Friday, Nov. 30, 2012
To the top of Pike’s Peaks
I strayed far away from the malls and big box retailers on Black Friday as post-Thanksgiving retail madness is not necessarily my cup of tea.
Instead, I had an opportunity to travel West – which included a trip to a peak of a mountain that stands about 14,115 feet tall.
It might not be the tallest mountain, but a trip to the top of the famous Pike’s Peak made for captivating view of the Midwest over the holidays instead of standing in lines hours long.
By way of the Pike’s Peak Cog Railroad, built in the early 1890s, a friend and I took a late morning ride to one of the furthest points in the Rocky Mountains.
The Foothills showed off nature’s hand at sprawling acres of evergreens, landscaped by countless boulders of granite rock scattered throughout the mountain.
A woman narrated the journey as we went up the mountain, sharing stories about the origin of the railway, and the great task that it was to establish a faster mode of transportation up the slope.
Every few thousand feet, the landscape of the mountain made noticeable changes – from the earthy forest, to an open, grassy tundra that only grew a few inches every decade – and then at the top, countless acres of rubbled rock.
Never in my life had I seen the landscape change so quickly within a few thousand feet of each other.
The most interesting facet -- rock boulders that stood timelessly -- looking untouched for centuries.
My mind also struggled to understand how someone could have enough interest, patience, and let alone the money, to build a railroad up and around one of the tallest mountains in the days long before computers and modern technological design.
By the time we reached the peak, the view was astounding.
In those moments, I felt like I was on the top of the world – literally.
The clear Colorado sky day enabled visitors to see more than 200 miles in any direction.
To the east, I was amazed by the view that stretched to western Kansas.
And to the opposite direction, more mountains, and a view of the Continental Divide.
The view also captured sprawling scenery of a few reservoirs below the peak, as well.
Having lived through two nasty winters in the farthest northwest corner of Iowa helped prepare me for the summit, which visitors embraced an icy-cold wind and a shivering temperature in the mid-teens upon arrival.
On top of the mountain, there was also a gift shop and cafe, the Pike’s Peak Summit House, for tourists.
One of the most popular items for sale was edible – world-famous Pike’s Peak donuts.
They are the only donuts on earth made at an altitude more than 14,000 feet.
Although they weren’t exactly Krispy Kremes, the sugar seemed to help the minor discomfort that was brought on from the unfamiliar altitude.
After snacking on a donut, I walked around the peak of the mountain once again, snapping photographs.
As I previewed the pictures I had taken on my camera, they simply didn’t give the due justice to the surrounding sights.
When looking at the pictures, you couldn’t feel the wind hitting your face, hear the waterfalls splash against the rocks, or really estimate just how far up you were.
Later, as we made our descent back down the mountain, I imagined that what I had seen was likely the same view Katharine Lee Bates experienced in 1893, which ultimately led to her crafting the words of a poem, which later became known as “America the Beautiful.”
Like Bates, I became quite impressed with the beauty and vastness of the mountains.
As I recited the song in my mind, it reminded me that while our backyards and fields of farmland in Missouri might not be as picturesque as the Rockies, nature is still one of the beautiful things we have to enjoy here at home.
Bethany Bashioum is a reporter/photographer for the Cass County Democrat Missourian. She can be reached at 816-380-2228 Ext. 2227 or at email@example.com.