Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Staycation: Mt. Evans


Boy howdy -- did we ever go on a fabulous staycation this last weekend! Mt. Evans is definitely a not-to-miss destination. Strap on your big kid boots for a day of dizzying heights and breathtaking mountainous panoramas. By the end of the day you'll be able to boast that you climbed a 14er in Colorado, and you'll have a picture of yourself touching the sky...


Before I get too far ahead of myself, let me rewind a bit. Mt. Evans summit is approximately 60 miles from Denver -- 30 miles from Denver to Idaho Springs on I-70, 15 miles from Idaho Springs to the entrance of the park {the Mt. Evans Welcome Station} on state highway 103, and 15 miles from the entrance of the park to the summit on Colorado Highway 5. Before you even get to the Welcome Station you're treated to these breathtaking sights...

Ponder Point...


Echo Lake...


and this beautiful picnic area...


When you arrive at Echo Lake Lodge you're just around the corner from the entrance to Mt. Evans Scenic Byway. If you slap a ten dollar bill in the hand of the park ranger, he'll let you through the gate.


The first mile will lull you into a false sense of security as you drive on a wide, well-paved road with lush forests on either side.


It gets dicey after that -- especially for a girl who is afraid of heights. This highway isn't dubbed "the highest paved road in North America" for nothing. It's high. Seriously high. Biting-fingernails-to-the-quick kind of high with scary drop offs where you can plunge off the road to your death thousands of feet below. I'm not being dramatic -- just telling it like it is. The photo below is proof. Do you see how it looks like the earth drops off the side of the road? There's reason for that -- it does. It might look like the driver of the car took this photo. He didn't. I was just sitting on my husband's lap {arms wrapped around his neck, whimpering} for most of the drive to the summit. I felt safer on that side of the car.


We stopped at several scenic view points along the route. This is the view from the Chappell Nature Center...


As I looked out over these beautiful mountains and the plains, I felt like singing "America the Beautiful." {Julie Andrews style -- like in the Sound of Music -- arms spread wide on the mountain top.}
O beautiful for spacious skies...
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
I was quite sure, however, that my rendition of the song would have gone unappreciated by my fellow travelers, so I kept it to myself. {Please note the purple mountains and fruited plain.}

The drive from Idaho Springs at 8,700 feet above sea level to the summit of Mt. Evans at 14,258 feet takes you through three life zones. You'll pass ancient trees, mountain lakes, tundra, snow, and end up far above the timberline with nary a guardrail in sight. Fortunately, scenes like Summit Lake made the scary ride a little more bearable...



There are 1,253,648 {possibly a slight exaggeration} hairpin turns and switch-backs along the byway to Mt. Evans Observatory at the summit. The arrows in the photo below denote cars on the switch-backs. If you're prone to motion sickness I would prescribe a handful of Dramamine or motion sickness patches on every conceivable space on your body. Just sayin'.


We finally reached the end of the road and parked to hike the last quarter mile to the summit. The trail is filled with boulders and rocks, but is easily hiked with the proper footwear. It's not the hike that'll kill you, it's the lack of oxygen at 14,000+ feet. Suggestion: Breathe deeply and often.


The views from the summit are breathtaking -- especially when you consider you are looking down on the Rocky Mountains.




Some suggestions for a trip to the summit of Mt. Evans...
  1. Dress in long pants and bring a jacket or a coat in the car -- even in the summer. Weather conditions can change quickly and it is usually cool/cold at the summit.
  2. Bring ibuprofen or Tylenol. You might get a headache because of the altitude. I've learned to do a preemptive strike and take two ibuprofen before we leave the house. As I said before, motion sickness remedies might also be in order.
  3. Start the drive early in the morning for your best chance at good weather. The weather in the mountains usually deteriorates as the day progresses.
  4. Bring plenty of water to keep hydrated. Dehydration = headache.
  5. Dress appropriately. Don't be like the lady in front of us on the trail at the summit who was wearing high-heeled sandals. 'Nuff said.
  6. Drive the smallest car you own. You'll thank me for this when you're passing other cars on that skinny little road. 
This was one of our favorite Staycations.
It's pretty awesome being on top of the world.



4 comments:

carla.evans said...

How beautiful!! Thank you for posting this. I'll have to add Mt. Evans to my "to visit" list!! I kinda like the name...

Carla Evans

Kathryn said...

My youngest daughter lives in Denver and her older sister and I flew out a couple of weeks ago to visit and Mt Evans was on our bucket list. It is breathtakingly beautiful.

Kathy

Amy Johnson said...

This looks awesome. I was on a similar road in New Hampshire and was absolutely terrified. Yes, the view was incredible, but I was so scared I couldn't really enjoy them. I've never been to Colorado, but I hope to someday soon. Your lucky you live in a state where you can take such incredible staycations. All the good stuff is too far away for us!

Abby / Linda said...

Reminds me of when I was younger and did backpacking in the Sierras! Gorgeous views up there!