Jun 1, 2010

Purple mountain majesty

We spent Memorial Day on Pikes Peak. This is a mountain I have wanted to summit since the day we arrived in Colorado Springs. I always assumed I would hike to the top (all 14,110 feet), but I haven't made it happen yet. Yesterday the family reached the summit in our van. What a great trip!

We took about 200 pictures, selected 45 favorites, and pared down from there. There are still lots of photos in this post! Click to enlarge...

Here is a view of Pikes Peak as seen from the freeway near our home. Although we can't see the peak from our yard, a spectacular view is just around the corner. I revel in the beauty of that mountain on a daily basis!

I was very happy to see this sign: the road is open to the summit! We attempted this outing last weekend, and called the ranger station for a weather report a few times since, but high winds prevented us from getting to the top. Even though we called ahead yesterday, we didn't quite believe that the weather would cooperate until we arrived. As it turned out, the weather was glorious!

The temperature at the foot of the mountain was 86 degrees. We were enjoying the air conditioning in the van, but the rangers suggested we turn it off as we began the 19-mile climb up the mountain. So we rolled down the windows. The kids thought the wind in the van was hysterical. We fed the kids a steady stream of crackers and water to alleviate any altitude sickness that might occur.

I was immediately captivated by the beauty of the scenery. I loved the vivid contrast of red rocks, green trees, blue sky, and white snow (yes, snow!). I marveled at the stunning variety and perfection of God's creations. As we hit the timber line (at 12,000 feet), it was amazing to see how the landscape was suddenly barren.

Just before we reached the top, I was astonished to see people skiing and snowboarding down the mountain. The icy "ski runs" were only a few hundred yards long, but they were extremely steep! Watching the people go made me pretty nervous, as did the windy roads with no guard rails. Garry laughed at my phobias. I was glad he was driving.

We finally made it to the summit! The views from the top were simply stunning. The sky was perfectly clear, so we could see for miles and miles (hundreds?). The temperature was a brisk 45 degrees, but we were prepared for sub-freezing temperatures. Even the wind was calmer than expected. The kids fed quarters into the telescope machines to see out into Colorado Springs. We took tons of pictures to commemorate the moment and capture the amazing view.

Garry took several shots of the Colorado Springs valley and stitched them together on the computer in a panorama. Pretty incredible!

The monument we posed in front of celebrates Katharine Bates, who penned the words to "America The Beautiful" while atop Pikes Peak. Her words were certainly stirring as we stood in that spot:

O Beautiful for spacious skies
For amber waves of grain
For purple mountain majesty
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee.
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

Each of us selected something from the gift shop to commemorate our time there. Then we made the drive down the mountain. I savored every minute of those beautiful views! The boys saved quarters for some view finders they spotted on our way up, so we enjoyed the beautiful vistas up close on our way down. We also stopped at Crystal Lake on the North Slope for some pictures. That would be a gorgeous place to spend the day!

On the way out, with "America the Beautiful" in our heads, we remembered the soldiers and freedoms we celebrate on Memorial Day. What a wonderful land. What a wonderful day!

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