[Note: both of the people in this story are named Sara(h). It’s only confusing if you read it aloud. Also, this is part 2 of a series. For part 1, click here.]
We did not get murdered, which was good because we booked that room for a second night. After enjoying a free breakfast (special shout-out to the greatest invention ever, the pancake conveyor belt), we drove to Maroon Bells for
some an insane amount of hiking. We had read online that if you get there before 9 AM you can drive in, otherwise you have to take a bus, but the internet lied: it was 8 AM, according to our man-bunned park ranger, so we had to ride with the commoners.
Our bus driver/tour guide was great, though, aside from her distractingly wonky elbow–I’m not sure how it could bend the way it did–and she gave us a ton of information, most of which I have since forgotten. One thing she told us (which I had already learned from the John Travolta movie, Phenomenon) is that aspen trees are actually all part of one large organism with identical DNA. Pretty neat.
Speaking of neat, Maroon Bells did not disappoint.
They are named for the maroon color of the mudstone that comprises them, and for the bell shape to their peaks. I love it when things make sense.
We opted for the “moderate” hike to Crater Lake, a 3.6-mile roundtrip that our guide told us might not be open because of “aggressive bear attacks.”
“I hope we see a bear,” Sara said, clutching and shaking my arm. “I think I would be really great in a bear situation.”
“I don’t know that you would,” I said, making sure I had my LifeGear whistle. “Remember the pack of wild dogs in Costa Rica?”
We did not see a bear.
We did, however, see pikas and marmots, two adorable rodent-like creatures native to Colorado. Also, this:
According to my FitBit, we hit 10,000 steps well before noon. It took us a lot longer than we thought to hike to Crater Lake, but it, too, did not disappoint.
Additionally, we added Maine to our list of license plates. And, when we returned to our car, we were parked across from a van from Alabama, which I begrudgingly pointed out to Sara. She did not seem all that thrilled about winning.
We made it back to Aspen in time for lunch made (on recommendation from our bartender) of a meat and cheese platter and a bottle of wine that we ferried (gondola’d?) to the top of Ajax Mountain.
Happy Hour indeed.
“I wish I could live my life mildly drunk all the time,” Sara said.
Neither of us felt particularly inclined (get it?) to stay in Aspen for dinner, so we drove back to Snowmass where one of us took an ibuprofen and an amazing nap and the one of us who is writing this did not.
Sara found a restaurant for dinner and what she claimed was a shortcut but what was really a long walk through a dark field under a swaying empty gondola I imagined was part of a horror film.
“I appreciate that you indulge my nonsense,” Sara said, as we traipsed across the open grass I was certain hid lots of snakes.
By the end of the day, we logged over 20,000 steps, most of which were over 10,000 feet above sea level. Not too shabby. We also got within 12 of the full 50 states and our man bun count was holding steady at three.
Day 3 of our trip started of very similar to Day 2, with free conveyor-belt pancakes, but instead of hiking we logged almost ten hours in the car.
Our first stop: St. Elmo Ghost Town.
One thing you will notice as you pull into town is the “Last Chance Bathroom” [read: pit toilet] a quarter-mile from the parking lot. This is not a joke; there are no bathrooms in St. Elmo. There are, however, tons of chipmunks.
See the one on Sara’s shoulder? She would like me to point out that this is not a very flattering photo of her. The chipmunks did not make that same proclamation.
For 50 cents, you can feed them.
The rest of the ghost town was kind of a letdown. Only three of the buildings are open to the public: the General Store, the jail, and the schoolhouse, and of those, only the General Store is really open to the public. The other two are preserved as life-sized dioramas devoid of people. All of the other buildings are privately-owned and, from what we could tell by peeking through the windows, full of junk: old yellowing newspapers, stacked wooden furniture, and rusty wheels.
One of them did have a mannequin propped against a door opposite the window, so I startled a bit when I peeped in that window. I didn’t get a picture of him, but I did snap this stately fellow.
Oh, and don’t worry, the Ghost Town has a neighborhood watch.
We left St. Elmo for Telluride, which should have been roughly a four-hour drive, but we planned to meander and stop along the way.
We saw Cascade Falls. A fox passed in front of the car in front of us. I counted half a dozen more Utah plates. It started to rain, which is weird in Colorado, because you can see it coming. Also, the one of us who is writing this may have taken us down a “scenic” highway that led to a dirt road we weren’t allowed to drive on, thus causing us an hour and a half detour back to an actual scenic highway.
The extra drive wasn’t a total loss, though, because now we know that Colorado’s official designation of a road as “scenic” is not necessarily warranted, AND we saw a New Jersey license plate, so that almost makes the delay worth it.
We pulled up to Telluride in time for a late dinner, made even later when said writer also got turned around leaving our Victorian Inn hotel.
“I swear I’m not usually this bad with directions,” I said.
“It’s not a big deal; at least this was only a five-minute detour,” Sara said. “But, you have to put this in your post.” So consider this my public apology/shaming. Tomorrow, I’ll be better.
And, tomorrow we’ll be arriving at the dude ranch just in time for lunch and whitewater rafting. Provided it doesn’t storm.