Wednesday, October 20, 2010 Sunny; 32 degrees on Pike's Peak;
65 degrees in Manitou, CO
Remember all of my blathering about driving mountain roads? So what did we do today? We drove to the summit of Pike's Peak. Actually, although it twisted and turned, the road was quite wide and well-maintained. We climbed from the montane climate zone to the alpine zone. The trees disappeared at about 11,000 feet, and we soon were driving through the tundra.
At 14,115 feet Pike's Peak is the thirty-first highest of the 54 "fourteeners" in Colorado, and with clear skies, it was the perfect day to be on the mountain. We could see to the horizon in every direction. Five states are supposed to be within view, but since there were no signs, we were left guessing which was where. We could see all of Colorado Springs and many other towns as well. A beautiful alpine lake laid off to the west, and beyond it the snow-capped Rocky Mountains stretched from north to south. To make the visit memorable for everyone at the summit, an Air Force C-130 climbed out of the valley and soared just overhead. From where we were standing, on its descent it looked as if it were flying into the Visitor Center.
At the foot of Pike's Peak we stopped at the Manitou Cliff Dwellings. Preserved under a protective sandstone ledge are authentic Anasazi cliff dwellings. As at Mesa Verde, these were occupied between 1200 and 1300. The theory is that a prolonged drought hit the area and forced the people to move from the Four Corners region to more productive farm lands in the south. Unlike Mesa Verde, however, here we took a self-guided tour through the buildings. Numbered signs explained their use and construction as well as telling about their social structure and the crops they grew. Nearby were reproductions of a stone mesa-top building and an Anasazi baking oven. A three-story Pueblo-style building houses the Anasazi Museum and Gift Shop. The museum was well done, informative without boring us with extraneous details.
Lastly, we drove through Garden of the Gods, filled with many red sandstone formations. While we recognize their unique beauty, we didn't think they began to compare to the formations we saw at Grand Staircase-Escalante just one week ago.
So to summarize today, we did more of the same: more mountains, more cliff dwellings, and more red rocks. From here on we expect our next stops to be "new" or to at least expand on what we've already seen.
TODAY'S ROUTE: from Pueblo, Co, I 25N to exit 141; CO 24W to Pike's Peak; then CO 24E to Manitou, CO