Something new to start the summer | AspenTimes.com

Something new to start the summer

The green, single-span bridge on Highway 24 captures attention outside of the town of Red Cliff in Eagle County.
Hannah Condon/courtesy photo |

It’s always great to start the summer with an adventure on new terrain.

I’m usually a planner rather than an ad-libber but fate forced my hand Saturday when my daughter asked for a ride to Red Cliff to see a friend she graduated from college with last month. Her friend is undertaking an art internship in the funky mountain town south of Minturn.

After wolfing down a couple of excellent fish tacos at Mango’s Bar and Grill, Red Cliff’s only eatery with the closure of the dearly departed Reno’s, I hightailed it to the backcountry to find a campsite before darkness made the task troublesome.

Although I had been to Red Cliff and Shrine Pass a handful of times in summer and winter, I never had the pleasure of exploring the broader area. My jaw dropped as I drove up Homestake Road. Whitney Peak and other jagged mountains of the Sawatch Range loomed to the west, holding lots of snow and some massive cornices.

I found a great campsite about 3 miles up the road. Homestake Creek roared by just across the road. An unnamed seasonal stream tumbled from the steep hillside behind my camp. Not even the partiers a half-mile away could dampen my spirits. I actually liked half the tunes they cranked well into the night, after I drifted to sleep in my tent.

It stayed unseasonably warm that night despite an elevation in excess of 9,000 feet. I didn’t have an excuse to linger in my tent.

While the options between hiking and mountain biking were endless, I opted to take my road bike to tackle the stretch of Highway 24 between the Red Cliff turnoff and Tennessee Pass. I hadn’t ridden it since the early 1990s.

It was nice to absorb the scenery at the old Camp Hale site and use imagination to envision how bustling it was in 1945. Tennessee Pass is more of a grind than a drastic grunt. The payoff for me was the well-done 10th Mountain Division memorial and information kiosk at the summit.

I was home 24 hours after departing, but the trip opened the door to new opportunities for the summer and beyond.


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