Margee Gaeddert’s journal of our Colorado Trip 2014-Rocky Mountain High…with a little added brochure and Google history info.
Our journey began early on Saturday, July 5th in our trusty stead…our Nissan Murano SUV with over 126,000 miles! We packed our tent and sleeping bags ready for one camping night out in the mountains, and lots of other adventures…renting a jeep to drive through the San Juan mountain passes, train riding through the Royal Gorge, hiking in the Garden of the Gods, and Cog train up to Pikes Peak and bike riding down!
We will celebrate our 40th anniversary on this trip and talk about many memories as we travel in the Rockies.
Trinidad, CO was our first stop after a long day of driving. We spent the night and learned the next morning as we googled Trinidad that it is the “Sex Change Capitol of the World” because a local doctor had an international reputation for performing sex reassignment surgery. In the 1960s, Dr. Stanley Biber, a veteran surgeon returning from Korea, decided to move to Trinidad because he had heard that the town needed a surgeon. In 1969 a local social worker asked him if he would perform the surgery for her, which he learned by consulting diagrams and a New York surgeon. Biber attained a reputation as a good surgeon at a time when very few doctors performed the operations. At his peak, Biber was performing roughly four sex change operations a day, and the term "taking a trip to Trinidad" became a euphemism for some seeking the procedures he offered. His surgical practice was taken over in 2003 by Marci Bowers. Biber was featured in an episode of South Park where elementary school teacher Mr. Garrison undergoes a sex change operation. Dr. Bowers has since moved the practice to San Mateo, California.
The former coal mining town has a beautiful historic downtown filled with red brick Victorian style buildings. On the northern end of the town is Simpson's Rest, a prominent bluff named for early resident George Simpson, who is buried atop.
Our next destination was Lake City, CO on a beautiful drive through mountains and valleys. Lake City rests at the foot of the San Juan Mountains. About 700 years ago Mesa Seco collapsed into the Lake Fork Valley and created colorful four mile Slumgullion slide, named for its coloring that was similar to a stew favored by local miners. The slide dammed the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River, creating Lake San Cristobal-the second largest natural lake in Colorado.
We discovered a sleepy little mountain town full of charming and friendly natives. Lots of happy tourists settled into cute little cabins, motels, RV and campsites scattered around the town. A rushing stream through the middle lured fishermen, canoes and rafting.
Much to our delight we drove up a steep drive to a sweet little lodge resting on the edge of a hill overlooking all the town and stream below. The owners were gracious and fun! We learned that we shared the same anniversary year. Our room was the Ute Room, decorated as you would hope a lodge room would be, giant king size bed framed in beautiful wood, artwork on all walls, decorative rugs, Native American items adorning tables, walls and corners. Also, there was a kitchen with granite counter tops and a nice bath. Our room had a deck to sip wine and we looked out onto the view and listened to the rushing stream.
We spent the afternoon enjoying the town of Lake City by visiting the Hinsdale County Museum. Chief Ouray and the Ute Indians approved the Brunot Treaty ceding a tract of San Juan Mountains 60 miles wide by 75 miles long to the US government in exchange for an annual payment of $25,000 forever. Congress approved the treaty in 1874. Currently in 2004 Lake City was designated as an accredited Main Street program to preserve its historical past, it boasts over 675 feet of boardwalk and maintains over 200 historic structures. It is now one of my most favorite places we have traveled to!
Lunchtime was a hearty meal of BBQ Buffalo and beans and coleslaw in a restaurant across from the museum. Colorado beers are delicious!
After a relaxing evening together Tony and I had packed our rented red Jeep (the owner was from Enid, Oklahoma) to drive up into the mountain passes. We begin the first half of the Alpine Loop Backcountry Byway, a 58 mile long stretch, with a view of Lake San Cristobal on our way up to Cinnamon Pass 12,184ft. The “roads” or Backcountry Byways were dirt, rock and mud designed for 4-wheel driving. These roads were originally paths used by Native Americans crossing the region. In the 1880s, these trails were widened and used to access mines. Today, the Alpine Loop is an avenue for exploring nature and history amidst thrilling views and stunning geography.
