Colorado 14ers – Monday, Maroon Bells and Marble

Today we are up and out by 6:30am for a morning hike in the 181,000 acre Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness, part of the White River National Forest.

The trailhead begins near Maroon Lake and our destination today is Crater Lake, a nice 5.75 mile round trip with less than 1000ft of elevation gain.

We had just started when we were brought up short by a park employee warning us about a female moose on the trail ahead.  She diverted us down and around… (we never saw the moose, neither did the other hikers).

Maroon Lake has a nature walk, and this is where most of the park visitors stay. We shot up into the aspen forest.

Past my shoulder is Maroon Lake, our starting spot. Continuing down the trail we arrived at Crater Lake.  Greg commented that the lake is the lowest he’s seen.

In the picture below you see the route into the mountains… through that stand of trees, then left and into the shadow all the way down the valley.  The climb begins on the other side of the prominent rocky ledge.

Pulling back to a wider view, the summits come into view… twin 14,000 peaks.

The required photo op

Here are the two Maroon Bell 14ers… South Maroon Peak on the left, and the North peak on the right.

The peaks in this valley are outside my skill range… loose rock, steep slopes and exposure have made them the deadliest mountains in these parts.

We hiked past Crater Lake, checked out the camp sites, then back out of the wilderness and into progessively thicker clumps of casual hikers and non-stop talkers.  Although I expected it, I didn’t spot one selfie stick.

We stopped at Buttermilk to see the site for Lizzy and Ted’s wedding next June – what a nice venue for their mountaintop ceremony!

Back to the hotel to clean up and pack.  I was in the lobby for a bit, marveling at the mix of folks checking in, and received a quick education about the 2016 National Sheep Dog Finals happening this week, bringing the country’s top 150 dogs into the valley to show their skills in fetching, herding and managing sheep.  Some of the judges and a number of the teams are staying here, and Greg and I have watched them working these beautiful dogs in the hotel’s back yard grass. Here’s a YouTube from last year to get a sense of it.

Tonight’s dinner destination takes us 20 miles the other way around Mt Sopris to Marble… and killer BBQ at Slow Groovin’…

Mable is a tiny town, the last before the main road rises through the pass and drops into what becomes the Crested Butte side of the range.  The unique Yule marble in this region is quarried from within the mountain and shipped all over the world (the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC is one example).
The patrons in Slow Groovin’ were a great mix… locals, hunters, fly fishermen, couple of ranchers, and us! The food was fantastic, and the aroma from the huge smoker outside wafted through the room every time the front door swung open.

Today’s Highlights:

Most dangerous creature: Park Employee

Best meal: Slow Groovin beef brisket, beans, slaw and skillet cornbread

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