Mark and I decided to do some “wandering” on Tuesday…on our last trip out in the spring, we were able to view Pikes Peak from an overlook on the highway, but the actual road to the summit was closed because of snow… So, yesterday, we decided to take a ride down there and check it out, now that the snow was gone and the road was open.
A friend of ours also told us about Bishop Castle, which is in the same general area, so we added that to our day trip as well, making that our first stop, as it was further out than Pike’s Peak…and went to Pike’s Peak on our way North.
The ride out to Bishop Castle was beautiful-lots of views of mountains, hills, valleys and an amazing view of the most spectacular quintessential Colorado lake…Lake Isabel. It was just beautiful and literally took my breath away when we came upon it. There were people fishing, hiking, etc…but it was so blissfully peaceful! Very few, if any cars went by while we were there…which just added to the “enormity” of the peace, if that makes any sense..
From there, it was on to Bishop Castle. Rising up from a building lot on the side of the road, the Bishop Castle is a sight to behold…totally hand built by Jim Bishop, the stone, wrought iron and wood structure towers over the road…and includes turrets, walkways, stairs and even a drawbridge. If you didn’t know it was there, and were just driving along, I think it would almost startle you to see it. And the dragon watching over it all. It’s really incredible to think that it was all built by hand. And the backstory is amazing… We spent some time exploring and then continued on, back up towards Colorado Springs, and Pikes Peak.
Pikes Peak is the highest summit of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains and a member of the Colorado 14-ers…53 mountains in Colorado that reach an elevation of 14,000 feet (or more). And the second most visited mountain on the planet. The plan was to take the Cog Railroad to the summit, but the Cog is closed, possibly permanently…so then it was the thought that we’d just drive to the top…but due to construction of a new visitors center at the summit, parking is very limited..and we decided to take the shuttle, which turned out to be a good choice (and probably a safer one, too). On the way up, visibility was fading—a storm was moving in, even though it had been pretty clear at the bottom…by the time we got to the summit and got off the shuttle, the entire top of the mountain was socked in by clouds. Not to mention that we both were feeling the full effects of the altitude and the associated altitude sickness. We’ve had episodes of it since we’ve been here, mostly in short durations/waves, but it really hit us at the summit. Thankfully although we were both lightheaded and nauseous, it never included us actually getting sick (whew) So we kind of wandered around the gift shop, then got back on the shuttle and headed back down the mountain since the clouds obstructed the view. And that’s when we realized that taking the shuttle was definitely the better choice…we weren’t far off the summit when it started to rain. And then the rain turned…and “turned” is an understatement….it turned, alright. To hail and sleet….with an added dose of thunder and lightning. And the hail/sleet was accumulating on the road. I think we, along with the other visitors on the shuttle, all were glad we had chosen to take the shuttle. We got back to the shuttle stop, and they had not only stopped the shuttle runs up, the roadway up was totally closed, and they had also stopped traffic from going down to the base at that point. So we rode out the storm hanging out in the car for about 45 mins. And even with the road open, it was still a slow go… We stopped at a pull off to let the car cool down a bit and there was a ranger station that I wandered into, only to hear the inter-mountain radios buzzing… “We’re going to need a tow truck at the summit”…whoa. I was thinking it meant there had been an accident with someone trying to make their way down…but as I listened, it turned out that someone who had made the drive up had their vehicle hit by a lightning strike. As a result, their entire electrical system had fried and the car was immobilized. So, I think taking the shuttle was, again, a good choice. Once we got down the mountain, thankfully, the altitude sickness symptoms dissipated, and we stopped for supper at a brewery, before heading back to Centennial.
Wednesday was a down day…just relaxing in Centennial, and “recovering”…Mark and Bob did some stuff around the house and took the RV to get the fresh water tanks filled and the waste tanks emptied. School was starting on Thursday for the girls, so they were busy reading for a book report and studying for a quiz that were required the first day.
