The bus stop from Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, termination of our hike, is right across the street from our hotel, where Mark is waiting. Not only has he unloaded our bags, but he has already scoped out choices for brews and burgers. The man makes an excellent Sherpa. 😉
We are staying at the Mountain Chalet, a very apropos name for this charming hotel built in 1954. Bobbie stayed here when she did this hike before, and I would highly recommend it if ever in Aspen. It is convenient, economical (relatively speaking by Aspen standards) has a lot of nice amenities like free full breakfast, a giant hot tub, heated pool, and a lot of “old world charm” reminiscent of a European mountain chalet.
Having never been to Aspen before, and knowing I am not likely to pass this way again any time soon, I want to spend some time looking around the town. But I know after an 11 mile hike, I won’t remember anything I see on arrival except the view from the shower, the dinner table, and the bed. And if we hike back the next morning, that will mean another 5:00am wake-up call. So with the promise of “free beer,” I manage to coerce Mark and Bobbie to stay in Aspen two nights so we can have a day in between to have a look around.
We spend most of the morning on our extra day walking around town admiring the architecture, strolling down the nice broad bike path that divides the river from the massive lawns of the “haves.” I am impressed by the amount of green space in Aspen. Parks are plentiful, including the John Denver Sanctuary in the center of town. I have always been a fan of John Denver’s poetry and prose. In fact, his Greatest Hits is at the top of the most frequent playlist in the Winnie. So I am eager to visit this memorial site. In doing my research, however, I find it interesting that some of his lyrics have been “cleansed.” References to “friends around the campfire, and everybody’s high” and “pass the pipe around” have been modified or removed altogether. Ironic, considering Colorado was one of the first two states in our nation to legalize marijuana.
I am also impressed by the amount of flowers everywhere. Never in my life have I seen so many pots, window boxes, hanging baskets, raised beds, and there are no “dead heads” to be found on them anywhere. “Grounds keepers” are hard at work everywhere.
In the afternoon, we take a drive up Highway 82, highest paved state highway in Colorado, to Independence Pass, elevation 12,095 ft. On July 4th, 1879, a group of prospectors crossed the pass, naming it for the Independence Day holiday. Views from the summit are spectacular, with many fourteeners visible. And yes, Mark and Bobbie have climbed them. 😉
I like Aspen more than I expected. But in fact, I didn’t expect to like it at all. I left my “fashionista phase” behind when I left Manhattan. When one lives full time in an RV at the mercy of public laundromats, clothing becomes dispensable and disposable. I do my best shopping at the thrift stores, Walmart, or Target these days. So designer shops with absurd price tags only irritate me in their excess. But it is off season in Aspen. There are no fur-draped, diamond studded, boot scooting rich Texans or paparazzi-dodging celebs hiding behind their shades at this time of year. The balance seems tipped toward the hiking-boot sporting locals. I am grateful for the less-annoying off season.
There is lots of discussion over beer flights about whether we will hike back or ride back in the good company and smooth, climate-controlled comfort of the Suburu. The elevation gain profile of the hike looks like a number 7 fallen on its face, and we will be climbing the longer side. So although the hike back is less steep, it is still seven miles worth of constant climbing. Once we get to Maroon Pass, it will be a fast downhill run, but that is a whole lot of “up” through mud and rocks to get to the pass. Bobbie says she will go either way… I contemplate this longer than you might think. Will I have regrets if I don’t hike it both ways? Am I putting my body through a grueling task, all for the sake of “morning light” in my photos?
I rationalize that if I ride back, I will see parts of Colorado I would not otherwise get to see. It has nothing to do with the fact that it would also mean sleeping in an extra hour in the morning! 😉