ILX Colorado Trip Day 2: Mount Evans
Odometer (Legend): 522,641
Odometer (ILX): 47,189
Daily Distance: ~250 Miles
Welcome to Part 2 of my Colorado weekend adventure wrap-up. How could I resist the temptation to drive my Acura ILX to a place that’s described like this?
Mount Evans is the road into the sky. Drive from 8,700 feet at Idaho Spring where you turn off Interstate 70 to 14,240 feet to the summit, and you will pass through 3 life zones, passing ancient trees, lakes and forest to the land above timberline. It can be 90 degrees in Denver and 40 degrees at the top of Mount Evans. Mountain Goats and Bighorn Sheep will greet you as you climb to the top of the world.
If you want to cut to the chase, here’s the video:
Jason, Jeremy, Johl and I set out on Saturday morning to see what Mount Evans was all about. An LED sign above I-70 west of Denver soon crushed our plans: The highway was to be closed until 2:00 p.m. for a bicycle race:
Determined to still climb the mountain that day, we delayed our plans and entertained ourselves in the meantime. Jeremy and I went to see & drive this 1994 Acura Legend LS Coupe 6-Speed that’s currently for sale on Denver craigslist. A friend asked me to give it a look since he’s a prospective buyer.
This car looks nice from a distance, but it’s a full repaint (and a poor one, at that) and it needs some mechanical help, too. At 151,000 miles, it did drive fairly nice, but I didn’t feel the car was worth the $6,800 asking price.
Back up the mountain we go!
Jason and Jouhl followed us as we snaked our way on Squaw Pass Road toward the base of the Mount Evans.
We weren’t discouraged when we had to cruise through a dusty construction zone. We were determined.
Even before we got to the official “Mount Evans Highway,” we were already beginning our ascent. On a clear day, the views stretch a great distance.
Echo Lake, at 10,600 feet, lies in the background in the below picture and marks the start of the 14-mile road that leads to the summit of Mount Evans. The Accord and the ILX had driven a combined 1,800 miles to get to this point. Even without a car wash, our silver paint jobs hid the bugs and dirt well.
Jason, Jouhl, and myself at a wooden sign in front of the Echo Lake Lodge which doubles as a gift shop.
The ILX, rooftop GoPro video camera equipped, was ready to scamper up the mountain.
A tollbooth at the base of Mount Evans road collected $10 per vehicle, then we were on our way to climb our first “Fourteener.” Denver people call a “fourteener” any of the area mountain peaks (which are several) which exceed 14,000 feet in elevation.
Quick pullout for a photo-op against a beautiful sky.
It’s impossible to convey the beauty of the panoramic views that surrounded us on 360 degrees.
Let’s roll! Windows were down because it was a pleasant 60 degrees or so.
You can see here where the highway has been sliced into the mountainside. In this particular area, notice that there are no trees. That’s because the tree line in Colorado is 12,000 feet and we’d already gone above that.
Z Z Z. The ILX 6-speed makes for an amazing machine to aggressively tackle switchbacks like this, but I was a little less inclined to push my limits on this road given its danger. No guard rails here!
It seriously felt like we were endlessly climbing. 13,000 feet. 14,000 feet.
I don’t recall seeing a posted speed limit at all. “Reasonable” is anywhere from 15-25 miles per hour on most of these blind corners and tight stretches.
As we got even higher in elevation, the road continued to get skinnier and it no longer had pavement markings. It required care to make way for vehicles coming the opposite direction.
Finally, we rounded the last corner and arrived at the lookout/observatory on top of the mountain. The parking lot was pretty full but we found a place to parallel park the ILX.
At one time there was a stone-built restaurant and gift shop located here, but after a propane explosion & fire in 1979, it was never rebuilt. Instead, some of the original walls have been reinforced and the structure serves as an observation point.
Here’s an observatory visible from the visitor area.
Evans is home to around 100 mountain goats. They were extremely approachable and didn’t appear to have any fear or apprehension toward the many people visiting their home turf.
Photo credit for these great pictures goes to Jeremy who was borrowing my Canon at the time.
By this time I had put on my hooded sweatshirt. I never thought I’d need a hoodie in late July! In front of me was one of several elevation markers mounted in the rocks.
This one said 14,258 feet.
In the distance we could see Summit Lake below us.
Jouhl, Jason, Tyson. Enjoying that crisp 14,000 foot air! I did get slightly light-headed.
This guy didn’t, though. Jeremy was off exploring.
Preparing for departure, the silver Hondas line up for a beauty shot.
There’s a word of warning on the back of the tollway ticket instructing people to down-shift to avoid overheating their brakes on the way down the mountain. This is where having a stick shift is truly an advantage.
Jason led the way. He expertly handled the grades using his 6-speed transmission to his advantage, because he rarely had to hit the brakes.
More fun awaited us as we made our way to Idaho Springs, Colorado after reaching the base of Mount Evans Road.
Eastbound Interstate 70 has some steep down-grades as it heads into the Denver area. Apparently this freeway has a history with being dangerous for truckers because there are signs like the below saying, “Don’t Be Fooled!”
We made it back to civilization and treated ourselves – and our cars – to some fuel. Interestingly enough, There’s 85 octane available in Colorado Springs. I think the lowest we see in Arizona is 87.
Jason took the wheel in the ILX when we went to dinner. This photo is not one of my finer ones.
It was a great end to an adventurous day. I was glad to spend time with friends doing something that I love!
Tune in tomorrow for the final stretch of the Colorado trip.