Glenwood Springs was our western most point on this trip, and we ‘started home’. We were heading in a southeast direction for Aspen. I had been in Aspen many years earlier, during the winter, so it seemed like a totally different place.
Far too much traffic, and too little for us to do so we continued on through Aspen for Independence Pass.
Colorado Highway 82 is the road from Aspen to Independence Pass. As you leave town the valley narrows into a canyon as the road begins to climb. From this point most of the land is part of White River National Forest. There are several short sections where past rockslides have forced the road to narrow to one lane and access is controlled via traffic lights.
Shortly afterwards, Highway 82 crosses the Roaring Fork for the last time, a few miles below its source at Independence Lake. The road then turns along the canyon’s headwall to the south. After a switchback it climbs above the tree line and into the high-elevation alpine tundra landscape of Independence Pass.
Continuing east, we passed Twin Lakes on the way to Salida.
Beyond Salida we began to run in the Arkansas River Canyon, which continued all the way to Canon City, the home of the Royal Gorge.
The gorge begins at the mouth of Grape Creek a mile upstream from downtown Canon City and continues upstream for six miles. With a width of 50 feet at its base and a few hundred feet at its top, and a depth of 1,250 feet in places, the canyon is a narrow, steep gorge through the granite of Fremont Peak. It is one of the deepest canyons in Colorado.
One of the peak attractions of the area is the Royal Gorge Bridge. The bridge crosses the gorge 955 feet above the Arkansas River, and held the record of highest bridge in the world from 1929 until 2001, when it was surpassed by a in China. It is a 1,260’ long suspension bridge with a wooden walkway with 1292 planks.
Below this is the Royal Gorge Route Railroad. The railroad transits the royal Gorge on a 2-hour scenic and historic train ride along what is considered to be the most famed portion of the former Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad. The 1950s-era train departs the Santa Fe Depot in Canon City.
We chose to ride in one of the open cars, and it was well worth it. Running through the canyon directly next to the river we passed by rafters, under the bridge and close enough to the cliffs to reach out and touch them.
Our next stop, and home for the night, was Colorado Springs. The drive from Canon City was only 45 minutes, and passed along the Front Range until we reached the edge of town.
The area had been experiencing forest fires in the days before, up to the day we arrived, but that afternoon they had strong thunderstorms with significant rainfall so the fires had been put out, but the entire town smelled like a campfire that someone had doused with water.
The thunderstorms literally had cleared about 30 minutes before we arrived, and when we went to the Garden of Gods we were the only people there.
The geologic features of the park are the ancient sedimentary beds of deep-red, pink and white sandstones that were deposited horizontally, but have now been pushed vertically into fins caused by the uplift of the Rocky Mountains. The following ice age resulted in erosion and glaciation of the rock, creating the present rock formations.
We spent the rest of the evening driving around Colorado Springs.