Saturday, September 28, 2013

Those bells, those bells...!

Not the bells of Notre Dame Cathedral, but the Maroon Bells.  Located about 9 miles southwest of Aspen, Colorado, are a pair of peaks called the Maroon Bells.  When the light is right (seldom, during my visit) the maroon color is pronounced.  Viewed from Maroon Lake, the jumping off point for most visitors, the bell shapes are clear.

For those willing to take a few steps, a trail leads around the lake, opening fresh perspectives with each step and with the ever-changing light.
Above the end of the lake, two trail systems exist.  The left takes you to the inflow,
(Watch the birdie...)
The trail to the right goes to Crater Lake.  It is a more challenging hike.  Along the way, there are views back to Maroon Lake.
At Crater Lake, the air was still and the colors seemed muted, almost pastel, perhaps due in part to the overcast sky.
The moment that REALLY draws photographers is early morning, looking for the color of the rising sun on those Maroon peaks.
I am now in New Mexico.  Five days after I left the Maroon Bells, all those soft green aspens in the valley below the Bells turned golden, and the Bells got a dusting of snow.  I need to figure a way to get back to Maroon Bells in the end of September rather than the middle.  Maybe next year...

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Independence Pass

Route 82 in Colorado runs in a NW-SE orientation between Glenwood Springs and Route 24 south of Leadville.  Along the way, it passes through Aspen, providing the only way in and out of that town.  To the southeast of Aspen it begins to climb and in places, narrows to as little as 14 feet in width, with vertical cliffs to the left and vertical air to the right.  Vehicles longer than 35 feet are prohibited from using this part of the road.

Fortunately, my Forester is less than 35 feet long, and I went exploring.

The roadway rises through aspen and pine forests, reaching the Continental Divide at an altitude a bit above 12,000 feet.  Right there, right at the Divide, is a pond.  Looking across that pond to the northwest, it was as if the world just dropped away below me.
It was raining lightly when I was there.  I stood to the southeast of the pond, and wondered at the concept that the rain, falling on me, would make its way to the Atlantic while rain falling in the pond right in front of me would drain to the Pacific.

The water draining from that pond joined other watercourses, reaching a high alpine meadow alongside the highway, where the headwaters gave birth to the Roaring Fork River.
The river seems placid enough in that high meadow, but gravity will not be ignored.  As the river dropped, it cut its way into the bedrock to form the steep-walled canyon that gave the highway a way up the slopes.  Part way down, it passes over granite that resisted its cutting enough to form a series of waterfalls.
The water was cold, but not too cold for some.
Adventurous I may have been in younger days, but I don't know that I would have felt very comfortable swimming above some of those drops.