Todays is my birthday and we are spending it pretty much offline and out of touch. Not a bad way to spend the day.
We said goodbye to Montrose today and headed out for the Kebler Pass area which is about 60 north of here. We started out on 50, then turned off on 92 in Delta through Hotchkiss, then onto 133 until we reached Country Road 12. We found a nice little Forrest Service Campground called Erickson Springs about 6 miles in on the dirt road. There are about 18 sites here, most all suitable for a class C. At least half were open enough to allow sun most of the day. All services are now off, but the good news is that it is free to camp. There is a pleasant stream that flows nearby and a nice trail we can hike. The downside to this camp are twofold: First, there is a large mountain that butts up against the campground on the east side. This means no sun till 11 AM this time of year. Once it gets over the hill, we have sun the rest of the day. Two, no internet or phone signal. But this is true in all the mountain areas around here till you get close to one of the larger towns. But the real draw is the Kebler Pass area anyway. This is supposed to be the largest aspen forrest in the world and we’ve heard it is near peak right now.
So we arrived at Erickson Springs around 1:30, got ourselves situated and hung out for a while. Around 3 PM we headed out for our afternoon aspen hunt. We were not disappointed. After rising up around 1000′ from the campground, we rounded a bend and were confronted with aspen as far as the eye could see in all states of color. It was simply amazing. CR12 winds for around 20 miles through this colorful landscape. What makes this road so different is that it is easy to stop and photograph. The trees are all very accessible and easy to see into, and there are many pull-outs to stop in. The road itself is quite wide also, so just pulling over is easy enough. This creates so many opportunities to make images. Leaving late as we did, the sun was lower and as it streamed through the trees, it created ever changing combinations of light and shadow. Come around another bend to another incredible view.
From the side we started on, the road was not heavily traveled, but as we got further in, more and more cars were evident – coming over from Ohio Pass Rd. and Crested Butte. Less than ideal yes, but most everyone was there for the same thing so people were not driving fast or being discourteous. Plenty of places to turn out and lots of periods of quiet where no cars came by. We got in about 14 miles, stopping so often I lost count. By now it was past 5 and we began loosing the light. We decided to turn back and pick it up where we left off another day.
I’m really glad we did this on a Friday afternoon. I’m sure Saturday and Sunday will be crazy with cars and people. It goes with the territory though. If you want to see these places, you simply have to accept it. Once the leaves fall, we will have everyplace to ourselves, so I can put up with this for a while longer. It’s actually kind of fun in some ways – sharing an experience that everyone is enjoying so much. I’m not sure if we will attempt it again on Sunday. We may just wait till Monday and goof off Saturday and Sunday.
Saturday we decided to go for a hike partially up the 17 mile Dark Canyon trail and stay away from the Kebler Pass area. We had a leisurely morning before heading out. The hike starts off with a fairly level 4 mile path along Anthracite Creek before heading up a series of switchbacks called The Staircase. We only planned on going to the start of The Staircase at most. We have not hiked much on this trip and are not in the best of walking condition, so a shortish hike was all we were up for.
The trail was very nice but because of the recent rains, there were quite a few muddy spots. Not really very hard to negotiate, but we had to keep an eye on the trail. This is also apparently a horse trail, but it didn’t look like horses had been on it for quite some time. Save one. It left a few presents for us, but overall was not bad.
We plan on driving to Kebler Pass again on Sunday. I’m sure there will be much more traffic than on Friday, but we plan a dawn take-off time so we should be mostly through by early afternoon and shouldn’t have much trouble with crowds.