In the middle of somewhere
August 17, 2005
There are lots of reasons to take a long hike, but one of the best is winding up in the middle of nowhere. I didn’t do that last weekend.I set out to conquer Aspen Mountain, one step at a time. Keeping a slow pace, I watched the view of the city below, with buildings and cars so tiny that you can’t tell how busy Aspen is on a Sunday in the summer. Besides some other stray hikers and the sound of the noon whistle traveling all the way up to Bonnie’s restaurant, I was basically alone. Wild raspberries grew on the lower half of the mountain and wild strawberries on the upper half; old mining implements were tucked in the woods and one solitary deer bounded across Summer Road as I approached.The peace began to wane as I reached the upper echelons of the mountain. Groups were playing disc golf, and more and more families who had ridden the gondola up the mountain began hiking down, passing me on the trail. Just beneath the gondola cars, cresting the Silver Bell run is where things reached a fever pitch.Women in capri pants and platform flip-flops teetered around with nannies and children in tow, their husbands waiting patiently in line at the Sundeck’s grill line for chicken fingers and tossed salad. A band was playing beneath a small tent outside, a climbing wall and trampoline/bungee jumping combination lured a line of kids, and families crowded around to snap pictures of the view toward Highland Bowl and Pyramid Peak.At the time, my husband noted that the top of Aspen Mountain in the summer may have the highest concentration of people who have never been to Aspen before. Could be, judging from the crowd up top that almost deserves its own ZIP code.Heading up to the top probably isn’t something locals do as frequently, although according to a guy counting people who were taking the gondola down after hiking up, we were the 71st and 72nd people who did just that as of 2 p.m. Sunday. But where else can you end a long hike uphill with a plate of freshly woked tandoori chicken? The middle of somewhere, that’s where.