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Day trips from Aspen (Tundra's first camping trip)

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by hokiehead, Sep 11, 2018.

  1. Sep 11, 2018 at 10:51 AM
    #1
    hokiehead

    hokiehead [OP] New Member

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    Background: we moved to Colorado five years ago and the Maroon Bells were one of the first camping trips for just Mags and I. We had seen pictures of the area, and of course heard much of the resort town that is Aspen, but we were unprepared for the spectacular beauty that we saw. Since then, we've returned nearly every year, except last year, but haven't camped there since.

    Before moving to Colorado, our family were not active caapers. I had taken the kids a couple times when they were younger, but Mags wasn't interested. In Colorado though, there's a number of sights and areas we want to see and not much realistic options for lodging besides camping.

    To secure a campsite at the Maroon Bells scenic area, you usually have to reserve early. I booked back in March for what we hoped would be near peak-leaf season, not having a set agenda at the time -- "we'll plan an agenda when we get closer".

    Between reserving and actually using the campsite, something wonderful happened to my life -- the Tundra entered. So, a lot of our activity planning for this trip became 4WD roads. For those who've read my other trip reports and posts, one of the motivations in getting a 4WD vehicle was so the wife could visit some of the remote back-country areas that the kids and I regularly hike and climb to. She has completely embraced this new activity.

    Attendees: hokiehead, Mags (wife), Little H (23 yo daughter)

    Prep:
    My wife is a semi-reluctant camper, and to get her to come with us requires ensuring quality meals. Mags is not going for the dehyrated meal packs that backpackers commonly use. The effort is signficant, but Little H is awesome at helping.

    Wednesday night involved 3.5 hours of prep time for the two of them, while I organized and packed everything else.

    Meats were sauteed or seasoned and then vacuum sealed. Veggies seasoned, oiled and bagged in zip locks. What started as a recipe for breakfast casserole gets baked to later become a breakfast scramble at the campsite. A batch of homemade risotto was made as well -- it reheats well and we like comfort food when camping.

    Thursday, I washed the mountain of dishes the ladies created and packed up the truck.

    Friday early morning, the cooler gets packed before Mags and I head to work.
     
  2. Sep 11, 2018 at 11:03 AM
    #2
    hokiehead

    hokiehead [OP] New Member

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    Day 0: Drive from Boulder to Aspen across Independence Pass

    The plan was to work 1/2 day Friday, pick up Little H, grab lunch and then head West.

    Independence Pass is seasonally opened, paved 2WD road connecting Leadville to Aspen. When closed, it adds 1.5 - 2 additional hours to get to Aspen from points East. When open, it presents a gorgeous mountain route available to anyone with a car. in the fall as the aspens turn, Indy Pass offers an array of beautiful colors and mountain views.
    IMG_3217.jpg
    IMG_3280.jpg
    We also saw a large herd of mountain goats on the side of the road.
    IMG_3238.jpg IMG_3243.jpg

    We originally had planned on grabbing dinner in town on the way, but there was plenty of daylight left as we approached Aspen, so we decided to get camp setup and cook one of our meals.

    One of the benefits comes with experience is efficiency. Having a family who has camped together several times now, and having had much of the same gear for a while, we've gotten damn good at getting the site set up and getting dinner going. 30 minutes after arriving, the tent is setup, air mattresses filled and dinner of swordfish, brocolini and risotto is on the grill.
    IMG_3281.jpg
    20180907_191947_resized.jpg
     
  3. Sep 11, 2018 at 11:06 AM
    #3
    Marty McFly

    Marty McFly Nobody calls me chicken!! Except when off roading

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  4. Sep 11, 2018 at 11:07 AM
    #4
    MikeCim209

    MikeCim209 Not all those who wander are lost.

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    None yet, but soon..
    Looks like a lot of fun, thanks for sharing the photos
     
    hokiehead [OP] likes this.
  5. Sep 11, 2018 at 11:39 AM
    #5
    hokiehead

    hokiehead [OP] New Member

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    Day 1: Climb Pyramid Peak and drive ASpen Mountain Road/Richmond Hill

    Pyramid Peak was the first thing I put on the agenda. As an aspiring mountaineer, Little H and I are working on the list of Colorado 14ers. This trip presented a great opportunity to attempt a summit of one of the more difficult.

