Asher on Aspen: Roads Less Taken |

Asher on Aspen: Roads Less Taken

Shannon Asher
Asher on Aspen

A thick wave of smoke rolled across just as we took our seats around the campfire. I forgot how much I loved that smell. Looking around, everyone seemed to be tapping their feet in unison to the beat. The band had just begun and I was already falling in love with the quirky little fiddle tunes that served as our soundtrack for the evening. Far removed from the glitz and glamour of Aspen, I felt calm and relaxed upon arrival.

Though Beyul Retreat is only an hour’s drive from downtown Aspen, it felt like another world. Taking over the historic Diamond J Guest Ranch at mile marker 26 on the upper Frying Pan River, this five-month-old retreat is the new, highly coveted escape from Aspen that all my friends seem to be talking about. So, given my love for Ruedi Reservoir and the therapeutic need to get away for a night, I insisted on experiencing it for myself.

We arrived on a recent Saturday afternoon, where we planned to stay the night and enjoy the last live performance of the retreat’s outdoor concert series called “Ballads at Beyul.” The lineup featured a slate of impressive artists that were all enjoyed from a COVID-safe distance. Each cabin had their own private campfire that was strategically spaced out from the other concert goers. On stage that night was The Tierro Band Trio featuring Bridget Law (of Elephant Revival), her partner Tiero, and percussionist Jonny Jyemo.

Thankfully, one of my best friends drove up from Denver to experience this peaceful oasis with me. In hindsight, I am so happy that I had someone else there to share the experience. We were both itching to get away and find a little solitude for the weekend, and this seemed like the perfect solution. All of my responsibilities and worries were pushed aside for the night. My ongoing to-do list for work was, for once, not my focus. We were literally in a utopia, in the middle of nowhere, with no cell phone service, and I couldn’t have felt more at ease.

I smiled effortlessly as I noticed the scene unfolding around me. A little girl gleefully skipped around the campfire while her little brother stomped in the snow and wiggled his hips. Couples were cozied up with blankets over their laps and a warm drink in hand. A group of girlfriends swayed along to the “gypsygrass” music while sharing a bottle of wine. Dogs roamed free while ranch hands stepped in to fix any unruly fires. There was a general sense of calm in the air. I took one look around and thought, “These are my people.”

My head rolled back as I took a moment to marvel at the sky above. It was a glorious night and it just so happened to be a full moon. As the sun began to set, I noticed the clouds start to shift, revealing a stunning scene of immeasurable beauty. Chaotic and astonishing brushstrokes of pink and purple filled the sky’s canvas. The sunset and the soulful music were subtle reminders of how insignificant and tiny we are in the grand scheme of things. It was a gentle reminder that we are just tiny little specs in the middle of a great big universe, and our problems are never really as big as they first appear.

After the show, we moseyed back to our snug log cabin by the light of the moon. The cabin embodied the rich architectural traditions of the classic American ranch. A large cowhide covered the floor, a sheep-skin rug draped over the chair, a Pendleton throw lined the bottom half of the bed, and freshly chopped wood sat neatly next to the wood-burning fireplace. We had our own private bathroom and mini-fridge, and that’s really all we needed. It was cozy and quaint, and the simplicity was utterly refreshing.

Driving away the next morning, we both felt calm and enlightened. Beyul was like an illicit secret that we felt lucky to be in on. The peaceful venture made me realize that it is so important to seek out a new perspective every once in a while. We get so comfortable when we fall into a routine that it’s easy to forget how important it is to step back and look at things from a new light.

Whether that simply means changing up your daily routine, or actually escaping for a night or two to a quiet place to clear your head. When life gets to be too much for me, I find joy in the stillness and simplicity of nature. It can be a spiritual experience when you are immersed in the great cathedral of the outdoors. Like a kid driving away from summer camp, I was sad to leave. I’m already dreaming about a return visit to Beyul.

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