Friday, August 22, 2014


We are back at the New Jersey shore, and on the first cloudy day since our return I can't avoid remembering our last adventure in Colorado this summer.  Having heard my parents talk about their trip up Pikes Peak in 1923 in their model "T" Ford I have always wanted to go there (by railroad or car, not hike it as many of my younger friends have done).  Every time we have tried it has been closed due to high winds, but this time when a doctor's appointment took us back to Colorado Springs just before we left for NJ we tried again - successfully this time.

A bit of geology of Pikes Peak is, I think very interesting.  The pink granite rocks and stones on Pikes Peak may be well over 2.3 billion years old,  predating the 300 million year old Rocky Mountains.  About one billion years ago, an immense dome of hot molten rock, called magma pushed up from the earth’s core to form what geologists call a batholith. This formation never made it to the surface, but rather remained hidden in the earth’s crust for millions of years. The formation of the Rocky Mountains, and the subsequent appearance of Pikes Peak followed in three relatively recent stages.

The 1st stage was the creation of what geologists call the Ancestral Rockies. This is when the earth’s crust went through some rather intensive sea floor spreading at the mid-Atlantic Ridge. Unable to absorb the crust as fast as it was being created, the stresses on the North American plate were too high and the crust faulted along what is now the same area as the Rocky Mountains. It was at this time that the huge mass of Pikes Peak first surfaced. 

The 2nd stage - Ancestral Rockies and Pikes Peak experienced a period of great erosion which virtually leveled the mountains. The debris from this erosion survives in some of the red sedimentary rocks of the area.  After a period of time when the seawater and additional sedimentary rock covered the area, another up-thrust of the earth’s crust formed the present range of the Rocky Mountains and along with it, pushed up the sunken batholith of Pikes Peak, a massive mountain, made entirely of pink granite.

The 3rd Stage - In more modern days, only 3 million years ago, the erosion caused by glaciers and their runoff in the Pleistocene Ice age have carved many of the features of the mountain.  This erosion is greatly expedited by what many call “frost wedging.” The constant freezing, thawing and refreezing of the water is like driving little wedges into the rock and splitting them apart. At the lower elevations, the water seeps deeply into the microfine joints and cracks found in the pink granite. Then, as it freezes, the water expands and cracks the rock apart into large boulders. At the higher elevations, where the colder temperatures keep the water from seeping in as deeply as below, the rock is split into much smaller pieces.  This can be seen in some of my photos.

We  took the cog railroad to the top - a round trip of about 3 hours

Along the way I enjoyed the huge boulders among the Lodge-pole pines, and later as the altitude increased, silhouetted against the blue sky above the fine scree fields.

 At Windy Point, above 12,000 feet (about the same altitude as the top of Crested Butte) we stopped
temporarily at the stone structure that housed the railroad workers who laid the tracks that were completed in October of 1890.

At this point the conductor exited the train to reset the tracks for the train that was due to come down from the peak. 
The vegetation grew even at high
altitudes in the midst of some of
the scree fields. 
Above we could see the train
descending from the peak.             
Ay the summit I refrained from taking our photos in front of the tourist sign.

But thought Chuck looked better up in the clouds, and there were plenty of them!!               

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