Marble & McClure Pass, and Buzzard Divide Road

Prepare yourself for another long post. Due to lack of decent cell/internet coverage, We’ve been unable to post any updates for the last several days. Take it in small doses, there’s a lot of photos.

Thursday, October 9
The short drive from Erickson campground to the Redstone area was pretty uneventful but very scenic. We could see the foliage was also in great shape all the way up to McClure Pass, where we drove through the campground up there again just to check it out. Lovely as ever and completely deserted. How I’d love to stay here a few days again, but we have chores to do and the tanks, while not full, need to be emptied soon.

On the outskirts of Marble.

On the outskirts of Marble.

We decided on the Redstone KOA. We’ve avoided KOA’s lately because they are usually the most expensive RV parks around, but there is little choice around here right now, and it’s better than driving further into town when we can get everything done here except grocery shop. I made a wrong turn too early when I didn’t read the KOA sign fully, and ended up on a dirt road dead end street – haven’t done that in a while. Had to disconnect to turn around, but the KOA was just 400 ft. further up 133, so we just drove separately to the park. At $34, it is pricy, but it has a laundry and is in a very nice setting along the Crystal River. We got everything done we needed to, and were now ready for the next few days of leaf peeping.

Friday, October 10
4095_Redstone1
In the morning, we moved 15 miles from the KOA to another forest service campground called Redstone. This is one of the few that have water and electric hookups in one of the loops. There are quite a few very open sites and it is in a beautiful setting. We were a little confused about the cost per night – $36 if you want electricity! I thought it looked like perhaps the forest service and contracted to a private vendor to run the campground and that probably meant no discounts – that Mary’s geezer pass wouldn’t work here. Mary insisted we should only give $18 because nothing was stated to the contrary.
4102_Redstone2We had all afternoon open to us, so we took a drive to the town of Marble. The town gets it’s name for a quarry way up on the mountain behind it. All through town you will see large blocks of white marble used in countless ways, both practical and creative ways. Sometimes, it just looks like that’s where the block landed.4107_Redstone34117_Redstone5We moved through town as fast as the 15 MPH limit would allow. Driving around the edge of a very reflective lake, we stopped for some images and to admire this amazing scene. But we wanted to get up higher for better views of the surrounding mountains, so we reversed course and headed back through town, up the narrow dirt road to where the quarry resides.4127_Redstone6 4135_Redstone8 4130_Redstone7Once leaving town, the road rises sharply up the mountain. We got nice views of the sedgy beaver ponds outside of town, and a little higher up the views began to open up even more.4136_Redstone9 4153_Redstone104147_Redstone10Much of the lower part of the road is lined with trees that block the best of the views, but as we moved higher, the trees parted and an amazing panoramic of the valley was before us. We sat and watched in awe as a rain shower moved through.
4189_Redstone16It was mostly overcast with intermittent light rain. Breaks in the clouds would allow sunshine to get through to light up portions of the mountains and hillsides. This was pretty nice, but just a little more sun getting through in the foregrounds of my images would have been nice.4164_Redstone124156_Redstone11We drove up to a parking area for hikers and hunters. Our goal was coffee. This spot sits at the furthest, highest view site on the mountain. It overlooks an entire canyon full of aspen and mountain views in the distant. We sat and sipped for a time, stepped out for photos and talked with several backpacker/bow hunters. The sky wasn’t looking like it would lighten any time soon, so we decided to head back.
4170_Redstone13 4183_Redstone15 4223_McClure2 4225_McClure3Back in camp, we got a visit from the Camp Host. She said we owed more for camping. So the geezer pass isn’t good here? “Oh yes”,  she says, “The senior pass gets you 50% off the camp fee, but the electric fee ($5) is not discounted”. So we owed another $2.50 for a total of $20.50. Still, good enough for being where we are with lots of heavy cloud cover and cold temps.

Saturday, October 11
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Today was supposed to be the nicest of the week. What that turned out to be was lingering clouds and fog hovering in the low valleys. We got out quickly and were on our way up to McClure Pass to see how things look. Fog usually dissipates quickly once the sun is up, so by the time we got the 5 miles up to the top, much was already gone. Still, there was plenty to gawk at and photograph.4283_Buzzard2 4229_McClure4 4243_McClure6 4253_McClure74262_Buzzard1Our main destination for today was an improved dirt road named Buzzard Divide. In 2012, we found this backroad (actually CR 265) but only followed it for 5 miles or so. The foliage was gone by then, and while the landscape was really nice, the lack of color convinced us to turn back. This time though, tree color is still great.4296_Buzzard4

Typical fauna to be seen along Buzzard Divide Rd.

Typical fauna to be seen along Buzzard Divide Rd.

We almost turned back before even starting. We pulled onto the road, and were faced with easily 40 large semi trucks with trailers lined up along the side of the narrow road. A bunch of the drivers were huddling in one spot, so we stopped to ask what was going on. Fracking we were told.

It’s not much of a cross section I guess, but Mary and I talked with a local couple we met while goofing around in McClure Campground. He felt the fracking companies have been “good neighbors” in the time they have been there. Yes, the trucks lined up and rumbling down the road are annoying, but one of the things they also do, is provide funds to keep the McClure Campground open. As much as I love this spot, I think it probably not worth the potential damage it may do.
4299_Buzzard54310_Buzzard64324_Buzzard7Driving the road was a dream. A few potholes here,  a few muddy areas there, but all in all, a great road to drive. It first runs through some beautiful ranch and pasture land. Eventually the road rises and begins to twist and turn up into the surrounding mountains where bunches of aspen greeted us. The beauty here was that, compared to Kebler Pass, Buzzard Divide road was nearly as good, with only a handful of other cars.4375_Buzzard12 4366_Buzzard11The still partly cloudy skis continue to cast light and shadow, changing the contours of the landscape. We stopped for long periods waiting for the light to shine on just the right leaves or tree to make the composition. It is always a challenge, and not often successful to make an image that convincingly conveys the scene. But we try.

We ran into another cow-jam a little further up the road. At first it was just a handful of cows standing in the middle of the road. They didn’t seem eager to move aside. As we sat there waiting, a few more came trotting down the road. Then a dozen more, then more still. Bringing up the rear, a couple of wranglers and a pack of dogs. They stopped right in front of us, opened the fence to the grazing area, and herded them in.4332_Buzzard8 4335_Buzzard9We could have kept going, but after 13 miles, we turned around for the ride home. Of course, the light had changed and made every thing we’d seen before look different. An afternoon wind had come up and began blowing leaves across the road. We tried capturing it in photos, but leaves didn’t show up well.
4353_Buzzard10

Shot through the sunroof.

Shot through the sunroof.

4398_Buzzard14Just before getting back to 133, we passed all the fracking trucks again. They had moved up about a mile. Just waiting.

We finished our day with our favorite ballpark food: kielbasa sandwiches, potato chips and pasta, and watching the Giants beat the Cardinals in game 1 of the NLCS.

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