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Just a brief photo essay on the cograil train that runs from Manitou Springs, Colorado to the summit of Pikes Peak, elevation 14,110 ft. There are 57 peaks in Colorado over 14,000 feet. Pikes Peak ranks 32nd among them, but is perhaps the most famous.

A quick graphic on how cog rail trains work. The train runs to the summit daily, even in winter when the summit is buried under several feet of snow and temperatures can fall to -50 degrees Fahrenheit. A trip to the summit in the dead of winter requires a special breed of masochism.

A train pulls out from Manitou Springs (elevation just above 6000) on its 8.9 mile journey to the summit. The trip takes just under an hour and a half, and grades reach 25%.

A quick view toward the second story of the station.

a little scenery early in the journey

another view along the route

The first view of timberline, around 10,000 feet

A few trees struggle to survive in the harsh conditions at timberline

The few trees that survive at timberline are stunted and shaped by frequent strong winds

Take away the green, and this area above timberline would be a perfect Marsscape. Only lichen and small plants survive briefly in the permafrost

The lead train approaches Windypoint

The Windypoint shelter for hikers and climbers.

Passing Windypoint

Weather closes in as we approach the summit. Temperatures in Manitou Springs were over 90 degrees and cloudless skies. At the summit of Pikes Peak, we encountered sleet, snow and 50 degree temperatures with light winds.

Only the heartiest plants survive briefly in the permafrost during summer months.

Another view very similar to the surface of Mars. We call this "Colorado gravel."

The barren conditions near the summit

At the summit. The top of Pikes Peak can be reached by the train, driving (in summer months), hiking or climbing. Once upon a time, horses also pulled carriages to the top.

In 1893, a young school teacher from Kansas named Katherine Lee Bates took a carriage trip to the summit of Pikes Peak. The stunning vistas inspired her to write a poem, which was set to music two years later. It has become rather familiar, at least to most Americans. The text is at the bottom of the page

Looking down on Colorado Springs as the storm passes over the peak.

Lakes to the north of the peak

Another of the stunning vistas

more of the view

Another view to the north. The plague is in honor of Colonel Zeplon Pike, leader of the expedition that first sited Pikes Peak about 50 miles south near what is now the city of Pueblo, Colorado. Pike and his men decided to attempt to climb the mountain. But the task proved impossible. It was November, the men had only summer uniforms, and they quickly encounted snow waist deep. Pike never reached the summit of the Peak that now bears his name.

watch your step!

on the journey back down


O beautiful, for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea.

O beautiful, for pilgrim feet
Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America! God mend thine ev'ry flaw;
Confirm thy soul in self control, thy liberty in law!

O beautiful, for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine,
'Til all success be nobleness, and ev'ry gain divine!

O beautiful, for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years,
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea!