5.08.2005

Aspen minus the Fur Coats

Sunday decided it wanted to dry out and clear up, and actually turned out to be a pretty nice day. I wanted to go on a hike, but locally there were a few deterrents. A lot of the local trails are closed for Elk calving; of course those are the trails that are the first to melt out from the winter’s snow pack. It’s no wonder that the Elk like to have their babies there. It being Mother’s Day, I wouldn’t want to interfere. Of course the remaining local trails are the ones that still have a lot of snow on them, so I was uncertain as to how far I would be able to go before the snow would obscure the trail. Instead I decided maybe I should try and explore a different part of the state, so I headed towards Aspen, at least the scenery would be different. I looked at my maps, and decided to give the Sunnyside Trail a try, hoping maybe all that sun melted out more of the snow. The trail is located across from the ski areas on the eastern side of the valley just north of town. The trail switches back through a steep slope of sagebrush below, and then around several large homes. Sagebrush typically does not require as much moisture to grow as aspen trees and pine trees, so that means the trail is on the dry side of the valley. It was a little muddy, I guess with recent rain and the snow above melting that is just a fact of life this time of year. The lack of tall trees also means that the view along the way is never obstructed. All four of the Aspen area ski resorts are in clear view as the trail rises; in particular the trail looks directly at Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk, the latter of which is home to the winter X-games. Despite the fact that the lower slopes had pretty much melted out, the jumps and half pipe still remained, evidence of just how much snow it takes to build a world class course. Also visible between the two resorts was Pyramid Peak, at 14,018 feet it is one of Colorado’s famed fourteeners, and considered by many one of the most difficult and dangerous of them all. The peak is steep on all sides, and notorious for loose rock, the guidebooks all recommend climbing it in small groups only, and to wear a helmet, so not to kick rocks down on your friends below you. Right now the peak is shrouded in a mantle of snow, perhaps making it look even more challenging, but then again the snow hides the loose rock, so maybe not. Either way, it’s an incredibly beautiful peak. The views from the trail I was on were spectacular, how could they not be from about 2,000 feet above the valley floor? There were some radio towers near the top of the hill, where I ran into the first snow of the day. I turned around here, and even though the map showed that the trail kept going, I had been sufficiently rewarded with broad, unobstructed views of the entire Aspen Valley below.