Asher on Aspen: Ruedi Reservoir is a hidden gem just an hour outside Aspen
Asher on Aspen
The forecast called for a 70% chance of rain but thankfully, the weather prediction on this Saturday afternoon was far from accurate. It’s 2 p.m. and there’s not a cloud in sight. I grabbed my sunglasses and positioned myself towards the back of the boat so that I could lounge in the sun and have a moment to myself. Musing on the sun rays bouncing off the water and sparkling through my line of vision, I sat calmly in the stillness of this pristine alpine lake. I looked up and saw nothing but walls of mountains fencing me.
If you haven’t heard of Ruedi Reservoir, well, that’s part of the magic. This lesser-known escape is a remarkable, enchanting place — a hidden gem and a great secret. A mere hour-drive from downtown Aspen, Ruedi is a 7,800-foot body of water created by the Ruedi Dam and allows for boating, fishing, hiking and biking access. The scenic destination is easily reached, provided you don’t mind losing cell service when you start traversing the two-lane ribbon road next to the Fryingpan River. Some say the drive there is almost as scenic as the destination itself.
The lack of cell service in this neck of the woods can make it rather difficult for coordinating meet-ups. Typically, we set a specific time to meet friends at the dock. Other days, our friends leave a walkie-talkie inside their car or in a strategic location at their campsite so that we can page them upon arrival. We’ve gotten quite clever in the ways in which we’ve learned to track people down. However, this time, the plan hadn’t been finalized before leaving Aspen. Two friends and I ended up standing on the beach and waving down my uncle’s boat chaotically with high-kicks and obnoxious waving and shouting. We hooped and hollered for a good 10 minutes until finally, the nose of his lime green boat turned toward us.
We eagerly climbed aboard to commence our day on the water. Though a bit windy, we decided it was better than the original rain that was promised. My hair blew around recklessly without warning as I attempted to apply sunscreen. I knew I should have brought a hat. Our friend who was experiencing Ruedi for the first time, looked around in absolute awe, admiring the postcard-perfect landscape views. It was like observing a friend watch a movie for the first time that you’ve seen a hundred times. It’s always fun to watch the movie again, but it’s even more fun to see their reaction and witness their joy.
Suddenly, we spotted our family friend’s boat rolling around the corner to meet us. I waved enthusiastically like Forrest Gump after spotting Jenny for the first time in years. I yelled over to the approaching boat with a thick Irish accent—a common, yet bizarre way that I tend to communicate with these certain friends. After acknowledging each other’s presence, we directed them to follow us over to a cove where we could throw the anchor out and join forces for an even bigger and better rendezvous on the water.
Before we knew it, we had a little community of frequent Ruedi residents all gathered with our boats lined up next to one another. It was this unplanned, super-lively boat party where everyone was just excited to be there and meet the other like-minded individuals.
The views were overwhelmingly beautiful, but the most transfixing spectacle might have been the one unfolding around us: friends launching paddle boards and stand-up jet skis, surfers riding waves, a dozen hippies collecting crystals on the sand, and a group of friends huddled together to play a game of horseshoes. Dense pine trees, sparkling turquoise water and vibrant red rocks served as our backdrop. Bob Ross would have delighted very much in painting this colorful scene.
Reluctantly, we decided to make our way home once the sun began to set and the temperatures began to drop. Undoubtedly, it’s always hard driving away from Ruedi. The cell service comes back and eventually, you are forced to jump back into reality. While mindlessly driving away, I scanned the anglers on the river. Without warning, I screamed abruptly and told my friend to stop the car. She listened and slammed on the breaks. I pointed toward the river across the highway and commanded that my friends look that way. No words were needed as we all gawked in absolute wonder at the massive moose now standing in front of us. It was truly a sight to see in all its glorious and majestic beauty. We couldn’t have asked for a more superb way to end such a magical day on the water.
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The Aspen Filmfest program, which opens Tuesday night with the Jessica Chastain-led drama “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” is a tribute to the founder, Ellen Kohner Hunt. The festival will also recognize the memory of Hunt with “Ellenfest” on Thursday.