Sunday, October 5We had a long leisurely breakfast Sunday morning. We figured the dispersed campground we are planning to stay at would be busy with picnickers or campers getting ready to clear out. The campground is officially closed, but all that means at this point in the year is the pit toilets and garbage cans will probably be locked. I didn’t really expect the place to have many people staying. We did our chores in Montrose, then headed out on the 120 mile drive.Soon we were bouncing up the dusty road to Erickson Springs, a USFS campground. A nice little spot this is. It is in a narrow part of the canyon though, so doesn’t get much sun till afternoon. There are just 16 sites, a pit toilet and water (turned off). Most of the sites are short-ish and too much under cover of trees or brush, but 3 or 4 toward the back of the loop are open enough to get good afternoon sun to the panels. I could even get a satellite signal to watch the Giants WIN their series! Erickson is located just off CR 12, and sits at the base of the West Elk Mountains and Kebler Pass. It is a perfect location for a base. Just 4.5 miles up the road, the show begins with panoramic views of aspen and mountains. We can get into the mountains early, or stay late and not worry too much about animals on the road.
We arrived to discover the campground to be completely empty. We had our choice of sites and quickly found the one most open to the sky. Having the portable panel has come in very handy here as well. The afternoon was quite, clear and warm and we just sat out for a while. Tomorrow we make our first run over Kebler Pass.
Monday, October 6
A perfectly sunny day greeted us this morning. In the canyon it felt predawn, but looking up the mountainside on either side it was definitely post. We were up quickly-ish and out the door. As we headed up the hill, we wondered what the mountainsides would look like. There are few aspen down at camp level, so we really didn’t know what shape the foliage would be in. We’d heard last weekend was peak, and saw that Silverton was past, but were blown away when we hit the first overlook. Thick swaths of yellows, golds, browns, oranges, and even greens for as far as we could see. We are here AT peak.
We spent the next 4 hours stopping, and driving and stopping. We revisited many favorite spots and found new ones to work. It’s really amazing how many photo sites we remember from last visit in 2012. We got back to camp and relaxed until the next Giants game that night – a tough loss.
Tuesday, October 7
Another early morning, up and out. Our plan was to zoom through the first 10 miles so we could have better light on the areas further back in. But that didn’t work. As opposed to yesterdays bright sunny skies, today we have some light high clouds. Having those clouds helps soften the light on the big panorama’s so we ended up shooting the same sort of scenes, but in different light, and again playing with blurs.
We also planned to be out all day. We would drive the 30 miles to Crested Butte, do a few internet catch-ups (I forgot to mention Erickson has no connectivity). Crested Butte is an outdoor playground in summer and a ski town in winter, so it was the “quiet before the storm” in town for them right now. We had a wonderful lunch in a cafe before heading back over the mountain, only this time in afternoon light.
Again, we stopped at many familiar places, taking many of the same images, but in different light. It is going to be really tough picking out images to show. Way too many will be included. I may get sick of them myself.
Wednesday, October 8
Today we thought we would try something we hadn’t done in a while – Hike! There is a nice little trail that leaves from very near the campground. It goes for many miles, but we only wanted to do maybe 3-4. It is called the Dark Canyon hike since it runs through the deepest canyon folds, but by the time we got out, sun was reaching the bottom and lighting up both water and trees.
While the scenery is really wonderful, both high and low, the trail itself is a bit messy. It is a horse trail, but didn’t really smell like on. However, the horses tend not to care much about mud and so tromp right through the soft center of the trail. This makes extremely muddy sections that are often really difficult to get around.
That was my lasting impression of the hike in 2012. This time around, the mud holes and wet sections were still here, but much less in severity. Us both with hiking poles now also help tons – especially Mary. She virtually flew thorough some sections. We hiked up almost 2 miles before deciding to return. A nice morning.
Later in the afternoon, we wanted to do one last drive up and across the mountain. We headed up, but stopped first at a spot on the road just outside the campground. We’d been seeing this stencil on the pavement in several areas and wonder what exactly they were for. Kill spot? Pick-up spot? I don’t know, but I did enjoy the embellishment on this one.
The day became quite cloudy with moments of sunshine across the panoramas we saw again while driving through. This being our third time through, we only stopped a few times to look over scenes. It’s hard to decide when enough is enough. It’s really great just to see it all one last time.
We are moving on to another area a bit north of Kebler Pass. In 2012, our last time here, we found a forest service campground named McClure. It is situated about a mile below 10,000 ft. McClure Pass on US 133, and is in the middle of a wonderful aspen grove. Again, no services except a pit toilet, but the location is perfect for exploring either side of the mountain. Unfortunately, the weather is supposed to turn very cold and wet the next couple of days, so we decided it would be best to camp down 1,500 ft and avoid snow showers and freezing temperatures.
We will again be out of internet/cell range for a few days. More updates including our time in the McClure Pass/Marble area.