Asher on Aspen: Somewhere Under the Stars | AspenTimes.com
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Asher on Aspen: Somewhere Under the Stars

Shannon Asher
Asher on Aspen

As I’m currently writing this, there are 29,992 acres of land burning in the Grizzly Creek Fire just 40 miles north and west of Aspen. The fire is only 11% contained. We have been warned that the hot, dry and windy conditions predicted for the coming days will likely increase fire activity. Restaurants and bars in Aspen all close at 10 p.m. and wearing a mask or face covering is required to walk around the downtown core. I am continuing to work from home for the unforeseeable future and apparently, Ellen DeGeneres might not be as kind as we thought she was.

Needless to say, I never would have imagined writing these words one year ago today. What we once knew to be normal, everyday life, is changing by the minute and it might not ever be as it was before. The apocalyptic vibes running through town right now are chilling. It has been gut-wrenchingly overwhelming and exhausting trying to maneuver through this series of unfortunate events that the year 2020 has brought us.

The one thing, however, that keeps me sane through it all is the stars in the sky. As simple and naive as that may sound, it’s true. Looking up into the vast sky of stars in Aspen on any given night is a reminder for me of just how small and insignificant our problems are in comparison to everything that is happening in the universe.

To fulfill my celestial curiosity, I partook in a stargazing tour through The Little Nell. Adventure concierge and astronomy expert, Ricky Wojcik, acted as our guide on this private stargazing excursion. My good friend Bailey accompanied me on this evening cruise, as I knew she would appreciate the experience. The three of us met at the front drive of the hotel where we promptly jumped into the back of an Audi SUV to begin our quest up Aspen Mountain.

The sun teetered in and out of visibility as we made our way up Little Annie’s Road. Upon arrival at Hurricane Point, we were given folding chairs and blankets and were told to make ourselves comfortable. Scrumptious-looking cookies were laid out in front of us. Ricky asked if we cared for some fresh hot chocolate. “Of course!” I said. “Who turns down hot chocolate?”

Once we settled in and got cozy, Ricky began to highlight what we could see in the night sky at that present moment. He identified stars, constellations, planets, the Milky Way and many other fun things. We gawked at the grand, twinkling stars and I admired Ricky’s vast astronomy knowledge. I sipped my hot chocolate quietly while soaking it all in.

The conversation quickly turned to complicated subjects like black holes and the relativity of time and I was utterly intrigued. I immediately referenced the Interstellar movie with Matthew McConaughey and Ricky laughed as if he had heard that comparison before. A sudden gasp, followed by the words, “Did you see that?” came from Bailey as she pointed toward a shooting star. By the time we whipped our heads around, it was gone.

Ricky informed us that on a clear night on Aspen Mountain, one could probably see around 10,000 stars with the naked eye at one time. The North Star and the Big Dipper were about the only things I could recognize on my own. Thanks to Ricky’s green laser pointer, we were able to distinguish some pretty unique constellations. He went on to point out Jupiter and Saturn as well as the Sagittarius constellation which looked like a half man/half horse.

The glow and haziness of the Milky Way now overpowered the sky and I felt fortunate to be stargazing in a location this remote. For many city people, a clear night sky can be seen as a rarity. To be on top of the mountain, looking at a 360-degree view of Earth’s atmosphere, is remarkable. Looking up into the heavens really puts things into perspective for me. I look up and turn to the stars whenever I’m feeling glum. Doing this, as trivial as it may seem, gives me this incredible feeling of hope. A feeling that people search years for by going to church; or going to yoga; or meditating; or listening to the Beatles: that feeling of being part of something greater.

The clouds began to close in after about an hour and that signaled time to call it for the night. We made our way back down the front side of Aspen Mountain where we observed the town lit up majestically in all of its glory. It felt nice to escape reality for a minute and just stare into space with absolute wonder. Wonder why all of these wrenches are being thrown at civilization right now. The plan, I believe, is somewhere in the stars and the answer is not meant to be known. Some things, after all, are never meant to be known.


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