Following our final day at Loveland CO and Rocky Mountain NP…we set out the next morning for the 129 mile drive down to Colorado Springs…basically back onto I-25 and straight through the middle of Denver to Colorado Springs then south of the city we exited and headed a few miles up to Cheyenne Mountain State Park. Since it was a short travel day…and since it was possible that our sites would have been occupied on Fri/Sat nights…we made sure that we wouldn’t arrive until after the 1200 checkout time.
On arrival…we paid our entry fees to the state park…they charge you those in CO in addition to the camping fees…at the entry gate then had to U-turn and go back down to the visitor center to check into the campground as the work-kamper up at the campground had departed Saturday before we arrived.
We quickly got setup in site 9 for Bill and Linda and 3 for us…we’ve got a great view of the valley containing Colorado Springs on one side and of Cheyenne Mountain on the other.
It’s a nice full hookup pull through site with a concrete pad and a huge patio area that we won’t be able to make much use of due to the fairly low temps and pretty high winds. Colorado Springs is at about 6,000 feet and our campground is another 500 feet above that so we’re pretty much up in the wind coming over the mountains from the west.
Here are a couple of iPhone pano shots of the campground.
This one is a 180˚ view from our entry door…the apparent curvature in the far side of the patio is an optical illusion due to the short distance to it in the pano…The mountain in the background is Cheyenne Mountain which is where the NORAD and Strategic Air Command bunker is located…you can see the entrance to it in the movie War Games.
Another 180˚view from just behind the rig sitting in our site…again the road is actually straight but is too close for the phone to stitch the pano together properly…that’s our rig’s driver side on then far right and Bill and Linda’s rig across the street from us. Colorado Springs and the valley are beyond the road in the middle distance.
Here’s a shot of site 3 from across the road next to Bill and Linda.
With 3 full days scheduled for here in Colorado Springs…we had plans for all of them. Monday we took Bill and Linda up to the Air Force Academy located just north of Colorado Springs to tour around and see what there is to see. We figured it might be a bit difficult to get them onto the grounds as it’s a military installation and they don’t have any military ID…but it was actually pretty easy…way easier than getting onto Fort Carson across the highway from the state park to get beer Sunday afternoon. That required a cavity search of Big Red…for the 3rd time in our last 5 visits with the big truck to a military installation we were “randomly selected for additional screening”…which means that instead of just showing them a Defense Department ID you have to give them license/registration/insurance on the vehicle and then open every compartment including the hood and glove compartment so that they can look inside.
The academy is pretty huge…18,000 acres or about 28 square miles with elevations on the base from 6,000 to a bit over 9.000 feet. It includes it’s own airport and at one of the overlooks we watched a continual stream of small aircraft both doing takeoff and landing drills as well as dragging sailplanes up…there were 2 runways in use averaging about 1 takeoff or landing a minute. All USAFA students take flying lessons and most of them get at least their single engine private pilots license…they have over 17,000 sailplane sorties per year with 90% of the instruction being accomplished by students and not professional flight instructors.
They have a few static aircraft displays…but not nearly as many as one would imagine. Everything from a B-52 strategic bomber to the A-10 Warthog close air support platform are included in the dozen or so aircraft on display.
Looking southwest from the north gate overlook over the sports complex at the academy. The chapel and Polaris Hall are in the distance just in front of the shadows on the mountains…better photos of them below.
The spire on Polaris Hall. It points towards Polaris…better known as the North Star. Neil wanted to know what they did when six months went by and Polaris wandered just a bit…it moves about 2˚during the year…and finally decided that it pointed towards Polaris for broad definitions of towards. He also thinks it’s a bad design…from an architectural standpoint it looks a lot like an airplane tail and points towards Polaris…but from an engineering standpoint it’s made almost entirely of glass and is just a terrible waste of heating capacity and cooling capacity depending on the season.
The chapel…which actually has 4 chapels in it. The main floor is given over to the Protestant chapel with the Catholic one underneath and both a Jewish and Buddhist one located adjacent to the Catholic one.
Protestant chapel…it was really bluish inside due to all the stained glass…with a nice organ in the rear.
The altar in the Catholic chapel…might be not in the best floor position…which is probably understandable based on the percentages of the various religions in the student body…but definitely just as nice. Really great mosaic and carvings behind the altar.
One of the Stations of the Cross in the Catholic chapel…carved by a local artist as was the Saint Mark one below.
The Jewish synagogue. Small…but again it was based on the percentage representation in the student body.
T-28 trainer display…this is the second aircraft that Air Force pilots learn to fly. They start with a prop driven trainer and those selected for jets than transition into this type.
A-10 Warthog…basically a flying tank.It has hard points for missiles and bombs under the wings but it’s main armament is the 30mm 4,200 rounds per minute cannon. You can see the end of the barrel sticking out under the nose and basically everything from the leading edge of the wing forward is the gun. The barrels stick forward just underneath the armored bathtub that the pilot sits in. The pilot actually has to correct the course of the plane as the gun fires since the barrels are mounted off center and the torque of the firing affects the flight path. The shells are 11 inches long and weigh 1.5 pounds each firing a 30mm diameter projectile that weighs 14 ounces…this thing packs quite a wallop. The engines are mounted high for three reasons…protection from anti-aircraft fire, increase ability to operate from non-improved (i.e., dirt or gravel) runways, and to keep the exhaust gases from the main armament from flaming out the engine due to lack of oxygen. Despite this…the engines do have a tendency to flame out (i.e., stop running) in certain flight situations…so the trigger on the gun also triggers the igniters in the engines to keep them running.
