Colorado 14ers – Sunday, Carbondale, Basalt and the Roaring Fork River

Bike riding today… Lizzy and Ted outfitted us with bikes and we rode the Rio Grande Trail, a rails-to-trail conversion that runs the length of the valley. Starting in Carbondale we rode south to Basalt, then back up to Willits for a burger at Sure Thing.

On the southbound loop the trail runs alongside the Roaring Fork river.

Basalt is 12 miles away, and holds their Farmers Market on Sunday, so we looked over the local wines, Palisade peaches, breads (and cookies which became a pre-lunch snack.)

Riding back up to Willit for lunch for a burger to refuel for the ride home

Well, Sure Thing was a sure thing – no wonder everyone wanted to stop.  The burgers are great, the fries are fresh and smoking hot and bonus points for a free soft-serve cone afterwards – as if you needed one after all that!

Yours truly adding to the blog (in a rather familiar Carbondale spot – PD)

Carbondale has this fantastic setting with Mt. Sopris defining everyone’s back yard.


Meals: Turkey burger at Sure Thing and popcorn and root beer floats with Lizzy and Ted.

Wildlife: Greg and Lizzy sight a fox along the trail.

Colorado 14ers – Saturday, American Lake

This morning we left Buena Vista, crossed the Continental Divide at 12,095 ft through Independence Pass and dropped down into the Roaring Fork Valley and Aspen.

Along the drive we stopped at Cascades and the Grotto.

Snow and springmelt carved these winding paths through the rock.

A bull moose finding breakfast.

Today’s hike took us to American Lake, part of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area, a 181,000 acre area of Elk Mountains that was preserved in 1980.

The hike gains 2,129ft over 3.1 miles, ascending through an aspen forest and into meadows.  Tee-shirt weather today… full sun and a light breeze with the last scents of summer from a warm pine forest.

Little pockets of aspens are changing and we’re maybe 2 weeks from a full fall color burst.

This trail puts almost all the effort at the beginning with switchbacks bringing all the elevation gain early.  Those little zigzags on the screenshot upper right went right up the slope.  The last 2 miles is a pleasant gentle rise in the tree line and crossing a talus field to arrive at the lake.

We walked around to the far side, spotting cutthroat trout along the way, and sat with this view for our afternoon lunch.

Back down we go…



Meal of the day: Lunch on American Lake.  A very close second was an excellent meal at The Goat.

Best thing today:  great company – thanks Lizzy and Ted for hosting us on a terrific tour that covered the whole Roaring Forks Valley.

Colorado 14ers – Friday, Buena Vista, Mountain Spotting and Hot Springs

Okay, relax day, sort of…

First, a travel plug for Buena Vista… this little community is great… everything is just humming.  Several nice restaurants and coffee shops, brew pub, kayak park, outdoor gear stores, local events, Collegiate Peak 14ers on their doorstep, local hot springs on the Chalk River…. we’ll be visiting again.

Good morning to our breakfast visitors, they were walking around in the VRBO front yard

Our VRBO in Buena Vista was great

Today was recon day as we traveled the valley searching out trailheads for future hikes.  First up was Mt Yale which boasts a steady climb to the summit.

As we assessed the trail, a man came down, skipping and smiling as he came.  He’d driven down last night, car camped, hiked to the summit with friends and back down… all by 11am, and after chatting with us hopped in his vehicle for the return drive to Denver!?!! Okay, I need to be training a bit more for these adventures.
We took a couple hour break from mountain-gazing, stopping for lunch alongside the Chalk Creek at Mt Princeton Hot Springs, and treated ourselves to the historic bathhouse and hot springs. 

Although they pump the hot mineral water into three large swimming pools, Greg and I opted for the more natural setting, wading into the creek itself where a jumble of rocks create heated wading pools along the edge, some too hot initially to even walk through. Greg set about shifting rocks to allow the cold river in until things were perfect – a six foot round hot tub right in the ice cold river, with a beautiful blue sky.


Quote of the day: “If you’re afraid of change, leave it here.” Louie’s Ice Cream Shop tip jar, Buena Vista.

