Aspen to Crested Butte, by foot
The hike from Aspen to Crested Butte has been on my bucket list since my first day in Aspen. A year ago in April, I wandered a very deserted Main Street looking for an open door. I found one at the J-Bar. I also found a delicious burger, cold beer and a bartender named Jake who gave me a list of things that should be on my “new to town” bucket list. The hike was one of them. I had every intention of doing it last summer, but after my 10.4-mile Sunnyside Trail hike turned in 17 miles and a trip to Lenado, I figured I better wait until I had made some friends who knew the ropes before I attempted the town-to-town jaunt.
A year later, I’ve made some friends and one of them invited me to join her group for the hike last weekend. It turns out I knew only two of the seven women going. I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t a little anxious about spending two days with a pack of women I didn’t know. If the conversation turned to purse dogs, Botox or taking a jet to the Hamptons, chances are that I would be out of things to contribute to the conversation within the first half mile. Likewise, my Schlitz hat, ridiculous sense of humor and worst-behaved dog on Earth aren’t always immediate friend makers.
And then there is the whole thing about whether I’ll be the slowest hiker in the group, or whether I’ll be boring because I grew up in Steamboat and not Chamonix.
I wasn’t in the Suburban heading to the parking lot for three minutes before I realized how lucky I was to get invited on this trip. Not only did I get to check it off the bucket list, but these chics were hysterical, brilliant, witty, welcoming and badass. I had hit the jackpot.
The hike itself was magical, even though we were a little bit early for the complete wildflower show. By my estimates, right about now is when that party is jumping.
Starting any hike at Maroon Lake is awesome. The view of the Bells never loses its novelty. We made great pace to Crater Lake and then the fun began. Knee-deep river crossings, mid-shin deep mud on the trail, a couple of snowfields and a slippery slope to reach the West Maroon Pass summit. But when I stood on top of the pass and looked toward Crested Butte, the view took my breath away (it could have been trying to keep up with LeeAnn Vold that took my breath away, but the view certainly was a close second). Miles of brilliant green fields dotted with patches of snow spotted with Columbines in every shade of purple. That term “God’s country” — yeah, I know what that means now.
The hike from the top of the pass to the trailhead on the Crested Butte side was glorious. And by glorious, I mean I got home with at least 53 photos of columbines in varying shades of purple. The Indian paintbrush, bluebells, columbines and sunflowers (and a dozen other flowers I don’t know the names of) were breathtaking, and most of the wildflowers hadn’t even bloomed yet. Miles upon miles of color. Every time I made a remark about the beauty, my traveling partners would remind me that I hadn’t even seen the half of it. I can’t imagine.
Like clockwork, we arrived at the trailhead exactly six hours later and just in time for Dolly’s Mountain Shuttle to roll into the parking lot toting a cooler of soft drinks and beer. We loaded up seven women, two dogs and blazed into Crested Butte for an evening of absolute fun.
We shopped. We drank tequila. We ate ridiculously delicious food. We laughed. And laughed. And laughed. I was sad to drive home the following morning. The hike was as amazing as everyone said it would be, and I made four new friends. That, my friends, is winning.
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