Saturday, August 9, 2008


Independence Pass, Colorado: high, historic, breathtaking. About 20 miles north of Buena Vista, it has been on my "want to do" list since we first arrived here. We picked our wedding anniversary, August 8th, as the day for the trip, and invited Jackie and Buddy along for a hike and a picnic. We four planned to take off early Friday morning for another great day in the high, high, high country.

It rained all night, and we awoke to low clouds - almost a fog. We reluctantly canned our plan, choosing to stay closer to home and save the high country trip for Saturday, which had a slightly sunnier forecast.

So, what to do?? I collected five geocaches from the internet and we headed off up Clear Creek Canyon to search 'em out. We hit three "ghost" towns - Beaver City, Vicksburg and Winfield - historic old mining towns with a few hearty summer residents. The photo above shows a miner's cabin from the 1800's at Winfield, where the geocache took us to the small cemetary.

With three successful cache finds under our belts by noon (Sue Pace, if you are reading this, we saw "RV Paces" in each of the logbooks!), we took a break for lunch on a log close to Winfield.

After lunch, we still had a bit of pep and time before the afternoon showers began, so we hunted another couple of caches, one in the historic cemetary at Granite.

When I woke up at 6:30 this morning (Saturday) and peeked out my window, I couldn't see a cloud in the sky. We hopped out of bed, pulled ourselves together, and were on the road before 8 am - with clouds already beginning to form and rain in the forecast.

See that sign - elevation 12,095 feet? I took that photo at 8:38 am. It was 45 degrees, cloudy, and breezy. I think that we four and the man who took the photo for us were the only five people there at that time - with good reason. We did a short, fast loop around the overlook, hopped back in the car, and headed down the west side of the pass towards Aspen.

Around 2,000 feet down, we came to Independence, Colorado, a short-lived mining community that is unusually well-preserved and unusually easy to reach (roadside). Founded on July 4, 1879, it grew to a population of 1,500 people, 40 businesses and three post offices.

With snow from early October until May, Independence was a tough place to make a living. By 1888, only 100 residents remained.

My favorite part of the story: In February of 1899, a series of severe snow storms cut off the supply routes to Independence. The few remaining miners and their families, running out of food, proceeded to dismantle their homes, made 75 pairs of skis, and escaped en masse to Aspen!

After an easy walk through the remains of the town (and a coyote sighting), we, too, headed down the hill to Aspen. Check out the road - between the cliff and the drop-off, it is too narrow for a center line!

By the time we got to Aspen, our minds were on our picnic and food! As we drove into town, we spied a farmer's market, which we wandered through while debating where to eat our picnic. A chile roasting drum caught my eye - actually, it was the smell that pulled me over. Don't these freshly roasted chiles look yummy?

These two small pecan tarts were exactly what we needed to top off our picnic of cold chicken, mashed potato salad, and fresh pineapple, which we enjoyed in the sunshine at a conveniently placed picnic table. Pretty as Aspen was, with beautiful flower gardens and awesome homes, I was happy to escape the congestion and head back up over the pass.

We stopped at a turnout to take a photo of the road we had just traveled, a sweeping switchback with a fantastic view.

When we got back to the pass, around 1 pm, it was 10 degrees warmer than it had been at 8:40 am, and the parking lot was packed with cars and motorcycles. We took off for a longer hike, away from the crowded overlook trail we had hiked earlier. Those tiny figures are Jackie, Buddy, and Odel, hiking up among the wildflowers while the clouds boil up ahead at the top of the world.

Independence Pass was worth the drive - great views and amazing engineering. One of these years we need to come back to see it in full fall color - those aspen trees would be breathtaking.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Laurie and Odel,

    Have been enjoying your blog. The hiking sounds great and the geocaching is fun, too. If you saw 'RVPaces' signature in the cache books, you saw ours, too,(Cottonwood I) as we were with Paces that day. :) Loved your write up about the Mosquito Convention/Boomerang in the news letter. Clever! Jan & Chuck Moore