Since I was a kid, I've been frequenting Grand County, and especially the Fraser Valley and the Grand Lake Area. and I'm shocked when I realize I've been coming up here for 30+ years. Where has the time gone. A long time ago, I'd enjoy skiing with my parents and friends when Winter Park was a smallish, convenient drive up from Denver. Now, my own kids think of our little condo as a home-away-from-home. Talk of selling the place and relocating to southern Colorado was met with much angst, so we tabled that talk for now.
Grand County covers 18,868 square miles, and is best recognized by the resort towns of Winter Park and Grand Lake. Established in 1874 and named after the Grand River (now known as the Colorado River), Grand County offers outdoor activities for every age, including hiking (everywhere), skiing (downhill and cross-country), fishing (big rivers, mountain streams, lakes), and biking (Winter Park is the proclaimed biking capital of Colorado). Art festivals, great food, and starry nights await visitors, as well.
Of course, my business is photography, so I'm always on the lookout for different takes on beautiful landscapes of the Rocky Mountains. One of the boundaries for Grand County runs along the Continental Divide Trail high atop Berthoud Pass. The drive, then hike to the top of this pass, offers exhilarating views in all directions. I especially like to awaken well before dawn, make the short drive from Winter Park up the pass, followed by a short grunt up the switchbacks to take in a beautiful (and sometimes windy) sunrise. Sometimes I end up well above tree-line. Sometimes I hike up the eastern slope of Berthoud Pass, following some of the small streams to quiet moments.
The boundary line along the CDT runs north, crossing beautiful and rugged terrain. One of the places I visit every few years is King Lake. In the summer, tough little sunflowers called "Old Man of the Mountain" bloom on the steep slopes of the often ice-filled lake.
The county line continues north along the CDT through Rocky Mountain National Park, and the main town - and jumping off point - into RMNP is Grand Lake. This little resort village boasts hiking, biking, and water sports, as well as a nice main strip full of shopping and dining options. Again, mornings are my favorite time here. The streets are quiet, most tourists are still asleep, and the waters of Grand Lake, are often calm.
From Grand Lake, Highway 34 runs north through RMNP or south back to the town of Granby. From there, Highway 40 heads west through Hot Sulphur Springs, Byers Canyon, Parshall, and onto Kremmling. Turning east from the intersection of 34 and 40 follows Highway 40 back through Granby, Tabernash, Fraser, and Winter Park. I've written a lot already on Winter Park in previous posts and blogs, so I'll leave one final image of this little town - taken early one morning when the world was still asleep.
For now, I'm just counting the days until my family and I can return to the mountains and breathe in the pine-scented fresh air!
Safe Travels, everyone!