(Sunday Eve, Sept 24 and Monday, Sept 25)
We came down off the pass and got into Leadville about 8:30pm, not sure what would be open. They had a Safeway that was open until 10:00. We bought some basic staples for the week -- milk, V8, eggs, bread, apples, soup, pasta, spaghetti sauce -- and beer and other stuff. We were looking for some sort of fast food on the way out of town, but everything was closing down. I suppose we could've gone to a bar. But we didn't. We got back to the cabin and had some sandwiches for dinner (hey, we had a big Waffle House breakfast and then Pizza Madness for lunch).
Gas in Colorado -- especially in the mountains, was $0.84 a gallon more expensive than it was when we left Columbia -- I figured it'd be higher, but not THAT much higher. But... that's the facts, and you live with them.
We got up and fixed breakfast the next morning. I had brought coffee and thick-rolled oatmeal from home.
Today, while we got used to the altitude, we were not planning any big hikes -- the plan was to go to the Maroon Bells and see them. So off over the pass to Aspen we went, with all of the associated ooh's and aaah's going over the pass. And then about halfway down on the other side, we came across a very pretty spot with sun shining through the aspen leaves, and the two Ansel Adams wannabes got out of the car and got busy with the digital film.
I got solar flare in a lot of mine, but I did get a few good ones without it.
On the way into Aspen we saw more aspens running down the sides of the valleys and I was itching to take a shot at them, but Sam was (wisely) saving morning time for the Bells.
As it was we got there about 10:30 am, too late for the lake to be glassy still and get a nice reflection, and the nice morning "sweet" light and shadows. Still, it's really hard to take a bad picture of the Maroon Bells no matter what time of day it is.
For some reason, I thought that Crater Lake wasn't more than about 0.6 miles back. It's closer to 1.5 miles back, and it's up quite a bit. We hadn't brought hiking boots and we left our poles in the car (we'd never used anything but wilderness-made ones before, but I'd bought us some for some major hiking up and down mountains.) We set off without them, water, or food (mistake) and Vicki got her nice corduroys all muddy (after all, we weren't supposed to be hiking today). Along the way we heard this cacophony of laughter coming down the trail from the lake. It had to be a lot of people, and the closer they got, we realized they were children. The second grade class from one of the Aspen elementary schools was up there on a field trip. Talk about some cute kids! It was kind of neat, remembering being that age and what fun they were all having.
We got to Crater Lake around 1:00, and I spent most of my time fashioning a walking stick with my leatherman tool out of a piece of dead aspen tree out of a huge pile washed there probably by spring rains. It was for Vicki to keep her from blowing her knee out on the way back down, since we left ours in the car. But Sam gave her my monopod and she used it, so I used the walking stick (I left it by a sign my Maroon Lake for someone else to use, in the end -- and it looks like that's the thing to do because we saw several others later that week left that way).
The rocks in the area are maroon colored due to iron oxides in the rock. The rock is different from a lot of the Rockies -- instead of the igneous rocks (formed from molten earth) this is old sedimentary rock heated and pushed up by the surrounding igneous rocks that make up so much of today's Rockies. I could actually see where this phenomenon started from Independence Pass from about 20 miles away (and shock of all shocks, I snapped a shot of it from there!) The slanting, layered rock in the background starting about halfway up the photo is where it starts.
Sam's memory cards were getting full, and we wanted a beer, so we stopped in this bar in Aspen for a drink. The music was getting on my nerves. It wasn't great atmosphere. So we looked for a Best Buy or a Walmart or something to get another memory card. Turns out you have to go to Glenwood Springs for that. But on our way to a Radio Shack someone told us about, we ran across a Wolf Photo. Perfect. For $6, they'd put your pictures on a CD in an hour. So we went off and found a burger and a beer at The Red Onion while we waited.
It took more than an hour. But we did finally get the CDs at about 7pm, and headed back over the pass, mostly in the dark (much to Vicki's displeasure).
Vicki has a bit of acrophobia and hates mountain roads with big drop-offs. Pass roads generally have these. Apparently this phobia is amplified by darkness. I was sure this would be the last time she'd agree to go over the pass with us on this trip. Fortunately, I was wrong. "As long as it isn't dark", she said.
We went back home, picked on the guitar, read, transferred pictures to the computer, and went to bed.