High Points: I’ll Take the Pass
Paul E. Anna
It has been a little on-again-off-again these past few weeks but, as of now Independence Pass is open to vehicular traffic. With a forecast showing no precipitation for the next three days or so (there’s a hint of some Tuesday snow) this might be your best last chance to get up and over the “Top of the World.”
We live on the western end of one of the great American roads. Hwy. 82 between Twin Lakes and the edge of Aspen provides us with not just a way out of the Valley but a spectacular drive with quaking Aspens, precipitous drops and see forever views. You can look up just about any list of America’s best drives and the 37-mile jaunt between Main and Mill and the Lakes makes the grade. Or at least it should.
On average the Pass closes for the season around November 7, just a couple of weeks away, so this might be the weekend to hit the highway for a slow cruise up and over the 12,095-foot precipice. Be sure to make some stops.
While the Pass itself is as old as dirt, or at least glacial formed rock, the first toll road over the top was completed in 1881, the same year the paper you are reading today published its first copy. That November, the road opened to help supply the small town of Independence, which was formed on the 4th of July 1979. For a quarter, well 25 cents (yes, they had quarters then), a hardy soul could saddle up the horses and head through the late fall scenery to Independence. The trip took 10 to 25 hours depending upon the conditions.
Today you can hop in your Audi, Tesla, Rover, etc., and power up the winding road from the Jerome to the “T” on Hwy 24 in a little over an hour. Turn right at the T and you can swing into Buena Vista for a milkshake and a corn dog at the venerable K’s Dairy Delite. You’ll also get an up close and personal view of the Collegiate Peaks with your lunch, topped by the 14,421-foot Mt. Harvard. I always thought it was cool that the Ivy League schools were named after mountains in Colorado. 🙂
Turn left at the “T” and it’s just a short jaunt to Leadville, home of the Tabor Opera House (built in 1879) and the Legendary Silver Dollar Saloon which includes collection of ghosts who come out to celebrate this time in October.
I have yet to try it but am told there is an epic Cuban restaurant in Leadville called Buchi, which is as authentic as if it were in Havana itself. Opened by a couple from Key West, it offers Café Cubano, mojitos and Cuban sandwiches that will make you feel the tropical flow at 10,000 feet.
Many of us look at Independence Pass as a way to get from here to there, but it is a destination in itself.
Take a drive.