West Elk Loop, from Hotchkiss through McClure Pass, Paonia, Redstone, and Carbondale
The area around McClure Pass is known for the brilliance of its aspens in the fall. The aspens are ailing in parts of Colorado, and there's a lot of beetle kill in the evergreens, but the colors on these mountains last weekend, from a mix of vegetation and geology, were still breathtaking.
Aspens are fascinating; they are actually colonies, rather than single, isolated trees.
Much variety along the route:
This is Mount
Sopris, an iconic part of the Roaring Fork Valley, a mountain
everyone from Glenwood Springs to Carbondale and beyond identifies as
a beacon of "home":
McClure Pass is open most of the winter, except when there's a heavy snowfall or a mudslide. As you travel through the pass, however, the "falling rock" signs aren't kidding. Boulders the size of large elephants rest on the road's shoulders.
I'd like to do the rest of the West Elk Loop some time, including the thirty-one miles (49km) of gravel road that complete the circuit. I also want to stop and take a look around in Redstone and Paonia.