Friday, September 23, 2016

Meanwhile, on the Western Slope today

from the LaPlata County Sheriff's office today
(LaPlata is on the SW corner of the state, where we went camping at Vallecito in 2012)

Thursday, September 22, 2016

9/20 and 9/21 Ringing in the Fall

So today is technically the first day of the Fall equinox, but in the more human realm, my friends in Texas won't even approach what we think of as Fall this week, and for me in Colorado, it's been creeping in for a least these past two weeks, with the encroaching golden colors of the aspens changing daily in the high country. 

Amber and I ushered in the official start two days early when we set out on Tuesday for, appropriately, Aspen. More specifically, Maroon Bells/Snowmass Wilderness. 

When I returned from camping with Sam and Nick in June, just as a lark, I checked out the availability of the campsite for September. There were two days open in the middle of the week in the middle of the month, and I took a chance and nabbed them. 

Every year, it's a crapshoot whether the leaves will be changing by a certain time. Sometimes it happens early September. Others, not until October. 

As it turned out, this was peak week this year. 

And going in the middle of the week also afforded us the luxury of avoiding the weekend crowds of leaf-seekers that will clog the highways and shoulders of roads incessantly for the next few weekends. We weren't able to stay both nights as Amber had to get back so her hubby could head out of town on business, but we were going to make the most of our 28 hours.

We stopped in at Honey B's so Amber could finally try them while we were camping and then headed for the mountains. 




We stopped in Idaho Springs for lunch at Beau Jo's. 


 

And then we made our way up to Twin Lakes and over Independence Pass for the next 24 hours




Both Tuesday and Wednesday we encountered heavy cloudy conditions, not ideal, but you can't have everything. They were still beautiful, even without the blue backdrop.

We made it to our campsite about 4:00 and caught just a glimpse of blue sky before it disappeared for good the rest of our trip. 


back at sweet little Silver Queen #3



We set up the tent (go us!) which is the first time I was lead on instructions and the first time it was done with only two people. 


We decided to head up to Maroon Bells for a short hike before it got too dark. 


The lake was really low. These areas you see with the rocks are usually in the lake when we've come in the summer.



   



still some green holdouts, but this is about as peak as it comes. By the time the greens turn, most of the gold ones will just be white leafless sticks.




  
  
  

By the time we made it to the bridge over the falls, dusk was coming in fast and things started to get grayer and darker, so we turned back.

But the darkness also brought with it a calm on the lake, so we could take in some of the reflections on our way back to the car.
   


 
we got a chuckle out of this car parked nearby

on the road back down to the campsite 



once back, we set up the cots and sleeping bags and then tackled the campfire.

I'm not sure what the problem was but we spent more than an hour (and about 100 matches) trying to baby our kindling and nothing was catching except the dryer lint and paper fire starters I brought. 

By this time, we're starving and in complete darkness except for the lanterns, so we give up and have our wine, crackers, cheese, and strawberries before diving headfirst into the delicious macarons!



We cleaned up and hit the sleeping bags with the roar of the water and, by midnight, the sounds of rain pitter-pattering on the tent. It dropped into the upper 30°s overnight. 

Since it was ongoing rain, I didn't set an alarm to try and get to the Bells for sunrise. We just drifted awake around 7:15 and, after a few minutes of bemoaning how wonderfully warm we were inside our sleeping bags, got going, broke down the camp, and headed up to see what the rainy Bells looked like before we needed to head home. Since the fire was such a bust the night before and it was raining, the coffee supplies I brought stayed in the car and we went without. 

our gray rainy morning campsite






When we arrived, we realized our only moments with the Bells in the background was the night before. They were completely enshrouded in clouds this morning.
  




  



so we set off for home, with plenty of picture stopping along the way back into Aspen (for coffee)






  


  
  
  


   



Once we got into town and had signal, Amber located the Starbucks, but, of course, this is Aspen, so nothing is easy in a car. Half the roads were closed or down to one lane for construction, including the road out of town on 82 to Independence Pass. There's no place to park without paying and nothing is drive-thru. I still can't figure out how a town survives on the tiniest City Market grocery store imaginable as the only game in town. 

So I drop Amber off nearest the Starbucks and circle, until I get lucky and find a spot nearby (one of exactly TWO total) with a parking meter that allows you to put a REAL quarter in it (and buy yourself 8 minutes) so I could get inside and meet her instead of attempting to juggle both our drinks and call me to tell me she was ready. Then we had the fun of trying to work out how to get around the detour to get to the Pass. The road is closed, with a single sign reading "detour". Not another one anywhere along the road to show you WHERE you could detour and still get out of town. Brilliant. Amber and her phone saved the day and we finally got free of town and on the road home. 


  


Amber in the car on a phone conference (woo! signal!) and our parking tag that allowed us access on Maroon Bells road (only campers get access during the day) that says we are QUEEN for the day. 
  
once her call was over so we could get back into no-signal territory, we made our way up the Pass. 

seriously. You know despite the sign, somebody will decide it doesn't apply to him even though he's pulling more than 35 feet. Don't say you weren't warned.





Spots all along this side of the road (which is why we didn't do it the day before going in) are good little pull-outs for photos. What amazes me is why some of the spots along the road have guardrails and others, with just as steep drops straight down, do not. It's a nail-biter if you're afraid of heights.



getting above the treeline


and then we're over and back among the gold



a few of those elusive red aspens. They're about as common as blue-eyed + left-handed people ;)


This place, just outside of Twin Lakes, is for sale, by the way. 
And you can't quite spot him clearly, but there is a border collie laying in the center of the road at the back between the gate watching me.


  

first blue sky sighting today!



  


Twin Lakes were much more still today compared to when we came by the day before around the same time. 







And then we were back through Leadville, back through Copper Mountain, and back on Interstate 70.


our last pullover was at Frisco along the lake


Back home at 2:30 (we'd left the day prior at 10:30) for exactly 28 hours of adventure!

Sorry Texans . . .