I cribbed this one from the wikipedia page…this is the GAU-8 Avenger gun from the A-10 next to a VW Beetle. When the gun needs to be removed from the fuselage for maintenance…the mechanics must first put a jack underneath the tail so it won’t hit the ground when the weight of the gun is removed from the plane.
On Tuesday our scheduled activity was a visit to first the Cave of the Winds and then to Helen Hunt Falls on the way back home. Cave of the Winds was discovered by two brothers in 1880 or thereabouts and developed as a tourist attraction. This included blowing larger holes via dynamite to allow better access, carting the rubble to less attractive portions of the cave, and installing concrete floors and hand rails and stairs everywhere. In short…they ruined the natural condition of the cave in an attempt to make it more accessible. Nowadays…conservationists would not really allow that to happen but back in the 1880s the various park and conservation organizations had slightly different agendas than they do now…very similar to how fighting wildfires has changed from “put them all out” to “only put out non-natural fires unless necessary to preserve infrastructure or structures”.
Looking down the canyon that contains Cave of the Winds from just outside the visitor center…the bridge just right of center in the distance is the highway west from Colorado Springs.
A couple of cave shots…yeah, they don’t do much for me either…but we’re not really cave people.
The sinkholes that led the brothers to originally find the cave. They were up in the canyon on a windy day and heard a strange moaning sound and went exploring and found the cave entrance. We didn’t hear any noises while we were there…but given the amount of dynamiting to increase the entrance and passageway sizes…that’s not surprising.
On to Helen Hunt Falls. They are located on Cheyenne Creek in North Cheyenne Cañon Park just outside of Colorado Springs and comprise a single drop of 35 feet…they’re named after Helen Maria Hunt Jackson who was an American poet and Indian rights activist in the late 1800s…she is buried in Colorado Springs. Neil thinks this is one of the better waterfalls we’ve seen this summer…it’s got a lot of character and provides great photos of not only the main falls as seen in the first and last photos but also a bunch of small falls and cascades just above the main falls and beyond the bridge just above the main falls. This waterfall has a lot of character.
These are also the first shots he’s done with his new HDR program…he’s been using Photomatix Pro for years but switched over to Aurora HDR 2018 just this past week. It’s got all the same bells and whistles that Photomatix does…but the user interface is better and the sliders used for adjusting parameters are much more descriptively named hence it’s a lot easier to use. As noted…first and last shots are of the main falls and the ones in the middle are of the various babbling stuff above. The last one is looking down over the main falls from the bridge.
Connie got this great shot of a Scrub Jay while Neil was wandering around getting the waterfall shots…we could have stayed here longer as there were many other babbling brook things above the bridge he wanted to shoot…but everybody in the party was getting hungry for lunch as it was about 1300 by this time…so we headed off to eat.
Wednesday we headed of early for the Peterson Air and Space Museum at Peterson AFB in Colorado Springs…we had a great docent that had spent 30 years in the AF and he spent about 90 minutes or so giving us a tour of the aircraft on display as well as a tour in the hanger where some spacecraft were displayed as well as a Peacekeeper Missile (those are the ICBMs spread around the west from MT to SD to ND to NE).
Lockheed Constellation (known as a Connie) aircraft…one of the few military aircraft that actually started as a civilian one…it was an airliner before the Air Force bought them…this was the first iteration of what we know now as an AWACS or Air Warning and Control System aircraft…those are the airliner looking things with the big dish radome on the top. The C-69 as it was called by the AF had two radars…the one below the fuselage is the bearing and range radar while the one above is a height finding radar.
Connie standing next to the aircraft decal.
A closeup crop of the Connie decal in case ya can’t read it in the one above.
The main radar screen.
An early jet fighter aircraft.
Two stage early long range/high altitude anti-aircraft missile…it had a rocket booster for launch and two ramjets under the fuselage. Speed about 2,000 knots and 80,000 or so feet ceiling.
The business end of an AIM-9 Sidewinder air to air missile…the infrared sensor for homing on the heat from the target’s engines is behind the glass.
Our docent Glys explaining one of the early Distant Early Warning System (DEWS) control panels…DEWS was the predecessor of the current day DSP (Defense Support Program) satellites which watch for nuclear tests around the globe as well as both strategic and commercial rocket launches.
The first US photo reconnaissance satellite…known as “The Bucket”. It was launched and contained hundreds of feet of 70mm black and white photo film. Once the photos had been taken the retro rockets fired and it re-entered to be caught by a C-130 aircraft that snagged the parachute shrouds as it drifted down.
Nose art on a P-47 prop driven fighter aircraft…this was a stop gap between the end of WWII and the deployment of the first jet powered fighters in the late 1940s. Nose art is no longer used on AF aircraft.
Interesting stuff from the net this week.
Some headlines just write themselves.
Only in Maine.
Hidden Lake in Montana…amazing how clear this water is.
I never would have guessed.
Dogs vs cats.