We needed to change our plans today but it was still a great day.
I had originally intended to drive north to Crested Butte and then go up a long valley to Emerald Lake, go over a pass on the north side of Mount Baldy and the loop back to Crested Butte via another valley.
When we got to Crested Butte and went to the visitor’s center we found out the road to Emerald Lake is still closed with snow and ice. They have had heavier than normal snow this year. The reason I picked this route was that I read someone’s blog that did the loop last year on today’s date.
We ended going up the road to Emerald Lake as far as we could. We then backtracked and went up the next valley south which allowed us to do a shortened loop.
On the way into Crested Butte. You can sort of see the crest on the mountain to the right. There is a ski hill on the far side.
Crested Butte seemed like a very upscale town. There did not seem to be a “poor” section. I imagine you have to be pretty wealthy to live here. We just hit the visitor’s center and went on through.
Just a little up the valley behind the mountain is the ski resort of Mount Crested Butte.
It is a typical ski resort town. Condos everywhere. Again, we didn’t stop.
The area is heavily into mountain biking. They were everywhere. No matter how remote a road we were on, we had to be careful because a bike could be around the next corner.
We headed north on the road to Emerald Lake.
We passed through the old mining town of Gothic. It is now home to the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory. It sounds kind of sinister but it is really just a place where biology students come to do field work studying the local ecology.
The bottom of the sign says “Please stay on main road”. It made it seem even more sinister. “Move along, nothing to see here”.
There was an information center and a restaurant in this building that seems quite busy.
Just past town we went by this long line of parked cars. We wondered what was so popular.
It turned out that just a bit farther the road was essentially closed to any normal vehicles. From here on it was ATV’s and mountain bikes.
I talked to a lady that lived in Crested Butte and she said the CRV could probably make it through but in less than a mile there was another worse mud hole. She also said the road was soon blocked by shear ice as it got higher. It seemed like the right place to turn around.
She mentioned that back where all the cars were parked, there was a short hike up the hillside to a waterfall.
The trail is 3 km round trip. You start by climbing up a rocky road that is used to reach a weather station.
We thought, “OK a least it will be downhill on the way back” but then the road went down.
After the weather station the trail became a path.
With some great views.
We stopped at the waterfall and had lunch.
I never did get a properly exposed picture of the waterfall.
Heading back to the car.
A rather distorted panorama.
We drove back towards Crested Butte and started up the road in the next valley down, which is called Washington Gulch. The man at the visitor’s center had led me to believe that this one would also dead end in the snow.
There were people camping everywhere. I think everything is busy because of the upcoming July 4th weekend.
There was a rather large house a long way up the Gulch, well after the road had gotten narrow and a bit nasty.
We kept climbing without any sign of snow or ice. The view back towards Crested Butte.
Then we got to what looked like the high point of the road because it started to descend quickly. Thankfully there was a group of guys in ATVs parked here. I asked them what the story was.
It turns out the that this road connects to the road that comes down the other side of the closed pass that we could not get to on the Emerald Lake side. They said if we continued for about a mile we would come to a T intersection. Going right we could try and climb up this side of the pass as far as we could go. Going left would take us down into the Slate River valley, which was the road I had originally intended to take to complete the loop back to Crested Butte.
So onwards down to the intersection. Going down was much rougher than going up, which had been really steep in places but relatively smooth.
But the view was great.
At the T we headed up. We stopped at this point for a view of an old glacier valley.
Just up the road we saw a Jeep turning around. As he went by they stopped to explain what happened. They had climbed higher but the rocks on the road got very sharp and they had gotten a flat. Not a good sign since here I am with regular highway tires.
We / I decided to continue on until the rocks got bad.
You can sort of see the line of the road heading up to the left in the above picture. The rocks falling from the hillside were really sharp. We went a bit farther than the corner you see in the picture. Ahead we could see that it got very rocky and very steep. Time to not push our luck any more.
I backed up until I found a spot on the road that was about 3 feet longer than the wheelbase of the CRV. Let’s just say that Jennie did not have a fun time as I did a many point turn with the front of the CRV pointed over the edge.
Heading back down.
Past the intersection and into the Slate River Valley. There were still a lot of steep rough section. Touch wood, I am amazed at the beating these tires have taken.
We noticed some people parked at the end of that small road off the end of the switchback. It looked interesting so we stopped.
A long ribbon waterfall.
Jennie wanted to check out the snow on the river.
One weird thing was that the parking lot was littered with shell casings. Everything from a .22 (even a live one) up to a bunch of .45s
We eventually headed off down the lower section of the switchback.
Following the river as it meandered its way down the valley.
There were lots more people camped and fishing.
Even a group of artists at a particularly picturesque spot.
Once we got back to town we just headed back south to home.