located in Manitou Springs, Colorado, is a fantastic ride through dense spruce and aspen forests up to 14,000 feet. Our Pikes Peak Cog Railway Adventure started nearly 2 hours late. There were high winds on Pikes Peak, with gusts up to 90 mph. Because of this, we could only go up to 12,000 feet that day. We were given the option for a partial refund, or a reschedule. Since our tickets were comped and we had traveled nearly 200 miles, we opted to go ahead.
While waiting, we browsed the gift shop and snack bar. Tiny O2 canisters were available for those with altitude issues. This is the first time I’d seen them. What a clever idea! Downstairs from the covered seating areas we explored a little stream and enjoyed the shade.
Finally, our train pulled in.
Our conductor, Elliot, was full of goofy tour guide jokes. And our engineer Nick did a great job driving the train up and back. I only had to talk to the man and the boy a couple of times about staying off their phones. The upward journey through the forest, with the heavy scent of pine wafting into the cars, was soothing. We passed several waterfalls, each accompanied by one of Elliot’s anecdotes. Pipe waterfall was particularly entertaining. The water falling out of a pipe…
I think we had the best seats in the coach. Windows all around and right next to the engineer for the return trip. The side windows have hand cranks, just like the old automobiles. You can actually roll the windows down. The wooden seats are definitely not made for luxury.
You can see the cogs down the middle of the tracks.
Hikers can ride the train, too. I don’t know about the cost of that.
The train ride was so popular at one time that there were a couple of one-room hotels, which have collapsed and/or burned down since.
For many years there was a hydroelectric plant along the line and a caretaker lived in this cabin.
There is a beautiful view of Lake Moraine near the top of the pass. The lake supplies water to Colorado Springs.
We had to stop at the Windy Point Station,
elevation 12,000 feet, due to gale force winds at the 14,000 ft. peak. The wind was blowing so hard that large sticks and numerous small items were picked up and flung over the train and station. We could feel the strong vibration of the wind when we put our hands on the windows.
The Mountain View stop
at 10,000 ft has some interesting sights. There is an old train car, OUT house, and hiking trails which cross several streamlets. It felt nice to get off the train and stretch our legs. We had time for a bit of hiking and photo ops with some interesting scenery.
At one point you can even see the city of Colorado springs in the distance.
Descending through the trees
gently brought us back to reality. The October weather had been so mild, and the sun so welcome, despite the wind, that we all felt our Pikes Peak Cog Railway Adventure was over too soon.
Just in time for the holidays, Joan of Arc joins Saint Therese Lisieux in the Dolls From Heaven Collection. Presenting the Catholic answer to American Girl dolls, each 18″ saint has her own storybook and accessories, which can also be ordered separately. These dolls are a great way to help teach your children, godchildren and grandchildren Catholic values and immerse them in Catholic culture.
Flaxen-haired Joan comes ready for battle, dressed in armor. What a role model for young girls today, who must fight to maintain their dignity and self-respect in a hedonistic culture. Joan’s commitment to the Sacraments, clean language, and decent living is refreshing in today’s culture of pleasure, foul language, and self-importance.
Joan’s cape, flag, medal and prayer card are also available. She also has a cloth body and moveable vinyl head and limbs.
Parts of Joan’s story appear on the Dolls From Heaven blog. So do parts of Saint Therese’s. We study the saints to learn how and become inspired to live better lives. What a fantastic tool to help not only our children but ourselves, to become stronger and more faithful Catholics.
Dolls From Heaven is a Catholic mom and pop business. Although most of the doll itself is outsourced, some of the product is manufactured by the Kiczek family, themselves. They are avid participants in the pro-life movement and practicing Catholics. You can read more about them and what inspired them to create Dolls From Heaven on their website.
Dolls From Heaven are special gifts. With Christmas coming up, now is the ideal time to order yours. Don’t forget Baptisms, First Communions, Confirmations, and Birthdays.
Yup. Have to. Because I loved this movie and I have to shout it out. First of all, don’t listen to the negative reviews. Who knows what the critics are thinking? Maybe they’re as tired of remakes as I am. But this is more a new interpretation of the novel. The novel? Yeah, I didn’t know…
With Roma Downey and Mark Burnett as producers, you can pretty well expect an uplifting message. A few of the actors are celebrities here in the States, but it was refreshing to see so many fresh faces in the cast.
In case you are unfamiliar, Ben Hur is the story of a Jewish prince, at the time of Christ. Judah Ben-Hur’s family adopts a Roman orphan, Mesalla. They grow up as brothers and best friends. Due to his orphan past, Mesalla becomes increasingly restless, as he ponders his place in the world. His love for Judah’s sister is frowned upon by their mother, so he eventually sets out to join the Roman legion and pursue his fortune.
