We went to
To get there, first we had to wait in a long line of about 20 vehicles at the toll gate (it costs $35 per car). Then we started out on a nice winding road through the forest. Overall the road would climb 7,000 feet in 20 miles and take us through four different life zones – Foothills, Montane, Sub-Alpine, and Alpine Tundra.
Once we got above the tree line at 12,000 feet it became a continuous series of steep switchbacks, sharp hairpin turns, and dizzying drop-offs with an appalling lack of guardrails! That means 25 minutes of sheer terror for someone (like me) who’s afraid of heights!
The road took us an hour to drive one way. Most of it is paved but part of it is gravel. The posted speed is generally 20 mph but only 10 mph at certain places. You have to put your car in low gear and be careful not to ride your brakes or they will get too hot and fail. It almost looks like a highway to heaven… and let me tell you, I for one was doing plenty of praying!
It’s amazing how they were able to build a road going all the way up a 14,110-foot peak. The Pikes Peak Highway really is a HIGH way. It was constructed as a toll road for tourists in 1888 and advertised as “the highest road in the world.” (Today the highest road in the world is in the Indian Himalayas.)
In those days, horse-drawn carriages carried passengers halfway and mule-drawn wagons transported them the rest of the way.
A cog railway was built in 1889, which made the journey easier for gentlemen in jackets and ladies in ruffled skirts going on Sunday afternoon excursions. In 1915, the original roadbed was improved for automobile travel. Nowadays the parking lot is filled with cars, many with out-of-state license plates, which shows that Pike’s Peak really is “
The air on the mountaintop contains about 50% less oxygen than at sea level. The two climbers in our family were fine the whole time. The rest of us had mild queasiness, breathlessness, and occasional heart pounding, but no headaches. We spent about an hour at that elevation.
The north side of the summit provides a dramatic view of a nearly vertical 1200-ft. deep ravine known as the Bottomless Pit. BE CAREFUL! HOLD ONTO YOUR CHILDREN! Sadly, it’s been the site of a few suicides.
The peak temperature seldom exceeds 40F even in summer and snow is a possibility year-round. Standing in the cold thin air on the windswept summit, the view literally is breathtaking. You’ve probably heard that Katherine Lee Bates was inspired to write “America the Beautiful” based on her experience traveling to Pike’s Peak in 1893 and it’s true, we could see clearly all the way from the fruited Great Plains to the majestic Rocky Mountains (although they looked blue rather than purple), with spacious skies all around.
Click on the above image to enlarge it so you can read the commemorative plaque, then click your back button to return to this page.
The eloquent and patriotic words of “America the Beautiful” have captivated the heart and soul of an entire nation.
http://www2.gazette.com/pikespeak/index.php – Pike’s Peak Bicentennial.
“Extending as far as the eye can reach, lie the great level plains, stretched out in all their verdure and beauty, while the winding of the grand