The word I chose to describe the views as we zig-zagged up and down, and up and down, and on the edge of The Rockies natural beauty is MAGESTIC!!! Every turn of the wheel provided an ahhhhhhhhhh- wow moment and views as far as the eye can see and steep valleys below.
I love to maneuver a Jeep on a pass and then step out and soak up the views, pat myself on the back for maneuvering that last switch-back and peer closely at all the wildflowers, including the state flower Columbine at their peak in July! (Here are some other wildflower names Elephants Head, Lupine, Marsh Marigold, Alpine Sunflower, Fireweed, Alpine Harebell, Indian Paintbrush, Monk’s Hood, Red Columbine, Whipple’s Penstemon, and Parry’s Primrose). We saw small marmots (little furry fat squirrels with yellow bushy tails) and frisky little Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrels (that look like chipmunks), as we navigated the edge of each mountain terrain. It was a busy summer season and other Jeeps, ATVs, dirt bikes and brave SUVs passed us strategically on the edge. The dirt bikers were always inpatient and zoomed past us in a two wheel arc on either side.
We were able to stop for rest breaks often and breathe deep. By lunchtime we were ready to picnic in a pictorial spot...and we found it by a rushing stream and old buildings from mining times long ago with the mountains as our backdrop and giant heavily coned pine trees pushing into the huge white fluffy clouds in a cobalt blue sky. Propping our feet up on the ice chest we relaxed in our little camp chairs and listened to the quiet. Soon we would find our peace interrupted as we got back in the Jeep and took the wrong turn. Yikes! we veered off into Poughkeepsie Gulch…just where the Jeep owner told us not to go. It was terrifying for me…Tony was a constant rock of calm…but even he agreed after bumping and jogging up and down over super rough passes on 3 wheels we had to turn around…ugh we had to go back over those bumps and I said lots of prayers…whew we did it and did not look back! After we studied the map some more, and argued some more, we found the right connection and settled back into our peaceful adventure on the edge of the mountains. 
We arrived at the perfect Colorado town of Silverton, at 9,318ft, and settled into our camp site with the mountains as a backdrop all around us. Gold was discovered here in 1860, and after negotiations with the Ute Indians, the area was opened for settlement. The Town of Silverton was platted in 1874, and by 1875 the population had doubled.
We dined on some delicious food from a quaint little café as we rested at our picnic table with our little red Jeep standing sentinel beside us. We were super tired and Tony slumbered in the tent as I took a walk and found some wood to burn for a small campfire and a little contemplation of life, thanking our creator, listening to the crack and pop of the flames and the river rushing at the foot of the mountains. After gazing at a beautiful full moon and slurping a few Blue Moons, I rested in the tent with my sweetheart as we snuggled in sleeping bags under a starry chilly night.
Sunrise in the mountains is a pleasure for the eye and the air was sweet and cold, so you woke up drowsy and then wide awake! 
Up and ready for another trek in the Jeep on the other half of the Alpine Loop, from Silverton to Ironton first and then onto Lake City again by way of many gulches and switch-backs. We pulled into a carwash and rinsed the Jeep back to red…gotta get it shiny for photo-ops 
Heading toward Iron Horse we discovered more MAGESTIC views and switch-backs, mud filled spots that gave me great joy to slosh through in a jeep! Higher and higher we climbed to vistas of snow and tundra. Some snow was lining the pathway on each side of the jeep at least 12 feet high making it a chilly open air tunnel of fun! The mountains had many patches of snow dotting the landscape and providing a contrast among the deep and brilliant greens of the trees and grasses, tundra and more wildflowers. Some heavy thunder clouds were coming closer to us and changing the mood on the mountain. Trekking through Corkscrew Gulch, California Gulch and Picayune Gulch we approached the mining town of Animas Forks, now a ghost town, isolated in a deep valley with its large mining structures for visitors to explore and once homes and stores for the miners. The sky boomed and rain fell onto us and we scrambled to replace the hardtops on the Jeep. We ventured on through the refreshing rain that smelled that “summer rain smell” and made puddles that splattered our red Jeep to brown. It was a short rain and we climbed high again, up to 12,800 feet to Engineer Pass, the highest point on our journey. We stepped out of the jeep to find a bitter cold strong wind with biting ice and snowflakes hitting us as we snapped some photos and quickly jumped back into the jeep with heater ON as we drifted down the high mountain pass from above the tree line and at the top of our world.
