by Samantha Johnston

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June 23, 2014
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Dog days on Ajax Mtn. hike

I have a golden retriever. Anyone with a dog knows that a tired dog is a good dog. So, I spend nearly half of my life planning awesome outdoor adventures that are challenging and awesome for both dog and human. My intention last week: a visit to the Ute Cemetery followed by a run on Ajax Trail.

What actually happened was a Bloody Mary on the Sundeck. And I still haven’t visited the Ute Cemetery.

After about a half mile of incline and switchbacks that did not have an end in sight, it occurred to me that I had probably missed the cemetery. But I kept trucking, because this trail was a tired-dog maker. And the views were out of this world. I’m not new to the mountains, but I am new to Aspen. And I continue to tell my mountain brethren that no matter where we grew up or lived in the past 25 years, nothing is as magical and stunning as Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley. I mean that.

We finally reached The Couch — that comfy, slow cruiser also known as Lift 7. Above us were brightly colored hang gliders. Below us: the beautiful town of Aspen. To the right of us, the Silver Queen Gondola churning along with cars full of people taking photos and soaking in the spectacular scenery.

Riding a gondola is on Murphy’s bucket list. Murphy is my dog. I control his bucket list. But I’m not about to buy a gondie ticket for a dog. So we made a deal — he could ride the gondola down if he hiked to the top. Onward ho.

We arrived at the top of the Bell Mountain lift, which sits within a few hundred yards of the top of the Silver Queen. Not bad. Good hike. Decent scenery. And then we arrived at the Sundeck. Oh. My. God. No wonder people flock from all over the world to visit Aspen. Those fourteeners. It was as if I could reach out and touch them if I just leaned a little bit further over the railing.

On the Sundeck, I met a fantastic couple from Carmel, California. They wanted to pet Murphy (story of my life). They said they saw him from the Gondola and were worried about whether he could make it to the top. Worried about the dog? Hell, if anyone wasn’t making it, it was this girl. So, they plopped down in Adirondack chairs and watched Murphy while I bought all of us a Bloody Mary. I felt cool doing that. I’m not local, yet. But I felt like I got a chance to show these people the same “local” hospitality that was shown to me.

We rode the gondola down. Murphy didn’t like it.


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The Aspen Times Updated Jun 23, 2014 10:48PM Published Jun 23, 2014 10:48PM Copyright 2014 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.