Wednesday, June 5, 1991...
Mountains, mountains and more mountains today. The day began with a drive through Rocky Mountain National Park -- lots of snow in the higher elevations, and I got to add a bighorn sheep to my list of animals observed. Otherwise not too eventful; the Fall River Road remained closed for the season, and I'd seen most of the other good stuff. Rocky Mountain's really more of a hiker's park; don't think I'll be back here soon unless I get an irresistible urge to improve my physical fitness by jogging at an altitude of over two miles.
After crossing one or two more high mountain passes, I reached the interstate and turned west. First stop: the Hotel de Paris in Georgetown, Colorado, another old mining community. The hotel was built in 1875 and still contains all its original furniture; it was amazingly luxurious for the time (hot and cold running water in each room!) and has been beautifully preserved.
I turned south over 11,318' Fremont Pass, where the summit was crowned by several enormous smelting plants and a molybdenum mine (God knows how they were able to construct such an operation at this altitude), then northwest over 12,095' Independence Pass. Just after crossing the summit of Independence Pass, I came upon the ruins of the ghost town of Independence, founded July 4, 1879, and wandered through there for half an hour.
Then came Aspen, which was every bit as bad as I could have feared: a lovely old mining town, totally destroyed. Downtown is overrun by trendy boutiques catering to patrons who think "roughing it" means wearing last season's clothes. The "Miner's Building," constructed during the Reagan Administration, houses a dealer in Sony audio equipment, while refined sensibilities are protected by zoning which bars signs for the local Domino's Pizza and KFC. In midsummer, traffic can back up for miles as the local work force drives forty miles along a two-lane road to the nearest affordable community. Aspen's overpriced, ostentatious and totally artificial a must to avoid for anyone not drawn to its slopes.
When I finally reached the Interstate -- after driving through all of Glenwood Springs, a 15-minute journey through this town of 5300 which was obviously built on a north-south axis -- I encountered the last unfinished section of I-70. About 15 miles of the Interstate remain incomplete through Glenwood Canyon, east of town. The canyon, carved by the Colorado River, is barely big enough for two lanes of traffic on one side and the railroad on the other, so the engineers are putting the rest of the road on stilts and tunneling through parts of the canyon. Just west of the canyon, Exit 119 is labeled "No Name." Later I passed Vail -- about as loathesome as Aspen, but without the history to destroy -- before stopping for the night in Dillon.
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