From Mountain View, California to Aspen, Colorado
Alaska left me pretty beat, but after a couple of great weeks at Marie’s place in Mountain View I was recharged and ready for another roadtrip – this time to meet some of my high school friends in Aspen, Colorado. With stops, of course, at a few places along the way.
First up was Mono Lake. The number of times I’ve been there has hit double digits, but it never gets old. There’s always something unique to photograph. Late on a Tuesday afternoon I arrived at the Lower Lee Vining Campground, just east of Yosemite, and set up my tent before heading over to the lake’s South Tufa area for sunset.
The next morning I packed up my campsite in the pre-dawn dark and returned to Mono Lake before sunrise for another round of photos. Every time I’m there I somehow manage to cut my legs on the sharp tufas, and this visit was no exception. You might think that at some point I’d remember to wear long pants, but no – I never learn.
From Mono Lake I drove across Nevada to Great Basin National Park. I’d been to the park once before, many years ago, but on that visit I missed seeing Lehman Cave because I had my dog Jake with me and he wasn’t allowed inside. This time – after stopping to photograph a fox near the visitor center – I took the hour-long tour cave tour and enjoyed it.
I camped at Great Basin that night, woke up early, and continued on to Moab, Utah, for a quick visit to Arches National Park. Rain spoiled sunset photographs, but the skies cleared overnight and before sunrise I scrambled over to a spot that offers a frequently-photographed view of Turret Arch through the massive gap of North Window. Eventually a busload of tourists arrived to bomb my photos, but in the dark quiet before dawn, when I thought I was the only person for miles around, faint notes from what sounded like a Native American flute floated on the air. I never found the source of the music.
I left Arches soon after sunrise and arrived in Aspen just before noon. Danny, a friend from high school, has a ridiculously nice place in Aspen, and he’d invited a group of us there for a mini-reunion. Some of the guys I keep in touch with pretty regularly, but others I hadn’t seen in as long as I can remember. Danny’s hospitality was over the top. He took the golfers out twice, arranged for us to hike to the top of Ajax, led us on a bike ride, picked up the tab at great restaurants, and even brought in a chef to cook dinner at his house on Saturday night. It was awesome to catch up with such a great group of long-time friends. I hope we follow through on our talk of making it an annual tradition.
On Sunday afternoon a couple of the guys – Rapp and Ellis – rode with me towards Denver, and after passing Vail we ran into a fluke storm that suddenly dumped a layer of icy slush on the highway. In August. On what had been a warm day. The cars in my lane briefly came to a complete stop, and when traffic began rolling again my wheels spun uselessly on the ice. I already knew that my rear-wheel-drive car is terrible in the snow, but being completely incapacitated by a relatively thin layer of slush was embarrassing. It took more than 10 minutes for the ice to melt enough that we could get some traction and start moving again. Maybe I’ll avoid driving through the Rockies in winter.