Theodore Roosevelt reportedly said of Colorado, “The scenery bankrupts the English language.” That was certainly our experience on Tuesday. There were beautiful views around every bend. We would look one way and be awed by the view then turn our heads to be overwhelmed by an even more breathtaking view! This is a drive that even native Coloradans find inspiring. Where? Independence Pass – Highway 82 from Twin Lakes/Leadville to Aspen. There’s no shortage of amazing views as you twist up and around on the at times narrow two-lane road, eventually reaching the Pass and the Continental Divide at 12,095 feet. Hugging the Lake Creek (roaring river this time of year), the pass cuts through the Sawatch Mountains, running right between Mt. Elbert, the state’s highest at 14,433 feet and La Plata Peak, the fifth tallest in the state, while several other summits over 13,000 feet can be seen rising into the bold blue Rocky Mountain sky. Each mountain peak is colored with the crisp white of a winter’s snow, dark blue-green lodgepole pines and the bright green of Aspens. Below the towering peaks runs the roaring Lake Creek, and crashing waterfalls, all due to the massive snowmelt. One waterfall dropping from a great height was so close the to the road that it actually sprayed us as we drove past.
About half way up from Twin Lakes to the pass we came across a small herd of Big Horn Sheep grazing near the road. We quickly found a place to pull off and walk back for a better view, of course as we got close they took to the steep rocky cliffs, but still in view. One ewe who was evidently in charge of protecting the group made sure to keep us in view, She seemed almost at interested in us as we were in them. That was a real treat and very rare to be able to actually see them at a relatively close range.
Over the pass to the west, we stopped to overlook the old mining town of Independence. Once a thriving town with hotel and stagecoach stops, but now a ghost town with a few building still standing. At that point, we turned around and retraced our way back to the highway where we headed toward Leadville.
The road between Salada and Leadville is known as the route of the 14ers or the Heart of the Rockies. It runs right along the Arkansas River. Tthe headwaters of that mighty river are near Leadville which is the nation’s highest incorporated city and full of historic buildings.
We found a great place to have an early dinner tucked into one of those historic downtown building, Quincy’s Steakhouse. Sunday through Thursday they feature a 6 oz. Filet Mignon steak with baked potato and salad and freshly baked bread for under $10. It was mouth-wateringly delicious!
Our day was full exciting but we were exhausted by the time we returned to our cabin.