Monday, September 2, 2013

9/2/13 Labor Day Drive

Labor Day drive this year started out with meeting Mom and Dad at Cracker Barrel in the Springs at 7:00 a.m., which meant leaving my house at 6:00 a.m. I told Sam she was welcomed to come, sure she'd bail in favor of sleeping in on a Monday off, but instead, she was waiting for me to get downstairs. Clearly, Cracker Barrel is doing something right. 

view from the CB parking lot of Pike's Peak, all purple in the morning sun

The Colorado Balloon Classic was held in CS over the weekend, but hosting Ren and Marci who were house hunting, plus the weather that ended up cancelling the Sat. morning flight, I decided to bide my time until October, now just a month away, to really go after the balloon shots. 

However, as we were driving back to Mom and Dad's to consolidate cars for the day's trip, the last day launch was happening. Sammi snapped a few from the highway and our exit.

the view halfway up Star Ranch road 

I'd stopped along the road to shoot that last picture before making the turn up and over to Mom and Dad's house, handing Sam the camera as I got back in. This would prove to be a mistake. As we turned onto their street, I shouted, "Hello!" and it took Sam a split second to see what I was seeing, a lumbering black bear crossing directly in front of us, heading straight towards their driveway. Sam, in the same motion she was trying to dive under the seat, hands me the camera, but between turning/driving, I could get my hands on it. By the time I got the camera up to shoot, he had scooted into the side yard behind trees and gone. 

Luckily, we were able to pull a shot of him off of the security cameras to make up for my failure. (A second after he exits the camera, the nose of my car appears.)

I have to say, I am a little worried about my daughter's estimation of my intelligence, as we parked and I was looking off the way he'd gone, and she felt the need to demand I stay in the car. She really thought I was about to chase after the bear for the shot. Parenting AND Photographer fail in one fell swoop. 

Once Mom and Dad arrived behind us, we went over the camping gear that I was bringing back with me for the Balloon adventure and then piled back into Dad's car for the day's drive. 

From their house to the land near Victor, the quickest route takes about an hour, barring traffic. Naturally, this was not the route we were interested in.

We headed south to hook around from the start of Phantom Canyon road that is part of the Gold Belt Scenic Byway.

The road is entirely unpaved and winds around 30 miles following the tracks that were once used by the F&CC Railroad between Florence and Cripple Creek to haul gold from the mines. In those days, the gold was so thick, you could just scrape off high-grade ore from the outside of the rocks. Over 500 mines sprang up in the area. But getting the ore down the mountain was rough. The terrain descended some 6000 feet to get to Florence, and in a horse drawn wagon, you could only carry so much as at a time, hoping you weren't all killed on the journey each way. There was a race between two railroad companies to lay tracks to the area and the F&CC, although laying over the much more roughed southern space through the canyon, won the battle. Amazingly, the narrow gauge tracks on the route were started from Florence just two days after Christmas 1893 and the rails reached Victor May 23, 1894. The thought of laying tracks from December through May up that canyon in winter without any modern conveniences boggles the mind.  The line was continually beset by the flash floods that race through the canyon and the 30 foot wall of water that took out all but one bridge was the end of the line, in July 1912. More detailed information can be found here

Our drive's photographs can also be viewed as a story of clouds. As we pulled over to check out the stream near the road early on, there are just a few little wisps of high, white clouds.

Sam sits on the second half of the still-standing ghost tree, split by lightening. No clouds at all that direction.

The first of the two tunnels blasted out for the F&CC tracks. 
Lots of great camping sites along the water here, too.

Canyon photos are, by their nature, made to be shot vertically. But unless you're only going to take pictures at high noon, be prepared for the battle of the shadows.

Tunnel #2

Red-boot marker across the road from a lovely camping spot, if you have a four wheel drive and some seriously jacked up suspension. We walked down from the road above instead of trying to drive it. 

The water was perfect. No numb feet to speak of.  
The trick to getting your shoes back on without stepping all over the bank and creating mud is mom support. 

The minerals in the rocks were gleaming from the sunlight. The malachite made places appear to be cut out of solid gold. That spot above that looks like glass is some quartz embedded in the granite. I'm trying to imagine mining gold chips as big as that, just glittering from the rocks. 

This is the only surviving iron bridge, rebuilt once from an earlier flash flood, that was not washed away in 1912. 

Standing on it, the first thing you will notice is that it is not flat. The whole things slopes enough to make you very aware of the heights below. 

The slope would pitch you this direction if you aren't steady on your feet.

The other side of the drive, about halfway through, is marked by some very narrow and curvy places. The Narrow Mountain Road signs aren't there for decoration. This is a two-way road.

about the halfway point of the drive


The Aspens stands along the road at the higher elevations promise to be spectacular in another month.

Made it to Victor just in time for lunch

Guess where?

And guess what?

Mom and Dad popped into the broom-making spot where they still make them by hand for you and got some information, as the gentleman who makes them was out over the weekend recovering from surgery. 

Looks like the Collins survived the big fire. It's one of the few buildings that dates to before 1899.

(powerlines are the bane of my photographer existence)

(Note the clouds.)

Back towards Victor as we head up to the land.

Looking toward the direction we are going. 

We drove up the road through the property to see how much further the road went before the next gate. This is Pike's Peak from perhaps a half a mile farther up. About two minutes later, the dark cloud reached us.

So getting out to open the gate on the way back down was a bit more of an adventure than on the way up just twenty minutes prior. 

During the rain, the reading on the outside temp dipped to 46°

Up the road about a mile is Scagway Reservoir, with one lone and hardy bank fisherman sticking out during the rain and hail.

Pockets of hail were everywhere

And back down at Victor? Hadn't really even rained. 

But it sure look like it wanted to. 

We managed to hit a ton of Labor Day afternoon traffic back into Colorado Springs. I was watching the rearview mirror to make sure that black cloud wasn't following us, as we sat nearly stopped along the now infamous Waldo Canyon burn scar section of Highway 24. That sign is no joke. No rain showed up though, and Sam and I made it back into our driveway at 6:15 that evening, 12 hours and 15 minutes later than when we departed with another Labor Day adventure under our belts. 


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