Beth Brandon

On June 1, 2019, spring finally happened for the residents of Aspen, Colorado. I know, I know, we had that Saturday the week before, I think it was the 25th, then we had a few hours here and there at various points in May, but with the risk of jinxing it all, I think June turned a new page for us. Keep your down jackets for evening wear and break out your flip-flops for the duration. Spring/summer in Aspen has arrived!

Just the other day I saw some jagoffs parking their obscenely oversized SUV within the new parking lines on Cooper Avenue. Then all of the passengers got out and stood in the middle of the street watching their friend park just barely within said lines, all while donning white pants, popped blazer collars and no socks. I think that means one thing: Summer season is just around the corner.

Of course, locals all wish we’d gotten a taste of anything-but-winter just a bit sooner than June 1, but we’ll take whatever Mother Nature’s serving. This past weekend was the stuff of which Colorado residents dream of. I paddled up and down the river on my paddle board. I skinned up and skied down Geissler Peak and I rode the Grandstaff Trail in Glenwood Springs. Yep, if that doesn’t make you grateful to live in Colorado, then I only have about 20 more picture-perfect outdoor options.  

I went from one end of the valley to the other within 24 hours and it was glorious. Sure there may have been moments of chilled air, wind and even a torrential downpour, but my cup is so full I’m not sure what to do next. I feel both excited and nervous about summer’s arrival, so that I’m ready to plan outdoor activities at a moment’s notice.

We strolled through town on Saturday night and took nearly 90 minutes to walk three blocks. That’s a good off-season walk and catch up if you ask me. We didn’t run into anyone we expected to see, but enjoyed happy interactions all the while and saw the friendly faces of those that inhabit Silver City in the quiet months.

On Sunday morning we headed up Independence Pass with everyone else. If you haven’t gone yet, you really should. It is as stunning as you’ll ever remember seeing it. And if you think winter was long this year, think about those who inhabited what is now the ghost town of Independence. Then you’ll rethink our long winter. Sheesh, I don’t know how they did it.

Every year I ski the pass with my husband since it was what we did for our first date. I typically resist, not that I don’t like that memory, but simply because by Memorial Day weekend or so my toes audibly shriek at the thought of ski boots. There was something different about this trip though.

We were set to ski Geissler Peak, which was a first for me. We almost bailed because parking was full at the last switchback before the top of the pass, but that’s the great thing about mountain-town folk — we’ll just walk a little farther. We found a wide shoulder about a quarter of a mile from the trailhead and left the truck there.

I’ve skied a couple other spots on the pass — Mountain Boy and Fourth of July Bowl — but never the out and back of Geissler Peak. It was stunning. It felt like I was in another world. Trump wasn’t president. Social and environmental problems weren’t stacked like reference books on a return cart in a library. The sky was blue and the snow was pristine and the basin in which we hiked felt endless. Pretty magical if you ask me.

Just when the steep height on the final ascent Geissler started to nudge my fear button, a magical trail fairy give me the best kick-turn tip ever. Maybe it was what she said, maybe it was the timing, or perhaps it’s because she’s a pro in the guide world, who knows. But when learning to do all the fun things we do outside, there’s usually one “ah-ha” moment when it all clicks. In one softly delivered sentence, I lost the anxiety that usually has me clinging to steep pitches like a spider monkey and stuck my arms out straight and made the kick turn, and the next one, and the next one. Thanks Paulina! I owe you a glass of wine sometime.

We get just a couple more weeks, if that, before town swells and those unaccustomed to parking large SUVs within the lines take over. In reality they don’t, even though it can feel that way. Wear your smile big and proud, you get to call this place home. Gratitude is key. And for God’s sake get out and soak up that sun!

 

Beth has switched to a light raincoat, just in case. She can be reached at bethabrandon@hotmail.com.