As August draws to a close, most of our RV Park neighbors have left. One left a couple of days early because they were concerned about their East Texas home and effects of Hurricane Isaac. I certainly hope that all is well for them. From the news it seems likely that it will be. So here at the park, we have not only a nice wide space, but now no one for two spots on our left and six spaces on our right, out our door, very nice â€“ at least for us! I understand that more are scheduled to come in for Labor Day and it will be full again.
Wednesday and Thursday were spent mostly around camp. We went to brunch with Fred and Karen. The restaurant was very nice and we each had a huge omelet. Afterwards we stopped at a couple of stores, including a fabric/craft store. They had a little bit of a number of different crafting things but primarily specialized in quilting supplies and books. Karen found a few things that she wanted, but nothing caught my attention. The next day Brady and I again were in town and we stopped at a local bead store. I did find several things there to purchase. I was very pleased and somewhat surprised at the breath of their selection. During the morning the weather is usually very nice, bright and sunny. By early afternoon clouds are rolling in and late afternoon frequently brings a thunderstorm or at least some rain. Life in the mountains.
Friday we were off to Independence Pass and beyond. We went back toward Leadville on Hwy 24. With the sun mostly behind us, the Arkansas River was sparkling little diamonds as it rushed along and the rocky cliffs gleamed in the bright sunlight. We turned west on State Route 82 which runs over the Pass from Twin Lakes, near Leadville to Aspen in the west. The Twin Lakes were so calm that the mountains and clouds were perfectly reflected on their surface. From Twin Lakes the road begins to climb through the beautiful valley of Lake Creek. The scenery all along the route is some of the most spectacular in all Colorado. The road runs right beneath several high mountains of over 13,000 feet, including Mount Elbert whose 14,433 foot height is the highest in the state and the second highest in the Continental US. The colors along the valleys and on the hillsides are alive with a mixture of the deep verdant green of firs and pines, lighter lime green of aspens, and a growing mixture of golden yellows of low growing shrubs and a few aspens beginning to show off their fall color. All through the canyonâ€™s valley is extensive evidence of beavers at work, with multiple dams causing the creek to widen and form small ponds as it snakes its way down toward the Twin Lakes far below.
It took a lot of work for Brady to get to the right place to take the picture.
Along the way we spotted two marmots running across the road.Â One stopped and posed for a picture.
The road continues well above tree line providing some amazing alpine views. At 12,095 ft., the summit of Independence Pass marks the Continental Divide and is the second highest paved road over a pass in Colorado. The land around the summit is flattish, windswept, and covered by sparse vegetation of delicate tundra plants occasionally broken by low shrubbery and bare patches of rock. The tree line is a thousand feet lower down – and yet all around are higher mountains. To the north of the pass parking area is a good size shallow glacier pool. There were a good many people at the pass during our stop, some just looking and others taking advantage of the hiking trails leading off to the nearby peaks.
Continuing west the highway begins to descend into the valley formed by the Roaring Fork River. On both sides from the pass the road drop-off is steep enough to require a 6% grade and several switchbacks.
A few miles towards Aspen the road passes the ghost town of Independence. It was a center for gold mining in the early 1880s. The Independence lode was discovered on July 4, 1879 â€“ thus giving the resulting town and the pass its name. At the height of its boom period, it was home to around 2,000 people, as well as a stagecoach stop and layover for the twenty-five hour trip from Aspen to Leadville. The gold vein was shallow and quickly played out and soon the town was abandoned. One of the information signs at the site ask the question, â€œWhat would you do for gold? Imagine hurricane force winds and white out blizzards as you endured long, cold and lonely winters.â€ With snow for eight or nine months of the year and an elevation of 10,900 feet, the conditions for the inhabitants of Independence were extreme. There was nothing to keep the town alive after the gold played out and trains made their way to Aspen. Today the site of the town is marked by several buildings still standing and some that have fallen to the elements. An historical society has erected signs that tell the original purpose of some of the buildings and spell out the townâ€™s history.
While still beautiful, the views on the west side are more restricted and the surroundings not quite so scenic, perhaps due to the trees which close in the road. We decided to turn around after a few miles on this side and return the way we came since we were not interested in Aspen or making the longer loop back to camp.
Back on the east side of the pass, we stopped at a pull off which offered access to the creek. Across the creek at this place are the remains of a lone cabin. I wonder if it was the home of a lonely family, were children raised here or was it simply the dwelling of a single miner. What stories could be told by the many such remains throughout the mining areas of Colorado. Brady and I have often remarked that they must have had a view of God as a miserly, harsh master, since they always looked for riches in the harshest, most inaccessible of places.
Jeff the owner of our RV Park came by while we were sitting out this afternoon and remarked that by tomorrow night the place will be full again. Several new comers pulled in this evening, and it is definitely filling up for the holiday.