This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Into the Rockies

Even though we had taken the train to Glenwood Springs, we had access to a vehicle and could venture out to the surrounding area. Our first little field trip was to some hot springs along the Crystal River (which feeds into the Roaring Fork River, which joins the Colorado River at Glenwood Springs). Son Tertius discovered these springs on the Internet and we eventually found them in the real world--they were not marked with any signage. They were across the river from a USGS river gaging station.

People who had previously visited the area had built little rock-enclosed pools to mix the hot water from the springs (and it was quite hot, but far from boiling) with the very cold water in the river. However, the mixing was very uneven. It was a strange sensation to stand in a shallow pool and have one side of your leg uncomfortably hot and the other uncomfortably cold. We spent about an hour playing in them, and several people stopped while we were there and came down to see what we were doing. We will be in vacation photos of several of them. However, I think the picture below, which shows the people who came to the springs as we were leaving, is much more interesting than any pictures of us.
The flow of hot water to the little pool above the people in the picture was slight, and the better pools were the ones at the low right corner.

On the morning we were scheduled to leave we took a longer trip away from Glenwood Springs. Our first stop was the Maroon Bells, a view of mountains over a small lake that is supposed to be the most photographed scene in Colorado. Below is one more. The light was great, but the lake had waves so that there was not a good reflection of the mountains.
I found two things somewhat depressing about the visit. First, there were many bikers heading up the road to this destination. The road was several miles long and uphill the whole way, rising from about 8500 feet above sea level to about 9500 feet above sea level. Some of those bikers looked almost as old as I am. I could not possibly do that ride. I did ride up a small hill that rose between 50 and 100 feet earlier on the trip, and I was exhausted. And after I did a mile-long hike to the end of the lake and back, I had an unpleasant feeling that I was not getting enough air. My heart beat was OK, but I felt out of breath. It was only 9500 feet--I did not think I should be so adversely affected by altitude.

We then drove through Aspen, home away from home for a whole lot of people who have a whole lot of money. I did not see houses that were all that awesome, but the money of the area was obvious as we drove past the Aspen airport. I have never seen so many small and medium sized jet airplanes in one place. The view from the highway did not let me get a good picture, but you can see how impressive this collection of aircraft is from the aerial view from google maps. Scrolling around the map, I counted about 100 jets at the airport, plus a smaller number of prop planes. I wonder what the total value of those planes is. I thought it was a bit strange that Michelle Obama was scheduled to arrive at Aspen a few days after we left on a fund-raising trip given that her husband had been making frequent references to how private jet owners were undertaxed. But Aspen loves the Obamas--a newspaper article I read said that the county that Aspen is in gave him 70% of the vote in 2008.

Our driver decided that since we were already at Aspen, we really should continue down the road a bit further and quite a bit higher to visit the second highest mountain pass in Colorado. So we did. I think that the mountain that you see in the background is Mount Elbert, which at 14431 is the highest point in Colorado.
The pass itself is an impressive 12095 feet. And there were bikers who were riding up to the pass. They were part of some group because they had a support vehicle that was providing them with refreshments when they got there.
We got back to Glenwood Springs in time to do a bit of final packing and get on the train, which was about three hours late, and begin our trip home. You will have to wait until tomorrow to get that bit of the trip. (For a different view of this family adventure, see Desert Survivor's account.)

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