Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Pike's Peak!! (and a very embarrassing moment)

Did you know that Zebulon Pike never reached the top of Pike's Peak? True.  In 1806 he tried only to be caught in a snowstorm on the mountainside. He turned back declaring the mountain unclimbable. Yet, 14 years later Pike's Peak was reached by young Edwin James. So why is Pike's Peak named after Pike rather than James? Well, there was already a James Peak so the mountain was named after the "discoverer" of the peak, Pike. 

We spent last weekend in Colorado Springs, CO with our main goal of reaching Pike's Peak. Thank goodness it's easier to do than 200 years ago! We were able to ride the Cog railway up to the top in about an hour. There was no way I was hiking to the top with a 3 year old and two 8 (almost) year olds! Yip was kind of disappointed that we were riding a train rather than hiking but I promised him if he still wanted to try it in about 10 years or so, then I would be game! Our tour guide later explained that the railway runs 12 months a year and sometimes the drifts at the top of the mountain get packed down like cement which they clear with dynamite. Then Yip was grumpy that we weren't there to see that!! (so was I!) 

There are only three cog railways in the US. Cog railways are more popular in Switzerland where you need to climb many more steep inclines. The cogs on the middle rail are similar to watch gears and they catch to prevent the train sliding back down the mountain. You have to reserve tickets ahead of time and we had planned to catch the 9:20 train. Luckily we were running early that morning (Mountain time helped there) and was able to just catch the first train of the day at 8:10. I didn't even get a chance to pack toys or anything for the ride up to keep Yahoo busy. 

This was the boy's position on most of the ride up, looking right out the window. They didn't want to miss a thing and we even saw three deer.  Yahoo wasn't content to look out the window though, after twenty minutes or so she was Miss Wiggles. It was tough getting her to stay in her seat and be patient without anything to play with. Overall though she did stellar! 

Along the way are plenty of signs to let us know just how high we'd gone. 10,000 feet seems huge compared to the fact I grew up in a place with an elevation just under 800 feet. 

There are reservoirs up the mountain that are just gorgeous! In fact there is a couple that lives on the mountain during the summer who's job is to watch over the reservoirs. What a place to live! Sixty miles from anywhere and their driveway is 17 miles long. I could do that! 

Finally we get above the trees for a gorgeous view. 

Once above timber line the climate is like that of the Arctic tundra. No trees grow here and the Arctic grass, if I remember correctly, only grows an inch or so every 100 years. We could still see wagon tracks made over 100 years ago! 


Pike's Peak isn't the tallest mountain in Colorado, not even close. What makes it famous is that's pretty much the first tall mountain you reach when you hit the mountains and at the top it is a wonderfully unobstructed 360 degree view! See the horizon above? See the fuzziness just above the horizon? That's Kansas! 

The top of Pike's Peak is COLD!! It was only in the 30's and it was windy and freezing!!! We had on lots of layers but what I totally forgot to pack were hats and mittens. Needless to say we spent a lot of time inside. 

I totally forgot to take pictures of this but at the top of Pike's Peak is a gift shop (of course) that sells the best doughnuts! They are made at the top of the mountain with a special high altitude recipe. In fact the recipe has been tried at lower elevations but doesn't work. They were wonderful! 

Now, for the most embarrassing moment of my life as a mother. 

A little backstory; My kids enjoy watching a PBS series called Inside Nature's Giants. I've never watched all the episodes, just bits and pieces. When they watch these shows I usually sneak away to run on my treadmill. My sister passed on the link so I figured there wasn't anything horrible in the shows. Anything educational is great in my book.  

Anyway, on our way down the mountain we ended up sitting next to this guy here. 

He's from Long Island, New York and he and DR talked a bit about their jobs. It was really interesting to hear DR explain just what a grain elevator is for to someone who had absolutely no agriculture background or experience! After a while, this guy and Yap were talking, I was busy keeping Yahoo in one spot so I wasn't really paying attention to what they were talking about until Mr. Long Island breaks out in hysterical laughter!! 

Come to find out Yap had been quoting nature facts to him from Inside Nature's Giants. 

And Yap said, "Did you know that a sperm whale's penis is very flexible so they can mate in practically any position?" 

Oh. My. Goodness.

I was soooooo utterly embarrassed. 

I guess we need to talk about a few topics that are NOT okay in public! 

Tune in tomorrow for more Colorado pics! 

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