Aug 142010

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

We started the morning at the same time as the sun so both Christy and Andie were at the airport by 6:45. I went back to the hotel with very minimal morning rush hour traffic and used as much internet time as possible to update blogs, get an idea of where to go on my trip home and other tasks.

I decided to spend my first night in Colorado Springs, only about 1.5 hours south of Denver. So, I was there in plenty of time to drive through several parks and 3 visitor’s centers before I found an adequate State Park to pitch my tent. I ended up in Cheyanne Mountains State Park. The park is only about a year old and the facilities are wonderful, new, and very clean. I’m not used to such clean bathrooms while camping. My tent site was about a 2 minute walk from the car. I was able to carry everything over in one trip and set up the tent on a raised platform of small gravel rocks that ended up being fairly comfortable to sleep on. I could tell that if it rained, the rocks would act as a sieve to pull the water further down into the soil before pooling under the tent. There were some nice tie-down hooks around the tent site if I needed them.

My goal for the day was to spend sunset in the Garden of the Gods, so now I had the whole day to wander. I drove up to the summit of Pike’s Peak, America’s mountain. Or maybe it was America’s highway. I don’t remember the slogan, but it was funny. The drive had less pull offs that I had hoped for. Anyone who has driven through a park with me knows I love to stop at pull offs and take in the sights. The temperature slowly dropped as I climbed higher and higher. The temp at the bottom was around 85, but by the time I reached the summit it was down to about 48. Luckily my fleece along with everything else was in the car with me, so I was quite comfortable.

I arrived at the summit just in time for the Cogs railway. The railway is alternative to driving. This meant that I had some good photo opportunities at the train pulled in, but it also meant that the summit was quite crowded while I was there. I scrambled on some rocks and looked for photos while all the people were there and then went back up to take my tourist photo at the summit sign after they all left.

The drive down Pike’s Peak allowed for more photo opportunities and I stopped to get some photos of various views and rock formations. At the bottom of a steep downhill slope there was a mandatory brake temperature check and I passed with a temp of 178 degrees. At over 300 degrees, one is required to pull off and stop for 30 minutes to let the pads cool down. I’m very proud of my Prius in the mountains. The Prius really became my friend and companion over the past 2 weeks and I love my car even more now if that’s possible. =)

By the time I got to the bottom of Pike’s Peak, it was time to go stake out my spot in Garden of the Gods for sunset and the photography golden hour of the day. The golden hour is the hour before dusk and the hour after dawn. Those 2 hours of the day provide the best light for any photography anywhere in the world. I was disappointed to see the clouds blocking the coming sunset, but it did make the weather more comfortable for hiking around. I tried to match the rock formations to their names, but I found one rock that looked like a pained old man that appeared to have no name. At least no name seemed to match. I decided to hike to the Siamese Twins for sunset since it wasn’t right off the road and might have less people milling around.

This proved to be a decent plan and I was able to spend the golden hour photographing the Siamese Twins from all angles and catching the deep red of the rock in the setting sun. I also, as usual, became the photographer for various families and couples that came through and wanted a group photo. One family lingered too long and I missed what I considered the best part of the sunset through the hole between the Twins, but I still got many other shots.

I also found a deer that only appeared to have one antler. Upon closer inspection, the other one was growing down his face rather than up into the air. I’m not sure what happened to the poor guy, but I hope the antler doesn’t impede his survival.

I ate dinner in the park and waited around for the stars to shine bright. I figured a rock formation would make an interesting foreground to star trail photography, but the cloud cover was becoming thicker and the light pollution from Colorado Springs was making the stars dim.

So, I headed back to the campsite and to sleep.

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