Having blasted through our iciest, highest, and most northern hikes and pass crossings (Rocky Mtn NP (14,439 ft.) and Independence Pass (12,096 ft.) in our first two weeks on this Colorado Autumn road trip (Colorado Blog 3/14/16, Part I), we looked forward to slowing down the pace. Mt, Kepler above and the “Top of the Rockies Skyway”, is our reward.
We lucked out and have had mostly warm sunny days for the last week through our next two passes, Mt. Mclure and Mt. Kepler. The Pass over Mt. Kepler is muddy gravel but the lack of traffic invites frequent stops for Big Horn Sheep and Coyote sitings, picnicking, shooting photos, and contemplating the wonders of nature. It was our favorite part of this road trip so far.
ASPEN live in biological mini communities so the ones that cohabitate drop their leaves all at the same time. You see slopes with clusters of survivors waiting for their perfect time to drop en masse. In the meantime they shiver and dance like they are being electrically shocked. It is like being on psychoactive mushrooms watching them. Then they drop; sometimes in a stiff wind it appears to be bright yellow hail, and every dirt side road is covered in the aspens’ quarter sized yellow leaves.
The Black Canyon of the Gunnison River is a gorgeous 3,000 ft deep “grand canyon” with sheer walls. We hiked the Rim trails and slept at the very quiet and small North Rim Campground filled with young, buff rock climbers. One of the rangers complained of the climbing deaths here and wished the National Park Service would ban it. I guess it depends how you feel about letting the public assume responsibility for their own risky behavior. I say let them climb…but require helmets.
We have completed 3 of 5 Colorado Scenic Byways popular in the Fall. We missed Cottonwood Pass this time as it meant repeating a long road instead of driving and hiking loops to see new areas. No matter. We will be back! The photo below is an IPhone “water color application” to our photo of the approach to the North Rim of the Black Canyon.
We have one more Colorado Scenic Byway before we head west. We are told it is always snowing by this time in Southwestern Colorado but this next loop is plowed in winter so we feel no need to rush. Also the hunting season started a few days ago and we have been advised to stick to the National Parks for our hikes where all hunting is banned. We will likely break out our folding bikes, our tennis rackets and golf clubs, and hit some nice restaurants…in addition to strolling in the small towns along the way.
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Location:TOP OF THE ROCKIES SKYWAY