Rather than mope around the Seattle or Orlando area, I decided to visit some friends over the July 4th weekend, in Colorado Springs. I've been to Colorado several times, but always during the winter. A summer visit to see the beautiful Colorado Springs area sounded like a lot of fun!
In the morning, I met Lindsey and we drove off to Pike's Peak. She brought along some lemon juice, which apparently helps with altitude sickness, in case I needed it. I joked that she probably had a betting pool with friends on how long I would last before needing a sip... but she denied that. ;) Lindsey said you could drive to the summit, but that didn't really click - I thought you could drive most of the way but had to hike the rest. It turns out, you really can drive all the way to the summit! You can also ride the Cog Railway, or hike, but many choose to drive, especially on such a beautiful day.
The road was very windy but the scenery was spectacular. From the ranger station entrance, the road is 19 miles one-way to the summit. Halfway up the road switches to unpaved, and we continued to climb slowly. Eventually we crossed the timberline and still the road continued. There was minimal snow, something I was surprised with since Mt. Rainier is about the same elevation as Pike's Peak, yet is snow-covered year round.
Eventually we gained the summit, parked in the lot, and then wandered around for a while.
We did it! Nobody has to know we drove, we can claim we hiked from the trailhead.
While we were on the summit, we could see a storm off to the north. There were a few lightning bolts and rain, but not much thunder, which often echoes around canyons in the area.
We left the summit and drove down the road, stopping for a brake temperature check midway. I let Lindsey drive since she has more experience with mountain driving, which worked out nicely because she wanted to drive, and that let me spend more time staring out the window. At the brake temperature check, the ranger commented "very good" after she told us the brakes were 137 degrees. A large sign said cars had to take a mandatory break if the brake temperature was above 300.
After leaving Pike's Peak, we visited Garden of the Gods, which is filled with rugged colored rock formations. These formations are actually quite thin, and after looking at them, a few reminded me of a petrified ocean liner, frozen in place.
Rock climbing is popular and we watched a group climb one of the smaller formations. The park also has a few trails which are good for hiking or running. We meandered through and then left to eat a late lunch.
Our last tourist spot was Seven Falls, a series of waterfalls in a canyon.
At night, the park lights each waterfall with a different color, but we didn't want to stay long enough to see that. Instead, we rode up to one observation platform, and then we went to the base and I walked up the first flight to get a better view of the falls.
After leaving Seven Falls, we followed a road up an adjacent canyon and hiked a scenic trail to another waterfall. We returned to town by following a dirt road ("Upper Gold Camp Road") which lead through two tunnels - this was fun and reminded me of a tour I took in New Zealand - and eventually wound down back to a paved road and into the city.
Today was quite a bit of exercise walking and hiking around!
I have more photos on my Pike's Peak and Garden of the Gods Flickr set.