Friday, May 15, 2015

Pikes Peak (history and pictures)

Location: Pueblo KOA (el 5.050 ft); Pueblo, Colorado

(click pictures to enlarge)
(all pictures taken with Nokia Lumia 929 cell phone)

People of my generation learned about Pike's Peak from our history classes. It was mainly used in the slogan, "Pikes Peak or Bust". That slogan symbolized the effort of gold seekers headed to the Colorado gold fields in the mid 1800's. We were shown Conestoga wagons with that slogan painted on their canvas coverings. The underlying lesson was the determination that these people showed in their effort to provide a better life themselves. The moral of the story was that in America anything was possible as long as you worked hard and were determined to succeed. I'm not sure how that lesson is being taught today, if at all. 

As Paul Harvey famously said, "and now the rest of the story,,,,". Pike's Peak is named after Zebulon Pike, who at the age of 27 was a Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He was in charge of one of the three exploration parties sent by President Jefferson to explore the Louisiana Purchase. While the more famous Lewis and Clark expedition explored the northwest, Pike's party was charged with exploring the southwestern part and to find the headwaters of the Red River. Pike left St. Louis, Missouri just a couple months before Lewis and Clark returned from their exploration. He headed west across present day Missouri and Kansas in search of the Red River which was supposed to be the southern boundary of the Louisiana Purchase. Little did he know that the source of the Red River was in the present-day panhandle of Texas and that it never reached the Rocky Mountains like they thought. The first major river they came to was the Arkansas River. Some people believe Pike thought this was the Red River and therefore was the reason why he sent a small group of he men down it. That small party went down the Arkansas until it emptied into the Mississippi and then returned to St. Louis. Pike and the remainder of the expedition went upstream on the Arkansas where he saw the mountain that ultimately bears his name. He also saw the Royal Gorge which is where I'll be going today. After several errors in navigation and going in circles at least once, the expedition came to the Rio Grande River in present day Alamosa, Colorado (where I was camped a couple days ago). Again, confused by which river he was on, Pike thought it to be the Red River and planned to go down it to the Mississippi River in the spring. Winter was coming on so he decided to build a fort for protection from the winter weather and the Indians. He didn't realize he was in Spanish Territory until Spanish troops from Santa Fe showed up and arrested him and his men. As a result of the Louisiana Purchase, Spain was suspicious of the U.S. intentions since the boundaries of the purchase was not clearly defined. Spain thought Pike and his men were spies sent to collect military information. The ironic part of the story was after his capture, the Spanish troops took him through present day New Mexico, Texas and Old Mexico. Pike kept careful notes as to the military strengths, locations of forts, towns and populations. He gathered all of the information while in the custody of the Spanish troops. It was as if they were giving him a guided tour. Since we were not at war with Spain, Pike and some of his men were released to return to the U.S. Pike returned in the summer of 1807 and filed his report. Of course, by then, Lewis and Clark had been back from their expedition for almost a year and Pikes report was overshadowed by theirs. 

Today, there are two ways to reach the top of Pikes Peak. One is by train and the other is to drive on the toll road. However, due to recent snows, neither modes of transportation was able to get to the top. The ranger said it is normally, mid to late June before it is open all the way. I was able to drive within a few miles of the summit before having to turn around. There were still a few good places for pictures, but I'm not sure it was worth the $12.00 toll.

Here are the pictures:
Waiting line

Nice view of the valley and U.S. 24

There is a business that takes people
up the mountain and allows them
to ride bicycles back down. Nope,
I didn't even think about doing it.

Nice View

Freedom and the snow

You can see the switch-backs with
the car coming on the road above

I liked this picture. It shows it all, the
road, the drop-off, the view and the
deep snow.

Another view of the valley

Last view of the valley

This one was taken at the point where I had to turn around due to the road being closed. If you look up at the top of the snow ridge, there is an edge that is "curled over". Although I didn't see any signs warning of potential avalanches, it sure looked like a possibility to me.

Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road.  

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