Just a quick trip report. Getting into and out of Aspen was a nightmare and both ways I ended up missing my connection in Denver. The airlines are sleazy and don't give a flying flip about the customers. Now that i'm done with my rant, here's what I did:
1. Supposed to get in on Friday, July 26th, but didn't get in till the a'noon of Saturday, July 27th. Got my car and drove on CO-82, eastward stopping along the way to shoot the wildflowers at various points. Also stopped at Independence, a nice little ghost town and trekked through to the cabins. The light was just right, with numerous clouds and thunderheads passing through the area. I was lucky that the storms did not break out and drench me. I spent a good 3-4 hours here before heading further up the Cut and then onto Independence Pass. Stopped at the overlook and again risked getting drenched, and was lucky to successfully evade the storms again. I didn't know that this would be a good spot for a sunset, so I headed on further east to Twin Lakes where the storms finally caught up with me
. From here I didn't have the motivation to either head up north to Leadville or south to Buena Vista. At this point, I just went in to the general store, got myself an ice cream and started driving back.
2. Didn't head out the next day as the weather was quite pathetic. On Monday, I headed out to the Bells in the afternoon. Took the 3:30pm bus just to scout the area to come back for sunrise when the weather permitted. The peaks were shrouded in the clouds and I didn't spot the peaks during the time I was there.
3. Tuesday morning was bad again, however, the clouds started to roll out and away. For the first time I saw blue since the time of my arrival. Went to the Aspen Music festival, which was quite good!
4. The forecast for Wednesday was blue skies, no rain, no clouds. AS a photographer I thought no clouds sounded a little disappointing, but boy was I wrong. I actually enjoyed the back ground of sapphire blue skies against the Maroon peaks of the Bells. Spent about 3 hours from before sunrise till about 9:00am trekking the scenic trail and capturing some really good shots with the wildflowers in the foreground. I had grandiose plans to return again on Thursday morning. Since the forecast called for clouds rolling in later in the evening, and the weather didn't disappoint. I headed out for sunset to Independence Pass again, stopping along the way to take in some more scenic shots. On reaching the Independence Pass overlook I scouted a couple of trails that lead away from the overlook and then settled in on a spot on the paved path to the overlook to get my sunset shots. And boy, what a sunset it was! By the time I was done with the sunset (and scaring away another photographer who thought I was a bear!!!!) and headed back, it was well past 10:30pm. My grandiose plans to go back for sunrise on Thursday didn't pan out as I was in no condition to wake up at 4:30 and head out there again.
5. Thursday mid-morning, took the gondola up to the top of Aspen mountain. The views are just spectacular!! I'll have to find out if its even possible to get up to the peak by car or if one has to hike up there to catch the sunrise. I'd imagine that sunrise/sunset would be more spectacular from this location. Best way would be to perhaps visit in late fall/early winter to find out.
In short, this little resort town was fabulous and I certainly will return to Aspen and the Bells, perhaps next year, to photograph the fall colour. I knew I was being over ambitious in planning out drives to other places far away, but once I was in Aspen and saw how much there is to photograph I realized that driving out to these other locations I mentioned in my initial post would just not be very good use of my time.
Once again, thanks to everyone for your suggestions!