Happy 4th of July! As the holiday weekend took hold we realized it was best to head for a lessor known part of these mountains. I had something special in mind for tonight so I wanted to make sure we found a great spot without RV's, crowds, generators or generally anyone nearby.
The Alpine Loop is a must do if you're every in the area. A Harley could almost do the road (I wouldn't try it though). A Subaru would be perfect if the road is in decent condition. (We saw 6 people packed into a Legacy making the entire road and even an optional trip up California Pass. With no low range, I feel bad for that transmission and what it went through)
So, off we headed for Lake City, CO.
The ingenuity of people never ceases to amaze me. I've seen this before, but I found myself wrapped up in it again as I explained to K how this dam worked. "They actually dammed up this river, then when the water got to the level of that large tube it would carry the water to the level of the city over there and BAM they had water and water pressure for the town, mining whatever! It's amazing! See there, they even have an overflow opening just in case the water got too high."
The town the water line fed.
We kept trucking and trying to get off of these roads before the hoards of tourists hit them in suburbans and honda's traveling the inevitable 8MPH along the smooth dirt. Lake City was hopping! The entire town was out in force along main street. Red, White and Blue everywhere! The street was lined with folding chairs for the coming parade. Floats were being finished up on side streets.
Part of us wanted to pull over and grab a chair, but the rest of us knew that if we did that, we might be stuck in Lake City until the afternoon. So, we kept on truckin.
After a quick run down some pavement, we hit dirt again. Nothing here is ugly, nothing.
Everything is so alive. It's in such contrast to what this time of year brings to Arizona.
Like I said, if you don't find at least a few dead ends, you're not trying enough unknown roads. We headed up one that showed a faint line leading to where we were heading, but we really had no idea if it went through.
It didn't. It went to a nice little lake/reservoir though.
We decided that it was too early to stop for the day so we kept trundling along. "Oh look, a side trail. Let's see where it goes!" Sometimes it would go to an old abandoned cabin with mining equipment scattered about. Others went to a nice lookout with a fire pit. All were noted in my mind for future stops some day.
Photography is just easy in Colorado. Even a cattle guard can have beauty.
Yep, it just got uglier.
It was a heck of a loop and we decided to go ahead and do a little pavement up to the town of Marble. The town isn't much, but it's nestled into a nice little valley at the road that enters public lands. If you've heard of the much photographed Crystal Mill, then you know where we're headed.
After some surprisingly hard trail (given how popular this location is, but a stock truck and careful driver could make it) we arrived at the mill.
Here are my favorites of this amazing site. You can read more about the mill here.
We headed onward to do "Devil's Punch-bowl". This trail would connect with Crested Butte and might lead us to a good place to camp for the 4th.
Not too far past the mill we saw an FJ Cruiser heading our way. The guy said "There is a boulder in the way, no way to get through."
That sounded more like a challenge than a warning to my ears so we kept heading up.
We got to the boulder and careful drove over it. Only lightly scraping the skid plates on the catalytic converters. The issue wasn't the rock now, it was the wall of snow around the next corner. What luck! On a road with no where to turn around blocked by snow. Damn.
I parked the truck to walk ahead and check it out.
It was blocked. There was so much snow that some guys in a truck from the other side of the snow were sledding and screwing around on it. They had come from Crested Butte. So close and yet so far. Stopped by about 60 feet of 10 foot deep snow on a steep incline. Time to head back!
Backing over the boulder was a bit sketchy, but after a few hundred yards of careful backing up we found a spot to turn around.
More amazing scenery.
I have to admit. This latest dead end was not expected and we were beat! I just wanted to stop. I wanted to park anywhere, but part of me wanted to get onto a road that in the morning would take us into Crested Butte. So, we decided to go for it. Time to suck it up and gather some concentration for some more trail and a bit of pavement driving. We headed off.
We got back onto dirt finally. It's funny, I think I can feel my heart rate and blood pressure drop when I'm on dirt. It doesn't really matter if I'm backpacking, mountain biking, driving my truck or riding a motorcycle. Dirt is where happiness is for me. After all, it's the earth. Everywhere else is just a slurry of pavement or asphalt that we've coated over it with. It makes cities feel sterile of life and clinical to me. Not that I can't enjoy a big city for a weekend though. I like to revel in humanity's accomplishments as much as the next guy, but it wears on me. It makes me want to get away after a few days.
As we cruised along the dirt road the elevation was ever increasing. We saw some larger formal campgrounds and just kept looking for the perfect disused side trail. It couldn't be mediocre tonight. Any other night I would be fine with a mediocre camp site, but not tonight. We found a couple with someone already camping at them. A couple others dead ended just a few short feet from the road.
One caught my eye just off to the right. It looked tight, like it was meant for UTV's, but I had to check it out.
We drove up this side trail which was sunken into the ground. The trail was a foot lower than the surrounding ground and the ruts were another foot or so deep. It felt like we were in a chute surrounded by flowers that came up to our side mirrors.
This was it. This was the spot. I'd know the right spot when I saw it, I told myself.
We were surrounded by Aspen trees.
It was staggering the amount of variety of flowers, trees and views at this camp. Not to mention the deer standing about 15 feet away eating leaves and paying us no attention.
Someone had even left a nice supply of wood and cut some "end tables" for us.
So, this was it. I set up the tripod so we could take a proper picture of us. With that done, I tested the timer and saw that I'd have to run to get into the photo in time.
Testing 1, 2. Camera 1... camera 2...
That seemed to work. Hey, let's get one more over here. It's pretty.. Yah, over here. This will work.
(Heart rate was peaking, but at the same time I was oddly calm and relaxed. I think I was frightened at how relaxed I was.)
So, it worked. Nothing to worry about. Happy 4th of July indeed. :-)
That was a lot for one day, but it was the best ending to a day I can think of.
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