My older brother, sister-in-law, and one of their grandsons, visited us last weekend to attend my granddaughter's baptism. Their visit was short, and we wanted to give them a view of the Rocky Mountains before they had to return home, that they couldn't see from the Front Range foothills, where we live. We decided to make a visit to Breckenridge, a little less than and hour and a half drive on I-70 from our area. Here we are approaching the Eisenhower Tunnel.
The Eisenhower Tunnel --officially known as the Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnel, is a dual-bore, four lane vehicular tunnel approximately 50 miles west of Denver, Colorado. The tunnels carry Interstate 70 under the Continental divide in the Rocky Mountains. With a maximum elevation of 11,158 feet above sea level, it is one of the highest vehicular tunnels in the world. The tunnels are the longest mountain tunnels and the highest point on the interstate highway system. Completed in 1979, it was one of the last major pieces of the Interstate Highway system to be completed. The westbound bore is named after Dwight D. Eisenhower, the U.S. President for whom the interstate system is also named. The eastbound bore is named for Edwin C. Johnson, a governor and US Senator who lobbied for an interstate highway to be built across Colorado.
One thing for sure, when you exit the tunnel west bound, the Rocky Mountain ranges loom before you!
The descent of the road once out of the tunnel is so steep, that you don't have to give your car any gas to drive for quite a few miles. In fact, it is hard not to burn out your car's breaks by trying to slow down! There are multiple "runaway truck ramps" for trucks that are going too fast and can't slow down. We actually saw one truck on the side of the road a little further down from here, whose breaks were smoking from the descent!
We entered Route 9 south on our way to the town of Breckenridge, located in Summit County, in north central, Colorado and the heart of the Rocky Mountains. Vail is 34 miles to the west, and less than 20 miles from Summit Country's three other ski resorts--Copper Mountain, Keystone, and Arapaho Basin. Founded during the "Pike's Peak Gold Rush" in 1859, the town became a ski resort town in 1961.
Soon we found the town's "Breck Connect" Gondolas, and parked in the town's free parking lot.
You can see a billboard of the Breckenridge Ski Resort ski trails on the mountain at the gondola office. There are 155 ski trails accessed by 30 lifts. During summer the slopes are used for hiking, scenic chairlift rides, the "Super Slide" and mountain biking, among other available activities.
My extended family and husband posed for a photo before we boarded the free gondola ride.
The gondola ride offers spectacular views of the Cucumber Gulch Preserve on the way up to the Breckenridge Fun Park.
The base elevation is 9,600 feet. The Fun Park has all kinds of activities to buy tickets for, such as mini golf, gem stone panning, "Gold Runner" coaster, super bungee, 4 X 4 truck rides, guided mountain biking, and the Alpine Slide.
My brother, his grandson and my husband all decided to take a ride of the Alpine Super Slide.
My brother and his grandson are on their way up to the top of the track with their slides.
There are three different 2,600 foot long tracks and the riders speed down the mountain on a variety of dips and banked turns. You can see all three members of my family in this photo, about to cross the finish line. They enjoyed the ride very much!
The average snowfall in Breckenridge is 300 inches per season, and there was still some areas of snow on the mountain!
We all decided to take the scenic chairlift ride on the Colorado Super Chair to the 11,059 foot height , that promised picturesque views of the Continental Divide.
We could see the challenging mountain bikes trails down the mountain as we rose higher.....
I turned around to see the views behind me....
....quite a few times! My brother and his family were a few chairs behind us.
Here we are approaching the top chair lift station. One has to hop off quickly as the chairs never stop moving.
My brother and his family hopping off.
As soon as we looked around we felt as if we could touch the sky!
What a glorious place to be! I wore a fleece jacket as I thought it would be cool on the mountain top, but it was in the 70's. My husband and I are used to the high altitude, as we live at around 6,000 feet, but my brother and his family who live at sea level on Long Island, New York, did quite well and did not suffer any ill effects at all.
The total height of the peak we were on was around 12,000+ feet, so we were about 900 feet below the top.
The views were magnificent!
Everywhere we looked we could see ripples of mountain after mountain.
Some of the distant peaks were high above the tree line.
There were views of "purple mountain majesty" on all sides.
We decided to walk one of the trails that were on the slope.
As we climbed higher the views became even more dramatic.
I enjoyed taking photos of the wildflowers I saw as I hiked.
There were so many wonderful colors! The mountain only gets 30 frost free days a year, so the alpine flowers must be hardy.
My sister-in-law walking on the trail. We began to notice that the clouds were getting darker, and we could hear thunder rumbling in the distance, so we began to hurry.
As you can see in this photo, the rain was fast approaching.
We ran back to the ski lift chairs but they were closed due to the thunderstorm, so we were taken down the mountain by the white, four wheel drive van you can see in the photo.
It was quite a bumpy and exciting ride along many unpaved roads!
The mountains in the distance all but disappeared because of the storm.
Gratefully, we made it all the way down to the base camp where we then boarded a bus that took us down to the parking lot. It continued to rain hard, and I felt sad that we could not explore the beautiful town of Breckenridge, but I know my husband and I will be able to return again someday soon. There is definitely more we want to see and do in this wonderful area of Colorado, and many more ski towns we hope to visit. We love our new state! We might have traded high NYC buildings for high Colorado mountains, but we haven't lost the thrill of knowing there is so much to see and do! I hope my family is able to come back next time for a longer visit and see more with us.
Have you visited Colorado? What was your favorite sight to see?
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