Day 2 – Garden of the Gods, Gold Mines, and Pikes Peak

imageimageimageimageimageimageWe woke up around 5AM mountain time as we are still adjusting to the sun’s slower ascent west of the Mississippi. We sprung to action and made the 5 minute drive to the Garden of the Gods park entrance (free admission!), and found a trail for us to begin exploration. “Trail” may be misleading, it was actually a cement sidewalk about 5 feet across, our footing would not be an issue. We walked around for an hour and discovered a dirt path (again, superbly maintained) and it allowed us to hike up one of the gigantic rock formations. We all had a blast and the kids conceded that this beats any playground they have found thus far. We got an early start, the top image still shows the moon. The bottom image is the world famous balancing rock.

On our travels around, just driving around, we frequently encounter these big deer with antlers, they are not too afraid of humans as they stand on the side of highways unphased by vehicles or me pulling over to snap this picture.

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After Garden of the Gods, I told the kids that we were now going to a Gold Mine.  I didn’t give a lot of detail as I figured that just might create resistance to the activity. The mine, Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine is a real deal gold mine that shut down in the 1960’s. ( http://www.goldminetours.com/goldminetours.com/Intro.html )

We had to drive to Cripple Creek, Colorado to get to the mine, about an hour’s drive from Colorado Springs. The drive was almost entirely uphill as we started at an elevation slightly over 5,000 feet in Colorado Springs and ended up at an elevation of over 10,000 feet in Cripple Creek. The highlight of the drive was seeing 5 or 6 big horned sheep standing on the rocky side of the road, about 15 feet from our car. We slowed down and stared at them while they stared back at us. (I wasn’t able to snap a picture as I was driving, so here is what they look like.

When we pulled into Cripple Creek, we stopped at the visitor’s center first because we all needed to go to the bathroom after the long drive. Within the visitor’s center there was a model replica of the Mollie Kathleen goldmine and it showed these little people getting into a small elevator going down 1,000 feet into the earth into little cave tunnels. Jaclyn looked alarmed and asked, “We’re not going to be doing that are we?” Of course, I lied and said that it the mine, but we won’t be doing all of that.

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We had to put on hard hats and got into a tiny elevator that took us down 1,000 feet. Our guide, a former silver miner, gave us an incredible tour and showed us how all the machines worked and how technology made mining more profitable, safe, and efficient for miners. Inside the tunnels beneath the earth, the sound of the machines were so loud, could easily deafen a man without substantial ear protection (which we did not have, so we covered our ears with our hands). We even got to ride in a little mine train in the caverns powered by another loud machine, it was an incredible experience and worth checking out someday. Everyone got to take home samples of the rocks they mined, the samples are said to contain fragments of gold. The sign above was placed about the urinal at the gold mine and the image below is of Jaclyn in downtown Cripple Creek, it looks like a town, but all the buildings are facades for casinos. It is strange and we did not spend too much time there. I did have to use at an ATM across the street from the casino at a gas station, they allowed withdrawals of up to $1000.

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Later in the afternoon, Jaclyn and the kids went to the hotel pool while I knocked out a little work so I don’t come back underwater. Then we went to the Pikes Peak Cog Train. The Pikes Peak cog train is a small open air train that takes you way up to the top of Pikes Peak, it is over 14,000 feet high. To give you an appreciation for the height, a kid across from us was screaming in pain on the way down because the pressure change was hurting his ears and the temperature at the bottom where we boarded the train was about 80 degrees and it was about 40 degrees at the top. The train ride moves along slow and steady and we saw a ton of wildlife, including deer, bighorn sheep, and yellow bellied whistling marmots.  The train let us off at the peak where we explore the top for 30 minutes before we had to come back down. Aramark runs a concession stand at the top, that company is ubiquitous! I’ve been writing too long, here are some images from that day and I will write more tomorrow. The first image below is something weird I saw on the way to Cripple Creek. Second image is of the kids on the Cog Train. On the third image, by the door on the left is a whistling marmot. Oh, one last fun fact. At the top of Pikes Peak, you can see Kansas and New Mexico.

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