Colorado Trip 2004

Day 3

Woke up in the morning to this view out our hotel window:

Today we drove to Pikes Peak. There are three ways to get to the top: drive, hike, and take the cog train. If you take the train, you miss all the good stuff along the way, and the hike is pretty intense for flatlanders like us. The drive, however, is just as fraught with peril as the hike. The road is narrow, unpaved, and has no guard rails. We often couldn't see more than a few yards ahead, and when we crested each blind rise we'd be treated to a sudden hairpin curve
perched at the brink of a 13,000-foot free fall. Big fun!

Amusing hairpin curves

A view from the car


The summit

The view was astonishing, but interestingly the view is best below the top. I think the top  was in the clouds, even though it didn't appear to be from below, and the view was hazy. We pulled off to ooh and ah at a herd of unimpressed bighorn sheep near the top. We also saw a yellow-bellied marmot that was so tame it was practically climbing into people's cars to see if they had food.

Yellow-bellied marmot


The sheep got tired of being stared at

The top of the mountain is very touristy, especially when the cog trains vomit floods of tourists who all head directly into the gift shop and get in lines to visit the restrooms and paw through the t-shirts. We did manage to escape with our lives and some lunch, which we ate in the car where it was quiet (until a dust devil spun through the parking lot, spewing tiny gravel bits onto our pizza and into every nook of the upholstery). We also sampled the "famous" donuts, which are much better hot than cold, not that it kept us from wolfing down cold donuts later on. The drive back down was a bit hairy; we were in first gear most of the way, and very much missing our Explorer on those gravel roads. Mark did all the driving; I took pictures and tried not to be a distraction.

An inscription on a boulder near the summit

From Pikes Peak we drove south to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, probably the nicest zoo I've ever been to. There we got to feed giraffe crackers (aka ry-krisp) to real live reticulated giraffes. Giraffe tongues are cold, blueish black, and prehensile, and will wrap around your hand and cracker and tug insistently if you don't give it up quickly. The giraffes tolerated being petted if there was a treat in it for them, and we discovered how bony their heads are, and how soft their ears. Being licked by a giraffe totally made the admission price worth it.

After the giraffes, we watched piles of wrestling meerkats, and then while checking out the colobus monkeys we were singled out by a docent who turned out to be from Chicago and was an all-around great person to talk to. She made me want to move there so I could volunteer at the zoo with her. She started out talking about the monkeys, but then we got onto Chicago vs. Colorado Springs, conservation of species in the West, a bit of politics, housing prices, all sorts of stuff. So, Jean, I don't know when we'll get out there again, but you made an awfully good case for packing up and moving.

After a quick shower, it was on to the Flying W Ranch for cowboy-style food and music and comedy. By the time that ended, we were ready to call it a day.

Back to Day 2
Go to Day 4