In 1858 when they discovered gold in Colorado, the pioneers painted “Pike’s Peak or Bust” on the covered wagons. Today my wagon took me all the way to the top of Pike’s Peak, 14,110 feet high – higher than I have ever been in my life without flying.
A 19-mile steep and winding road, paved most of the way, goes all the way to the top. It was cold, but the trip offered incredible 360 degree views. A ranger told me that it was 37 degrees at the summit. It also started to hail as I drove back down, but I stayed dry in my wagon.
Setting off on my vacation today, Pike’s Peak was the only place I intended to stop before getting to my lodging tonight, Great Sand Dunes Lodge, just outside of the Great Sand Dunes National Park in southern Colorado. That’s where I am this evening after 12 hours and 365 miles on the road from Boulder.
I drove the Interstate through Denver and Colorado Springs in a couple of hours. This was the first time I have been in Colorado Springs since a family vacation in 1953. All I remember about that vacation was visiting the famous Broodmoor Hotel and a figurine of a nude woman that my mother bought and I still have. In spite of the nude, Colorado Springs is a conservative city featuring the U.S. Air Force Academy and Dr. James Dobson’s Focus on the Family – the very antithesis of Boulder.
After coming down from Pike’s Peak, I went on and soon came to the town of Bust, Colorado. So I can say that I made it to Pike’s Peak and Bust.
I hadn’t intended to go that direction until a friend of mine in Boulder suggested it yesterday. He told me how beautiful the San Luis Valley, one of the world’s largest alpine valleys, more than 120 miles long and up to 70 miles wide. What I saw of it was totally flat, yet surrounded by many mountains of up to 14,000 feet. It is lonely and desolate in its beauty, and is one of the poorest areas of Colorado.
As I approached the San Luis Valley, I came to the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, 35 miles west of Colorado Springs and just two miles off the road. Except for noting its location of my map, I knew nothing about it.
I was glad I visited it. The fossils that most interested me were petrified redwood stumps that are maybe a billion years old. I was able to stretch my legs for a couple of miles as I walked around to see the fossils. The redwood trees of northern California are what I have said that I missed most in Colorado. Little did I know that we have them here too!
o me a vacation is also a vacation from my regular diet. So I delighted in having a chicken-fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy in a quaint restaurant in the historic town of Salida in the San Luis Valley.
You may remember that after hiking to Eldorado Falls I wondered whether going to hot springs would be next. It was indeed.
At the restaurant I picked up a free outdoor guide and leafed through it as I was waiting for dinner. What caught my eye was an article about hot springs in the area and particularly the Valley View Hot Springs, which, the article said, “is clothing-optional.” Since I didn’t bring a bathing suit on this trip, clothing was not an option for me.
The Valley View Hot Springs turned out to be on my way between the restaurant and the sand dunes, just 7 miles up a smooth gravel road. The hot springs themselves were the cleanest that have ever used. I enjoyed my respite immensely, especially talking with a couple from Boulder and a woman from near Colorado Springs. People sure are a lot more friendly when they are nude!