As an aspiring travel writer, I not only have bucket lists for the entire world, but also an extensive list of my current residency. Atop my Colorado bucket list sits Pikes Peak and previous to my Cog Railway excursion, I considered spending a long weekend to camp and hike up this mountainous expedition. However, a group of New York actors who want to explore life beyond their concrete jungle, quickly change my mind as they invite me along their journey up the peak.
We begin at the train station, where one of my companions, Felix, and I dig through a bin of knitted animal hats. I settle on a koala hat while Felix continues to weigh his options before settling on a mighty buffalo. Once we board the train, our guide quickly tells us the history of Pike’s Peak in a booming auctioneer voice, eager to entertain us (although I don’t know if it’s for his benefit or ours). The higher we climb the more leaves change from green to gold and the more barren branches and tree limbs become. The hour-and-a-half train ride hardly seems long at all as we approach the station. As we scramble to leave, our guide reminds us that if we miss the train down, we cannot get on a later train and must hike all the way down.
As I exit the train, I immediately begin to feel the wind and the extreme biting cold. I shake in my newly purchased koala hat and stay outside for a few photographs until I can no longer survive and have to run inside the station. Felix eagerly throws his hands up in the air as he experiences the scenery around him while the rest of our group sits and walks among the orange snow-covered rocks quietly observing the mountains. Being on top of the world brings everything into perspective as I begin to realize how much smaller I am compared to the rest of the world. We are constantly consumed by how big our problems seem, but in a place like this all I can see is how little my worries are with endless mountains to the west and rolling sandy flat lands to the east.
The ride down the mountain and back to Denver fills with conversations in Spanish as I quietly listen to my traveling cohorts. Everyone is enthusiastic to explore the small thrift shops that line Manitou Springs and find just about any antique can be of value; perhaps with a better paycheck I might have gone home with a nice pair of floral cowgirl boots. However, I find that nothing of monetary value is what brings me enjoyment here as I recall the laughter and stories in the car ride home.