Tuesday, July 1, 2008

 

Exploring the East Rockies

I left Denver around 9am to head down to Colorado Springs, about 1.5 hours south.
On the way south I made a quick stop in Littleton, CO (which was near my hotel) and stopped by Columbine High School. Of course we all know why this place is famous...

My first stop in Colorado Springs was Pike's Peak, one of the highest peaks in Colorado. It has a partially-paved road to the summit (and also a railway if you do not wish to drive up). The road was pretty steep but in good condition, and the scenery was beautiful!


The base of the mountain is at about 6500 ft, and the mountain's summit is an incredible 14,100 feet! Before this, I have never been higher than 11,000 ft (at the Mammoth Mountain summit). Near mid-mountain we reach the treeline and snow.


The road continues with tons of switchbacks and steep cliffs on the side of the road:



The high in Colorado Springs was pushing 90 degrees today, but the temp dropped quickly as you climbed the mountain. At the summit, the temp was 40 degrees!
July 1st snow!!


Finally I made it to the summit. Here's the spectacular view:




Take it from me, the air is thin up there. You definitely need to breathe harder just walking around on the rocks near the top. I had lunch at the peak, and then it starting snowing!! Just a flurry but seeing it snow in July is something.

Now that I spent the morning on top of the world, I wanted to spend the afternoon under the ground at Cave of the Winds. This cave is well known by South Park fans because ManBearPig lives in there, but it's also a popular limestone commercial cave with some impressive stalagmites and other formations.
While waiting for my tour, I got a quick snack. They misspelled "soda" here:


The entrance to the cave is a ways up a mountain cliff. It's a nice cave and the tour guide was interesting during the 45-minute cave walk, but my experience was obviously nothing like the spelunking I've done in upstate NY mountains.

After the cave I went to an impressive nearby park called Garden of the Gods. Despite the silly name the park has some great natural scenery. This is "balanced rock", not to be confused with the Balancing Rock at Arches NP:


More cool formations:

There were also rock climbers all over the place:


This formation is called the "Siamese Twins". In the background is Pike's Peak:



By now I was ready for dinner: because the Rockies scored more than 7 runs at the game last night, I was entitled to 4 Taco Bell tacos for $1! Apparently you don't have to go to the games to get this deal, so everyone in Colorado goes to Taco Bell when this happens.

Now for the drive through the Rockies!

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