge that were you to cross, would result in almost certain death. There is a huge difference between sitting in the passenger seat and the driver's seat. The wonderful driver, Amy, focused on the road yet there was a pucker factor for me, as I stared into the abyss.
Multiple hairpin curves are negotiated and around one, a herd of goats had stopped traffic.
On both sides of the road they mingled, well over 20 of them. Finally, we reached....
....the top and there was this inspiring monument. Katharine Lee Bates, the author of "America the Beautiful" had stood at this spot in 1895 and so inspired was she, she wrote the famous words as a poem before later having it put to song.
The top is chock full of rocks and little else other than what has been built. Up until 1995, the road to the peak was dirt but now fabulous pavement.
There is an alternative route to the peak, via a train
Remnants of a building constructed in 1873 still stand. It being a polar climate at the peak with snow possible every month, it would be a chilly existence for those who worked there then and now.
At the peak, the partial pressure of oxygen is only 60% compared to sea level and we both noticed it. Our breathing was a little labored but Amy had thought to bring a small canister of oxygen so that helped. We began the descent with the warning to put our SUV in a low gear. As we descended, we noticed tire tracks well left of center and figured out they are from the annual road race to the peak.
At 11,000', we are required to stop for a brake pad temperature check. Too hot and you are told to wait in a parking lot for the brakes to cool. At some point, we saw a guy throwing water at his break pads.
Across from the brake check point is a quaint lodge.