Soon we started climbing as we headed up and over The Sawatch Mountain Range on Monarch Pass.
We crossed the Continental Divide - again - at 11,312'
This isn't a narrow, twisting road with hairpin turns; rather it's an industrial-strength highway with easy, sweeping turns that can carry truck traffic across the state.
After descending to the valley, we headed north on US 285 toward Buena Vista. For the next few miles we watched the towering Collegiate Peaks, each at or above 14,000' elevation to the west; and the Arkansas River to the east.
The Collegiate Peaks are named after the Ivy League colleges in the East: Mt. Harvard, Mt. Yale, Mt. Princeton.
The Arkansas River starts near Leadville and flows south and east to the Mississippi. This section is a favorite for kayakers and white water rafters.
It was time to start climbing again, this time up the twisting Independence Pass on county route 82. We passed Twin Lakes, two large, glacial lakes at the base of Mt. Elbert, at 14,440' the highest peak in Colorado and the second highest in the Lower 48.
Since it's a beautiful Sunday in early August, there was quite a bit of traffic, including the most motorcycles we've seen in one day on this trip. That meant we rode at a slower than usual pace while we enjoyed the hairpin turns and twisties.
We saw numerous signs of recent avalanches, including one section of the highway that was recently repaired due to an avalanche sweeping across this section of the road.
As we continued climbing the road snaked along rocky cliffs so close we felt like we could touch them, with long, steep drop-offs thankfully on the other side of the road.
We finally rode above the treeline, passing isolated spots of snow as we neared the summit at 12,095'.
We crossed the Continental Divide for the second time today and descended down even narrower sections of highway into Aspen.
We rode through vast stands of aspens on both sides of the pass, and it makes sense that the mining town of Ute City changed its name to Aspen in 1880.
County Route 82 goes right through Aspen, and then it was only a few miles to Basalt where we stopped for lunch before continuing on to our destination for the next 2 nights: Carbondale. We were surprised that the temperature this afternoon is in the low 90's, but then we're at the lowest elevation on our trip so far: 6,427'. Carbondale was founded as a farming community and today is a tourist and skiing center.
We're looking forward to a shorter ride tomorrow and exploring Carbondale on foot before we continue on our wandering route through the Colorado mountains on Tuesday.