As we made our way into Idaho Springs we inadvertently hopped onto I-70 West and started seeing signs for "Mt. Evans-Open To Top." We had no clue what Mt. Evans was or how high the top was but we dared to venture in that direction to find out. We drove once again through canyon after canyon until the car started climbing higher and higher, eventually sneaking us views of the high rocky peaks all around. We drove past the gorgeous Echo Lake recreation area where it seemed like a few hundred folks had parked along side its shores, enjoying the afternoon sun and trying their luck at casting a line into the crystal waters. On the far end of the lake, we made it to a small visitors center with a sign for the Mount Evans Auto Road.
The Mt. Evans Auto Road is the highest paved road in America. It is also known as America's Highest Auto Road. For $10, we entered the gate and began our climb. We were shocked by the enormity of the krumholz that lined the side of the narrow road. These small alpine trees we knew so well as mini-shrubs in New Hampshire are tall and twisted out here. An impressive sight indeed. The road wastes no time in gaining elevation. It's 15 miles from start to the top. The road, which has no guardrail, twists and turns it's away precariously along the top of many cliffs and alpine meadows. I was terrified and brought new meaning to the term "White Knuckle Ride."
We started winding our way up and into the Arctic Circle.. or what seemed like it. Above 11,000' the world is still very much playing host to winter. Snow fields are HUGE! We managed to snap a few photos on the way up of the cars passing in front of the huge drifts, some of them about 20+ feet in height. The road continued along the top of some pretty precarious cliffs. I won't lie when I tell you I was nearly pooping my pants. Whenever the road narrowed, I drifted my car more towards the upslope side of the road even if it was the wrong side to be on. If a car came form the other direction, I froze stiff in the proper lane and waited for the "safer lane" to open up again. Eventually we reached a parking lot at the base of a gorgeous peak. The lake below it's icy cap was still frozen over and many avalanche trails could be seen. We pulled over and decided to walk around a bit, walking over to a view spot and took some photos of the mountains, many of which are hiding behind the thick cloud of smoke that had drifted north from Arizona's Wild-Fires.