8.09.2005

Visitors

This past weekend I had my parents along with my nephew in town for a visit. They arrived on Thursday after I got off work, and we went out for pizza. Friday we took a little mini-trip to Crested Butte. We drove down there, toured my project, and then walked around town for a while after lunch. We stayed the night in Gunnison to give us the opportunity to take a long scenic drive to get back to my house. We first headed up a paved road through the old mining communities of Ohio City and Pitkin, where the road turns to dirt as it heads along the creek towards a high mountain pass. The road switches back a few times as it rises, but in general it is in good shape and could be driven by a car. The top of the road is Cumberland Pass at 12,015’ which is a large flat area with great views to the north and south. From here the road drops down a steep slope with several switchbacks down to the valley on the north side below. The upper section of the road is a little rocky, but still passable for most passenger cars. The road leads to another old mining town, Tincup. The town is still semi-occupied, as many of the cabins are used as summer retreats, in the winter I think it is only accessible by snowmobile as the roads are not maintained in winter. From here we left and headed up towards Mirror Lake, still on dirt roads. Above Mirror Lake the road gets much rougher, and requires a high clearance 4WD vehicle or an ATV to continue. My mom and nephew were in back getting tossed around as the rear seats in my car are right over the rear tires. It was like a bit of a rollercoaster ride. The road keeps climbing up steep rocky terrain to the summit of Tincup Pass on the Continental Divide at 12,154’. Here again we got out of the car to check out the expansive views from the heart of the Sawatch Mountains. The descent down the east side of the pass was a little less rugged, and the road gradually improves as it approaches another seasonal community, St Elmo. From here the road was still dirt, but regularly graded before turning to pavement along the south flanks of Mt Princeton. We stopped for lunch and ice cream and then headed back to my town.

Sunday my car got a rest, and we walked over to the Beaver Creek shuttle and headed up to the village. We took the chairlift up, did a quick nature hike (about a mile) and headed back down to the village for lunch and a quick walk through the annual art festival. After lunch we went back up the lift again, this time we saw a deer on one of the ski runs below us. At the top we took another hike, which went through some of the areas that they use in winter for kid’s ski school. There was a ghost town, bear cave, and mine tunnel along the way for us to stop and explore. Then it was back down the chair and on to some souvenir shopping. Monday it was time to give them a taste of what its like to climb mountains. We drove up the Mt Evans Highway, the highest paved road in North America. It tops out near the summit of the peak, but the last hundred or so feet need to be walked on a gently switchbacking tourist trail. The summit itself is at 14,264’ and the peak is the 14th highest in the state. My nephew and I had fun crawling around on the rocks on the summit, and he declared that climbing is more fun than driving. Absolutely! When he is older I can see him coming out to climb a peak with me. After we thoroughly freaked out my mom, we headed down to Summit Lake and walked around for a little while and admired Mt Evans’ north face, then headed to the gift shop. I got a kick out of the “I made it” bumper stickers… ahem, your CAR made it; you were just along for the ride. Tuesday it was back to work for me, and back to Chicago for my family. It was a fun visit and I am glad I got to share a taste of my climbing experiences with my family.