ASPEN - With Independence Pass near Aspen presumably poised to close for the winter today, a friend and I decided that an outing near the summit was in order last weekend.
She'd never been to Linkins Lake, though it's a pretty short hike from the Upper Lost Man trailhead. I tossed in the added promise of an interesting mine site above the lake though I later regretted mentioning it.
The trail to the ice-covered lake was mostly bare dirt. Brittle grass and patches of dry, sugary snow butted up against the near shore.
Then we noticed the weird sounds. The ice, not thick enough to hold a person up (I don't think), was making eerie creaks and moans, like a rusty hinge opening underwater. We debated trying to record its song with a cellphone but didn't.
Instead, we headed upward to the left of the lake. I recalled the old mine being somewhere just over the ridge that rings the far side of the water.
We tromped upward through ankle-deep snow and picked our way across bare ground wherever we could find it. But when I suddenly found myself knee-deep in snow at the bottom of the chute, we hustled to a steep, rocky stretch to pick our way up. The rocks weren't big, but a lot of them were loose, and they were laced with snow, which made the footing even trickier. I was not pleased with my situation at that point, and I'll admit that I was on my hands and knees once or twice. I might have uttered a bad word or two, as well.
We finally crested the ridge only to find no mine in sight. A small, snowy bowl and another ridge unfolded before us. Had I forgotten its location?
We were ready to give up, but I scooted up a grassy slope to my left, and there it was - the old cabin and the pile of rock waste extending outward like an entrance ramp from the mine tunnel. The black opening in the rocky hillside, framed with weathered timber, was entirely concealed by a snowdrift. (Old mines are dangerous; don't venture inside one.)
The wind had a real bite up there, adding to my appreciation of how arduous it must have been to toil at such a spot.
It was a fine exploration to mark the close of another season on the pass. Highway 82 over the pass, incidentally, is closing for the season at 1 p.m. Friday, with a winter storm approaching.