Asher on Aspen: Immersed in Mother Nature
Though Ruedi Reservoir is only 15 miles upstream of Basalt and a scenic hour drive from downtown Aspen, it is another world. When I find myself searching for the ideal vantage point to contemplate the oddities of 21st century Aspen, I head for the waterfront vistas of Ruedi Reservoir — a 7,800-foot body of water created by the Ruedi Dam that has some of the best boating, fishing, hiking and biking access in the state.
The views are spectacular. But the most transfixing spectacle is the one that unfolds around me: anglers tossing lines, friends launching kayaks, surfers riding waves and a dozen friends gathered around a campfire singing out-of-tune to “Hey Jude” by the Beatles. It is a place of scruff beauty, half-hidden, vaguely illicit and a great secret from the hamlet of Aspen.
The Ruedi Marina campground consists of four campgrounds accommodating 81 campsites in total and two boat-launching ramps. Different from previous years when it was first-come, first-serve, reservations now must be made ahead of time online through http://www.recreation.gov. This picturesque lake prefers a hushed kind of reputation that caters best to locals seeking solitude — an escape from the glitz and glamor of Aspen.
Walking down to the beach on a recent Saturday, we thankfully spotted my friend’s boat right away. With no cell phone service in the area, it’s oftentimes hard to track down friends (especially if they’re already on the water). He casually cruised up to shore to pick us up while I quickly applied a dollop of sunscreen and simultaneously cracked a beer. Our crew of six Aspenites piled onto the boat, along with our random coolers filled with High Noons and White Claws.
While tubing, skiing, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding are all popular in the wake scene, one of the lake’s growing activities is wakesurfing. That’s right. Wakesurfing. Trailing behind the boat, riders use a tow rope to pull themselves up and ride the steep face below the wave’s peak. Air temperatures can vary 40 degrees in just one day, so depending on the weather, I typically wear a wetsuit while attempting this. Though, this week, my friends felt courageous enough to brave the cold water.
“Being cold is just a state of mind,” my friend yelled out as she launched herself into the water.
We woke a touch before dawn to the sounds of nature, rather than the alarms on our digital devices. The rain fly was forgotten about when setting up the tent, so the sun began to seep in right at sunrise. I didn’t mind though, as this made for great stargazing the night before. Turquoise sparkling water, vibrant red rocks, dense pine trees and a rocky peninsula with a makeshift beach served as the backdrop for our morning French press coffee. We proceeded to make eggs and bacon over the fire while we discussed last night’s eventful campfire happenings.
Sunday called for rain all day, but we didn’t let that stop us from having an eventful day on the water. After a leisurely breakfast at our campsite, we moseyed over to the beach, where we just happened to catch the tail end of our friend foil-surfing behind his boat. I have yet to try this specific type of surfing, but this is essentially when a hydrofoil is attached to the surfboard instead of a fin. Though this intimidates me like crazy, I still have the itch to try it someday.
We braved the rain and waited out the storm on my friend’s boat. There is nothing more satisfying than the glassy waters and misty skies that present themselves after a storm has passed. A bald eagle majestically soared above us just as the clouds began to part. The captain pulled out his binoculars, and we stalked the glorious bird as he flew across the lake. So large but so graceful, we all stared at the enormous bird with utter fascination as it swept past our line of vision. I don’t remember the last time I stopped to watch and appreciate a bird like that.
I love how Ruedi forces me to slow down and appreciate the little things. It’s important to do that every once in a while. When Aspen begins to feel too chaotic, bustling with tourists and big-city parties, Ruedi is a great escape that allows you to be fully immersed in Mother Nature and her beautiful creations. Like a kid leaving summer camp, it’s never easy to drive away from Ruedi Reservoir. I’m already dreaming about my return visit — and the next great wave.
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