"For purple mountains majesties
Above the fruited plain..."
You probably recognize the lyrics to America the Beautiful, but did you know that the lyrics to this song were inspired by Pikes Peak? In 1893, Katherine Lee Bates was teaching English at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. Her memories of her excursion to Pikes Peak have been recorded in one of her notebooks:
"One day some of the other teachers and I decided to go on a trip to 14,000-foot Pikes Peak. We hired a prairie wagon. Near the top we had to leave the wagon and go the rest of the way on mules. I was very tired. But when I saw the view, I felt great joy. All the wonder of America seemed displayed there, with the sea-like expanse".
Her trip to Pikes Peak inspired her to write the poem America the Beautiful, which was eventually put to music.
Pikes Peak is located 10 miles west of Colorado Springs. The mountain is named after Zebulon Pike, the explorer who conducted an exposition of Colorado in 1806. Pikes Peak is one of Colorado's 54 fouteeners. These mountains, with elevations over 14,000 feet, account for Colorado's popularity as a hiking destination. Like the rest of Colorado, much of the history of Pike's Peak is tied in with the Colorado Gold Rush. In fact, in 1858, Pike's Peak or Bust" became the gold rush slogan. Buffalo Bill Cody was one of the famous people who came to Pikes Peak Colorado in search for gold.
Although people no longer search for gold in Pike's Peak Colorado, some ambitious souls seek out the gold medal in the Pike's Marathon. This highly challenging Pike's Peak race climbs over 7,700 feet. The altitude, as well as the varying weather conditions and terrain make this Pike's Peak race a bit difficult for anyone who is unaccustomed to a high alpine environment. Because of this, many people opt for the Pike's Peak half marathon, which takes place one day before the big race.
Pike's Peak Hill Climb is another famous Pike's Peak race. It is often referred to as the Race to the Clouds. The Pike's Peak Hill Climb has taken place since 1916. At present, a variety of classes of cars compete in the Pike's Peak Hill Climb. These include:
- Super Stock Car, Unlimited
- Open Wheel (including Mini Sprint and Championship)
- Open Stock Car, and Exhibition
- Seven classes of motorcycle
- Quads, 250cc, 450cc, 750cc, SuperMoto, Vintage (650-750cc
- Modified trucks
When you are finished exploring the outdoor attractions at Pike's Peak Colorado, you may want to visit Colorado Springs for a performance at the Pike's Peak Center. The El Pomar Great Hall, which is the main auditorium of the Pikes Peak Center, accommodates 2,000 patrons for performances, which include symphony, opera, musical theatre, drama, rock, country, variety, and ballet. The box seating along the sidewalls of the theater, along with the absence of center aisles create an intimate theatrical experience. The physical properties of the Great Hall can be adjusted in order to suit the unique acoustical needs of different types of performances. The theater's movable ceiling canopy can be raised or lowered to change the quality of the sound. Acoustic banners that descend from slots along the sidewalls and ceiling are able to change the rate of reverberation. Additionally, a system of movable stage "towers" can be placed behind the performers, thus allowing for maximum acoustical clarity.
Whether you are visiting Pike's Peak Colorado to participate in a Pike's race, or simply to enjoy the splendor of the mountain, a visit to Pike's Peak is a definite "must-do" for any Colorado Springs vacation.