Thursday, April 17, 2014

White-Outs and a Near Miss at Maroon Bells

I surfed the channels the other night and caught a documentary on the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, and fondly remembered a trip some years back to Colorado's famed Maroon Bells. The heavy snowfall the day before continued as I woke up to a virtual white-out. It was my first day in Aspen, and I was ready to hit the road and explore, with Maroon Bells as the first target on my list. Just a short 12 miles from Aspen, I thought Maroon Bells would be an ideal first stop. If only the weather would cooperate...

A break in the weather would allow me to see the famed red rocks even for just a moment, as I go for another cup of coffee and ponder my next move (for more photos on Maroon Bells, check out my previous post in my other blog here at

As I walk back to pick up my camera from the room, the weather seemed to deteriorate even more, and a break in the weather seemed remote. Still, I go back down, get another cup of coffee, and wait. Nature had other plans, apparently. "With this weather, the road up Maroon Bells could be pretty messy..." said the concierge, as I gaze out the window, seeing my very first white-out. Talk then shifted to the Colorado Rockies, and if they can ever replicate the run they had in 2007, before being swept by the Boston Red Sox in the finals. Hopefully, I'll have better luck than the Rockies. Travelling during the off-season has its perks, but with a few downsides as well.

Then, I decided. If I'm going to go for it, might as well go early. "Good luck." said the concierge, as I waived goodbye. Armed with another cup of coffee, I punch in the coordinates at the GPS, and go for it. It was my first time to drive on ice, and I was told to maintain a deliberate yet low speed. The regular intervals of snowplows on the major roads make it easier to navigate the icy roads. As I neared Maroon Bells, I could feel the sunlight at the side of my face, could this be the break in the weather? And as I enter the deserted park, I excitedly looked for the perfect parking slot. Sometimes, it's even harder to park in a deserted parking lot.

The grey skies lifted its veil over Maroon Bells, and for just a few minutes, revealed the famed red rocks. Composed mostly of hardened sedimentary mudstone for its distinctive deep red and maroon hues, Maroon Bells is among Colorado's most photographed spots. Taking advantage of the break in the weather, I snap away at the red rocks, which can be difficult with thick gloves.

I then walk down the short trail to the lake and look for the best vantage point of the twin peaks, as the grey skies slowly reclaimed the landscape. And I almost had it...

And just like that, Maroon Bells was once again cloaked in a thick grey fog, hiding its distinctive red rocks for another day. I never did get a chance to go back, but my memories of Maroon Bells are just as vivid. A near miss, but absolutely no regrets.  Seeing the iconic red rocks, even for just a few minutes, made all the difference.  

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