In August, the day after my birthday, Sonia and I drove to Colorado for the long weekend. We decided to keep it “local” (also “affordable”) over the summer, as in, not go to Maine or Nova Scotia or anywhere on a plane. We decided on a little road trip, up to the Aspen area for a few days, to do some hiking, relax, and see a friend living in nearby Carbondale.
The drive up was beautiful, on 285/24 through the Collegiate Peaks. We turned off on CO 82 and stopped in Twin Lakes for coffee. It was rainy and misty, and the lakes were beautiful. Twin Lakes is a small little town but seems to get a lot of folks passing through. I told Sonia I wanted to come back and camp or stay in the B & B. After Twin Lakes, we took Independence Pass through the mountains to Aspen. It was jaw-dropping, beautiful, and terrifying. I was glad Sonia was driving. And that it was daylight, even if it was raining.
We stayed in an Airbnb in Snowmass Village just outside of Aspen. When I was picturing it before we left, I had imagined the Taos Ski Village but a little bit bigger. Snowmass Village was actually much larger, with tons of condo buildings, restaurants and shopping. It ended up being pretty nice, we could walk to dinner in the evening instead of driving into Aspen.
It rained the next morning as well, but as soon as it started to let up, we headed down into Aspen for some lunch, and then to the famed Maroon Bells. The peaks called the Maroon Bells get their coloring because they are made up of a lot of mudstone, like the cliffs at Blomidon in Nova Scotia. This also makes them prone to rockslides, and extremely dangerous for climbing. They are beautiful and very photogenic. The Maroon Bells are hard to get to, as no cars are allowed up during the day, so you have to take a shuttle. They are so popular that in the 1980s park management banned cars because the pollution from all the exhaust was killing the wildflowers. Today, I’m told much of it has been restored. It was totally worth the wait to see this stunning protected area. We just had enough time to make it up to Crater Lake and back down with a few minutes before the last shuttle headed down the mountain. The Crater Lake trail is an out and back 3.8 mile trail that gets a lot of foot traffic. It’s a pretty trail, fairly easy, and short enough to do in a hurry. The lake was pretty low this time of year and there was little snow on the mountains. After a winter with a lot less snow than usual, water levels seem to be low in a lot of areas - in Maroon Bells, and as we saw later on in Nederland, and in many places here in New Mexico.