Once the car was deemed good to go, we motored back up to the Maroon Bells wilderness area. Normally, cars are not allowed (you have to take a bus) from 9 AM to 5 PM during the summer, but overnight campers get a car permit (yet another reason, besides how amazingly gorgeous it is, to camp there) and even though we hadn’t actually stayed in the campground due to the aforementioned car issues, the people at the kiosk didn’t know that and waved us through. We passed through some beautiful scenery that would have been more spectacular had it not been foggy and kind of rainy. We decided to park at one of the more outlying areas and hike in to Maroon Lake and then do an additional hike from there, but it was pouring rain for a while so we sat in the car and read books to wait it out. Luckily, the weather turned nice pretty quickly, so we changed into our hiking gear and headed out on the trail.
The early part of our hike went through a jungly aspen forest, the trees towering above us, our feet sloshing through thick black or red mud and a ridiculous amount of horse crap. There was so much poop that it was basically impossible to avoid, especially since so much of the uphill trail was slick goopy mud. We wondered at several points just what the fresh hell the people who had ridden those horses had fed them to get them to produce so much; it was seriously every 5-10 feet.
After quite a bit of uphill, the trail began to descend and we came upon a clearing with a hitching post. Not exactly the sort of thing you see every day.
Then suddenly we were at Maroon Lake, where the tour bus drops people off. It was absolutely breathtaking, and photos cannot do it justice, but here are a few I snapped.
We opted to hike a trail to Crater Lake that was rated “moderate” (the other trails were all easy and we wanted somewhat of a challenge), a 3.6 mile roundtrip hike that turned out to be exactly what we were hoping for. The scenery was great, the trail wasn’t too populated, and we finally made it to the upper lake and got yet another view of one of the prettiest parts of Colorado, the Maroon Bells (both 14K+ foot mountains overlooking the valley).
The only real drawback was that right as we arrived at Crater Lake, some very loud men from Long Guyland decided to share their inane conversation with everyone in a half-mile radius. Starving, we found a log to sit on and ate our PBJs and plums and some trail mix. As is usual in populated hiking areas of our fair state, there were plenty of small animals around begging people for food. To our chagrin, a greedy chipmunk decided we’d be good marks and kept running up to us, behind us, and around us, and though we attempted to discourage him from coming near, he wouldn’t take no for an answer. I snapped his photo a few times in retalliation, but he wouldn’t stay still so I only got one good shot of him.
Then suddenly Dan screamed loudly, almost making me wet myself, and asked “Is it still on me?”
“WTF?” I said. Or at least, that’s what I thought. “Is what still on you?”
“That stupid chipmunk just jumped on my shoulder!” he said, and we looked but didn’t see the little bastard anywhere. Maybe Dan’s yell scared him off.
Finished with our lunches, we made our way toward the lake and took some photos, glad that the loud New Yawkers had left and it was quiet again. On the way back down to Maroon Lake, we finally saw what had been making the CHEE noise at us on the way up: a pika.
Of course, being me, I had to have some fun with the macro setting on my camera. At least these days I’m only taking photos of flower types I haven’t already photographed.
When we got back to Maroon Lake, we opted to walk along the road back to our car rather than brave the horsepoop and mud again. From there, we drove south from Aspen along highway 82, went up and over Independence Pass, and down to the Twin Lakes area where we found a campground and set up camp in preparation for our big hike on Sunday. Normally I’m not a fan of hot dogs, but turkey dogs, corn on the cob, and a burnt-in-the-coals potato were absolutely delicious. And we looked into the sky and there was the Milky Way, something I hadn’t seen in a very long time. There’s nothing like stargazing to make one feel very small.