Written by Alice Munley
Lucky Cam’O! By virtue of his status as a service dog in training, he is allowed to accompany us to nearly every corner of Colorado and beyond.
Cam’O’s next adventure took him on the Pikes Peak Cog Railway to the top of Pikes Peak—an elevation of 14,110 feet. So Cam’O can now brag that he’s been to the top of the world (at least in Colorado).
As some of you may know, Colorado is famous for its “Fourteeners,” as we call them. There are 54 mountains that reach above 14,000-foot elevation and people come from all around the world to climb all 54 peaks. One of our good friends climbed all 54 more than once, one time being in the winter—a rarity. I personally have climbed one of the “Thirteeners,” but took the Cog Railway to accomplish reaching the top of my one and only Fourteener, Pikes Peak. The view is awesome—much like the view from an airplane, but in this instance, your feet are well planted on terra firma.
” I had to do some fast talking to help her understand that any service dog, including one in training, should be with their partner or handler.”
Our trip started very early in the morning with a couple hour drive from home to reach the starting point at the base of Pikes Peak where we boarded the cog railway. To begin, the young lady handling the tickets wanted to put Cam’O in a separate place behind our seats because he was a service dog in training, and she seemed to think he would be safer alone and away from us and other people. I had to do some fast talking to help her understand that any service dog, including one in training, should be with their partner or handler. If a team were to be separated, the service dog could not perform the service for which he was trained and in our case we couldn’t perform whatever training we needed to guide Cam’O as we ascended the mountain. The cog railway is different from a regular train—it ascends almost straight up the mountain, so inside the rail car, it was imperative that I be right there with Cam’O to assure him that his sliding backward was okay and just a part of his experience. The train’s engine and special traction of the cog was also noisy and jerky at times.
As the train started its trip up the mountain and approached the steeper sections, I was able to plant my feet in a manner that kept Cam’O’s body from sliding backward. He seemed very okay with that and enjoyed his hour ride to the top. There was more than enough room for him to lie down between the seats. And of course he received lots of “oohs” and “ahhs” from the other riders. We fielded many questions about Golden Retrievers and service dogs, and hopefully shared some quality information for those accompanying us on the ride to the top.
From our perspective (not Cam’O’s as he was mostly sleeping soundly on the floor of the rail car), we were treated to awesome views of waterfalls, wildlife, mountain lakes, and gorgeous scenery within the trees and then above timberline as we approached the summit. Incredible!
“Cam’O? He had no worries with his thick curly white coat of hair and appeared totally unfazed by the cold temperatures or the wind.”
Once we arrived at the summit, the cold air began to filter into the warm cog rail car. No snow on the ground as we stepped outside. Temperatures were far below comfortable for a July day in Colorado. Time to cover up with a warm jacket or sweatshirt. Mix a little wind into the equation and that cold temperature settles deep into your bones. Cam’O? He had no worries with his thick curly white coat of hair and appeared totally unfazed by the cold temperatures or the wind.
After taking in the awesome scenery from the summit we took time to view the monument erected there to Kathryn Lee Bates, who wrote a poem after viewing and visiting Pikes Peak in 1893. Her poem was later put to music and became “America the Beautiful.” Looking to escape the cold, winter-like temperatures and wind, we headed inside to the warmth and comfort of the Summit House, where hot chocolate, coffee, freshly baked warm donuts, and the usual tourist gift shop awaited interested visitors.
Our time at the summit was limited, as the cog rail train cars are on a daily schedule. They have to provide multiple trips to the top for the many tourists awaiting their turn to board the cog cars and experience this magnificent mountain and its awesome 360 degree view, from the tippy, tippy top.
Because our train car was the first up the mountain that day, we saw no other train cars on our ride up. However, the train passes near the toll road highway that runs to the summit. This road to the top is famous for the annual Pikes Peak International Hill Climb held annually. As we moved slowly down the mountain, we passed two other cog railway cars on their trip to the top. There are pull-out locations along the route that allow for the railcars to pass one another. We enjoyed another beautiful ride as we took in more wildlife and unequaled awesome scenery above timberline. Crowds had gathered now at the base of the mountain’s departure point, so Cam’O’s final challenge of the day was to calmly work his way through the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd as we found our way to the parking area and loaded up for our drive home
After Cam’O’s several-hour excursion for the opportunity to reach new heights on Pikes Peak, we returned home. He excitedly greeted his pals, ready for a little play time, even after all the excitement of his ride to the top of Pikes Peak on the cog railway. Puppies never seem to lose their energy.