Mother's Day at 14,000 feet

"Above the clouds, the sky is always blue."

 - Therese of Lisieux

This has been on my Colorado bucket list since we arrived, but we couldn't go that high up right away, so I have been anxiously waiting to do this.  Pike's Peak sits at over 14,114 feet and even though Colorado Springs is at 6,035 feet, we had to wait at least six months for our bodies to adjust.  There was nothing more perfect than Mother's Day to finally go to the top of Pike's Peak since it is the only day of the year that my family is actually required to do exactly what I want to do!  (Plus, mom's are free on Mother's Day!!!)  The cost was $15 per adult, $5 per child ages 5-16yrs or $50 per vehicle to go to the summit.  If you only want to do the North Slope without going all the way up it would be $5 per vehicle.  

The 20 miles of highway is quite honestly, the most beautiful, peaceful, terrifying piece of road I have ever been on.  The scenery is breathtaking around every switchback and I was so happy to be the passenger so I could mentally prepare for every photo I wanted to take on the way back down.  (Pretty sure the family was happy I wasn't driving as well.)  My recommendation is to drive all the way up and then make your stops on the way down so you can let your brakes cool off.  

There was snow above the tree line and it was actively snowing when we got to the top!  Oh, yes, and it was cold.  The temperature at the summit was 26 degrees, but the "feels like" temp was 13 degrees.  My children, of course, did not want to wear jackets, but don't think I didn't tell them to bring one before we left the house!

It is gorgeous up there above the trees and the clouds.  The Cog Railway used to bring you to the top, but is closed until further notice, so you can freely walk along the tracks and around the entire peak.  I recommend spending a few minutes alone up there to feel your own peace.  You can also go to the gift shop and grab a shirt that says "I Like It on Top" or "Got Oxygen," and a hot chocolate or pretzel for part of the drive down.  

The views are the best!  They are worth the cost and facing your fear of heights, but beware of the altitude.  You will most likely feel light headed and get a headache, especially if you live closer to sea level.  Drink plenty of water on the way up and for the rest of the day.  Altitude sickness can creep up on anyone, so do not think you are immune.  

The random spots along the road are the best places for these beautiful, untouched natural wonders.  Being up in the mountains among endless views of mountains is awesome!

This is the mandatory brake checkpoint where they measure the temperature of your car's brakes.  If they are 300 degrees or above, they will politely ask you to pull over and wait until they cool down.  There is another small gift shop here and hopefully you don't have to hang out too long.  

I am so ready to do some photography sessions on this beautiful highway.  If anyone wants to create a magical photo session in the mountains for your family portraits, engagement sessions or modeling portfolio - CALL ME!  

The most beautiful part of the highway to me, was Crystal Lake Reservoir.  You can reach the lake for the North Slope price of $5 per vehicle and I plan on going back many more times before we leave.  There is another gift shop here and if you walk out back, you can feed the chipmunks.  The shop employees will come out and give the kids sunflower seeds and the cute little rodents will come eat them right out of their hands.  Now, I am ready to see this place in July!

"The mountains are calling and I must go."

 - John Muir

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hardcover photo book

Cripple Creek + Victor, Colorado

Last weekend we went up into the mountains here in Colorado Springs to the two towns of Cripple Creek and Victor.  They are both similar in architecture and layout, but are significantly different at the same time.  Cripple Creek is a gambling town with casinos lining the main street, a small ghost town at the end of the line, and the Jail Museum (which was the highlight of our visit to this one.)  Victor on the other hand, is a quiet town of 400 people where the miners live.  (At the height of the Gold Rush, Victor had a population of 17,000 people - QUITE a difference.)  After visiting these two towns, I realized that I can easily find beauty in the everyday life that exists just around the corner.  

Most people head up to these towns to gamble, and then pass through Victor because it is so close.  Myself, on the other hand, I could have stayed up there for the entire day appreciating the quiet and shabby surroundings.  Cripple Creek grabs your attention with it's slot machines and roulette wheels (and donkeys that roam the streets in the spring and summer.)  While Victor is proud of it's simplicity - "What we do not have - stoplights, chain stores, traffic or anything resembling the rat race."  Both towns are well worth the visit for a day to experience what life was and currently is like up in the mountains.  After viewing the pictures, I would love to hear which town you find more appealing.  

