We finally found a hotel and got to dry out a little bit! We brought our dirty bikes in the back way so the manager wouldn’t see them! After a good night’s sleep we headed to the bike shop to wait for them to transport us to the old cog railway that would take us to the top of the mountain.
We got on the train and headed up 14,000 feet. To avoid altitude sickness, we were drinking our bottled water all the way up. The ride took about an hour. Hikers were taking 6-10 hours to get to the top, while runners generally take 4-7 hours to get to the top. I was kind of glad I was going to go DOWN the mountain!
Climatic differences along with elevation gain allowed for us to be a part of 4 different life zones along the way, which are defined by plant species, and the different animals that live in each one. We saw a yellow bellied marmot on the way up. He looked kind of like a prairie dog.
As we got off the train I could immediately see how a trip to the top of this mountain could inspire the song, American the Beautiful! We walked around the mountain and took in the awesomeness of being 14,000 feet above sea level, surrounded by such incredible beauty, carved by glaciers millions of years ago.
I could have just stayed for hours to just walk around and enjoy the beauty of the mountain, but we had discovered some World Famous Donuts which were featured on one of the food network shows and had to give them a try. They were only 99 cents! So Eric and I each had one (and a coke) and got ready to find our bikes and head down the mountain.
There were about 20 other cyclists with varying degrees of cycling abilities. After a short safety speech, we headed down the mountain. It was a little slow for some of the people in the group, but I found it to be just about right. Each time we stopped, I got to take in more beauty and take some photos.
It was rather cold on the top of the mountain and as we descended, it began to warm up, it was at least 55 toward the middle of the descent of Pike’s Peak. We were above the tree line, so trees didn’t grow up there. We just took in some fresh mountain air! On the way down the mountain, all of a sudden a big whiff of evergreen was in the air as we were getting to the level where trees grew again. It was as if somebody sprayed a can of air freshener in our faces as we were riding. It was awesome!
It took about three hours to get down the mountain, and could have been down in probably 1 ½ hours but there was no need to rush. It was too beautiful for it to end anyway.
Sadly, we made it to the bottom and the ride was over. It was about 75 degrees at the bottom of the mountain. We met some awesome people on the ride down. They were teachers heading to Bangledesh to teach for two years and had just spent two years in Guatamala. They were able to answer a lot of questions I had about going to China! I was supposed to be on this mountain, on this day!!
After lunch with them, we packed up our bikes and headed to our next adventure, Yellowstone National Park.