Day 5: Rocky Mountain National Park
Tuesday, July 7th, 2009
The next morning we woke up to a wonderful and clear blue sky, after the huge storm of the night before had cleared. We left the hotel right after breakfast, with the goal of reaching Boulder, CO before lunch time, a three hour drive across the high plains, following I-70 to Denver, and then taking Route 36 to Boulder.
Once we reached Boulder, we took Boulder Canyon Drive (route 119), a beautiful road that follows Boulder Creek all the way up to the Barker Reservoir, at 8000 feet altitude. Along the road we stopped to take a brief walk and a few pictures.
Once we arrived at the Barker Reservoir, it was almost 2PM. We drove around the lake and stopped in Nederland for a break and to grab some lunch at the Pioneer Inn.
After a nice burger and a short walk around town to stretch our legs, we hopped in the car and continued to follow route 119 all the way through the Rockies, crossing several small towns, and then down to I-70.
Loveland Pass, elevation 11,990 ft (3,650 m) above sea level, is a high mountain pass in the Rocky Mountains of northern Colorado, located on the Continental Divide. U.S. Route 6 traverses the pass.
We drove the twisty and steep road to the pass, parked the car and took a very brief walk to enjoy the view and photograph some of the beautiful flowers. At that altitude it's difficult to breath because of the lack of oxygen, and even the short walk we took was quite tiring, but the stunning view over the Rockies was well worth it.
Loveland is the highest mountain pass in the world that regularly stays open during a snowy winter season. When the Eisenhower Tunnel opened in March 1973, it allowed motorists on I-70 to avoid crossing the pass directly. Some trucks, though, cannot pass through the tunnel (those carrying hazardous materials) and they must still take US 6 across Loveland Pass, 800 vertical feet (244 m) above the tunnel.
In the silence of the mountains, at that altitude, it's an almost surreal thing to hear these huge trucks tackling each hairpin turn at very low gears, and to see them reaching all the way up to the pass.
The picture below was taken along Hwy I-70 after having visited the Rocky Mountain National Park, on our way to Leadville, CO where we spent a couple of very unique days.
The Summit (9,150 ft.) offers a wonderful view of Dillon Reservoir, between the towns of Dillon and Frisco.
Right before dinner time, we finally reached the town of Leadville, officially ending the first leg of our trip.
I had picked this town to rest for a couple of days, for its strategic position in the heart of the Rockies. What i didn't realize when I booked the hotel there, is that the town is located at an elevation of 10,152 feet (3,094 m), which makes it the highest incorporated city in the United States.
Needless to say, it wasn't easy to sleep at that altitude.