Saturday, October 04, 2014

Nitwit Alert!

Boy, when I screw up it's pretty amazing!  I mean I really manage to screw up royally! 

Anyway, in an attempt to protect the privacy of our friends in Colorado Springs I totally forgot to mention a wonderful experience traveling on the Manitou and Pike's Peak Railway!  I've gotta say it was a great trip.  The railway is a cog railway built in the late 1880's and while it has been moderized, it's still pretty amazing.  The trip starts in the town of Manitou Springs which is, itself, pretty interesting.  Easy to get lost in as well because we managed that really well.  We didn't feel too bad though because our GPS was lost as well.  You are starting at something over 6,600 feet (2,000+ M) so at first you are clunking along in the woods. 

Because it was built so long ago you have times when you are just in a really narrow canyon and other times where you are hanging onto the side of the mountain with reasonable drop-offs on the other side.  We were on the first train of the day and had two cars.  Coming down we met another train going up and they had three cars.  Each car has two diesel engines for power (if not speed!).  You get assigned seats when you buy your tickets and I think some people didn't get to sit with the rest of their party but we two did get to sit together.  Our seats were facing downhill so we went backwards up the mountain and facing forward going down.  The seats are rather small wooden seats; kind of slippery too!  You have three facing forward sharing footspace with three facing backwards.  You get to know your seatmates!  On the mountain side of the aisle is a group of two and two.  We got to sit with two guys who were taking the train up and were going to hike down.  The other two were going to pick up rented bikes at the top and bike down.  How we got with such an athletic group I'll never know.  They did make the trip more interesting though talking about their local experiences.  Trees started to thin out and we started seeing some views.  This is looking back down towards the east.

After a bit we broke out above the tree line and the views got bigger.
Off to the southwest we could see the Sangre de Christo Mountains and a gold mine where they have ripped the top off a mountain.  Finally after about 90 minutes we made it to the top.  Top is 14,115 ft (4,302 M) if you believe their website.  The conductor claimed that new GPS measurements had recently added a few feet but who knows what the next measurement will show!  Anyway, the air is really thin up there!  Just walking around made us both feel really light-headed.  I'm sure glad we weren't either biking or hiking down because my balance was definitely OFF.  There is a large gift shop and snack bar on top which was a nice place to get in out of the weather.  This was September 9 and it was just freezing at the top with wind chill taking the feeling-temp to 25F (-4C).  I've no idea who these kids were but I like that they clambered down to this show-off place so I could get a shot of them.
Needless to say there were steep drops all around.  They were tough to photograph though.  I kept trying but don't have much to show.  This one was an almost vertical drop down into a bowl with a rim on the other side then another drop.  I was surprised that there were not many railings but I guess if you fall off a mountain it's your problem.  Some other poor schmuck will have to figure out how to get the remains - if any.

  Our conductor who offered some guide type talk claimed that 90-some percent of the rails were still the same.  She didn't mention the 'cog' because I'm sure that gets LOTS of wear.  Naturally I had to get a photo of that!

The train has pull-up windows that were down for part of our trip but about half way up we closed the windows.  You start getting reflections of people in your photos but you stop shivering.  I guess it's a fair trade.   Here's one of the cars of our train waiting for us to get our sightseeing done and go on back down.

Going down was much like going up though the perspective is different.  Once into the trees I got to see an old cabin someone built; I suppose it was a prospector but it was definitely someone who liked his/her privacy!

It was almost an anti-climax to land back at the station.  They had a VERY interesting way to get out of the parking lot; I'm glad that F-250 isn't about six inches longer!  We had purchased two bottles of water to take with us on the trip.  We finished one when we were on the top of the mountain and I screwed the top back on just out of habit.  It shows a bit of the reason we were feeling light-headed while on top.
Air pressure at the station in Manitou Springs was crushing that empty bottle with the Peak air pressure inside.  Cool! 

Thanks for stopping by.  Next time I'll try to get these things in order!