We removed the hard tops on the Jeep and Tony liked to stand up on the seat and video and photograph the spectacular scenery as I drove. Winding down the pass we discovered more snow and an astonishing azure blue lake…Lake Como. No words are available for me to tell you about this view. With our eyes glued to it we managed to “Jeep the edge” and find our way along the trail again up into another view of MAGESTIC splendor over and over again as we switched back and forth and stopped to gander. I would be so proud to live in this state. I know the natives love it, they told us so many times. 
Down we go into the valley of green trees and rushing streams. These streams ushered us into Lake City again for another night of rest and quiet heaven. The owners invited us to a happy hour on their new deck and I accepted, and Tony napped. It was a great group of people to chat with and to learn about their travels and share ours. (Two young guys from Pennsylvania, having fun for the summer dirt biking, a couple from Houston meeting friends, she was an airline hostess for 42 years on United, he was an air traffic controller, now an acrobatic pilot, a fellow from Durango, that was a writer, traveling with a biologist who was studying a specific bird in the San Juan Mts. And an elderly couple that had been RVing for 50 years and now enjoyed driving to visit their grandchildren.) Good wine, yummy appetizers of polenta and eggplant, chips and salsa, and travelers to chat with surrounded by mountain views make a lovely evening. I drifted off to sleep dreaming of being a mountain explorer in my little red Jeep!
Up early to visit the Royal Gorge. As we drove into Cañon City, CO I saw a sign for a Norman Rockwell exhibit! Tony dropped me off to enjoy the art as he organized our zillion photos. Cañon City is noted for being the location of nine state and four federal prisons and penitentiaries. Cañon City straddles the easterly flowing Arkansas River and is a popular tourist destination for sightseeing, whitewater rafting, and rock climbing. It is one of the few U.S. cities to have an eñe in its name. Cañon City was laid out on January 17, 1858 during the Pikes Peak Gold Rush, but then the land was left idle. A new company "jumped the claim" to the town's site in late 1859, and it put up the first building in February 1860. This town was originally intended as a commercial center for mining in South Park and the upper Arkansas River. On view in the Freemont Center for the Arts, were 80 lovely prints of Rockwell’s drawings in an historical building built in 1933 by the Treasury Department as a post office and federal building. After the post office moved to a new building in 1989, the building was turned into the Fremont Center for the Arts, one of the oldest Art Organizations in the US. This is a beautiful Italianate Renaissance-style block building, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
We purchased our train tickets and boarded the train for a 1.5 hour ride through the Royal Gorge. The train ride was smooth and quiet as we rolled along the tracks in our comfy booth and dining table in the Vista Dome car providing sky views of the Royal Gorge’s 1,000 foot granite cliffs close up and the beautiful Arkansas River winding along beside us. We were served dinner and beverages from a full bar on train. The cactus was blooming yellows, reds and pinks in the high-desert vistas. Two mountain goats posed for us as we whistled by. Looking up at the bridge over the gorge from below was awe inspiring to think about the construction of that span! The 1879 hanging bridge located along the north side where the gorge narrows to 30 feet (9.1 m) and the sheer rocks walls plunge into the river. Designed by Kansas engineer C. Shallor Smith and built for $11,759, the bridge consists of a 175-foot (53 m) plate girder suspended on one side under A-frame girders that span the river and are anchored to the rock walls. Strengthened over the years, the bridge remains in service today.
After dinner we were able to go outside of our dome car and stand on an open-air car to soak up the beautiful day and vistas surrounding us in one of Colorado’s most spectacular natural wonders.
We later enjoyed a nice rest, and then up for breakfast in our cute little western décor suite, we then drove on to Colorado Springs. Pikes Peak greeted us as we drove into Colorado Springs. Originally called "El Capitán" by Spanish explorers, the mountain was renamed Pike's Peak after Zebulon Pike, Jr. an explorer who led an expedition to the southern Colorado area in 1806. The Arapaho name is heey-otoyoo’ ("long mountain"). At 14,115 feet (4,302 m), it is one of Colorado's 54 fourteeners, mountains that rise more than 14,000 feet (4,300 m) above mean sea level, and rises 8,000 ft (2,400 m) above downtown Colorado Springs. Pikes Peak is a designated National Historic Landmark. It is the inspiration for the writing of “America the Beautiful”. Written by Katherine Lee Bates originally as a poem in 1895, and then music composer Samuel A. Ward combined his music with Bates poem to become one of America’s many favorite patriotic songs.
