2. Backpacking…Aspen to Crested Butte & back 8.2008

Day 4 - Wednesday

The sun was shining...another beautiful day.  We packed up and headed up the trail towards East Maroon Pass.  This section of the trail will take us 11 miles back into Aspen...and we'd never hiked down this valley before.


Danny hiking up the trail; one last look at the lake; and looking back down at the trail we'd just hiked.      

Looking up to the pass....wildflowers everywhere.


We made it to the pass in no time...both saying that "it was the easiest pass we'd ever climbed".  (Later realizing it was only another 500' climb from the lake, the pass being at 11,820'.)

Our original plan had been to stay at Copper Lake for two nights, day hiking to Copper Pass and Triangle Pass, then taking two days down East Maroon Trail into Aspen.  But when do our plans ever stay in the original form? 

Since we'd done that day hike 3 years ago, we decided we'd take a new trail that starts AFTER the East Maroon Pass and then connects to the other two passes.

(Random photo...see the fuzzy thing center left?  this big old bumble bee took off right as the camera clicked.)


We kept hiking down and down (the other passes were higher than the one we'd come over) not finding the trail intersection...instead we found another stream crossing (Danny took his chances on rocks and a log...making it; I took off my boots and strapped on my sandals.) 

Finally, we came to a broken and fallen post with a sign and arrows pointing to the two trailheads...but which way?  We had some "discussion", not agreeing on which way the sign meant to point, but taking off in the same direction (good thing huh?)  After lots of hiking we agreed that we'd missed the intersection somewhere and Copper and Triangle Passes would have to be visited another time.  So, we headed down the valley, towards Aspen.

But then, a nasty stream crossing. 

After studying the map, (WHICH WAS WRONG!!!) because it shows the trail NEVER crossing the big stream, but indeed we could see the trail on the OPPOSITE side of the stream. 


This time we both strapped on our sandals, and being VERY CAREFUL, we crossed the turbulent water.

We both figured we'd have to cross the stream another time to get back to the other side, so we decided to just to hike in our sandals .


Big avalache area!

We ate lunch and hiked gradually down the valley, noticing we weren't seeing too many camping spots (remember, this was supposed to take 2 days).

And then we heard the water. 


Danny crossed first, trying to guess the best route.  I watched him struggle but make it to the other side.  He had me wait, then walked back over, a better way, and the two of us made it across together safely (I'm sure his feet were frozen by then!


We both had been thinking alike and also discussed it at lunch, the possibility of hiking all the way out in one day.  We still were carrying two more days of food, but the camping spots were not to be found and the grade going down hill wasn't too bad, so we decided we'd just hike until we couldn't or until we made it back to Aspen.


Tired and a little sore, we made it all the way back.  And I was really glad to see a bridge over this crazy water.

It had been a good trip; difficult at times, but no lightening or mountain lions and NO HIVES! We enjoyed so many wonderful views in every direction and of course, I LOVE to HIKE with Danny!

We found the car, loaded up our gear and went out to eat dinner in Aspen.  After dinner, we couldn't decide what to do with our 2 extra days.  Instead, we decided we needed a good nights sleep and would think about it in the morning. We drove the "hotel Mazda" back to the Maroon Bells parking lot (which always has a magnificent starry sky) and tucked ourselves in for the night.


This was my favorite new "find" for backpacking or any travel. The thing on the top is a flat, thin "soap sheet"; below is the carrying case--it holds 50 sheets.  You just put it in your hand, add a little water...and you have a nice soapy...then clean hand!  Danny washed his hair with it too and it's biodegradable.

Day 5 - Thursday

The morning started with a rush.  I was still tucked in my sleeping bag (with the steering wheel up, my seat pushed back and laid back and of course I wasn't wearing my glasses) when a woman, a boy and a huge white dog came running over to our car and motioning for me to roll down my window.  She, in a panicked voice said, "Could you please do me a favor? My husband just took off and we're going on an 8 mile hike and he has the dogs' pack...can you go catch him and tell him?"  I said "took off down the 9 mile road towards Aspen"?  She said "Yes".  I started the car, peeled off my sleeping bag and flew down the road...only slowing as I drove by the Ranger's station and not seeing the car she described anywhere in sight (why didn't I think to get a cell number?).  Finally, with one car in between us, we spotted the husband....just as he was headed for the roundabout taking the road to BASALT!  We had one prayer...that was for him to catch the red light...and he did!  I laid on the horn, Danny rolled down his window and frantically waved his hands.  The startled husband rolled down his window...and heard Danny say "Your wife needs you at the trailhead...you have the dogs pack!"  The guy looked so confused and said "how did you find me?" (I thought this was very funny) and the light turned green, cars behind him started to honk, he said a quick "thank you" and we pulled off the highway to turn around. 

