Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Colorado Vacation (Third Day): The Continental Divide and Maroon Bells...and a Little Fishin'

We started our third day by making the drive up the mountains and over the Continental Divide. That was quite the drive. I would have enjoyed myself a bit more if I wasn't the one on the side where it dropped what seemed like thousands of feet down. Brooks, who was my side, also wasn't too fond of the drive. Bailey and Blake were the ones that should have been over there. They aren't afraid of heights. On the way up, Bailey spotted the snowfields. She said the one thing that she wanted to do for the day was to eat snow, but they were too far off the road. Blake promised her that before the day was over, we would find some snow to eat. Eventually, we made it to the Independence Pass. The elevation was very high and we all could feel the difference. Bailey and Brooks ran up the path where as Blake and I chose to walk. My heart was racing like crazy. There was a huge temperature difference between our campground and the Pass. It had dropped at least 15 degrees. It was quite chilly and I was the only one that had brought a jacket.

On the other side of the Divide, we headed down to Aspen and on to Maroon Bells, two beautiful peaks side by side. This is a place that Blake has been wanting to go for a long time. I'm so glad that we got to be with him when he finally got to go. Due to its popularity, they won't let the public drive up to the park after 9AM in the morning. After 9, they only allow visitors by buss. In the past, there were just too many cars overloading the park and damaging the land. So we hopped on a bus in the valley. 

The kids enjoyed riding the bus. On the way up, the bus driver was on the overhead speakers giving historical and geological information about the area. Bailey, who was sitting so nice and quiet, leaned over to Blake and said, "This is really important, isn't it?" Funny. We got to Maroon Bells which was just breathtaking. I had seen pictures of it but it was so much better in real life. At the base of the mountains is a beautiful blue-green alpine lake. The kids took their shoes off and waded into the ice cold water. They could only stay in it for about 5 seconds before their feet would go numb.

We took a short hike down the to the other end of the lake. After a short break, we rode the bus back down to Aspen for lunch. We chose to eat at, where else, McDonald's. I have to say that Aspen is quite pricey. The value meals were around $8...Jeesh!!!

From Aspen, we headed back towards the Continental Divide and our campground. Before reaching the Divide, we stopped by a place called the Grottos. It was a very neat trail to hike. While looking at the trail map at the trailhead, we were passed by a couple with young children who said we were in for some real surprises. The map showed ice caves and cascades. We headed off down the trail. After a short distance, we came to the ice caves. It was a slot canyon about 20 feet deep with a ribbon of thick ice in the bottom of it. The sign at the trailhead stated that the ice remained the cave all year round. In places, the rock bridged over the top of the canyon to form a "cave". Blake and the kids climbed down the canyon walls and into the caves. It was very slippery and dangerous down there. I had flip flops on so I chose to stay up above and meet them at the upstream end. But after making their way up the canyon, we found that the upstream end ended in a waterfall with an ice column climbing up from the ice sheet in base of the canyon. They had to head back to where they went in. While in the caves, Blake and the kids had passed some rock climbers climbing the canyon walls and taking advantage of the cool temperture. They pointed out a chute up the canyon wall that they could take as a shortcut out. Brooks headed up the chute and made it to a bench about halfway up. From there, it got a little steeper and Brooks wasn't so sure. Bailey was having trouble just getting up to the bench. One of the rock climbers told Blake to climb up to the bench and he would hand Bailey up to him. After handing her up, he headed up to the bench to help Blake get the kids out from there. Nice guy. The kids did an awesome job doing their best to get out! From there, we were off to see the cascades. They were a beautiful set of waterfalls tumbling over huge boulders of granite. They were fed by freshly melted snow right off the mountain side and were really loud and very, very, very cold. They kids again had to take off their shoes and to put their feet in the water. Bailey came really close to falling into a waterhole. She would have been fine but it would have froze her to the bone. Glad we avoided that!! We headed back to the trailhead and finished our hike by throwing some rocks into a creek. 

On the way back over the Divide, Blake made good on his promise to Bailey. Near the top of our climb, we spotted a patch of snow that didn't look like too far of a hike. It turned out to be a lot farther away and a little larger than a patch. Once they got out to it, Blake said it was massive compared to what it looked like from the road. Bailey scraped the top part of the snow off and got her some clean, cold Colorado snow to eat. She was a happy, happy girl!

After crossing the Divide, we passed our campground and headed to the nearby town of Leadville to buy some fishing gear. From there, we went to Turquoise Lake to do some fishing. It was a bit chilly with the sun going down, but we were catching us some rainbow trout. It was a lot of fun. Beautiful lake. Where we were fishing you could see the town of Leadville right through a break in the mountains. (pic below)

It was a great day! Busy and packed with fun times and great memories!!!

Climbing the Divide

On our way up to the Maroon Bells

Balancing on a log in the water

Two beautiful kids, two beautiful mountains!
One HAPPY Daddy!

The Maroon Bells

The kids in the FREEZING cold water

Entertaining themselves by climbing the rock wall outside the restrooms while waiting for the bus

Bailey not wanting me to take her picture

On the way back down from the Bells

Hiking to the cascades and the ice caves at the Grottos

Playing on a HUGE rock

Daddy and the kids climbing down into the ice cave

The ice! You could feel the coolness from the ice up above the caves.

The kiddos down under standing on the ice

Runoff from the mountains

Making their way out to the snow so Bailey can eat some!

It was a long walk. If you look real hard, you can see the truck in the distance just to the right of Bailey.

Bailey girl got her some snow to eat!!!

Someone was tuckered out after all that hiking and snow eating.

Gonna do some fishin'!

Brooks and his rainbow trout, Bailey trying to stay warm

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