Hiking toward Heaven: Maroon Mystery

• My niece and husband came from Australia.
• Golden aspens and blue skies.
• Crater lake carved out by a glacier.
• Iron Mountain Hot Springs.

MY NIECE CAME TO VISIT FROM AUSTRALIA and to see the Maroon mystery. Alyse and her husband, Sam, visited LA, San Fran, and Las Vegas. Then last week they flew into ABQ and I took them for a tram ride to the top of Sandia Peak, a bit over 10,000 ft (ABQ is a mile-high city at 5,000 ft altitude).

Sam and Alyse and the Gray Nomad at Maroon Bells park after getting off the bus. Click to enlarge, then hit back-arrow to return to blog article.

A couple of days later we drove my Subaru Forester to Durango where we took lunch. On to Silverton, then the million-dollar highway to Ouray, Colorado. It’s called this because the cost to build the highway was a million dollars per mile (in the 1960s I believe). Ouray is called Little Switzerland because its surrounded by steep and high mountains. After the loud pounding waterfall of Box Canyon, we drove to Glenwood Springs and ate at a fabulous Mexican restaurant called Tequilas.

ON SATURDAY WE GOT UP AT 5 AM TO BEAT THE RUSH AND DROVE TO ASPEN, a popular ski resort. We had to buy tickets for a 25-min bus ride into the park, and the line was long already. When we disembarked from the bus, the view of the Maroon Bells was stunning, and so our hike began.

Valley of Maroon Creek carved out by glacier roughly 10,000 years ago.

OUR HIKE WAS 1.6 MILES TO CRATER LAKE, A LAKE CARVED OUT BY A GLACIER. In fact, the whole valley was carved out by the glacier.

Yellow aspens, Douglas fir trees, and blue skies.

The weather was perfect for mid-September, as you can tell by the photos.
September is the start of Fall (autumn) in the USA, when the aspens turn to gold, and we nailed it on this trip. They call them quaking aspens because the leaves quiver with the tiniest breath of air.

Golden aspens and blue skies.



The hike is moderately difficult: quite steep and rocky for a half-mile stretch. It was about 1.7 miles to Crater Lake where I turned around. Alyse and Sam hiked further up the valley.

At the top of the steep and rocky half-mile stretch.






Brunch at Crater Lake. Sadly, the lake was dry. It is fed by snowmelt but in 2018 there was very little snow. Several people said they’d never seen the lake dry. Another result of global warming?






On my way back I captured these spiky brown mountains contrasted with the yellowing aspens. My brother Clive says lighting makes the photo, and I think I nailed it here.







The Maroon Bells from halfway down the trail. The Bells are the most photographed scene in the state of Colorado, I’ve been told.








Multiple pools at Iron Mountain Hot Springs.




































AFTER THE HIKE, WE TOOK OUR TIRED LEGS TO THE NEW HOT SPRINGS. The old Hot Springs was one large pool connected to an Olympic-sized swimming pool. The new one, called Iron Mountain, has only been there a year or two.

There must be close to ten separate small pools with temperatures ranging from 101 to 104 F degrees. We laid back in the pools and gazed at the Colorado river and the mountains, and it felt like heaven!

The Iron Mountain Hot Springs abuts the Colorado river in Glenwood Springs.

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The Gray Nomad ….. Hike and be thankful.
Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers and singing and joy! The deserts will become as green as the Lebanon mountains, as lovely as Mount Carmel’s pastures and Sharon’s meadows; for the Lord will display his glory there, the excellency of our God.  [Book of Isaiah, chapter 35].

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John Cameron
John Cameron
5 years ago

Fantastic photos of the Maroon Bells plus! It’s great that you can still navigate the hiking trails with your repaired hip!

Karen A Larre
Karen A Larre
5 years ago

Looks like a truly heavenly adventure!

5 years ago

I am shocked about Crater Lake. I went there years ago and remember it was the most vibrant blue water I had ever seen. So sad…

5 years ago

Great blog post Ian, I enjoyed the dialog and the pictures are fantastic. Thanks for sharing.

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