As I’ve done most years, this fall I made a few road trips into the mountains for the fall leaves. My first trip was my first time taking the S2000 up to the mountains for this purpose, and I left everyone else at home. Taking in the fall leaves with the top down was a fantastic experience. My trip took me through Morrison and Evergreen, then to Squaw Pass, down to Idaho Springs, up to Central City and Nederland before coming down Boulder Canyon to go home.
Squaw Pass was definitely the highlight of the trip. There was little traffic, and there was enough fall color to be interesting. From there, I tried to find a quick bite to eat for lunch, which turned into an adventure by itself. Idaho Springs had nothing that was open and not sit-down, so I left hungry. I found a promising BBQ place in Central City, only to find it closed with a sign saying to check out their food truck at the town’s farmers’ market, so I did. The market was barely a market at all, and the food truck had only two things on the menu, neither of which was BBQ; I had a shrimp po’ boy. Central City itself has a lot of colorful aspen trees, but I was mostly distracted by trying to find food. Unfortunately, things only went downhill from there. The aspen along Peak to Peak Highway were all either past peak or still green, so there wasn’t much to see. I could have kept going up toward Allenspark, but I was ready to go home at that point. Unfortunately, I made the terrible decision to go down Boulder Canyon instead of peeling off just before to Coal Creek. Traffic at the roundabout in Nederland was backed up for 30 minutes, and things weren’t much better in the canyon. But I did finally make it down to Boulder and then home.
My second trip up to the mountains was considerably further. I had been wanting to visit Crystal Mill for some time, but doing so requires going up an 8-mile rough 4x4 road. Felix had also been asking when we could stay in a Tiny House again. I decided to combine the two, and asked my brother Taylor if he’d take us in his 4Runner. We left for the Tiny House in Leadville on a Friday evening, making it up late that night. The next morning, after a quick breakfast, we made for Independence Pass. This is one of my favorite spots for leaves in the entire state, and this year it did not disappoint. After a few stops there, we made for Marble, which is the gateway to Crystal Mill. The road is quite rocky and narrow almost the entire way. The sheer number of vehicles making their way up to the mill made the drive challenging. At one point, we had to stop with four other vehicles to let a half dozen pass going the other way. It was definitely slow-going, but the entire drive was breathtaking, and the view at the top did not disappoint. At the mill, there were 20+ vehicles, and we managed to snag one of the last parking spots. The mill is privately owned, but they had employees to direct traffic, and also to make sure people stayed on the road, which is public. Going past the rope onto their property was not allowed unless you paid them and signed a waiver. Doing so costs $10, unless you happen to have “heavy” camera equipment, and then it’s $50. I had to pay the $50. It was certainly expensive for the extra 30 feet it afforded me, but I didn’t have much choice, and the view from the river was truly fantastic. After we were done enjoying the scenery, we made the slog back down. Originally I had hoped to go back to Leadville by way of Kebler and Cottonwood passes, but we didn’t have time and went back on I-70 instead, just in time to grab some fantastic prime rib at Quincy’s. We made for home the following morning.