Autumn seems to be passing us by this year, and we were anxious to get out and enjoy the last bit of it in the mountains. Ryan and I decided on an easy overnight trip close to home where we could easily leave after work on Friday and make it to our destination before nightfall (which is getting earlier and earlier). Perhaps we were too anxious to enjoy the ending of autumn, however, as winter unexpectedly made its first appearance on this trip.
With our bags packed the night before, we met up after work for a quick grocery and caffeine trip before heading to the mountains. Our destination this weekend would be a new one for us; Jones Pass. It is just over an hour drive from Boulder to get to the bottom of the pass, which is also where the Henderson Mine is situated. Henderson Mine is the largest molybdenum mine in North America, and while it is situated mostly underground, it is still interesting to see tucked back in the mountains. From the mine’s parking lot, Jones Pass begins. The first part of the road is Forest Service maintained and was littered with dispersed camping spots (which were already occupied by families and their compact cars). As the road continues onward (and upward), it becomes OHV. Now.. if you have an OHV vehicle, I highly recommend that you drive to the top of Jones Pass. We slowly made our way up until we we found our perfect campsite; a spectacular view with no other people around.
We enjoyed the cool mountain air as the sun set, but as we ate dinner the temperatures rapidly began to drop so we headed into the tent for the evening.
We awoke sometime in the middle of the night to an odd sound against our tent. Wind? Maybe. Rain? Not quite. It wasn’t until my eyes adjusted to the dark that I realized that our tent was covered in SNOW! I punched the roof and watched in horror as several inches fell off and around us. I was worried how our drive back down Jones Pass would be the next morning with the snow, but all I could do was wait it out until the morning.
The next time I woke up was at dawn, and I quickly took a look outside to survey the change in weather. A huge smile spread across my face as I took in the morning before me; the world around us had about an inch of fresh, powdery snow and there was not a single cloud in the sky. A true bluebird morning.
The morning was cold (VERY cold…) but luckily we came prepared with beanies and mittens, and I was able to leave the tent to fully appreciate my favorite time of day. As the first sun touched the surrounding mountains, the temperatures also began to increase and the snow faded away. Ryan and I stood atop the tallest point near camp and watched the sun rise until we were completely engulfed in its light and began to thaw out our throbbing fingers and toes.
Wrapped in blankets and watching our breath blow from our noses, we enjoyed a warm breakfast and some tea before packing the car back up and making our way back down (the now dry) Jones Pass. A truly gorgeous day, we were able to wake up in a winter wonderland and drive back down to where the aspens are still golden in their grande finale of the year.
It was late morning by the time we got home, and I was sad to have left the mountains so early. I really hate wasting those perfect days surrounded by nothing but big mountains and an even bigger sky, but we will be back (next year, of course).. and you should too! Jones Pass provided spectacular dispersed camping through and through and I wouldn’t have wanted to spend my final camping trip (at altitude) of the year anywhere else.
“Each golden day was cherished to the full, for one had the feeling that each must be the last. Tomorrow it would be winter”