Colorado 2 – Snow!

MAY 14, 2020 : Having fallen asleep very early the night before, we were up for an early hotel breakfast. So early, that when we reached our first destination, Pikes Peak highway, they had not yet opened. Pike’s Peak highway is a 19-mile toll road to reach the summit of the highest mountain in the area, Pikes Peak, at an elevation of 14,115 feet (4302 meters). For reference, Har Hermon is 9,232 feet (2,814 metres).

I had wondered if we should do the Pikes Peak highway because the last kilometers of the road are closed due to construction work to build a new visitor center at the top. When researching for this trip, their internet site said that the road is open until kilometer 13. We decided to go anyway, and when we got there and saw the many cars waiting for the highway to open, we were not the only ones. As we waited, more and more cars arrived. Turns out that it was a good thing that we were towards the beginning of the line, because the entrance process for each car was long. Not only did we pay the entrance fee, but we also got a lesson in driving. They showed us how to put the car in low gear (not so obvious in in Hyundai Kona). This is vital for the drive down the mountain. We also learned, that they had just opened the road to mile 16 – an additional three miles.

Once on our way, we drove slowly along the winding road. The first miles are through forest, with every once in a while an open area that gives a glimpse of the surrounding mountains. Our first stop was at mile 6, the Crystal Reservoir. This is a lookout point over the reservoir, that was now mostly empty, that collects melted snow to provide water for the city of Colorado Springs. Pikes Peak was the backdrop.

We continued to wind up the mountain, and stopped at a small parking area at mile 11. From here we could now see the snow-capped Rocky Mountains in the distance.

We continued upward to mile 13. More and more patches of snow where among the trees. The top of the mountain was getting closer.

A little bit past mile 13, we entered the alpine zone – above the tree line. No more trees, just lots and lots of snow and open vistas. The speed limit was now 10 miles an hour and the road was one hairpin turn after another. The views were breathtaking. These last three miles were the most spectacular and we were lucky that they had opened them just this morning.

At mile 16 there was a barrier and we could not continue. A parking lot had been cleared and we noticed that people had climbed up onto a nearby hill. We parked and were on our way. The temperature outside was 39 F and sunny. There was no wind and it did not feel cold. After a few minutes of walking on the snow and ice, Ari returned to the car to get our hiking poles. They turned out to be very useful. As more and more people walked the trail to the top, the snow was packed down into ice and was very slippery. People were falling. The poles helped us stay upright.

When we reached about 2/3 of the way to the top, I sat on a rock to rest. A woman on her way down saw me sitting and said to me that it was worth the effort to climb all the way – the views were amazing at the top. She said just take it slow step by step. No sooner had she finished telling me, then she slipped and fell hurting her back and cutting her hand on a rock. I was not going anywhere and I sent Ari to the top to take photos instead. He came down and said it was worth it, plus we had the poles. So little by little, step by step, I made my way through the snow and ice to the top. Ari followed close by to catch me if I slipped. We made it.

After slowly making our way back to the car, we drove back down the mountain – all the way down in low gear as instructed. It did not matter that the last miles of the road where closed, we had greatly enjoyed our time there.

After a short rest back at the hotel, we went to the Historical Center of Manitou Springs. This was much nicer than yesterday’s Colorado Springs Historical Center – larger, colorful, full of people, and many interesting stores and restaurants. We had chosen to eat at a place with a large outdoor patio full of people (always a good sign), but discovered that they did not have even one vegetarian item on their menu, let alone something vegan. Using the Happy Cow app, I saw which restaurants were vegetarian-friendly in the area. Once again, we ended up at a micro-brewery – the Manitou Springs brewery. And once again we were the only ones without beer with our food.

Afterwards we spent an hour strolling through the many stores. The best was an amusement arcade with old Skee ball machines! Growing up, not far from our house, was the Glen Park amusement park. We went there often and always played Skee ball – my favorite. Ari had a quarter, so I played one round, scored 270 and won three tickets towards a prize! There was no prize that I wanted (I don’t really need a plastic whistle), so I passed the prize tickets to some young girls that were there.

It was now mid afternoon and we returned to the hotel. On the way, we went to Rainbow Falls, but found the entrance closed due to Covid. After a short rest, we decided to drive towards Broodmoor Seven Falls, to see that area of Colorado Springs. When we reached the entrance to the falls, it had already been closed for the day. I remembered reading that there was a hotel nearby, so I said lets go have a look. It was WOW. Turns out the Broodmoor Resort is a HUGE luxury hotel, built in 1918 and expanded over the years. This is the place that presidents and other notables stay. We only drove around the perimeter, but it was enough to make an amazing impression.

Back at our hotel, it was now the middle of the night in Israel. On previous nights, the news stations had news around the clock. Now when I turned on TV station Mako, it had on the usual pre-recorded entertainment. Even though rockets were still falling (the phone was vibrating) there was no news now on. Seems like even the extraordinary situation was becoming somewhat ordinary…

Tomorrow we are off to Denver.

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