Maroon Bells

Maroon Bells

On Sunday we moved our camp in the mountains to the town of Carbondale. I needed an internet connection so I could apply for the Photolucida portfolio reviews in Portland in April. There is only a 48 hour window in which to apply so we had to move to where I could get online. We also needed to do laundry and shop. Carbondale wasn’t our first choice, but it is the closest we could get to Aspen for camping. There are almost no RV parks in this entire area, and most all Forrest Service campgrounds are closed for the year. We stopped in at an forrest service information center to ask about dispersed camping and were told that very little exists and what is available is usually at the end of 30 miles of dirt road.
We wanted to visit the Maroon Bells Wilderness Area for a day. It is located just outside Aspen and is the location of one of Americas iconic landscapes. If ever you are nearby, you should see this place. In fall it is a zoo of course, but that’s just the way it is. Photographers flock to this place to get their version of the mountains and aspens reflecting in the lake. So much needs to come together to get the ideal shot and only the very lucky or determined get it.

I’m not that interested in the perfect shot here. It already exists, Just google Maroon Bells to see. But I’ve only been here once before back in the 80’s, and it was a cold rainy day. So I felt it was time to see it again. The trees are well past peak here, but there is still considerable color. The weather is terrific still so why not check out the area?
We arrived in late morning. This is actually a good time to be here for photographs. If too early, deep shadows weight down the left side of the picture, if too late, harsh light can wash it out. We took out time driving up the road. The first thing we discovered was that there are actually 4 campgrounds here. One was closed and the others are really not suited for an RV of our size. In fact, only one was designated for RV’s. It only had a couple of sites I’d consider useable and they were occupied.
There was some nice color on the way up to the lake, but few pullouts. Even without color the bare trees were interesting to photograph and we stopped where we could for a few images. At the lake itself there is a large parking lot. It was nearly full – kind of surprising given the past peak condition of the trees. But this is an American Icon site, so I shouldn’t have been surprised. We did a short walk out to the lake, got our shots, and walked the trail a bit for some exercise. We might have stayed longer, but we really weren’t prepared or inclined to do a longer hike today. We had thought to return here another day, but the condition of the trees and inconvenience of getting here from Carbondale changed our minds.


Instead, we decided on another drive up a backroad (Castle Creek Rd.102) to an old mining townsite called Ashcroft. This was another nice drive, but we really didn’t see much we hadn’t seen before in terms of foliage. The townsite was kind of interesting. Really just a handful of buildings remain in various states of repair, but it is interesting to read how people lived and worked in these places. It was a hard life.

We are headed back into the mountains today, so will be out of contact again for a while. We found a very nice forrest service campground on highway 133 at McClure Pass that is still open. It is right in an aspen grove that is a peak color. It only has around 8 sites, but when we came through on Sunday, there were several still open. No cell reception there which is why we didn’t stop originally. The whole pass area is just a little past peak, so we want to hit it now. It is supposed to get very cold in the next day or so, and the trees will not be holding their leaves for much longer. We haven’t decided what we will do after this week. We still have around 3 weeks left in our current trip. The time is speeding by. Being so busy has made the trip seem short.

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One Response to Maroon Bells

  1. Just catching up on your blog. Happy Belated Birthday! We were at Maroon Bells in early Sept a couple years ago before the trees changed and it was still very crowded. Think it always is, but it’s definitely worth seeing.

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