Thursday, our plan was to go hike the St. Mary’s Glacier, and then head back up to the Peak to Peak highway to check it out in the daylight. We decided we’d stop and get breakfast when we got off the exit for the glacier, but it turns out there wasn’t anything there! But we pressed on. Found the parking area, and knew right away that we were in for a challenge-the trail head stretched not only UP, but was pretty rocky, similar to a dried up riverbed…but we decided to press on. It probably took us longer than others, and we were passed on the trail by people carrying skis (?). The trail up to the glacier and lake are about 2 miles round trip. But the reward is the view once you reach the top… When you crest the ridge, the whole vista opens up to a spectacular lake, framed by an equally spectacular mountain, and the glacier off to one side…It was amazing. We hung out there just soaking it all in. And discovered the reason behind the people hiking with skis—people actually hike to the top of the glacier itself, and ski it. It was wild to think that this was August, and people were skiing. After watching the skiers and just taking in the view (and lots of pictures) we started our descent. It was a challenging descent, with the rocks, but at least we were headed down, instead of further up. And we were feeling every inch of slope and elevation, both going up and back down. Got back to the car, and our legs felt like rubber bands. But we were proud of ourselves, regardless…We had done it without any major catastrophes and weren’t lost in the forest…the trail isn’t very clearly marked, so you rely on the “kindness of strangers” in directing you, and hope you made the right choice when no one was around…
After getting back in the car, it was time to go find something to eat, so we headed into the closest town, Idaho Springs, and grabbed some lunch at Two Brothers Deli. Idaho Springs and the surrounding area were at one point very prominent mining towns, and the downtown area still carried the “spirit” of being mining towns. The road up to the glacier parking area and back were dotted with abandoned mines. Lunch was delicious, and we were trying to map out how to get to our planned drive on the Peak to Peak, which was a bit of a ride at 1.5 hours away. We started chatting with a woman in the deli who obviously lived in and was familiar with area who suggested taking a trip up Mt. Evans.
Mt Evans is the highest paved road in North America, and was decidedly closer than the Peak to Peak, so we opted to go to Mt Evans, and then decide after that if we would continue on to the Peak to Peak or call it a day. The views on the roadway up to Mt Evans were amazing—miles of forest and vistas that afforded views of the mountains and valleys. Once we passed through the entrance to the road up the mountain, the forest/vista views continued…and we climbed and climbed. The road, although paved, was narrow, with a lot of tight switchbacks, and drop-offs that seemed to bottom out MILES below. Once above the tree line, it felt like if you opened the car door, you’d fall out of the car and end up just rolling down the hill forever. It was pretty hairy. Although it was somewhat cloudy at the summit, which it’s been not only because of the weather, but the smoke from wildfires as far away as California being carried by the air currents, the views were endless—you could see for miles in all directions. Once again, the altitude was again working against us, so we really didn’t stay too long. The ride down was just as hairy as the ride up…if not moreso because it started to rain. Thankfully, no sleet/hail or thunder and lightning this trip! We were probably about 2 miles down from the summit when we ran into a traffic jam which had us stopped for a bit with about 2-3 other vehicles….but this wasn’t your normal traffic jam…no accidents, no cars broken down…this was caused by a herd of Big Horn Sheep! There were probably 20 of them that came off the hill on one side, trying to cross to the other side, only to then decide to just hang out in the road before continuing. It was pretty cool to see. Once they had cleared the road, we continued our journey down to the entrance and exited the park…and decided that we would skip the trip to Peak to Peak…the altitude thing really knocked us, plus the hike, we were tired, so we just headed back to Centennial. Mark hung out with Maryanne, Bob and the girls, but me? In bed by 8, and asleep by 8:30…I was tirrred!
Today (Friday) is another down day. Mark said he’s up for some recovery. We’re waiting on the FedEx guy because we’re treating ourselves to some Maine lobsters being delivered sometime this morning. Tomorrow, we’re going to a skate board competition that some of MAPO & Bob’s friends are competing in, and then to an ice-skating competition that Alana’s in.
Sunday, we’re off to Grand Lake for a few days, then to Grand Junction/Paonia/Black Canyon of the Gunnison before continuing West.

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