Saturday dawned blue and clear. Loading into the car we set out for the day’s adventure. As we entered Pike National Forest, the sign said we’d only be able to travel up 13 of the 19 miles to reach the top of “America’s Mountain”, Pike’s Peak. Disappointed, we decided to pay up and go as far as we could. We had quite a surprise in store. As we drove further on, the landscape changed many times. This drive had the distinction of fooling you into being unaware just how steep the ascent was. Every curve shocked us at how high we’d come. The pictures just can’t begin to capture the depth of the view. We hit the 13 mile mark and were told the ranger would take up a few cars at a time, if the wind allowed so we waited.
We were a little unsure about going up. Several people had told us they were scared out of their wits on this drive. Steep. Switchbacks. Oh, and no guardrails. Then the warnings from the rangers, which were plentiful. The one that was repeated several times was to hold onto our doors. And, all the windows had to be cracked at least an inch. They, kindly we agreed, didn’t want our windows breaking or our doors ripping off. Really? And we paid to take our children up here? Sounded extreme but dramatic. It happens here they said. So, windows down, we listened carefully as the ranger agreed to lead us up 1 more mile, but probably not further. She told us how/where we’d pull over after a dramatic switchback. Okkaaayyyy….
This is one of the few places with the guardrail. Notice the road below? That is a good indication of quickly we are ascending. Colorado Springs is about 6,000 feet above sea level. That gives you an idea of how quickly we ascended in only 13 miles. When we reached the stopping point, we were STUNNED by the wind. We thought they were being cautious. It was painfully cold but worth it. Our small party watched the ranger measure the wind speed and she determined we could go one more mile up, slowly. They have a cap at 40 miles per hour max and it was 30 mph. Now here we are at the first stop. Two things to notice in the following pictures: our hair (wind speed) and how the landscape changes. This was the last tree, they completely stop and the terrain starts looking like a remote planet.
The ranger tested the wind and asked if there were any takers to go all the way…slowly. One of our kids was disappointed when we hit Colorado Springs, thinking these were not the mountains she expected. I explained that we were just at the base. The view explained it all, suddenly the Continental Divide was fully exposed, and the view was different in every direction! Imagine driving up into the clouds with no idea what is coming your way… (don’t forget the NO guardrails detail)
Almost there…We are literally at the top now, “The view from 14,115 feet is fabulous, stretching as far as Kansas or New Mexico on a clear day”. We had an knowledgable ranger who pointed out every single range in sight, every state, the changes in landscape. It was like a private tour .
Zero degree wind chill, 30+ mile an hour winds, a view from the top. Was it worth the trip? Definitely. It is easy to see why the song “America the Beautiful” was penned after the author visited. What a land we live in. Thankful.