In the Saddle: After the gold rush
September 27, 2005
If you haven’t noticed, Aspen has turned the corner into fall. Just in the last week, the aspen trees have all turned bright yellow, and downvalley the rusty reds of the oaks are splendid, as well.Let’s hope the rain and wind aren’t too severe this week and that we get to enjoy the height of the colors a little longer.Last weekend I was determined to get out for a fall leaf-ride. Time constraints prevented me from heading into Aspen or Snowmass Village, so I chose Hay Park, a classic midvalley mountain bike ride that starts in the West Sopris Creek drainage, and crosses over to the Capitol Creek side.We couldn’t have timed it any better. The route climbs steadily through mixed aspen and spruce forest, and excepting a rough and rocky mile or so above the Dinkle Lake trailhead, the ascent is never so demanding that you can’t let your eyes wander. A breeze was blowing that day, and aspen leaves swirled in the air and on the trail. A few wispy clouds streaked the cobalt blue sky.Up in Hay Park itself, Mount Sopris loomed above broad expanses of gold aspen, and in the distance, Capitol Peak and Mount Daly were dusted with snow. Some aspen stands had even turned a deep, flaming orange. It was quasireligious up there, especially after a shot of energy goo.The long singletrack descent toward Capitol Creek Road features numerous stream crossings and short, technical sections requiring quick bursts of energy. On the winding stretches in between, aspen leaves completely covered the trail. And when a fast descent coincided with a thick aspen grove, it was like screaming through a corridor of gold.Days later, those golden aspen groves still occupy my mind. If we’re lucky, this coming weekend may be just as good.