Gondola, Hike, Scenic Drive – Aspen

[Aspen, CO \ Vail, CO, Jul 26, 2022]

I woke up with a hangover, which I was confused about… until I realized that I had 5 drinks yesterday. Those drinks at Catch Steak packed a punch! Luckily, some coffee and breakfast made me feel better.

To start our day, we took the Silver Queen Gondola to top of Aspen mountain at over 11,000 ft. We enjoyed the magnificent views from the sundeck and took a short hike on Richmond Ridge trail. There were some wildflowers around but wildflower season seemed to have passed its peak. The views from up here are some of the best in this part of the Rockies.

We headed to Vail on Highway 82 East, also known as Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway. We were quite shocked to encounter two sections in the beginning that were too narrow for oncoming traffic. A traffic light controlled which side got to go.

The road continued its climb along the edge of a valley. It reminded me of a greener version of the Going-to-the Sun road in Glacier National Park.

We crossed the Continental Divide at Independence Pass at 12,095 feet. This was an unexpected treat, as I hadn’t researched this part of our route. The pass was formed by glacial action and erosion in the region. As part of the Continental Divide, it was the limit of European settlement at the time, with the land to the west reserved for the Ute people. Prospectors nevertheless crossed the pass on July 4, 1879, giving it its current name and setting up a similarly named village (now a ghost town) to its west.

As we continued towards Vail, we drove through many adorable tiny towns and villages. At the base of Mt Elbert, we passed Twin Lakes, an alpine community named after the two lakes in the vicinity. Soon, we reached the town of Leadville, the highest incorporated community in the US at just over 10,000 ft. From there, we continued north towards Vail on Highway 24, which was also very scenic. We drove along a cliff edge with tiny towns and old mining villages tucked into the crevasses. I was most impressed with Minturn, a charming little community with historic architecture and charming homes.

By the time we got to Vail, we were over driving so we decided to have a chill sushi dinner walking distance from our hotel. I reviewed our plan for the next day, which included a drive to the top of Mt Evans. My heart sank when I realized that we’d need timed-entry reservations for it! Luckily, reservations for our desired time slot the next day was still available and I properly snagged one. Whew!

It was time for me to do some laundry since I only traveled with a carry on. I could barely wait for it to be done so I can enjoy the pool and hot tub at sunset.

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