The featured image is a Chicory Flower.
Colorado’s fall color explosion begins in early September with high country aspen beginning their golden exhibition deep in the central and northern mountains.
While there are many places I would love to go to view the aspen in their colorful fall garb, this time, I stuck to the central mountains so that I could make it home in time for the evening Broncos kick-off. Still, my little ole car ended up with more than 250 miles in this round-trip jaunt.
So, where did I go? To the Top of the Rockies Scenic and Historic Byway, the 10th Mountain Division section of the byway that is.
First, let’s get to the color and yes, there were some aspen which were already breaking free of their summertime green exploding into gold with a little bit of orange and rust thrown in for good measure. All along the drive from Minturn to Leadville, aspen were changing in pockets of gold. The most dramatic views were along the Battle Mountain drive.
The road along this drive climbs high above the Eagle River and the aspen hug the steep hillside only stopping when the hill gives way to dramatic black, red and rust-colored cliffs.
I thoroughly enjoyed myself, stopping at almost every pullout, soaking up the scenery, breathing in the cool fresh mountain air and taking in the colorful scenery. Not even the dark clouds that drifted over the mountain range could keep me from feeling completely delighted. Luckily, the storm clouds during my drive came and went pretty quickly, leaving amazing blue and puffy white-cloud skies behind. With the green and gold covered hillsides and red colored cliffs in the background, I was in complete awe of the scenery.
Now, let’s move on to the history of this byway. There are two major historic distinctions along the byway between Minturn and Leadville. One is a rich mining history and the other is a military history. In between Minturn and Red Cliff is the abandoned mining town of Gilman. Now, while this town is an abandoned ghost town, the age of many of the buildings in this town are not as old as one might think, because the town was last inhabited in 1984. That’s right, I said ‘19’ – 84…only 30 years ago.
So, what happened? Well, the zinc extraction industry went belly up (with rock-bottom zinc prices) and the town was condemned by the EPA…that’s it in a nutshell. Check out the Substreet blog for more historical information and lots of photos of the town and surrounding area.
As for the military history…well, that comes in the Pando Valley area of the byway, now called Camp Hale for the military operations that took place there during WWII. Camp Hale is located between Red Cliff and Leadville. Many of its distinctions include ski training operations of the 10th Mountain Division as well as a secret CIA training camp from 1958 – 64 with the Tibetan freedom fighters. Check out the linked website for interesting information on all the activities that took place there.
When you visit the area now, you might see a few long forgotten cement walls, some sort of road system which has been almost completely covered by natural vegetation and hopefully you will never come across any, but munitions are still being recovered by the military in its cleanup of the area. Note: if you do a google search for Camp Hale on Goolge Maps and turn to the satellite view, you can still see the outline of the camp buildings and road system.
When I stopped at the roadside pullout which memorializes the secret CIA and Tibetan training operations, I got out of my car just long enough to watch the storm clouds which had been chasing me since Battle Mountain blow down into the valley, completely engulfing the mountainsides, leaving nothing in view except for a thick mist.
I took a few shots before the rain began and then hid in my car as it blew through and then quickly retreated through the other side of the valley and over another mountain range. The smells left behind were thick and rich with scents of pine and late summer. Soon, the clouds broke and gave way to a perfectly blue sky dotted with puffy white clouds. I was in heaven and lingered for a while longer before continuing on to Leadville.
One other historical note to mention and this piece of history unfortunately has no name, although it’s known as cabin in the valley according to a photo I found on a Google search. On previous jaunts in this area, I had always just cruised past this broken and falling down cabin, but this time, I stopped. When I approached the cabin, I noticed that it had two distinct rooms. This was different from other old relics I had come across in the Colorado Rockies, so I made sure to take as many photos as I could from different angles before leaving the area.
Oh and just so you know, the last leg of the byway from Leadville to Copper Mountain also has a ton of colorful aspen viewing right along the byway. It definitely is worth taking a whole day to linger along the drive if you go.
Maybe even take a train ride in Leadville during this time of year to capture the changing aspen with an historical train as backdrop against the high mountain peaks. Check out the Leadville Twin Lakes website for more information on the fall train tours.
For info on what to do and see, where to stay and what to eat along the Top of the Rockies Byway, here’s the linked websites in recap:
If you plan on touring the full byway, make sure you do it in summer, since the top of Independence Pass is closed in winter. The furthest end of the byway takes you to Aspen, so be sure to bring a fully packed wallet as well.
We have a Winner!
Congratulations to Brenda Phelps! My Facebook friend, who correctly guessed that the photos posted in last week’s contest were taken along the Los Caminos Antiguos Byway.
Honorable mention to BigBoy4006 for almost getting it right as well. I will send a high res version of any of the photos from the Los Caminos Antiguos Byway to you as well. Just let me know which one.
These two photos were taken along very different areas of the byway. The Cumbres and Toltec narrow gauge railroad winds its way up to Cumbres Pass on the border between Colorado and New Mexico. The view of Blanca Peak is best seen from the San Luis Valley region.
