It was a day of superlatives as our Roadtrek eTrek literally took us to the heights of RVing – climbing Pikes Peak.
Making it even better because it was our wedding anniversary and we were spending it with family in one of the continent's most beautiful regions.
The eTrek made an easy drive up all 14,150 feet to the summit of what is called America's Mountain. Pikes Peak surely is the most accessible big mountain on the continent, with a first rate road all the way up, despite some hairpin curves with little or no shoulder or guardrails. The only issue we had was on the descent, where at the mandatory brake check around 11,000 feet ours measured 600 degrees.
I used low gears to help in slowing the vehicle on the drive down but the eTrek is a heavy vehicle and we needed to pull off and let it rest for a half hour. So did lots of others in cars.
I used the downtime to take Tai for a walk and he chased up a couple of mule deer. He thought it great fun and had a sparkle in his big brown Elkhound eyes that lasted the rest of the day.
The top of Pikes Peak offers dramatic, craggy windswept views, though we all felt a tinge of dizziness and queasiness, a touch of altitude sickness. Tai loved it at the summit, as did son Jeff's dog, Sequoia. The temperature up top was 48 degrees. Down below, it was in the nineties.
Pikes Peak is rich in history and was the symbol of the 1859 Gold Rush to Colorado with the slogan, “Pikes Peak or Bust.” Today, where pioneers and native Americans used to walk, a 19-mile long highway makes its way to the top, carrying half a million visitors each year. It's a beautiful drive through alpine forests, mountain reservoirs, and rugged rockface beyond the timberline.
Wendy, Dan and the girls didn't make it to the summit. Wendy felt ill about the 8,000 foot level and they instead hung around at lower altitudes, hiking and taking photos.
Off the mountain, we all rendezvoused and visited the spectacular 300-foot tall red rock formations at Garden of the Gods. Several large male mule deer posed for my new telephoto lens. We never would have spotted them had not Tai, his nose already tuned into deer scent from our adventure on the mountain, caught a whiff of them atop a hill at the base of one of the large red formations. We couldn't figure out why he was so tugging at his leash until someone looked up and shouted “deer.”
Our base camp for this part of the trip was the pristine Cheyenne Mountain State Park, located just south of Colorado Springs on the eastern slope of Cheyenne Mountain. The park is clean and new, opened in October 2006 and comprising 1,680 acres. Out our west window is the mountain itself. Out our east windows is a stunning overlook of the plains of Colorado and, at night, the sparkling lights of Colorado Springs.
Literally under us is an amazing military complex, a fortress designed during the height of the cold war to withstand a 30 megaton nuclear hit and allow heads of government from the President on down to live in comfort and run the affairs of the country during an emergency. Today, it remains a very active worksite and houses elements of the U.S. Strategic Command, Air Force Space Command, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the Missile Defense Agency and the Federal Aviation Authority, among others.
That's hard to tell in our camping spots here. But we know we are near a military installation. At 10 PM the last two nights, we heard a bugler sound taps, its clear, plaintive sound echoing up from the green-roofed military buildings down in the foothills. This morning, we heard reverie as the sky turned pink. And we've seen helicopters doing flight training several times, as well.
The park is one of the nicest we've stayed in anywhere. There are 20 miles of hiking trails, though dogs are not permitted because of wildlife. There are black bears, cougars, coyotes and other critters. The prairie rattlesnake frequents the rocky areas. And a tent full of four young girls near us who are here for a weekend marathon had a scorpion crawl in.
We're about 6,500 feet high at our campsites. Days have been in the nineties, with low humidity. Nights delightfully cool to the low sixties.
Wednesday morning we pack up once again as the Great Roadtreking Family Vacation of 2014 continues and we head off to the Four Corners region and Mesa Verde.
As I type this lateTuesday night, Jen and I are tucked into the eTrek and the rest of their family aleep in their RVs – Jeff and Aimee and Sequoia in a borrowed Roadtrek SS generously provided by some Roadtrek friends; Wendy, Dan, our granddaughters and their dog, Charley, in the Amerilite travel trailer we just bought from American RV in Grand Rapids and are towing with our Roadtrek eTrek. We wish we had another day or so here. There's lots more to see in this area.
I better be careful what I wish for.
Wendy and Dan, following our RVs in our car, report that it's been making a funny but intermittent squealing noise. I took it for a short test drive but didn't hear a thing out of the ordinary. I pronounced it just fine. But Jennifer says my hearing isn't as keen as it should be. So we're debating whether we should have the car looked at before we continue on.