We drove through Historic Old Town Colorado City, it was the first permanent town in the Pikes Peak region in 1886, annexed by Colorado Springs in 1917 and then on to Manitou Springs founded by General William Jackson Palmer and Dr. William Abraham Bell in 1872, intending the town to be a "scenic health resort." In 1876, the town was incorporated. "Manitou Springs has been the quintessential tourist town since the 1870s, when visitors discovered the healing waters the Ute Indians had been drinking for years. Many of the town's mineral springs still function today and the water is free." It is such a lovely town of shops and restaurants, B&Bs, and one can still partake of healthy spring water…but beware the taste! 
Tony and I checked into a motel and drove to The Garden of the Gods. Another MAJESTIC creation of mother-nature! WOW! I love the rock formations and the gentle beauty of the dessert flora.
We first entered the visitor’s center to get a good perspective on the park. (I loved the sweet elderly gentlemen who guided us to our seats and wished us a great visit.) The video presentation was so interesting and well done. We learned how the rock formations were created and that Theiophytalia kerri dinosaur fossil is the only one of its kind in the entire world. After we enjoyed a nice lunch in the Café with a gorgeous view of the mountain ranges we entered the park by car, parked and stepped into a world of ancient times. Over millions of years ago a geological upheaval along a natural fault line pushed the earth into the rock sculptures rising high to greet the heavens. The Ute Indians tell of their creation in the garden in petroglyphs, believing it to be a spiritual place. Two surveyors later named the formations The Garden of the Gods in 1859. Human rock climbers and White Throated Swift birds “kissed” the giant sculptures with agile touches as we walked through the beautiful trails of the garden park. It was an experience to keep deep in your heart, and remember we are just here a short time…be peaceful and walk softly. Do not disturb nature and co-exist together.
Up early at 5:30 am to prepare for our daring ride down Pikes Peak on bicycles we packed our gear and greeted the other riders at the bike rental shop. We noshed on bagels, yogurt, fruit and coffee and got sized up with helmets, and received our own keepsake water bottle. It was a chilly morning but invigorating as all 10 of us bikers were shaking with anticipation…well maybe it was just me shakin’. 
We packed into the van to the Pikes Peak Cog railroad station. We paused to view a trail of 4,000 steps up a mountain by the station. Many people were hiking up and running up…a man has the record for two years straight during the marathon to jog up and down that mountain…amazing. A family of four on our tour had climbed up the day before and said it was brutal, especially walking down with, I quote, “Rubbery legs”.
Chug chug, choo choo, up we go to the top of Pikes Peak in our Cog Railway train of a mere 100 years old and the world’s highest-14,110 feet. Super vistas and an entertaining conductor lady made the ride fun. Our three new friends from California made the ride fun too! As we approached about 2/3rds up the track, at Windy Point, Tony photographed his sister’s mother-in-law’s home as a young child. Her family served sandwiches to travelers. The rock store house was still standing all alone and abandoned on the lofty perch! Someone had painted the windows to look as if there were curtains in the windows.
We stepped out of the railcar and ran to the restroom after a 1.5 hour ride up. The smell of the most delicious donuts on earth whipped up our nostrils and nirvana hit! I thought the top of Pikes Peak would be a nirvana moment…but those delicacies were as light as air…our California friends shared them with us! The view was killer though, we could see really far even to Kansas!
