The initial run of the Manitou and Pikes Peak Railway could have been monumentally disastrous. Utilizing a "cog" or "rack" railway system that was relatively new at the time -- outside of a few steep tracks in Switzerland, there were not many such railways in existence -- designers set out to build not only the highest cog railway in North America, but the highest in the entire world. As if that task weren't daunting enough, after the long, snowy winter and spring of 1891, the scheduled maiden voyage of a carful of dignitaries was forced to abandon the ride to the top because of a rockslide at 12,000 feet. So for the next attempt at the summit, the Manitou and Pikes Peak Railway Company decided to cram the passenger train with no less than a church choir from Denver! The pieces were in place for the Rockies' very own man-made disaster. But then the unthinkable happened: The train worked. The choir disembarked at the summit and took in the amazing view that had inspired Zalmon Simmons to build the railway in the first place. And they successfully returned to flat land.
Since that time, the railway, which opens today and continues chugging through December, has operated every year, hauling passengers along the 8.9-mile trek, through Ruxton and Deer parks, then up above the timberline, where on a clear day visitors with good eyesight can take in the Great Plains, the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, even the skyscrapers of Denver. Tickets for the three-hour-and-ten-minute round-trip ride are $17 for kids, $29 for adults. For schedules and information, go to www.cograilway.com or call 1-719-685-5401. -- Adam Cayton-Holland
Spring is the time to go with the flow.
Wondering about the wave of the future for the rock-gardening set? "This is the year to learn about troughs," says Denver Botanic Gardens alpine-plant guru Panayoti Kelaidis, who promises that those who attend the North American Rock Garden Society Show and Sale, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. today at the Gardens, 1005 York Street, will learn all they need to know about the new fad.
Troughs, Kelaidis explains, are "hypertufa," or artificial stone containers planted with smaller specialty plants that might get overlooked in a larger garden tableau. And, unlike container plantings that get tossed at the end of the growing season, "you can have your container year after year, and it will continue to gain character and beauty with time." Rocky Mountain region NARGS members will bring their home trough gardens to put on display as part of the show, and patrons will be able to purchase troughs and plants on the spot, including such groundbreakers as a new manzanita, a scarlet/ orange South African ice plant and native Colorado non-vining clematis.
Spring is here. "You don't have to have a rock garden, by any means, to attend this sale," Kelaidis says. So get ready to dig it. -- Susan Froyd