July 9, 2015
I recently headed to the Maroon Bells Wilderness Area with a lifelong friend this past week. I had hoped to photograph the area and add to my Maroon Bells portfolio. The weather forecast was not great, but I’d seen worse and still ended up with some great sunsets. So we met along I-70 and drove west through Vail, Eagle, and Glenwood Springs. Along the way, since we were ahead of schedule and the skies were great, we decided to take an excursion to Rifle Falls State Park. Neither of us had been to this small park, so we wanted to check it out. About 20 minutes past Glenwood Springs heading west, we turned north at Rifle and then drove another 20 minutes to the park.
While not big, this little park offers a view of three separate waterfalls that plunge 70 feet and converge into a green, lush valley. A trail makes a loop around the falls – up and over and back down. It is short (maybe a mile), easy, and offers visitors to Glenwood Springs a nice excursion if you have a few hours to kill and the weather is good.
Next, we headed to Rifle, stopping to eat at a local establishment before driving back to Glenwood Springs, down to Carbondale, then on 82 heading to the Snowmass/Aspen area. We drove up to Snowmass Village, checked into our room, and then, since the weather was still ok, drove the 35 minutes up to the Maroon Bells. While driving the final 10 miles or so the clouds rolled in. We pulled into the parking lot and decided we didn’t mind a little sprinkle, then began a short walk around the lake loop. (We had planned on hiking to Maroon Pass, a 13 mile round trip, the next morning at sunrise). For now, we just wanted to be outdoors.
The view from where you begin this walk is amazing. The two 14,000 foot peaks of Maroon and North Maroon rise above Maroon Lake and provide one of the most grand views of Colorado – and I think the most photographed of any location. This is an image from last year.
However, the peaks were hidden in a thick fog. Every once in a while, we’d see a blurred outline of something in the distance.
About 50 yards into our walk, the rains picked up. No matter, it wasn’t bad. We continued on. A minute later, the bottom fell out. We turned and walked back to the car. We are optimists. We sat in the car for another hour and a half, thinking the deluge would pass by. Finally, near dark, we returned to the room, but not before trying to find something to eat. Everything was closed. The evening was a complete wash, literally.
I set my alarm for the next morning at 430am. When I awoke a little before the alarm, I went outside to find the rains just as we had left them – very active. So I checked again at 530am, then 630am. (As a sidenote, my buddy and I had both played college tennis, so we figured at least we could watch a little Wimbledon on the hotel TV, but even those matches were rained out). Since this trek was for hiking and photography, we finally bailed on our plan and decided to head back towards Denver. Along the way, we’d find another hike. We passed Hanging Lake, a beautiful waterfall at the end of a mile-long uphill climb (it was raining when we passed by the exit). The we passed through Vail – still raining. Next, the rains followed us through Frisco and Dillon. I finally dropped off my friend at his car and drove back to our place in Winter Park. The short trip was a bust. And it still rained all night.
Oh well… the weather doesn’t always cooperate.
Next week, we’ll try again!
Feel free to visit my Colorado galleries for more (and more colorful) photography.