On the trail: A gem of a hike to Ruby
October 3, 2011
ASPEN – It’s hard to believe anyone was tempted to stay inside last weekend, no matter what college/baseball/NFL game was on television. The real show was outside.
I ignored a long list of projects and responsibilities demanding my attention to spend both days outside as the fall colors hit their peak.
Saturday began with a slow, wrenching drive up Lincoln Creek Road off Independence Pass to explore the former mining town of Ruby, a place I’d never been before. We drove a couple of miles beyond the reservoir, parked the truck and took an enjoyable stroll up the valley to check out the scenery and what remained of a once-thriving mining community along the former South Fork of the Roaring Fork. Prospectors created the Lincoln Mining District and renamed the creek Lincoln Creek.
Like many places around Aspen, crumbling remains of log structures dotting the meadows and tailings piles scaring the hillsides are all that remain of Ruby. Actually, add disturbingly discolored water flowing into the creek to that list. But the place once boasted a 50-man boarding house, concentrating plant and other business concerns. The wagon road up the valley was built in 1906 and tons of ore were hauled into Aspen, according to a sign posted along the road, which provides a detailed history of the area.
While the valley didn’t offer much in the way of aspen trees shimmering gold in the sunlight, the landscape was nonetheless bathed in the warm, earthy tones of autumn. I’d never been to the head of this valley before and I was surprised and delighted to find what appeared to be a true dead end to the road. It wound up to a private cabin off to the side and stopped. In the valley beyond, I saw no trail or mining road climbing over a pass and into the next drainage – just a wide bowl, ringed in peaks and carpeted in tawny grasses and shrubs.
On the way back down Independence Pass toward town, the fall colors were impossible to resist. Traffic slowed to a crawl as people posed in the roadway for photos or jockeyed for a parking spot in every available nook and cranny.
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The display was nothing short of stunning, and with a significant chance of rain in this week’s forecast (perhaps snow showers, according to the National Weather Service), I expect the leaves to start coming down.