The road over Independence Pass is great but can be scary and oxygen deprived. Ruth and I drove Independence Pass again this summer because of the mudslides in Glenwood Springs Canyon. We made it to Highway 82 in this canyon without trouble this year because we travelled in the morning and easily slipped through. There had been warning signs the previous day that it was closed in places. Our schedule made it necessary to eventually go from the beginning of Highway 82 in Glenwood Springs to Denver, the new home of our son and his family that we had never been to before due to COVID. The obvious solution was to go over Independence Pass to avoid a return to this troublesome canyon. Over the years driving over Independence Pass had lost its fear-factor due to repetition. It does, however, take travelers higher than 12,000 feet, and Ruth was wary.
We made it easily to Leadville! That’s why we were able to buy and treat others to the local Palisade peaches that we bought on a parking lot just outside Leadville and elsewhere on this trip. Leadville used to be one of the 3 processing places with a smelter for the silver that was mined under what is now the town of Aspen. This was once and briefly the largest silver mine on Planet Earth.
There is another ghost mining town in the Aspen area called Ashcroft. But Ashcroft is in a different place and mined gold, not silver. Ashcroft once had a population of 2,000 and was up Castle Creek Road at an elevation of more than 9,500 feet. Three restored buildings with six others still in their original condition remain. A major ski area was once proposed for the Ashcroft area.
The other ghost town gave Independence Pass its name. We stopped to see what is left of this town for a 2nd time while summiting Independence Pass in summer, 2021. The town of Independence was at 10,920 feet 16 miles east of Aspen near the Pass. Independence once had 47 businesses and a population of 1,500 people. It was the scene of both a gold mine and a sawmill.
The road to Independence Pass is one of the highest in North America. It’s now closed in mid-winter but was once kept open year round as a toll road in the late 19th century. The 10-mile Lost Man Loop Trail now defines this area that is home to elk, marmots, and bighorn sheep among other animals, but no humans.
I wrote about Independence Pass in August, 2015. The road to it, Highway 82, is a continuation of the road from Aspen to U. S. Highway 24 south of Leadville. This is truly the top of the Rockies and a road in good condition despite a couple of one-lane spots and lots of summertime traffic. The summit is quite scenic.