On July 14, 2017 we departed Trappers Lake, Colorado and headed towards the Pikes Peak area. Without Internet connectivity we simply headed back down the canyon on Highway 8 and hoped to get connectivity before we had to make decisions with serious consequences. We travelled back through Meeker, Colorado and gained connectivity soon afterwards. We headed south on Highway 13, east on I-70, and then south on Highway 9 through Alma and Fairplay, Colorado.
The route we chose had a tremendous amount of beautiful scenery. The Colorado Rockies are quite amazing. We wound our way up and down passes and at Hoosier Pass, on the Continental Divide, we reached an altitude of 11,539 feet above sea level. We passed through Alma, Colorado which is the highest incorporated town in the United States at 10,355 feet.
After passing through Alma, Fairplay and a few very small places we headed nearly due east to Woodland Park. We arrived about 7pm, started looking for campgrounds and realized our tactical error of arriving on a Friday night. We began this adventure with the plan of moving on Mondays and Thursdays, but here we were a couple of hours from Denver, in July, on Friday night, looking for a campsite. We tried a few places northeast of Woodland Park and found them full. We headed north towards Denver and came across the South Meadows Campground. We expected it to be full, but just as we were headed up the highway the campground host popped out of the woods at the entrance of the campground on her golf cart. My wife rolled her window down, while driving, and yelled to the host inquiring about availability. The host yelled back that she had one left and it was just the right size for our rig, we pulled in.
We arrived at site 49 about 9pm and found it to be a bit tricky to back into. A couple of men from a nearby campsite came to our rescue, jumped in the cab and put our trailer in the spot. I’m sure they were being helpful, but I also think they were trying to get us settled so the rest of our neighbors could get settled as well. One of them made the comment that it was a pleasure to drive my wife’s truck, we get that a lot. We ate dinner about 11pm and called it a day!
When we awoke Saturday morning we indeed found the campground full, but the sites were well spaced and wooded. We headed to the Laundromat and poured an amazing number of quarters into washers and dryers. While washing clothes I made arrangements to take the Pikes Peak Cog Railway to the top of Pikes Peak. We were very fortunate to get a few of the last tickets for the 4pm trip; there was no other availability for over a week. Before our trip up the mountain we went grocery shopping and did a few other errands.
We’ve driven to the top of Pikes Peak before, but we’ve always wanted to take the cog train. From the platform you take your assigned seats in one of several railway cars. The three of us faced uphill and we sat across from three others. There wasn’t a lot of room, but it was tolerable.
Most of the trip up is quite steep and well in excess of what traditional trains could climb. This is made possible by the cog rail in the middle of the track the entire way up. The diesel engine engages on this rail and literally pulls the rest of the train up. This is not a speedy process and the train seems to go up and down at about 10 mph.
The trip begins in a forested narrow canyon with a stream and a couple of little waterfalls. It then climbs onto the mountain and the views into the distance begin to appear through the trees. The climbing continues beyond the tree line into tundra covered meadows. Beyond this you come to boulder fields near the top before the trip terminates at the peak. At the top you get a chance to get out, stretch your legs and spend money at the gift shop. At the top you are at 14,115 feet above sea level and the views are spectacular. The clear refreshing air makes the whole trip worth the money, time, and effort. After just a few minutes at the top you are requested to board the train for the return trip down the mountain. It’s unfortunate that you don’t get to change seats to the other side or even face the other direction on the return trip. What you see on the way down is precisely what you saw on the way up. This makes the return trip a bit boring, but the time goes pretty quickly and is tolerable.
On Sunday morning we attended the Woodland Park Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. After church we spent some time in a Woodland Park park to plan the remainder of our trip and decided to reserve some cave tours at Carlsbad Caverns.
When we returned from worshiping the campground was nearly deserted and remained so for the remainder of our stay. We really enjoyed the campground. The few neighbors we had were quiet, the hosts were great and the sunsets filtered through the tress were inspiring.
On Monday we drove to the Manitou Cliff Dwellings. It’s interesting, but quite small in comparison to other cliff dwelling such as those in southwest Colorado or New Mexico.
We also drove through the Garden of the Gods Park. We decided that for those traveling from the east this park would be a lot more interesting. This would be a great introduction for those new to red rock. The red rock is beautiful, but for those of us from Utah, Arizona, Colorado or New Mexico there are lots of other places with a lot more majestic red rock. We’ll skip these last two attractions in the future.
On July 18th we left South Meadows Campground and headed south to New Mexico. Our next stop was Agua Piedra Campground northeast of Santa Fe, New Mexico.