Beautiful views dazzled all along our way on a recent road trip to the Thermopolis, WY last week. It was a winter wonderland throughout the Boysen Reservoir, the Wind River Canyon and Thermopolis itself as we visited family in the area. Looking forward to a return trip when we can catch more light in the canyon itself. Wyoming never disappoints.
Departing the hotel in Snowmass, we took an indirect path back so that we could hit a few sights along the way. One of these was to drive Independence Pass, which ultimately tops out at over 12,000ft. Fair warning – the speed limit nearly the entire way is between 25-35mph for good reason. This drive is not for the faint of heart.
The views are breathtaking. This is truly God’s Country here; totally protected and preserved and just amazing. The contrasting peaks, summer snow, warm sunshine and shallow creeks and rivers seemed right out of a magazine. The roads are very narrow and you will be turning your wheel to take hairpin after hairpin but with a little backbone, it’s absolutely worth it. Pull over as many times as you like to take photos and thank the universe someone had the good sense years ago to set this land aside to be what it is today.
Once we exited Independence Pass, we briefly stopped by a place called Twin Lakes as we started back east. Due to time constraints and needing to get home, we couldn’t explore here but it was a great view here from the side of the road at least.
While this is another similar lake view, this is actually Dillon Reservoir by Frisco also in Colorado. Another location I’d noticed on the map but had never seen in person before. It was just a few miles off the main highway to get to this spot. This wasn’t the spot I wanted to shoot from though. An impromptu wedding had taken over the overlook where we hiked to. It was an elderly couple tying the knot with maybe 10 family members present and was just about the sweetest moment I’ve seen and worth pausing a respectable distance away to witness their vows and silently wish them well before I left.
Somehow that moment seemed the perfect way to end our trip as we motored on back towards Denver then Fort Collins.
Early morning (4 a.m. wake-up call) had wheels on the road by 4:30 a.m. driving towards the Maroon Bells 45 minutes away from where we were staying in Snowmass Village. This was the very first look of the Bells entering into the gatehouse area to the park (there is a fee to drive in and park). This is just after 5 a.m., stopped in the middle of the road with my headlights on without a soul around.
The shot of the morning sun bathing the Bells and the lakeside valley below is “the” essential picture to get. And one can usually find a good handful of serious photographer always setting up and getting this shot any given morning.
Being the animal lover that I am, I was fascinated by the photo of geese floating about in the reflection of the peaks as we waited for the sun. Needless to say, the geese have it good in this particular lake.
Seeing the moon still hanging over one side of the lake, high above, was an interesting contrast with the sun rising quickly behind me.
I’m still learning the finer art of light control and struggled a bit to keep focus on the peaks but still avoid washing out the Bells themselves with the bright sun and snow reflection. This shot ironically was the best one of the bunch for this vantage point and it was taken with my iPhone.
I was enthralled by the lake itself. It was perfectly clear and the reflection of the trees on the mountains beside it was serene. My next trip back here (hopefully in the fall or winter) would definitely include more focus on these views.
On leaving the park, I turned around to take one last look, and even though it’s not the usual composition, it’s my favorite shot of the Bells.
After a hearty breakfast in Aspen and a nearly 3 hour rest while the hottest part of the day passed, the next stop was back to Glenwood Springs.
A quick trip to Linwood Cemetery include a chance to see the final resting places of Doc Holliday and Kid Curry.
The end of the evening held a 45 minute trip through the Kings Row Caverns at the Glenwood Adventure Park. A 10 minute gondola ride took us up to the park which sites on the top of a hill.
The caverns (there were 2 tours that can be chosen from or taken one after another) were really interesting. Just long enough to make it worth your tickets but not so long that you get anxious for being underground.
The varying shades of rock and sediment were endless. I was torn between simply listening to the tour guide and looking with my own eyes and remembering to take pictures. Truly fascinating and was so much more than just these three photos convey.
It was a very, very long day with other stops and driving between locations, but worth it. I snagged this shot when we pulled to the side of the road to photograph a particular mountain in the other direction, but I found the valley so peaceful and with so much detail, I couldn’t help but focus in that direction.
This month included the opportunity to take off a few days of work for a 3 day getaway into the Snowmass/Aspen, Colorado areas. En route there, a hiking trip happened near Glenwood Springs to see Hanging Lake.
The mouth of Glenwood Canyon heading towards Hanging Lake. There’s a well-kept rest area with restrooms there. Word of advice: Bring water.
Surprisingly, vibrant pink rose bushes line the sidewalk towards the hiking trail. Despite the lovely flowers here, the consistent small waterfalls and creeks that spill over rocks the entire way up, you are going to hike hard and sweat a lot. So bring that water. And there were Marmots! I had never seen one before. Like little nerf footballs, with fur…and legs!
Parts of the trail up to and down from Hanging Lake were never flat and sometimes quite rocky.
The views become more canyon-like the higher you climb as you near the top and the lake. Most hikers will encourage you on as they descend, assuring you it’s worth it.
And then you arrive. After the strenuous hike, you’re not sure if you’ve just been transported to a tropical island somewhere. Truly, how can this be at the top of a mountain in the middle of Colorado?
Carbonate minerals dissolved in the water give the lake it’s coloration. I had to look that up as I’ve heard a lot of people say it’s the limestone or other factors, but I didn’t know what exactly produced that gorgeous water.
Small trout swim in the shallows against the current coming from the waterfalls and are hypnotic to watch when you’re catching your breath on one of the many wood benches that line the lakeside.