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Colorado Vacation with TOO Many Pictures!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Even though our vacation was cut short by a week, we had a great time. It was our first trip to Colorado but I don't think it will be the last.

I got to cross something off my bucket list, for sure -- white water rafting. From Mueller State Park, outside of Colorado Springs, we drove 80 miles to Canon City, CO, the home of the Royal Gorge. We had a full day planned!

Here's a picture of me in my rafting gear -- notice the cute little booties!

We were VERY nervous. I've had the opportunity to go rafting before but always declined -- I never felt strong enough or in good enough shape. After the guide gave the "safety talk" we were ready to get back on the van and forget the whole thing! But we were lucky; our five rafting partners were young and strong. One was in college, two just graduated from college, and two were in the Air Force. So we felt glad to have people that could "carry us" if things got hairy on the river.

I never knew you sit on the EDGE of the raft not IN the raft. I was horrified -- my biggest fear was falling out! Thankfully I was able to stay in and actually did a pretty good job with the paddling, too. It was exhilarating, exciting, and just an awesome experience! I thought it would be a "one and done" experience, but now I'm not so sure. I think I would do it again if the opportunity arose.

Once we got back the kids headed into the bar for a big, wonderful greasy lunch and we drove to a park in downtown Canon City and ate our packed lunch. emoticon

Then we went to Tunnel Drive, a city trail along the canyon we had just rafted! There are three tunnels at the beginning of the trail. We were watching our time so we only did 1.5 miles out and 1.5 miles back. I think the whole trail is 2.5 miles one way. It was lovely with lots of benches along the way to appreciate the view.

Here's a picture of people rafting down the river from the vantage point of the trail:

View of rapids:

From the trail, here's a picture of the train we would take later in the afternoon: you can see the trail in the upper left corner, the train, AND the Arkansas River!

The last picture is of the Royal Gorge -- the BRIDGE between the two sides is that line above, and then there's the train and the river.

It was a fun day!

Two days later we decided to drive up Pikes Peak and maybe do some hiking. We were pretty confident in our ability because we'd had several long days of hiking at 8,000-9,800 foot elevations in Mueller State Park. We'd also done several trails with large changes in elevation. Yup, we were confident!

We drove up to the top. Here's a view from our vehicle looking down on the road we'd just traveled:

While Pikes Peak is not the tallest mountain in Colorado, at 14,110 feet, it's not too shabby. We decide to hike a short section of the BARR TRAIL, which runs 13 miles from the base of the mountain to the summit. Since we were already at the top we decide to hike 3 miles down to the Timberline Shelter, and then back up.

Believe it or not, on this Friday morning we probably encountered 50 people on the trail the first two hours we were hiking. Some were hiking up the mountain and taking the train back down, but most had taken the train UP and were hiking the 13 miles down. We were the oldest, by far, of anyone we encountered. (That should have been our first clue.)

So off we started. IT WAS COLD! I had on a t-shirt, sweatshirt, and rain slicker with the hood pulled up over a baseball cap! Here's a picture of the trail, above the tree line. See TC?

Here's me:

I hope this picture is big enough to see, but the zig-zag line? THAT'S THE TRAIL. Of course, it wasn't too bad going down....

We met a really sweet young woman who offered to take our picture. She was really surprised we were going both down and then back up; she had taken the train to the top and was just hiking down. (This should have been clue #2.)

Down two miles. Were are seeing fewer rocks and more plants and wildflowers.

Down 3 miles, at last! It has taken us 2.5 hours to descent 3 miles and 2,600 feet.

Lots of trees and vegetation here. They tell you to stay on the trails because it can take 75 years for some of this stuff to grow 1/2 inch!

Now we have our lunch on a rock but are too tired to eat more than half. We are ready to start up. At the beginning of the trail there is a sign that states if you have to be rescued, you are responsible for ALL COSTS "up to $500". We are beginning to think that's a bargain!

We start the trudge. I need to break it down. I say, "Let's hike for 15 minutes and then rest." Yeah, RIGHT! I found I couldn't go for more than FOUR OR FIVE MINUTES before I had to stop. We both had our heart-rate-monitor watches and whenever I saw that my pulse was in the 160's I had to stop until it dropped into the 130s. We are running out of water. The trail is not well marked and at several junctures we couldn't find it and had to backtrack. I mean really, where the heck is it in the picture below?

Ah, here it is!

The hikers on the mountain had definitely thinned out by now. Other than an occasional one or two, the only group we saw consistently were three young men that we spoke with every time they passed us, or we passed them. We leap-frogged each other for about an hour. Everyone was exhausted. But even so -- we had to appreciate the views ON TOP OF THE WORLD!

Here's a picture of TC toward the end. I look about 1,000 times worse than this in the picture he took of me, but since it is MY blog I'm putting in his picture and not mine!

But we did finally make it to the top -- I mean, what was the choice? We went into Summit House and luckily found a drinking fountain since all they sold was Gatorade, which I hate. I filled up our bottles and we split one of their "world famous" donuts made with a special formula since they are made at 14,110 feet above sea level!!

AND, before we left, we decided the next time we're dumb enough to go to Pikes Peak, we'll see it this way!

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