The chill seems to follow me around. I missed my flight last weekend and was stuck in the blizzard in the northeast. Manhattan was frozen stiff and central park was a pearly white. It was cold there but Denver is worse. They recorded –13 degrees Fahrenheit! So today when I got ready for my trip to the Rocky Mountains, I wore 5 layers of clothing and an optimistic grin.
As we drove westward the altitude began to increase steadily. The Red Rocks Amphitheatre at an elevation of around 6400 ft was a sight to behold. People told me Red Rocks held the hallowed distinction of being the best natural amphitheatre in North America. The Beatles had played here. U2 will play here tomorrow. Some of the biggest bands of all time have played here. Gigantic Red Rocks (sandstone in composition) were the prominent feature of the landscape. Geologists would point out that the rocks of this area predate the Rockies and are hence not foothills, but actually “Ancestral Rockies”.
Moving on, we made our way through Clear Creek Canyon, an area marked by three frozen rivers and plentiful alpine forestation, into a snowy peak known as the Loveland Pass. Its elevation was a mighty 11990 ft. This was the great continental divide. The water on one side flowed into the Pacific Ocean and on the other side flowed into the Atlantic Ocean. The wind roared straight into the face at speeds of 50 miles an hour, and the conifers was conspicuous by their absence. This was the Tundra region where the vegetation consisted primarily of stunted shrubs on the leeward side of the slope. Nevertheless, the view was nothing short of spectacular.
Our next stop was the town of Breckenridge, known mainly as a skiing destination. On our way we came across a number of skiing spots buzzing with activity. High up in the Rockies, Breckenridge had a spectacular skyline studded with beautiful mountain peaks. The streets were packed with tourists who made a beeline for souvenir shops and restaurants.
Sometime later we turned back and crossed the Continental Divide again through what was touted as the longest and highest car tunnel in the world. The conifers bunched together so closely- evidently there was a lot of water and nutrients in the soil. Besides gold. Isn’t that what Colorado is famous for? The third great gold rush led to the creation of towns such as Idaho and even Denver. There are apparently 20000 gold mines in the region. We made a stop at one and marveled at the deposition and concentration of gold in the mines. Created in the 19th century the mine was carefully planned and rich with history. In those days miners (most miners in a mine were part of a single family as it was difficult to trust everybody with gold!) would labor for days with manual implements. Then came the drills, and later more advanced drills. Despite all the technical advances mining is very exhausting and miners are known to have notoriously short lifespans. It is estimated that around 75% of the gold in the region still lies untapped. The gold mining industry is dormant, and the euphoria is long gone. But with the gold prices rising, who knows?
Back in my hotel room everything is warm and cozy. The scenery around me however is not so great as my clothes lie in utter disarray. When I close my eyes I am transported back to Loveland pass. That scene won’t be easy to forget.
Photos - Red Rock Amphitheatre, Red Rocks, Photos from Loveland Pass, Skiing