Deciding not to drive back up to the Bells, we went into Aspen for coffee and breakfast.  We spent a little time (and a little money) in the gear store, went to a consignment shop, made a phone call, then took off towards Independence Pass.  There are so many short and long hikes along this mountain pass...we opted for a couple of short ones.


The first hike took us to Weller Lake where we scramble up and over huge boulders (it was fun!).  The center photo is of a woman in a little blow-up boat paddling around and her dog is swimming next to her!


Our next stop was to show Danny the Ice Caves and the Grottos.


Our 3rd trail was a little hike; a 500' climb to Linkins Lake. 


It's a pretty little lake at 12,008' feet.  

We thought we'd go explore Leadville and give a friend of ours that lives there a call.  Cheri Hahn is our dear Bill's niece, and has lived in Leadville for 30 years...and LOVES IT!  So, we took a chance she might be free and phoned her.

She was and we enjoyed a wonderful Mexican dinner at one of the local restaurants.  She then invited us back to her place (really cool) for a beer, a fire, a shower and a real bed.  And we took her up on it!

(Pete also called during this time...he and Shannon are on their own vacation headed to Southern California.  They'll be visiting her family in San Diego, then to Disney Land to run a 1/2 marathon on Sunday.  His plan is to visit an animal shelter on the way back...who knows?  We may have a new furry little addition to the family....)


Cheri has beautiful gardens filled with all colors of columbines and is very proud of her fire pit!  (See the upholstered tree stumps?  They were a birthday gift from a special friend of hers...and very comfy!)


The stars came out, the fire kept us toasty, the beer was New Belgium and the company was great!  The night was perfect.

We've showered and I'm definitely ready to call it a night (or early morning). 

As usual, I don't know all of our plans for tomorrow, but I do know we're headed to Colorado Springs and have dinner plans with some of Lucas' good friends, and we're looking forward to that.

I'm still hoping to get one last hike in....keep your fingers crossed for me!


Day 6 - Friday

We'd slept great at Cheri's, enjoyed a nice cup of coffee, more good conversation, then hugged good bye, thanked her so much for her hospitality, and drove out of Leadville, heading south.  

You know I'm obsessed with the back roads of Colorado...I highlight all the roads I've driven on in this magnificent state.  So, I'd seen this "red-dotted" road on my atlas...that went over Weston Pass.  There was even a little blurb on it calling it an "auto-tour" road.  Cheri had been on it before and said it was a fine drive.  So, we headed for the pass; this time by car, instead of foot.

The first part of the road went through a rural residential area, so it was paved.  The sign had noted that it was only 10 miles to the pass, then about 12 miles more on the downside.  Then the road narrowed (a sign foretold of this) and began to get rocky....then began to get uneven.  We slowed down our speed considerably and it continued to get more rocky, more big rocks, more gulleys and high and low spots in the road.  Now, I'll admit, if I were by myself, I would have turned around.  But, Danny, being fearless, said we should go forward.  It was then he noticed on the atlas, that the "4WD roads" were just a tad brighter dotted line than the "unpaved roads".  The road on the down side of the pass was just marked as an "unpaved road", but the current road we were on was the "4WD road"...but I said, "It doesn't have the "4WD" markings on this road?"; but sure enough, it was rough.  I put it in low gear and turned on my 4WD!

So, on we traveled, going over to the sides so much at times, the bushes were sticking in my car.  Up ahead we saw a big Jeep coming down this nasty looking hill, so I asked him what the rest of the road was like.  He said it got worse before it got better, then looked my car up and down like it was a pretty girl, and with a nod, said I should be able to make it in my car.

It was exciting, but I was nervous at the same time.  Danny eventually decided to get out of car, and just like a directing an airplane on the tarmac, would point to the left side, then the right side,  I was going over large rocks and past deep gulleys.  We made it to the top (about an hour after we'd started) and I was excited to have driven it! (but relieved that my beautiful car was also in one piece!)  I know that people who drive 4WD roads often, would just laugh at what I'd done, but it was an adventure for me, and will make me less nervous for the "next time"!


The photo on the left is the beginning of the rough part....then I put down the camera and just focused on driving.


Some of the views going down....it was just a gravel road...a piece of cake!


We stopped at the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center hoping to take a tour; but they weren't having one until late in the day, and we'd made dinner plans in Colorado Springs.  So we just walked around for a few minutes; saw this sleeping fox (not near as cool as "our" sleeping fox on Gothic Road) and spotted a couple of the wolves.

There would be no hiking today; the rain poured and the skies thundered as we drove towards Colorado Springs.

So, we made a stop at the Bristol Brewery; enjoyed a beer and picked up several bottles of our favorite to bring home.  We also stopped at the really nice thrift store down the street and I made a small purchase. 