    The weather forecast looked like Saturday was our best shot, and that had the added benefit of giving us time for a second attempt if Saturday's failed.
    But it didn't fail. Little H and I woke up at 3:30AM, ate some oatmeal and got Mags to drive us to the trailhead at Maroon Lake, about 3 miles away. Daughter and I successfully summitted our 19th Colorado 14er together and grabbed some great photos, including an angle of the Maroon Bells not seen by many. That climb was a beat down though, pushing us near our limits.


    20180908_061704_resized.jpg
    Alpenglow

    20180908_062520_resized.jpg

    First sight of Pyramid's summit

    IMG_3302.jpg
    The Maroon Bells from Pyramid's summit

    Little H and I return to the trailhead at Maroon Lake, to be greeted by a bull moose. not surprising, Mags was there with the crowd checking out the moose, after patiently waiting all day. The girl and I were exhausted by this point, and honestly wanted a nap and some food.


    IMG_3374.jpg
    Traditional view of the Maroon Bells

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    Moose in Maroon Lake​

    However, it was time for spousal management -- "sure honey, let's finish the day with a wheelin' trip!", I say with feigned energy and enthusiasm.

    The road up Aspen Mountain offered some nice views of Aspen and surrounding areas before connecting with Richmond Road and heading back down the mountain and connecting to a paved road.

    IMG_3478.jpg

    IMG_3438.jpg IMG_3390.jpg IMG_3445.jpg
    IMG_3385.jpg IMG_3459.jpg

    Aspen Mountain Road could be done by a passenger car easily. Richmond Hill could be done by a stock 4WD Tundra.

    This was Little H's first taste of a 4WD road, and i'm not sure she enjoyed it that much. She was ready for it to be over long before it was.

    The trip out above Aspen provided me with a data connection and I caught up the college scores: Hokies take care of business against Bill and Mary. Badgers likewise with New Mexico. And the Buffs go into Lincoln and knock off the Cornhuskers. my teams are 3-0 and life is damn good!

    Dinner we were looking forward to: ribeyes, twice baked potatoes and broccoli.

    20180908_201030_resized.jpg IMG_3498.jpg

    IMG_3339.jpg
     
    ntg, equin, vanthesupreme and 11 others like this.
  6. Sep 11, 2018 at 11:47 AM
    #6
    COMiamiFan

    COMiamiFan SSEM #3. Don't forget to try the search bar.

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    Glad to see you were able to enjoy with no fire ban. Only got to go camping once this summer; too much other stuff planned that got in the way.
     
    hokiehead [OP] likes this.
  7. Sep 11, 2018 at 11:47 AM
    #7
    Bailey

    Bailey Enjoy Every Sandwich

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    Looks like a great trip! :D






    Thanks for the invite :boink:
     
    hokiehead [OP] likes this.
  8. Sep 11, 2018 at 1:10 PM
    #8
    rocky_mtn_trd

    rocky_mtn_trd Voided Warranty

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    Now I'm jealous and hungry :p
     
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  9. Sep 11, 2018 at 1:49 PM
    #9
    hokiehead

    hokiehead [OP] New Member

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    Day 2: Maroon Scenic loop hike, 4WD trip to Crystal and Kebler Pass

    After getting up at an ungodly early hour the day before, we all slept in before heating up some breakfast scramble. We drove down to Maroon Lake for a 1.9 mile loop hike. No wildlife spotted, but we were warned of a bull moose just off the trail about 0.75 miles in. While we didn't see him, we definately heard him harumphing in the brush just a few feet away. After the short walk loosening up our legs after the previous day's abuse, we were ready for another day in the truck.

