We did not have a beautiful sunny day today, but the clouds can sometimes make for interesting pictures. We drove to Ohio Pass on a 22 mile dirt road. There were a lot of ranches in the first few miles and then it gave way to aspen forests. Someone told us that aspens are the world’s largest living organism, so we had to look it up. We found that most aspens grow in large clonal colonies, derived from a single seedling, and spread by means of root suckers; new stems in the colony may appear at up to 98–131 ft from the parent tree. Each individual tree can live for 40–150 years above ground, but the root system of the colony is long-lived. In some cases, they live for thousands of years, sending up new trunks as the older trunks die off above ground. They are able to survive forest fires, because the roots are below the heat of the fire, and new sprouts appear after the fire burns out. There seems to be some controversy about the largest living organism part, but the botany lesson was interesting.
We found some sun and took a hike to Beaver Pond (10th – 11th picture). We also took another hike, but there is no photographic evidence because we had just gotten to the lake and it started to rain so we had to book it back to the car. We felt after our 3/4 mile run (at an elevation of 9,000 feet) to the car that we could stop in Crested Butte and go to Niky’s Mini Donuts since they only serve tiny donuts. We behaved and just got two cake donuts – one vanilla frosted and one maple frosted. Don, who can take or leave sweets, really liked the maple frosted one. It did not take much to twist Leslie’s arm to go back and get another one. Ok, truth be told, unbeknownst to us you have to buy two at a time, so we had 4 tiny donuts.
We took a drive to Independence Pass (first 5 pictures) which at 12,095 ft is the highest paved crossing of the Continental Divide in the U.S. It was a bit of a white knuckle drive, but not as bad as we thought it might be. Do not get us wrong, in several places there were inches between the edge of the road and a drop off the side of the mountain, but we have been on worse.
The last 5 pictures are from a drive along Castle Creek near Aspen. Seems like the leaves were past their prime in some places, but this allowed Don to take his artsy pictures.
We had a fantastic day hiking in the White River National Forest to see The Maroon Bells (first six pictures). The Maroon Bells are two peaks in the Elk Mountains. Maroon Peak, at 14,163 feet is the 27th highest peak in Colorado. North Maroon Peak, at 14,019 feet , is the 50th highest. Hard to believe Colorado has so many mountains over 14,000 feet (there are 53). There was beautiful scenery no matter which way we looked. We took a 5 mile hike to Crater Lake (9th and 10th picture). The lake was not near as pretty as the one by the Maroon Bells that we walked a quarter of a mile to, but it was great exercise on a beautiful day.
On our way to Breckenridge we stopped at the Glenwood Hot Springs. We had to really work to get there as the entire town of Glenwood Springs is under construction. It was worth it though. Glenwood Hot Springs is the world’s largest hot springs pool with over 1 million gallons of 90 degree mineral water. They also have a smaller pool that is 104 degrees.
After our relaxing dip, we drove through beautiful Glenwood Pass. There are no pictures because there was no where to stop. The aspen were about half changed and the beautiful yellow, with the light green of the other aspens and the deep green of the pine trees was beautiful. The 4th picture gives an idea of what is what like (although this is from Guanella Pass) for miles and miles.
The next morning we took a drive on the Guanella Pass Scenic Byway (pictures 2 – 7). It was a bit over cast and there was freezing rain at the top, but it was still a beautiful drive. The last remnants of the sun provided us with a rainbow as we came down the pass into Georgetown. The next three pictures are from Breckenridge. Don and Merlin went on a walk while Leslie shopped at the Columbia outlet. Don found three beers that he liked at the Broken Compass Brewing Company. They had a coconut porter that Leslie would have actually bought, but it only came in growlers and there is no room in the RV fridge for a growler.
We had some visitors in the campground this morning. We went to the Utah side of Dinosaur National Monument today. The park contains over 800 paleontological sites. The “Wall of Bones” (pictures 5 – 7) located within the Dinosaur Quarry building in the park consists of a steeply tilted (67° from horizontal) rock layer which contains hundreds of dinosaur fossils. The 4th pictures shows the skull of the Allosaurus. The Allosaurus fragilis skeleton found here has one of the best skulls of any Late Jurassic predatory dinosaur in the world. Dinosaur skulls are rarely preserved because they are made of very thin bone that is easily crushed. Allosaurus, meaning “different delicate reptile,” is a theropod (meat-eating dinosaur) that probably ate other smaller dinosaurs. Its teeth were up to 3 in long and serrated like steak knives for cutting flesh.
The monument also has petroglyphs (patterns chipped or carved into the rock) and pictographs (patterns painted on the rock) left by the Fremont peoples more than 1,000 years ago. Some petroglyphs show traces of pigment, possibly indicating that many designs originally included both carved and painted areas. The rest of the pictures show the beautiful (and varied) geology in the monument.`
Ok, this blog actually starts in Rocky Mountain National Park but it made the title too long. We went into the park in the morning and actually got to see two elk fighting. Well they were sort of practice fighting. They were not very intense, probably because it is a week or so early for them to need to be fighting. Still interesting to watch though. We took Merlin for a walk around the lake in Estes Park (pictures 5 – 6) and then went shopping. We also spent time replanning our trip again. The weather (only for the week we were supposed to be in Yellowstone and Tetons) was made up of winter storm warnings. Lows near 20, highs in the 40s and we were dry camping. So….another year. This is supposed to be a fall trip.
We decided to head to Steamboat Springs, Colorado taking the scenic byway from Fort Collins (pictures 7 – 9). It was a beautiful drive with lots of Aspen already turning. The last pictures are from a hike we took to Fish Creek Falls. Another afternoon of shopping in cute stores for Leslie, although Don was the one who found something to buy.