Our first trip to Colorado, we added a new phrase to our travel lexicon — “14ers," the local moniker for peaks exceeding 14,000 feet. Colorado has 58 of them, the best known include the tallest, Mount Elbert at 14,433 feet, Longs Peak (14,255), which sits inside Rocky Mountain National Park, and Pikes Peak (14,115).
We conquered our first 14er thanks to the historic Pikes Peak Cog Railway, an unforgettable hour and a-half ride to the top of famous Pikes Peak. We watched the topography turn from trees and outcroppings not far from the depot to fields of aspens to a barren landscape of mostly crushed rock. Soon, it was snow-covered at the summit. Here we posed for the bragging rights photo by the signage: elevation 14,115. Summit House is an expansive tourist shop of souvenirs and fresh doughnuts. Outside, a large monument honors Katharine Lee Bates, who in 1893 penned the words to “America the Beautiful” having seen this sweeping view of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the south and the Continental Divide to the north.