American Locations 42

The trip is from Lewis & Clark Monument, Illinois, to Kickapoo State Park, Illinois, by way of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Arizona

Pike’s Peak & Cripple Creek, Colorado

Leaving Garden of the Gods, we drove northwest on Hwy. 24 through Manitou Springs to Cascade, where we took the Pike’s Peak Hwy. to Pike’s Peak. No way were we driving the motor home up that twisting steep road to the top, so we took the cog railway.

A cog train can scale heights a normal railroad engine can’t. Here is an article I found on Wikipedia on cog trains (which they call rack railway):

rack railway (also rack-and-pinion railwaycog railway, or cogwheel railway) is a steep grade railway with a toothed rack rail, usually between the running rails. The trains are fitted with one or more cog wheels or pinions that mesh with this rack rail. This allows the trains to operate on steep grades above 10%, which is the maximum for friction-based rail. Most rack railways are mountain railways, although a few are transit railways or tramways built to overcome a steep gradient in an urban environment.

Here is an entry specific on Pike’s Peak cog trail:

The track of the Pikes Peak Cog Railway is 8.9 miles long. The round trip lasts 3 hours and 10 minutes. Check for departure dates and times before your trip to the summit.

The first third of the Pikes Peak train trip is along Ruxton Creek. Here the steep track follows a cascading stream through dense stands of spruce and  Ponderosa pine trees. It is estimated that some trees on Pikes Peak are over 2000 years old. The middle third of the trip is on a gentler grade. Right below the old settlement of Ruxton Park, the train passes through what is known as “Hell Gate,” a natural gateway to the mountains. Then the track passes over the Four Mile Siding and gets our first glimpse of Pikes Peak!

Once the Pikes Peak Cog Railway climbs above timberline, the views become more expansive. Here passengers frequently see yellow-bellied marmots and Bighorn sheep. Pikes Peak is home to one of the largest herds of Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep in Colorado. To the east stretch the Great Plains beyond the border of Kansas. To the south, the Sangre de Christo Range stretches to New Mexico.

It was a good experience. The ride was smooth. The train went straight up, instead of winding all around the mountain like the road did. Also, the views were good as the sides of the cars were mostly glass.

The track split in places to allow simultaneous ascent and descent of the trains.

Once on top, you disembarked and could remain as long as you wanted. There was a gift shop, or course, and a restaurant and visitor center.

The views were spectacular, and you were allowed to roam wherever you wanted. There was a trail if you wanted to hike either up or down, or both. You could buy a one-way ticket for either way. In fact, a passenger on the trip down, a woman celebrating her 68th birthday, had hiked up and was catching a ride back down. Not bad for 68.

You could catch glimpses of the road twisting up to the top.

Here is a good shot of the rail.

People scampered everywhere.

But we stayed safely away from the edge.

It was cool and windy up there. So after we had seen enough we were ready to ride back down. There was a place where the rail split, allowing our descending car to pass by an ascending car, which is the one I took a photo of.

Leaving Pike’s Peak, we drove back out the Pike’s Peak Hwy. to Hwy. 24, where we turned north. At Divide, we turned south on Rte. 67 to Cripple Creek.

Here is a brief Wikipedia entry:

On the 20th of October, 1890, Robert Miller “Bob” Womack discovered a rich ore and the last great Colorado gold rush began. Thousands of prospectors flocked to the region, and before long Winfield Scott Stratton located the famous Independence lode, one of the largest gold strikes in history. In three years, the population increased from five hundred to ten thousand. Although $500 million worth of gold ore was dug from Cripple Creek, Womack died penniless on 10 August 1909.[10]

Today, relics of the gold rush remain, and tours of old gold mines are given.

But what draws most tourists are the casinos. The town has preserved its historic charm, while gutting the insides of historic buildings and installing casinos. We spent a pleasant evening strolling the streets and ducking into one small store-front casino after another, placing a few bets then moving on.

Once we’d had enough, we found a small private campground for the night.

Next Destination – Denver, Colorado

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