It was another chilly morning, but the skies were clear and blue to start. We hung out until around 9:30 and were on the road to Vail and Minturn with a lunch, hiking boots, and warm jackets so that we were prepared for anything today. They are talking about rain late today, but the clouds started rolling in as we left.
Bob lived in Vail in the 70’s for 4 years in his previous life (BC –before Cindy), so he wanted to see how Vail had changed and take me to Piney Lake. We drove into Frisco where there was a lot of construction.
We passed by Dillon Lake which has a very nice marina on our way out of town.
We hopped on I-70 to Vail traveling through the mountains.
We passed the Copper Mountain ski area.
We drove over Vail Pass (elev. 10,603 ft.) which had a very steep grade going down into the valley.
We got behind this heavy duty crane that had its hook swinging to and fro. I don’t think it was supposed to be doing that.
From the highway we got a glimpse of the Vail Mountains in the distance.
Vail sits in a very narrow valley at an elevation of 8,150 ft.
We approached Vail ski area, but most of the ski area can’t be seen from the road.
We exited I-70 into Vail.
In West Vail, we turned on Red Sandstone Rd. that would take us to Piney Lake via Highway 700.
The road climbed above Vail and looking down you could see the town below.
Highway 700 was made of red dirt. It was rocky and rutted.
It wound its way up and over the mountains and would take us into the dead end canyon where we would find Piney Lake. We stopped part way up to deflate or soften the tires to improve the suspension and comfort of the ride.
Here we found a map of the area that told us where we were in relation to the entire drive to Piney Lake. We still had a long way to go.
The terrain along this road changed frequently–from alpine meadows, to pine and aspen forests, red sandstone bluffs, and hanging lakes.
Streams trickled down the rocks in many places, sometimes forming waterfalls. We saw campers set up in designated campsites.
At one empty campsite, we noticed a fire still smoldering and made a note to check on it on our way back down. The road was narrow in places–sometimes only large enough for one car to pass another without one moving off the road.
In other places, it is lined by trees or rocks in other places it is wide open spaces.
From Highway 700, we took Highway 701 and continued to climb.
Then at one point we started our descent. We had to cross a bridge over a rushing stream.
As we neared the end of the canyon, the mountains came closer and closer into view.
As we approached the lake, we came upon Piney River Ranch.
It is a riding stable with cabins for rent sitting along the shore of Piney Lake.
It was quite a busy place, but we found a place to park and proceeded to look around. We started our drive at 11:00 and got to the parking lot at the lake around noon. Piney Lake is a popular area, so we weren’t surprised to pass cars going up and coming down. Piney Lake sits at the end of a dead end canyon.
With the mountains towering over it, it was picture perfect.
We decided to walk the Upper Piney Trail along the lake to where Bob noticed a gate.
The gate and sign told us we were in the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area. If you wanted to camp there, you had to complete a registration form to let them know you were there. We passed some hiker/campers walking out.
From that vantage point, we could see the very end of the canyon and into the upper meadow. It was so beautiful! We stood there in awe of the view for quite awhile.
The Columbine were in bloom along the path.
On our walk back, there were people canoeing on the lake.
They rent canoes and paddle boards there. We also saw a string of geese paddling their way across the lake.
Beautiful red rock cliffs rimmed one side of the lake.
Back at the Jeep, we ate our lunch enjoying the view. We began our drive back around 1:00 and it was a little quicker this time. It took us an hour to drive up, but there was a lot to look at and take pictures of. The campfire was still smoldering at the empty campsite that we had passed earlier, so we stopped to take care of it. We used some water from the extra water bottles that we carry in the Jeep to put it out. That didn’t quite do it, so we threw some dirt on it and stirred the ashes. It finally stopped smoking, so we knew it was good to leave it.
We continued on down, passing a rider on a dirt bike and 3 actual bikers making the climb.
On one switchback turn, we came face-to-face with a SYSCO truck coming up to make a delivery. That was a hair-raising moment for sure. We gave him enough room to make the turn and all was good. Luckily, we didn’t have to pass him on a narrow stretch of road.
Otherwise, the ride down was uneventful and took us only 45 minutes. The road to Piney Lake is only 11 miles long, but very beautiful and interesting. Seeing Piney Lake was the cherry on the top after the drive. I’m so glad Bob was able to share that lake with me. Once we got back to Vail, we found a shady spot to park and re-inflate the tires. (We carry a 12-volt tire inflator with us for that purpose.) Our next stop was Minturn just a few miles down the road deeper into the valley.
It’s a small, country town that hasn’t changed too much according to Bob. He used to hang out in Minturn when he lived in Vail and he had friends that lived there.
We looked around a bit and then headed back up the canyon. These picturesque views could be seen along the road.
We hopped back on I-70 in Vail and Bob was able to point out one of the houses he lived in nestled in the hillside above Vail. What a view he must have had!
On top of Vail Pass, we could see rain in the distance. We got a few sprinkles and that was all.
We were back in Frisco around 3:30 where we stopped at Safeway for a few groceries. Then we went back to Tiger Run to relax a little with Auggie outside before dinner. It was an awesome day and the Jeep really got a workout! The dark clouds moved in around 4:30, but didn’t drop any rain on us until later. We have one more day to enjoy in the area before we move on to Steamboat Springs. We’ll make a visit to Silverthorne tomorrow to check out my brother and sister-in-laws’ new place and then we’ll decide how else we want to spend our day. Bob has done a lot of driving the last 2 days so we’ll play it by ear. Campers come and go each day in Tiger Run and we’ve had new neighbors on both sides twice since we’ve been here. Auggie’s has had “gopher withdrawal” being here, but a chipmunk did pass through our campsite a few times in the last two days just to keep him on his toes. He’s always on the lookout! We took a walk with Auggie after dinner over to the Clubhouse to check it out. They have a library, game room, and an indoor pool and hot tub in the building. They have some very nice amenities.
After we returned to the bus, it started to rain lightly. We relaxed with some TV after a fun day! *Traveling pineapple update: The last 3 days in the sun have helped the ripening process. It’s mostly yellow, but needs a few more days to really finish ripening and soften up. It won’t be long now!