After a safety talk and a photo-op we were given our bikes with super-duper hydraulic brakes! The guide said practice now to learn how sensitive those babies are…wow…you could stop on a dime fast! He warned us of doing an “overdo” going face forward over the bike…so he wanted us to “feather” the brakes please and if you have to favor a brake favor the right one. So like little school kids we peddled around the top of Pikes Peak and giggled and gasped and worked those brakes and gears so we were ready! Off we zoomed from those high vistas to a vertical dive that just took my breath away! I loved it! Then I touched those brakes and wham they made be wiggle side to side and almost lose my balance. You had to learn to get the feel of them and I feathered and feathered and feathered…
Our tour guides were positioned one in front on a bike, and one in back in the van with flashing lights to warn traffic that we were ahead of him cruising like crazy. My top speed was 42 miles an hour. Of course Tony was the best rider on the tour. He impressed the guides with his knowledge and control of his bike, especially taking photos and videos and attaching the go-pro to his chest! I only rode in the van once up a brutal hill that even Tony admitted was tough! Wow if he says that then it was!
We viewed switch back views and gorgeous rocks and lakes and even a goat! Yep a goat was standing on the side of the road staring at us like we were HIS circus to watch.  Several of us thought it was not real because it was standing perfectly still as we rode by, and then stopped a few feet away. Eventually his gaze broke and he began to go up to the van and sniff and then mosey on up the road. (The California friends got a hoot from me saying his eyes looked so lifelike before I realized it was real! ) 
We stopped plenty of times to take shots of nature and each other and soak up the joy of the mountains on a bike and then we were off again on a fast spiral down, brake, brake, feather, brake. Once you did get the feel of the bike and got over the shakes it was such a great way to see Pikes Peak with the air in your face and the road at your feet.
We peddled and cruised by Santa’s Workshop open since the 1950′s, the North Pole-Santa’s Workshop has been entertaining children and encouraging them to be on their best behavior. They have animals, an arcade, places to eat, shop and explore. They also have 25 rides and a spot to talk to Santa any time of the year.
Our downhill adventure coasted to a stop back in Colorado Springs. We squeezed into the van again and off to eat Greek cuisine at Jake & Telly’s restaurant in Old Town Colorado Springs. Delicious gyros, grilled to perfection with a side of orzo salad. Yummo! The California friends and Tony and I vowed to FaceBook and send lots of photos as we hugged goodbye. Tony and I drove back to our motel to enjoy a rest and a nice bottle of Chardonnay, buzzing with memories of our Colorado Rocky Mountain HIGH!
By the way…we never did figure out what the green crosses were? Wink, wink.

As we headed home on July 12th we visited the gorgeous Broadmoor Hotel. In 1891 Prussian Count Pourtales opens the Broadmoor Casino that burned down and in 1916 entrepreneur Spencer Primrose opened the Hotel and Casino. The Oklahoma Publishing Company (Gaylord family) purchased the hotel in 1988.
Entering the manicured gardens and lawns was a feast for the eye. The hotel soared high into the air welcoming us with its painted face of murals and designs. The doorman and waiters were decked-out New York style with crisp tan suits and sharp black vests, greeting us with a welcome smile and hello! Rich woods, marbles and chandeliers glistened among the oil paintings of wild-west times and mountain vistas. My jaw dropped at the huge Maxfield Parrish paintings on the walls. We entered the upper level of the hotel by escalator to an elegant setting for dining. I tipped my nose up to the aroma of fresh made waffles and coffee. We decided to partake of the splendid feast of a breakfast buffet that included fresh fruits, desserts, eggs, bacon, freshly made omelets, cheeses, grilled salmon…and those delectable waffles to adorn with blueberries, strawberries and raspberries…and ahhhhh fresh rich whipping cream to dab on top…lip smack!
We were well attended to by the waitress and enjoyed the lovely room and views. We waddled out onto the patio for a view of the lake and more of the hotel, then ventured on a walk by the amazing swimming pool that spilled into the large Broadmoor Lake (constructed by the Count in 1889) and snapped many photos and videos as we strolled in a garden of natural beauty.
We bid happy trails to Colorado and realized how blessed we are to have each other and time well spent together!

Love and peace, Margee and Tony

PS-as we were driving 60 miles away from Oklahoma City (our trip was 1,636 miles), on Saturday, July 12th, as night settled and the full moon became a large “headlight in the sky”, we had to use our sun visors as moon visors to drive! I discovered we were looking at a “Super Moon” (scientific name Lunar perigee-when the moon is closest to the earth one of three times this year July 12, August 10 and September 9, 2014 making it appear larger in the sky.) It can cause high tides and heightened emotions…kiss me Tony!!  Thanks for planning a wonderful trip!
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