Friday, September 9, 2011

Twin Lakes

August in Colorado is one of the best times to get up to a higher altitude. The hot temperatures on the front range and lower valleys feel too warm to a Coloradan, even if it isn't as humid as the midwest states, or as blazing hot as nearby desert states. Record temperatures this year make that more true than ever. Going from 6,000 feet in elevation to over 9,000 feet for a getaway, is worth a ten degree drop or more in temperature.

On the way to Independance Pass, highway 82 rolls past a tiny town, hardly recognizable as such. Two lakes in view are joined by a narrow neck, like an hourglass, and collect the snowmelt from surrounding peaks, with some that are over 4,600 meters high. (Mt. Elbert, the highest in Colorado, measures some 14,400 feet by the latest geological surveys.) The town of Twin Lakes rests there, mostly unchanged from its early days in the late 1800's.

A couple of dozen buildings are clustered along a few dirt streets, many boarded up but still showing the care builders used in their construction. A charming white clapboard schoolhouse sits at the end of dirt lane, the imagined voices of long-ago schoolchildren seem hard to hear now. A couple of lodgings are open, a general store, an art gallery, and a gas pump that seems to work. Historic buildings are marked with for sale signs.

The few locals seem to know how to divide their lives between this place and jobs elsewhere that keep them solvent. Most know how to do more than one job, whether it's maintaining summer lodgings, cooking for a weekend barbecue concession, or helping park an empty sheriff's car along the highway to slow down lead-footed drivers. There is no thronging crowd, no lighted intersection, no real restaurant anymore. One log-sided hotel is empty, though it was open as recently as 12 months ago. Seems there are a succession of brave or foolhardy attempts to make a go of it in this place that only sees traffic for some five months of the year. But you can find a few tiny cabins to rent, even a collection of rooms in an attractive and well cared for lodge.

The most excitement seen here lately was the brief appearance of a professional bicycle race, with seasoned European pros tackling the high altitude terrain of Colorado.

It seems fitting that this dignified yet quirky little town only has a small purchase on this grand piece of landscape. The mountains around have endured even longer, the town fits in perspective rather well somehow.

-photos by the author


  1. Cool article, it was informative, lyrical and, now I wanna visit there!

  2. Thanks. If you go, stop for groceries somewhere beforehand, either in Buena Vista from the southeast, or Aspen from the west side of Independance Pass. Definitely drive up to the top of the Pass. It has a real Alpine beauty.

  3. btw, my nephew drew the chalk rendering of the Colorado flag on the pavement. The winner of this year's Tour de France rode over it, if that's worth anything. (Cadel Evans' home country of Australia has a similarly beautiful flag.)