We then strolled around downtown; stopping for an espresso, and searching a couple of bookstores hoping to find another copy of my "camping" book.  (This summer I've spent endless hours, tearing my house up looking for my copy of "Colorado Campgrounds".  When I bought this book a few years ago in a little bookstore in Evergreen, I'd met the author.  I've used it on every trip, and it's filled with notes on places I've stayed, places I've just seen or driven by, my own found free campsites, where to buy showers, etc.  There were only a couple people in Kansas that might have borrowed it; and I'd already asked them if they had it....even though I really never thought they did.  I always keep my Colorado books together; and I was going nuts that this one had disappeared!)  But, we couldn't find a copy. 

I did however, get excited, when I found a new "Title Nine" store downtown.  It's a catalog I dream over every month when it comes in the mail.  I've been to their store in Denver a couple of times, but we found ourselves right in front of this new one....so I enjoyed a little shopping while I was there...bought a great pair of pants and of course, bonded with the sales manager, who just knew if Danny and I moved to Colorado, we'd fit right in!  (Her very active mother lives in Evergreen!)  (Danny always rolls his eyes when this happens...which it does frequently!)

Then it was time to go meet Adi and Steve.  These are two of Lucas' best friends from his time living in Colorado and they all continue to be very close.  Luke comes to snowboard with them in the winter, and they've made it out to California few times and have fallen in love with Arcata too. 

Adi has always opened his home to us and made us feel so welcomed, and we take him up on his invitation every time (I spent sometime with Adi when I was here last summer too).  The times with these wonderful friends is always filled with laughter, fun (and once in awhile I find out a little more about Lucas than I knew before....not really!) and great food!

I was fascinated by the their tales of their own 4WD adventures...they make mine look like a trip down my driveway.  They did mention they thought they should take me 4wheeling in their cars sometime...mmmm....sounds kind of thrilling to me!

You know that Blue, Luke's dog, is such an important part of his life...and it's no different with Adi's dog, Klute; and Steve's dog, Pierre.  When they all three in Colorado, they would baby sit each other's dogs, if one of them went out of town.  They're very cool dogs!  and boy, they have a super great life (just like Blue!)


On the left, Adi with Pierre; Center is Danny with Pierre and on the right, Klute with one of his many, many toys.


Steve leaning on his old and sometimes reliable 4WD car; Klute (again with more toys); and on the right, Pierre comfortably on the couch.

We enjoyed a wonderful dinner at one of their favorite local Mexican restaurants complete with a couple of pitchers of margaritas and much conversation.  We took a nice walk through one of their many local parks.  The great thing about so many of the parks and open spaces in the Springs, is you can walk a short distance and not see any homes, or cars or feel at all like your in a city.  We walked until dark and then went back to the house to visit some more. 

Then, Adi casually mentioned that I'd left one of my books at his house last summer....MY CAMPING BOOK!  He probably thought I was so weird as I was joyously hopping around hugging my book....boy I was excited!


Day 7 - Saturday

Adi and Steve woke early to walk the dogs and then came back and cooked us a great big breakfast.  It was time to say good bye.   Lucky Steve will be heading out to Arcata in a few days to see Luke and Peter; I gave him a couple of extra hugs to pass on to my much missed guys!  It was, and always is, so great to spend time with these wonderful friends. 

So, a little before noon, we hit the highway and headed back towards Kansas (boo!)  Our trip was at an end, Danny wanting to get back to spend a couple of days around the house before going back to work on Tuesday.  We drove as fast as we could.  I prefer to make this long and boring drive in the dark, but Danny doesn't always think the same way as I do (REALLY???).  We ended the evening on a high note however, stopping for a late dinner at Free State.

Today, we'll unpack, do laundry and with sadness, I'll put away the camping and backpacking gear for the season...but wait....there's always fall right?  Several people in Colorado have been telling us they think the snows will come fast, early, and furious this year.  The Aspen leaves are already turning and some of the birds that migrate are already leaving.  So, maybe no hiking for me this fall....who knows?  I never say never. (Anyone going on a trip?  Need a partner?  Just call  me.)

While I don't have any trips planned, YET, for this fall, the travel plans are already made for Sara and Peter.  Sara and Kevin will be coming for a quick weekend visit and to attend a friends wedding in late September, and Peter and Shannon will be coming for a visit and to attend a friends wedding in early October. It's unfortunate they'll miss each other by a week, but their busy schedules weren't in sync. It's been a long time since we've all been together...and that makes me really sad.

So, what a FANTASTIC summer I've had in my beautiful Colorado. Almost 5 weeks this summer!  I've done a ton of great hiking, filled my eyes and heart with so much amazing scenery, met some cool people, had some fun adventures and jumped way, way out of my comfort zone at times...to sometimes find....it's not so uncomfortable after all, it's maybe exactly what I should be doing more of!



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