Saturday, August 13, 2011

COLORADO VACATION 2011 Part 5 - Aspen

Wednesday, August 10:

Click HERE to see today’s pictures

            We went to the land of John Denver today!!!  Aspen, CO!! 
Rick and Ginger at Maroon Bells
            Up at a leisurely pace with breakfast, and on our way by 8:45 – heading north to Twin Lakes and Hwy 82 which leads west over Independence Pass (at 12,000’) to Aspen.  What a gorgeous drive!!  We decide to get to Aspen first and then take whatever time is left to “do” Twin Lakes on the return.  I take a couple pictures as we pass through in the morning, but we are mostly bound for Aspen. 
            And what a beautiful drive – the road winds up and up through a  valley marked with meadows and peaks – the higher we go the greener it gets!  Wildflowers along the roadway, and another peak around every bend.  At the top of Independence Pass, we take a short walk out to the scenic overlook.  We did have to share the road today with mountain bikers, part of the Colorado Bike Trek.  By the time we got to the top, we had passed most of them!
Vista near top of Independence Pass
            A short stop for construction on the west side of the pass, and then down, down, down, past more wildflowers, waterfalls, trailheads, and meadows.  About 15 miles out of Aspen, the road follows along some major rock cliffs, and in places it narrows to nearly one lane.  You hope you don’t meet anyone coming the other way for those stretches! 
John Denver Sanctuary
            Aspen is obviously a rich man’s town (how many towns of 5,000 only have ONE grocery store? – everyone must eat out!) but the buildings are beautiful, the parks are plentiful, flowers are EVERYWHERE, and the people are friendly.  We found the visitor center and Rick read something about the John Denver sanctuary.  I had TOTALLY forgotten about this tribute to John Denver and we found it was within easy walking distance of where we parked at the VC.  So that was our first stop!  A nice spot with huge rocks engraved with his famous songs, flowers, grass, and plenty of sunshine and blue sky! 
            We walked around town abit trying to figure out our plan of attack and checking out restaurants.  We could take the gondola to the top of the ski area, hike trails there, rent bikes and ride around, take the bus up to the Maroon Bells.  Finally we opted for the economy package – Maroon Bells bus (bargain day on Wednesday and only $3 each!) and then dinner at Happy Hour at La Cantina, followed by a little shopping.  All worked out perfectly.
            I would have been sorry if we hadn’t gone to Maroon Bells.  We had an informative tour driver on the way up.  Bikers can go up on their own, as can cars after 5 pm.  The site at Maroon Lake has only a small interpretive spot and restrooms.  No gift shop, no other touristy stuff.  But millions visit this famous piece of Rocky Mt every year. 
Purple asters and Maroon Bells!
            An expansive meadow fills the basin in addition to Maroon Lake.  The meadow is covered right now with purple asters mostly.  We also identified tons of other wildflowers along our “hike” around the lake and up to the waterfalls between Maroon Lake and Crater Lake above.  Pyramid Peak is to the left of the Bells, and Seviers Mt, a ridge of red pinnacles, on the right.  The maroon color of the Bells is due to hematite in the rock.  As the clouds kept shifting and we kept walking around, I just kept taking pictures.  Probably shot over 150 up here alone between the three mountains and all the flowers. 
            NEW wildflowers identified or seen today:  purple monkshood, monument plant, white geranium, black tipped senecio, and brook cress (or bitter cress). We also saw red paintbrush, yellow sunflower types, woolly mullein, sulfur paintbrush, lupine, larkspur, fireweed, yellow stonecrop, wild strawberries, bistort, cow parsnip, king’s crown, elephant heads, harebells, chiming bells…..some were at Maroon Bells and other’s at the top of Independence Pass.  All in all, another banner wildflower day! 
La Cantina restaurant
           We had decided to dine at La Cantina earlier having read the menu in the window, but when we got there we were informed it was Happy Hour and specials were available.  So much for the fancy chicken salad I was going to get, as we were able to order nachos and a quesadilla for $6 each.  We one drink each, we ate dinner in Aspen for under $25, including our tip!  Pretty good, and we were stuffed when finished!  We had a wonderful seat in front of the corner window, bordered with a windowbox filled with pink begonias. 
            We stop at the City Market for ice, and then leave Aspen around 5:30 pm to head back up and over Independence Pass.  Just as pretty the second time around! 
            Back to campground just before 7 to contact Tinny about directions to her house (she has sent us an email already!) and download all the pictures taken today! 
            Thus ends the Colorado portion of our trip!  Tomorrow we are bound for New Mexico and a couple nights in the Taos area, courtesy of Margaret’s sister-in-law, Tinny Taylor.  Should be a fun time!  

No comments:

Post a Comment