On the Trail: History on Independence Pass
September 12, 2008
ASPEN ” Since returning to the valley awhile back, one of my favorite hikes has been calling. Monday, I went up it for the first time in years. I’m usually not one to divulge secret spots, but it’s just us locals now, so what the hell.
It’s Linkins Lake on the pass. Well, above it, actually. I began mid-morning, the only car in the lot. A nearby front-end loader was noisily taking dirt from one pile and adding it to another; the kind of combustible-engine activity I was trying to escape for a few hours.
On the hike up, hoping the noise would fade with elevation gain, my belly began its assault on my lower back. Nothing new there. Making the gut smaller so it doesn’t impact my back is why I’m out here, I told myself between gasps. For all you fit people out there, this likely is a foreign concept. Let me surmise: Gravity forces the abdomen down, pulling on the lower back muscles. It kind of feels like one long kidney punch to both sides.
I made it to the lake, chiding myself for being so winded on such a short hike. Right when I sat down, the call went up behind me. I scanned the hillside on the next valley over but couldn’t see the pack of coyotes. Their yipping and howling lasted a few minutes, making my soul smile. That’s more like it, wilderness. On the other hand, maybe they sensed my rapid exhalations as those of a flagging animal.
The book I brought is about what life in England was like in the year 1000 A.D. Beside the lake I read, “Natural disaster and the hardship it caused were constant spectres. People dated their lives by the years when the land and weather failed. … In time of famine, according to one Anglo-Saxon law code, ‘a father may sell his son aged under seven as a slave if necessity forces him to do so,’ and even infanticide was not accounted a crime.”
My trail mix tasted sweeter. Fast forward 800 or so years ” this is why I’m here.
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Facing the lake, you head to the left and pick up the trail. Either follow it left away from the lake, which I had never done before Monday, or stick to the soggy terrain next to the lake until you come to a dry creek bed. Follow it up until you see the trail to the right. This part is steep but it’s short. The path fades toward the top, but keep going up. Nestled into the mountainside is a mining-age wonder. The cabin is tiny but solid, and the brute strength it took man and mule to construct it is awe-inspiring. Its back yard is a black hole boring deep into the earth.
I poked around, read some more and kept an eye on the clouds. Barely-there flakes breezed down as I descended. Too soon, I was back in modern times.