    IMG_3527.jpg
    good morning Bells!​

    The drive to the Marble takes us through a handful of posh resort towns. All three of us have embarrassing coffee addictions so we stop and grab and it's possible the three campers among us took advantage of porcelain toilets.

    we also passed through the town of Redstone, which features these historic coke ovens. We'd visited before and didn't linger long -- the day had bigger things in store

    IMG_3535.jpg
    Coke ovens of Redstone​

    Now, really excited for what's coming. Crystal Mill is an iconic historic feature in Colorado and had been on my list for a while.

    Based on reports and advice, we decided to NOT do the full Devil's Punchbowl route but only out/back to the ghost town of Crystal. The drive out to the Mill was fine -- normal intermediate 4WD route. A section is fairly narrow and shelf'ish, but no issue for a stock 4WD Tundra. I think we were in 2WD most of the way.

    IMG_3648.jpg
    Lizard Lake off road to Crystal


    IMG_3546.jpg
    Road to Crystal

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    Crystal Mill

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    Tundra on easy part of road

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    nice 4x4 trail through the Aspens

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    beautiful truck in front of the Mill

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    iconic Crystal Mill

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    Ghost town of Crystal​

    After Crystal, we headed out Kebler Pass to Crested Butte. This seasonally open 2WD is one of Mags' favorite leaf-peeping routes.

    IMG_3551.jpg
    sights along Kebler Pass​

    After finishing that, we were all tired and had enough car time. Plan was to eat bratwurst for dinner at the campsite, but we were tracking to get back after 9PM so decided to stop and get pizza in Carbondale on the way back. White House Pizza -- very good pizza, would eat again.

    I was DVR'ing the Packer game and planned to watch it when we got home, but since it was on at the pizza place we watched starting in the 3rd quarter. We finished, paid and left with 2:40 left in the game and the Pack down 6. I'd finish watching when we get home. I did see the Broncos, my number 2 team, got a win.
     
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  10. Sep 11, 2018 at 1:51 PM
    #10
    COMiamiFan

    COMiamiFan SSEM #3. Don't forget to try the search bar.

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    Nice pics. I've been to the coke ovens. Had no idea they even existed until I drove by one day and slammed on the brakes to stop and take a peek. Learning new stuff from you on this thread. Love it! Gotta check out Crystal Mill.
     
    hokiehead [OP] and Marty McFly like this.
  11. Sep 11, 2018 at 2:02 PM
    #11
    hokiehead

    hokiehead [OP] New Member

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    Woke up at the campsite one final time, ate a final breakfast scramble and broke camp.

    Said goodbye to the Bells and pointed the Tundra home.

    858489826_20180910_085433_3284611_resized.jpg
    another week and these will be even more spectacular
    Took Indy Pass back home. saw change in the leaves over three days. another week and it'll be peak in Aspen.
    859413347_20180910_104617_7253244_resized.jpg


    Got home and started unpacking. Always feels like I'm doing all the post-camping routine solo. The kids are grown, and typically get dropped off first. Wife and I get home, and after the first load come in and the perishable foods are unpacked, it's "my back's a little sore... I'm really exhausted... I'm going to take a bath. Is that OK? are you sure?"

    but I'm a damn lucky man to have a wife and grown kids who like camping with him. Unpacking the truck, scrubbing the camp stove, airing out the tent, etc.. by myself is a small price to pay.

    We ate brats and finished watching the Packers come back and beat the Bears!

    and I reflected for not the last time on how dirty the interior of the cab gets during 4x4 trips. and then I cleaned the interior of the truck.

    love camping with the truck -- probably won't go back to using the Subie again as we're spoiled with the space.
    need more Rubber Maid tubs for organizing and storing stuff in the bed.
    need the bed light mod to get and store stuff in the dark.
    need the mod to connect the bed lock to the automatic lock that the fob opens.

    Thanks for reading. No more trip reports for a bit -- my calendar is full with non-Tundra based stuff for the next month or so.
     
  12. Sep 11, 2018 at 2:06 PM
    #12
    hokiehead

    hokiehead [OP] New Member

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    yep, fire ban lifted before we got there. I was prepared either way though. We drove by Paonia Reservoir -- didn't get any pix, but it's completely dry. scary times -- we need a big snow winter.
     

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