South of Idaho Springs Colorado you come to the Mount Evans Recreation Area in the Arapaho National Forest. This takes you along an amazing drive on the highest paved road in North America, all the way to just below the summit of Mt. Evans, at 14,264 feet above sea level - one of Colorado's "fourteeners." Even for a family with 3 small kids, it's possible to summit this fourteener, since the parking lot is just next to the summit, at 14,130 feet!
But before we get there, along the road you come to a section called the Mt. Goliath Natural Area. It was raining and we were in the clouds on the drive at that altitude, so we didn't know what was coming until, bam, there it was! These old, twisted trees called "Bristlecone Pines." These amazing trees are the oldest single living organisms on earth, capable of living for thousands of years. Here's what they looked like in the mist:
Further up from there you come into true alpine territory, above treeline. Treeline occurs in areas where the average temperature is around 50 degrees F during the warmest month of the year. This is a zone that has such an incredible feel to it: the crisp mountain air, strong sunshine (but not the day we visited), weather that can change completely in just a few minutes... In fact, we were on the summit and it was snowing! The end of July, and we were getting covered in snow. But in true mountain form, just below the summit on the way down, it looked like this:
Pictures don't do it justice, but for what it's worth, I hope you get a sense for the place. If you haven't been in alpine country, you really owe it to yourself. Don't make another excuse to continue the grind - just plan a few days and go see it with your own eyes! Life's short, go see what's out there.