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Outer Banks Guide > Outer Banks Blogs > Eve Turek's Natural Outer Banks Blog

Sunday, October 30, 2011
Pikes Peak, CO
Now that Pete and I are back on the ‘Banks, I’ve had a little time to begin organizing and processing the (many, many, many) photographs from our grand western adventure. So many memories, so many thoughts and impressions! Part of my own process of meaning-making is sharing. So I’m hoping blog-followers don’t mind if we collectively take this journey together, and leave the Outer Banks for a bit in order to share these images and impressions from our trip west. This will have to take several blog entries, as it took three weeks to live out in real time!

There’s nothing like a road trip to remind us how very big our country is—and how very beautiful. After driving due west for three solid days, we spent our first few days based out of Manitou Springs, Colorado, a charming little western, artsy, historic town on the edge of the much larger Colorado Springs. We could easily have doubled our time there and still not experienced all the area has to offer in the way of history and scenery. For this trip, scenery was paramount. We both wanted the same things: to be outside in a landscape so totally different from our own daily loveliness here. We opted for “out” over “in” again and again in our trip, forgoing museums or historic displays in favor of experiencing the raw land itself. And what a land!

Manitou Springs initially developed around the discovery of mineral springs in the vicinity, as a sort of American alternative to European spa medicinal resorts. The discovery of gold at Pike’s Peak fueled more growth that dissipated when larger sources were found further west. The area reinvented itself as a traveler’s destination and seems to be doing well in that regard. Its big claim to fame now is Pikes Peak itself, named for the first non-native explorers, with Zebulon Pike’s expedition, to see it in the early 1800s. It’s the easternmost mountain in the US to rise above 14,000 feet. Hikers come from all over to make the journey on foot. Pete and I opted instead to take the Pikes Peak Cog Railway, an excursion aboard the highest cog (rack) railway in the world. The train takes riders right to the summit over a narrow track nearly nine miles long. Amazing engineering feat--the railway was built in the late 1880s and began carrying passengers behind tiny steam engines in 1891. Steam gave way to diesel in the 1930s, and by the mid 1970s the more modern engine/passenger combo cars were custom built in Switzerland for the railway. The European look and design match the alpine scenery well. Folks who want more particulars can google Pikes Peak Cog Railway.

The temperature when we left the depot (at over a mile high from sea level) was mild compared to the cold winds whipping above timberline! There was even some snow on the ground there already!

The first part of the trip takes riders up through fir and aspen groves and boulder-strewn slopes. Little brooks splash alongside in a couple of places. The top of the summit seems desolate but we spied a marmot and a small family of bighorn sheep among the rocks from the train car and what I think was my first golden eagle sighting, soaring over a high valley as the train lumbered past. The views from topside were incredible—and as a special treat, clouds that harbingered snowfall a few days later allowed crepuscular sunrays to shine over the mountains.

Although I think of “Colorado” as Rocky Mountain territory (and we spent one day visiting Rocky Mountain NP north of Denver), there are hints of Red Rock country here too, and we explored two of these: one a little regional park near our motel and Garden of the Gods, a city park that feels like the southwest rather than the northwest, with its red rock monoliths and red-earth soil. These were foretastes of our time to come, as we would eventually head to Utah once we left Colorado. But all that will have to wait for another blog.

Meanwhile, here are some images of our Pikes Peak adventure.

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Manitou, not Manteo! Interestingly enough, Manitou is an Algonquian word, too--meaning Spirit. Cog Railway at Depot. All Aboard!!

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Our particular train left about noontime; the whole excursion takes about 4 hours roundtrip which includes a stop at the top for picture-taking and warming up with soup, hot chocolate and homemade donuts!

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Here's one of the old engines, retired now. Glad it wasn't the one to haul us up the 25% grade! Cog railways can handle much steeper grades than conventional rail systems, which are limited to a maximum of about 6%.

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The aspen were at peak while we were there. The landscape quickly changed as we ascended.

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End of Timberline. The shift from fir forest to bare rock is sudden and dramatic.

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"Windy Point" indeed! And 2,000 more feet to go! The summit of Pikes Peak is over 14,000 feet.

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We made it! If you look closely, you'll see a fellow on the extreme left of the photo in a dark green jacket--that's Pete! Notice how close to the edge the train track is.

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Here's our reward: the view from Pikes Peak.

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Crepuscular Rays! Regular readers know how much I love to see them. What a treat to see them over the Rockies from one of the highest summits in the country.

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Can you tell how happy we both are? We love trains. We love travel. We love the west. We love each other. At this moment in time, life is good and we are grateful. (Grateful too to the anonymous couple who took our pic as we took theirs).

posted by eturek at 3:31 PM

Comments [3]

Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Drive-by, Shooting
Shooting out the window at 40 or 60 (or 80) mph sure is different than standing on the beach and watching the ocean roll in and pelicans glide by! But it was the only way to get some of these images, as Pete and I took three days to drive from Nags Head to Manitou Springs, CO. We drove out 64 west until Winston Salem, then headed north past Pilot Knob to I-70. The route takes the traveler past the St. Louis arch and through much of America's breadbasket. We got our first glimpse of the Rockies on our third afternoon of driving and after hours of lands about as flat as the Outer Banks, we wondered at first if we were seeing a cloud mirage or the real thing! The images below are from our drive out. More from Manitou Springs CO in a day or so when I get a chance to process those. Enjoy!!

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Our first glimpse of mountains was right in NC. Pilot Knob, north of Winston Salem.

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I don't usually think of myself as a city kind of gal, but this view of St. Louis was impressive!

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America's breadbasket. We saw corn and wheat, as well as lots of beef cattle, along I-70 through the Plains.

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Eastern Colorado is still flatland. These pronghorn are native to western America.

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Front Range. The Rockies rise abruptly on the eastern side from the Great Plains. At first, they appear as cloud-mirages to the weary traveler. When we first spied them, we were already well above sea level.

posted by eturek at 11:49 PM

Comments [3]

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