The welcome sign at the beginning of town.  Cripple Creek was established in 1892 and is at an elevation of 9494 feet.  

I love the old time/old town feel of their buildings in Cripple Creek because it reminded me a bit of the shophouse style in Singapore.  

All of the bus stops are designed to look like old trolley cars.  Who wants to model for me up in Cripple Creek in one of them????

I absolutely LOVE this theatre!  The Butte Theater in Cripple Creek is a beautiful architectural site on the street.  It screams old America and is still open.  As a matter of fact, they are celebrating 70 years open this year in 2018.

Above are just a few of the examples of the vintage murals on the buildings throughout the town. 

The main street in Cripple Creek.  It is lined mainly with a few empty buildings, some restaurants and a ton of casinos.  BUT, that view is so pretty and even though it is over 9000 feet up, the mountains still feel huge.  

The highlight of Cripple Creek for many is the Jail Museum.  It is the selfie capital of the town and as soon as you enter, you can see why.   The entrance fee is $3.00 for adults and there is a bunch of history about it, but we mostly enjoyed goofing off with photos in the cells and mug shots!  They have a some black & white striped costumes for you to wear; however, they were lacking in the pants department.  Their were about 15 shirts and two pairs of pants.  Either way, it is a fun spot for the entire family and since we are not gamblers, it was our favorite part of our visit to Cripple Creek.  model: my husband

If you like ghost towns, walk past the Jail Museum to the end of the street where you will see this sign.  All of the windows are boarded up, but it is still a colorful spot to check out.  

Above are some of the creative photos from Cripple Creek.  My favorite thing to do in a town or city is get lost - get lost in thought, get lost throughout the streets and get lost in finding images that speak to people.  It can be very difficult to create an emotional connection through photos without people, but I feel like I am able to do this very well.  

"Photography is an austere and blazing poetry of the real."    - Ansel Adams


Now we move on to Victor, which I personally enjoyed (from a photography perspective) more than Cripple Creek.  We only saw two or three people while we were there walking the streets.  It was quiet and secluded which, for me, is the perfect setting for great photography.  Victor is only about a 15 minute drive from Cripple Creek, but its energy and climate are worlds apart.  

This was the first thing I saw when we drove into town and after learning about Victor, I get it.  It was a booming town during the gold rush where individuals lives were flourishing.  They had gold, jobs, income, population growth and everything that brings with it.  Now, the town is quiet and almost empty.  There is a mine down the road where some of the residents work, but the booming town it used to be is gone.  However, "we still love you" painted on the side is true.  There is a lot of history and beauty in this small town to enjoy and people like me, will always appreciate places like this.  

This is the closest vehicle I have seen to Mater from the movie Cars and I could not have been more in love with it.  My creative mind explodes with ideas when I see something this old, rustic and colorful.  

The garage doors at the Victor Firehouse are painted with vintage firetruck murals.  There were so many beautiful pieces to this town and each piece gave birth to a new idea in my head.

GAH!  I love this small town so much.  I cannot say I would stay in the hotel, but I will photograph it.  It has such a nostalgic feel and I just need to go back with some beautiful people and photograph them here.  Who is in?

This is outside of the mechanic in town and this, to me, is beautiful.  Colorful buildings with a gorgeous blue sky and random seating for people watching. My kind of town!

These old painted murals are what makes this town stand out more compared to Cripple Creek.  The town is old and it shows through the architecture and signage around.  There is also a WW1 Memorial with all of the names listed on a wall of people who fought in the war.  

Just a few other details I found around a few corners that I thought were fun, colorful, and unique.  I believe you can tell a lot about a town and its residents through the small things.  What are they using to decorate?  What colors are popular?  Can you tell who lives behind each window or door?  It is all about discovery and I find every town or city to be like a treasure hunt.  Victor was definitely a diamond in the rough!

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