On the line of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad we were rolling towards our next destination, Colorado Springs, after we had turned Eastwards at Provo City. As far as the landscape is concerned, this route has to be described as very interesting as the tracks cross a great number of splendid canyons. Narrow rocky valleys and gorges exist in Europe too but neither in such numbers and extent, nor showing such grotesque formations we were encountering here. Unfortunately, the bad weather spoiled our enjoyment of the scenery as it was snowing when we passed the wild canyon of the Grand River and dense flakes and masses of fog covered the mountain peaks as well as the higher wall some of which rose almost vertically up to 750 m.
In many places the gorge with its rocky walls is so narrow that the railway and the river have just enough space next to each other and daylight can only enter between the colossal jagged walls. Nevertheless crippled pines have set root in crevices and wherever there is a bit of earth between the rocks, intensely red and yellow colored bushes peek out. The sandstone rocks appear in the most adventurous forms, withered and crumbled parts alternate with deep long clefts and caves. One expects the overhanging walls and blocks to tumble down into the abyss at any moment. Down there the gushing river digs its bed deeper and deeper. Rocks that have been broken off by the force exerted by ice in places pile up to mighty masses enriching the gorgeous view that this wild romantic and dark area offers.
The Canyon of the Grand River is 27 km long until the valley in which much new snow was lying opens up without however losing its bare and rocky character. Whenever the fog was broken up by the current wind, we could also see the high mountains surrounding the canyon.
Soon we entered into Eagle River Canyon that resembled its predecessor but was still considerable narrower so that one can not look up to the walls even from the bottom of the wagon. Here too some narrow tunnels had to be dug even though the railway tracks follow the river shore closely. Like glued to the wall appear the small huts of the miners and the mine entrances that allow the extraction of the ore and are the main source of income for the thinly distributed population.
When we reached some sort of high plateau after having passed Eagle Canyon, we were received by light rays of the sun emerging from dense snow clouds. The rays illuminated multiple green fields, an unexpected sight. Grazing cattle and horse brought life into the landscape.
The two cities of Leadville and Salida were examples of the already repeatedly observed type of urban settlements even though the territory, like the whole of Colorado, had been Mexican for a long time before it had been annexed by the United States. Numerous mountain names remind of this past era, thus the snow covered Sangre de Cristo range and places like Pueblo, which we later passed.
Right after Salida we observed mighty round boulders that sometimes were piled up on top of one another that, individually, were larger than a small house. The vegetation here was very paltry and only represented by the roof-shaped dwarf spruce and cacti in yellow bloom.
As far as greatness is concerned, the latest of the canyons, the canyon of the Arkansas, is the equal of the Great Canyon in the Yellowstone Park, but it lacks the latter’s splendid light and color effects that delighted me. Instead the canyon of the Arkansas is marked by the jaggedness of the red sandstone as well by the quite amazing height of granite rocks. The rocks rise at the most narrow spot of this 13 km long pass, called Royal Gorge, up to 800 m.
Overwhelmed by the view I stood on the platform of the wagon, following the example of most other passengers, while the speeding train seemed to flee out of the area of the threatening gigantic masses. Such scary areas have certainly been imagined in our mind while we listened to accounts of Indian attacks on trains, of fights between them and the passengers and of other romances about the far West with all their ghastly elements.
Suddenly, and without any continuing spurs of the surrounding walls, the narrow valley stops and makes way to a wide prairie-like valley where timid trials of cultivating fields and fruit can be observed.
From Pueblo the railway turns North towards Colorado Springs, a spa town popular due to its healthy climate where we rested for the night in order to drive to Manitou the next day and climb Pike’s Peak of 4331 m altitude.