Colorado 14ers – Thursday Mts. Grays and Torreys

Yikes… talk about an O-Dark 30 start – we were up at 330am, checked out of the condo and arrived at the 11,280 ft trailhead by 515am.

You saw the trailhead in yesterday’s post… this morning it’s a world of silent black ridges silhouetted by a brilliant field of stars.

Up we go, and I learned the benefit of the early start on a predawn trail – the first hour’s labor simply disappeared into a swirl of  headlamps, crisp cold air and and the beginning glow of sunrise.  It was delightful… I forgot we were hiking steadily upward through 12,000 ft.

We watched dawn sunlight spread over the face of the range. Mt. Grays is on the left and looks rounded; Mt Torres to the right with the sharper ridge line. It doesn’t look it from here, but Grays is a few feet taller than Torreys.

Now we’re closer and I’m starting to get a sense of how tall these mountains are.
We could see mountain goats far away on the upper slopes, but this fellow waited to meet us as we ground our way up the switchbacks, probably wondering what on earth was taking us so long.

Euekra! We summit Mt Grays, 14,278 ft at 830am, 3hs into our hike.  Elevation gain: 3,000 ft over about 4 miles.

The saddle connects us to Torreys, so we drop down and then begin to ascend toward this second peak.  Here’s Greg trotting down the switchbacks.

The ascent to Torreys is steeper, with few switchbacks, so it’s a straight upward climb to 14,267 ft, and took us about an hour to reach the second peak.

The saddle and peak you see behind Greg’s shoulder is looking back at Mt. Grays.

The view at 14,000 ft is amazing, and the weather was spectacular – colbalt blue skies, no clouds, pleasant temps. We never used our full wind gear, but also chuckled at several college students we met on the trail wearing t-shirts.

We stopped about an hour later in a meadow near 12,000 for lunch with a great view up and down the valley.

Meal of the day: Lunch on the trail, in a meadow at 12,000 feet in t-shirt weather, cloudless blue skies

Beverage of the day:  Black Lager, Eddyline Brewery, Buena Vista

Colorado 14ers – Wednesday’s prep for the big assault tomorrow

We scouted the trailhead for Grays and Torreys this morning – we wanted to know where it was in the daylight and to make sure that the road to the trailhead was passable (tomorrow we plan to be arrive at 5am and start up in the dark, so nice to figure it out in advance).

Here’s Mt. Torreys. Grays is just out of sight.  The gameplan is to hike to Grays summit, then skip across the saddle to Torreys.  Looks easy…  ?

Found the trailhead, so now we need to find a lunch spot for today.  How about Herman’s Gulch Trail and a 3 mile hike to a little lake to enjoy our P&J:

This trail started in the tree line at 10,300ft, and followed an alpine stream.

Once we broke out of the treeline at 11,500ft, the view opened up.

Finally, the lake for lunch, 12,000ft, 2 hours to this point (making our lunch spot actually a 3pm snack)On the trail back down I was looking more closely at the meadow flowers

We heard that the whole trail was bright with flowers a few weeks ago… Colorado is enjoying a brief warm spell, and our weather has been great with passing clouds and zero rain.

We ran into this fellow who claims these trails as his no-cost Stairmaster.  We came off the trail at 5pm, back into town to wash up and walk over at sunset to sit out on the deck for dinner at Pug Ryans

They take their brewing seriously, devoting about a third of their indoor space to tanks.  Maybe Carolyn can weight in on their gear or beverages.

The alarm is set for 330am and our trip to the 14ers moves out of exhibition and into regular season play… we’ll see how the home team fares tomorrow!

Colorado 14ers – Tuesday, Dillon

Easy flight to Denver to meet Greg and drive to Dillon, stopping at the Continental Divide at Loveland Pass

We hiked about a mile to stretch our legs, and had our snack right on the Divide, with bursts of 50mph winds blasting up the ridge. Enough of that! Back to the Jeep and down into Dillon.

Dillon is pretty along the lake

Nice condo – thank you Janie!

We finished our shopping at Whole Foods and enjoyed a nice sunset


Meal of the day: Pug Ryans for a ribeye steak and all the fixin’s.  Pretty gnarly looking guys in the bar – pretty fun!

Beverage of the day: Outlaw Stout