Photo 47: This photo was taken as the train criss-crosses across highway 17 as it winds it way up to Cumbres and La Manga Passes. This train was on its way back down to Chama, New Mexico as it was late afternoon. It’s pretty cool watching the people on the train as they gaze out their windows at the mountain scenery.
Photo 48: This photo was taken at the highways 150 and 160 crossroads. The view of Blanca Peak from here is quite spectacular…although, you can see three sides of this mountain (east, west and southern facing) from different roads. The sign in the photo talks about the Ute many hundreds of years ago and what they thought of horses when they were first introduced to this region.
Guess which Colorado Scenic and Historic Byway these two photos were taken along. Guess the byway by Friday, May 16th at midnight PST and win your choice of photo from the byway’s blog post. The first person to correctly guess in the comments section below wins! Review the rules here…
Guess which Colorado Scenic and Historic Byway these two photos were taken along. Guess the byway by Friday, May 9th at midnight PST and win your choice of photo from the byway’s blog post. The first person to correctly guess in the comments section below wins! Review the rules here…
We have two Winners!
Congratulations to Brenda Phelps and Maria Sharp! Both Facebook friends who correctly guessed that thes photos posted in last week’s contest were taken along the 1) Trail of the Ancients, 2) Cache la Poudre and 3) Guanella Pass Byways.
These two photos were taken along the Trail of the Ancients. This byway is along the southwestern corner of Colorado and includes several Anasazi ruins as well as the Four Corners area.
Photo 33: Momma and Jr ranger chatting with a curious crowd in one of the cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde National Park.
Photo 34: The Galloping Goose railroad located in Dolores, which is the northern most point of the byway. This point also intersects with the San Juan Skyway.
These two photos were taken along the Cache la Poudre Byway. This byway can be found in the north central region of the state and features Colorado’s only federally designated wild and scenic river.
Photo 35: The Flowers House is located on the eastern end of the byway in the small town of Bellevue.
Photo 36: Two moose were spotted at the western end of the Cache la Poudre Byway just west of the town of Walden. Moose have grown in numbers in the northern part of the state and can be seen if you are looking hard enough.
These two photos were taken along the Guanella Pass Byway. This byway can be found in the central Front Range region of the state and features an historic mining town, as well as a well-hiked 14,000 foot peak.
Photo 37: My riding buddies and I decided to ride this byway by motorcycle. There are many tight twists and turns along this byway. This particular stopping point was along one of the hairpins and featured a history marker describing the Clear Creek water shed area.
Photo 38: Georgetown is an historic mining town on the northern end of the byway. This quaint town is bustling year-round with tons of summer and winter activities.
We have a Winner!
Congratulations to Brenda Phelps! A Facebook friend who correctly guessed that the photos posted in last week’s contest were taken along the Grand Mesa Byway.
These two photos were taken along the tallest flattop mountain in the world. Each was taken at the end of what is known as “Lands End Road”.
Photo 31: This photo was taken as I was riding my motorcycle along Lands End Road (this is a YouTube video I found – not my own) back to the main byway. I saw what I thought was smoke coming up from below the mesa, but after walking a few feet closer to the edge, I realized the smoke was actually the mist of a small waterfall.
Photo 32: This photo was taken outside of the Lands End Observatory. Not too long ago, the observatory was manned by park rangers. Now, it is boarded up and still stands as a distant memory. When my riding buddies and I had taken this byway, the air was not as crisp and clear as those on the linked website. Colorado was suffering from a bad year in forest fires all over the state.
Guess which Colorado Scenic and Historic Byway these two photos were taken along. Guess the byway by Friday, March 21stth at midnight PST and win your choice of one photo from the byway blog post. The first person to correctly guess in the comments section below wins! Review the rules here…
We have a Winner!
Congratulations to Brenda Phelps! A Facebook friend who correctly guessed that the photos posted in last week’s contest were taken along the Collegiate Peaks byway.
These two photos were taken along an extremely mountainous byway in Colorado. Each was taken off the byway by a few miles, but the off-byway road-trips are quite welcome on all of the byways.
Photo 29: This photo was taken off of the main byway along a dirt road that leads to what seems like the foot of Mt. Antero. This particular mountain is a gem mining smorgasbord. Hundreds of placer claims have been filed all along this mountain with miners that spend their time digging during the summer months and dodging rocky mountain thunder storms.
Photo 30: This photo was taken at the end of a row of historic buildings at the west end of the town of St. Elmo. While some consider it a ghost town, people still live here and run businesses out of 100-year-old buildings.
I have been so busy this weekend, putting together my professional work, designing some graphics for that work and playing with a new eLearning cloud software – Versal – that I had completely lost track of time. So, while you wait in anticipation of the next Photo Contest post, please watch this fun video I put together a few weeks ago after my hubby and I went to Leadville, CO to watch a really crazy and fun event – Skijoring. I will try to get the photo contest post up by Monday. 🙂