We made it into Aspen by the evening and walked into town for some quick Japanese food. I was still surprisingly full from my BBQ glory earlier that day, so I settled on teriyaki salmon skewers, miso soup and fried banana-coconut springs rolls for dessert (ok, so it wasn’t that much less food than normal). It was tasty and the air was warm enough to eat outside. After, feeling beat and needing to veg out, we picked up a bottle of red wine and a wine cork, which cost exactly as much as the wine, and had cocktail hour in our hotel room. There was a beautiful heated pool outside that we were too sleepy to take advantage of, and for which Katie has still not forgiven me for neglecting. The next morning we went to explore the John Denver memorial park, which was our primary reason for staying in Aspen outside of ski season. Katie and I are both big fans of his nostalgia-producing music, and Katie’s mother is an especially big fan and was quite excited to hear the details. We snapped pictures of song lyrics carved into rocks and meandered through pretty walkways.
Heading out of town, we grabbed a quick bagel at Annette’s Bake Shop which was hot and delicious with a satisfying chew of fresh baked bread. On the road again with destination Crested Butte before ending in Telluride. We chose to visit Crested Butte solely because of the name and our own immaturity, and also because we visited a Butte, Montana on our first trip which turned out to be one of our favorite small-town stops.
We continued our drive until we accidentally stumbled upon a super cool ghost town nestled down the hill from highway 85, east of Aspen. It was called Independence and had been abandoned since around 1890 due to the rough nature of the mountain climate. I am wildly obsessed with ghost towns and nearly missed it as we went around a curve, but when I saw it I screamed to Katie to stop the car RIGHT NOW at which point she skidded to a grinding halt on a small turnout, thinking that I’d seen a bear. Forgiving my giddy panic, we made our way down the hill on a roughly constructed path and explored the crumbling miner’s cabins and general store that had been left to settle into the earth. It was eerie and serene at the same time to see this place which had once been bustling during active mining days. Some buildings were nearly gone while others maintained their entire original shape and small details of interior structure. I took a few too many pictures for my own good…
Further on, our drive unknowingly led us up mountains once more, just when we thought we would probably not see any more the way we did at Rocky Mountain National Park. Average looking roads lay flat on the land and then just like that they rise 10,000 feet and cling to skinny mountain cliffs and plateau onto summits. The driving experience is definitely not for the faint of heart, but certainly recommended for those who enjoy an experience that is anything but linear. We stopped at the peak to leap through the snow once more like children and unknowingly stumbled upon the continental divide before moving onward.
The road to Crested Butte is about 25 miles long and you have to take the same one both in and out of the town, which made us question our choice. Surprisingly, the town was much bigger and more developed than we expected from what we’d read briefly on Wikipedia. We parked and grabbed some iced coffees, snapping pictures of a few well-preserved, several-hundred-year-old buildings which still stood alongside modern cafes and shops. On our way out, we noticed a “runaway truck ramp” at the end of a steep grade in the road, which was exactly what it sounded like. I definitely didn’t want to be around when an out-of-control truck needed to use the ramp to slow down.
Telluride-bound and hoping to find some small town saloons with gritty awesomeness, and more country music to sway to. Yes, we’re city girls, but one visit to Nashville was all it took to change my tune to “those kinds” of tunes 🙂