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Published: October 4th 2009
This morning we left Salida and eventually ended up in Montrose to the west but not by the most direct route. We wanted to see Aspen which is quite a way north of Salida, so we took a rather circuitous route which included Highway 82 through the mountains and across the Continental Divide at Independence Pass. We've seen many mountain passes and crossed the continental divide numerous times but this particular route was spectacular to say the least. The east side of the pass road reminded me of the Going To The Sun road in Glacier national park. It snaked along the side of the mountain, to an elevation of 12,095 ft at the summit, had many switchbacks and provided incredible panoramic views down into the valley. It was a gorgeous day with a temp of 40 degrees up top and in the 60's in the valley. There had evidently been quite a bit of snow last week and although the roads were clear and dry, there was evidence of the snow and ice still at the summit. Several small ponds were frozen and there was enough snow along the roadsides to make snowballs. At the summit we were in tundra
above the tree line.
Once over the summit the road quickly dropped down into the forest again. On the way down we passed many cyclists peddling their way up the mountain. We've seen this so often here in Colorado. I have to admire their stamina. I cannot imagine peddling up a mountain to 12,000 ft. It's cold, the air is very thin, the grades are steep and yet there they are, incredibly fit looking people just peddling away like it's no effort.
At the bottom of the pass on the west side is Aspen. It was about 1pm by the time we arrived. It was later than planned because of the numerous photo stops but then as Frank said, "that's what it's all about". We had lunch at a place named Bogies in downtown Aspen and then headed for a John Denver Memorial and Sanctuary that Frank had read about. It is a secluded spot by the Rio Grande Park near the river in Aspen. Here John Denver's song lyrics are carved into large stones. There are no big signs directing people to the sanctuary. It's quite and simple, a beautiful peaceful spot and an appropriate place in which to
honor the singer-songwriter's memory. The 65 degree temp, clear blue skies, golden Aspens and the sounds of the river added to the ambiance.
From the sanctuary we headed up to the Maroon Bells. The Maroon Bells, surrounded by pristine National Forest lands, are the most photographed peaks in all of North America. The Maroon Lake is surrounded by fields of wild flowers in the spring and summer and by golden Aspens in the Autumn. Under the right circumstances and at the right time of day, mirror images of the Maroon Bells are reflected in the lake waters. It was not our luck to see it at it's best. Not only was it the wrong time of day because the sun was directly over the mountain and shining into the camera lens, but the sun shone only for a few brief moments, and the Aspens were devoid of their gorgeous golden leaves. Evidently the wet summer and an early storm had done damage to the Aspens and the leaves had fallen prematurely. I was incredibly disappointed that I was not able to photograph the Bells at their best, but still happy that I had the opportunity to see them. The Maroon
The Maroon Bells
This was the best photo to be had under the conditions
Bells are best photographed in the early morning.
From the Maroon Bells, we headed west on route 82 to Carbondale, turned onto 133 through the west Elk Scenic Loop and over the McClure pass which had fabulous view from the 8,755 ft summit.
About an hour out of Montrose on route 133, we passed several massive coal mines and a few wineries. Last month, as we passed though Nebraska, we had seen miles and miles of coal trains and wondered at the time where all that coal was coming from. Now we know where at least part of the coal was from.
We reached Montrose just after sunset and checked in at the Black Canyons Motel where we will stay for the next several nights. Tomorrow we will head for Black Canyons National Park.
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