When Mesalla returns, he asks for Judah’s help in keeping the peace for the arrival of the new Roman governor. Instead, Judah protects a Jewish assassin, by taking the blame for an attempt on the life of the governor. An angry Mesalla betrays Judah to a long, slow death as a galley slave.
There is plenty of action. Judah’s escape from the galleys and near drowning; Mesalla’s battle exploits; the chariot race.
The chariot race. Possibly the highlight of the entire film. Even though you know how it turns out, getting there keeps you on the edge of your seat. The horses are fantastic and every precaution was taken to ensure their safety during filming. The actors insisted on performing nearly all the race scenes themselves, instead of letting the stuntmen have all the fun. The Roman Circus was a place of blood and violence, and the chariot race delivered. Even without fake blood spurting on the screen, there was plenty of gory death as charioteers were systematically ejected and trampled.
In the end, hatred and revenge give way to forgiveness and reconciliation, largely due to chance meetings with Jesus. As it should be.
Go see it today and support good, clean, uplifting filmmaking!
In the few years since I last reviewed Carrick Ministries, their focus has broadened and evolved so much that I thought it was worth another mention. Julie is still singing, writing songs, touring, and doing parish missions. Carrick Ministries has also teamed up with a number of other artists, such as Leighton Drake, another fantastic artist/minister I reviewed previously. This enables Carrick Ministries to offer a number of parish missions, events, and even a diocesan Catholic Women’s Conference, coordinated by the team.
Event choices offer themes of: Divine Mercy, Discipleship, Using the Sacraments in our daily lives, “Living Our Creed”, “Living the Mass”, and Marriage. All events are elevated by Julie’s inspirational music and exquisite voice. Dates are still available for Memorial Day Weekend, through October 4th. See Carrick Ministries website for further information and to schedule your event.
An interesting addition to the offerings is the “Gathered in Grace – Women’s Conference”. This is fully coordinated and presented by Carrick Ministries, who will work with your diocese in scheduling, managing and promoting it. The conference offerings include: 2 presenters, Julie and one other; music; materials to help get your conference set up and print ready materials for promotion, as well as a broadcast-ready Public Service Announcement. For more info, testimonials and to schedule your conference, see Carrick Ministries website.
Finally, I cannot help but recommend Julie’s amazing music. Her recordings include Catholic favorites as well as her own compositions. Her voice was exquisite before her bout with a rare and insidious form of lung cancer, and she came back even better than ever. Her personal struggles, reflected in the songs she has written, touch every one of us who have experienced the same or similar struggles. Her faithful reliance on Jesus and “Mamma Mary” is a light of hope for all of us looking for the answer to making it through the trials of this life. Carrick Ministries is now offering Julie’s music in 10 CDs, 3 DVDs, a songbook, and a complete boxed set.
Mount Saint Helens National Monument is an easy day trip from either Portland, Oregon or Seattle, Washington. From Portland we headed up the freeway through thick forests and past numerous rivers, streams, and lakes. Once on the road heading up the mountain, you can see the numerous areas that had to be evacuated in the days leading up to the eruption in 1980 (the mountain is a volcano). At least one old mountain man refused to leave his cabin, knowing that he was not long for this world anyway, and preferring to die on his mountain. There are many stopping places in between, but we waited until we were in the Mt. St. Helens area to stop for lunch. The visitor’s center at Hoffstadt Bluffs is nestled in a small valley just below the volcano. There are viewing areas, picnic tables, and a nice, grassy knoll, perfect for children (and some adults) to roll down. You can walk down to the river or sit in the sun outside the café next to the visitor’s center. This gift shop is very limited, but it is the only one open in late April, so we made do.
We continued all the way up to Johnston Ridge Observatory, where a ranger was giving a talk, despite the facilities being closed. We walked part of the trail, but only a little ways. This was an outing with abuelo, so no extreme hiking today. Much of the trail is paved, but there is a longer version that turns to dirt and gravel. We’re saving that for next time.
Watching the clouds play around the mountain was fascinating. At one point, a cloud formation made it look like the cinder cone was actually steaming! But it finally shifted and we could tell it was just clouds. Our pulses raced for a few moments.
On the way down, we stopped for an early dinner at The Birth of a Lake Trail. This lake was formed as a result of the 1980 blast and is still protected as it continues to grow and nurture water and plant life. The crystal clear blue waters sparkle in the sunlight. Spiders spin their webs unmolested. The trail goes most of the way around the lake, with plenty of stops for sitting and viewing.
Abuelo and Tia did a good section of this trail with his walker/chair. After a couple hours of relaxation at this quiet spot (until the guy with the leaf blower showed up) we continued back to busy Portland, scenes of mountainous beauty and visions of the frightening power of nature filling our minds to be pulled forth for future mental getaways.