Independence Pass |

Independence Pass

Paul E. Anna
Aspen, CO Colorado

Today, they say, the Pass, (that’s Independence Pass to those not from here) is supposed to be open.

After an epic winter that saw gobs and gobs of snow, the great, windy road was to have finally been cleared of obstruction, ice and snow as of yesterday afternoon at noon. But, as I sit and write this, at 11:45a.m. on Thursday, the clouds are hovering at around 8,500 feet, the wind is whipping, and there is sleet in the sky. I wonder how it is on top of the 12,095-foot summit.

The opening of the Pass is something we all look forward to. As much a symbolic end to winter, as it is a beginning of summer, the opening of the Pass connects us to the eastern side of the state.

This week, on my return from a trip to Colorado Springs I was forced to go an extra hour on Highway 24 to Leadville, then past Camp Hale, into Minturn before hitting I-70 for the drive home. It was picturesque, but I sure would have loved to see Twin Lakes and work my way past the beaver ponds and up the hairpins to what, no doubt, is a wintry tunnel of snow on top. It may be one of the most scenic roads in America.

For the last few weeks there have been photos in the papers and on the weather portions of the Denver news programs showing the plows making their slow but sure progress up the highway. It is amazing how much snow there is and how much work must be done. Imagine the day-to day slog of heading up the road, getting in the plows and cutting, slicing plowing miles and miles of the wet stuff. Surely it is hard work, and on the wintry days that we had this May, it must have been especially taxing.

Of course, it is even more unfathomable to imagine how people used to climb and crest the Pass in the 1880s to get to Aspen. Living in the ghost town of Independence had to have been about as harsh a life as one can think of when the weather blew in. If you have not stopped and walked through the log buildings in the ghost town of Independence on your way over the Pass, you should. It is an amazing experience to hear the wind as it slips through the cracks in the logs and reflect on the hardy souls who called this place home.

An update, as I write this the rain and sleet are coming harder, there is a winter storm advisory out and CDOT now has a “Target reopen Thur, 6/ 5, 2P, weather permitting.” I’m going to guess that will be a moving target.

In any event, soon the sun will shine and the Pass will reopen. I look forward to the drive and envy those who will ride it on bikes and ski the snow up high.

Independence Pass is one of the High Points of Aspen life.