A fairly short drive from Denver brings you to the town of Palmer Lake which was named after General William Jackson Palmer. General... more » Palmer was a man who seemed to accomplish more in one year than most people do in a lifetime. His early interest in railroading led him to a successful career in that field. While still quite young, he was sent to Great Britain to learn about the British railroading industry. After returning to the U.S. his railroad career was interrupted by the Civil War. Despite his Quaker upbringing, young Palmer was passionately opposed to slavery and passionately in favor of the Union cause. As with every aspect of his life, Palmer pursued his military career with vigor, rising quickly in rank. He spent some of his war time as a Confederate prisoner, but upon his release, picked right up where he left off.
After the war General Palmer pursued a career in the railroad business and eventually opened his own north/south railroad line in Colorado. From his experience in Great Britain, Palmer introduced coal powered locomotives to the U.S. and utilized the idea of narrow-gauge rails for his Denver and Rio Grande Railroad.
If you're wondering what General Palmer has to do with the New Santa Fe Trail, the answer is: plenty. Part of the trail runs over the old railroad line developed by General Palmer. Palmer Lake and Palmer Divide are named after the good General. Colorado Springs was also founded by General Palmer as was the steel industry in Pueblo. Needless to say, William Jackson Palmer played a tremendously important role in the development of this portion of Colorado.
As for the trail, it is pretty amazing also. After going through portions of the communities of Palmer Lake and Monument, it marches onto Air Force Academy territory. In fact, if you're riding the trail during one of the Air Force football games, you'll hear the roar of the crowd and the boom of the PA system. You'll also see the Air Force stadium, chapel, and other buildings including the north entrance gate. There are plenty of signs instructing you to stay on the trail, and it's a good idea to heed these warnings.
After you exit the Air Force Academy, you are nearing Colorado Springs. Once you get to Colorado Springs, you are no longer on the New Santa Fe Regional Trail. But no worries; you can continue your bike ride on the Pikes Peak Greenway that runs through Colorado Springs and continues all the way to Fountain, Colorado. Both the Pikes Peak Greenway and the New Santa Fe Regional Trail are part of the great Colorado Front Range Trail. This trail also includes the Platte River Trail and will eventually traverse the entire state of Colorado running north and south. less «