In the Saddle: Gravity bites
September 12, 2006
My first few trips up Smuggler Mountain by mountain bike had me thinking that life here in the Rockies is all about gravity and sweat.I’d be going up and down the front of the mountain, gagging on dust along the busy road. I’d crank up each switchback, racing against power-walking soccer moms, cursing the whole way. At the top I’d sit for a moment, exhausted, before swooping down the same switchbacks and wondering, “Where’s the thrill?” Yes, the views of Aspen are great from Smuggler, but I was missing the goods.This time I took a left after the observation deck at the top of Smuggler. I followed some great singletrack down a steep slope into the Hunter Creek Valley.Dropping from the steep trail through pines I came to a stand of aspen, leaves shimmering with light.Then I burst into a clearing, a wide alpine meadow. The trail meanders a short loop through the meadow and back down into the valley toward Aspen.As I made the turn toward Aspen and looked out over Aspen Highlands in the distance, I had to stop. This was too much. Mountains framed by sloping escarpments, glowing gold in the fading light. A river raging to my left. Abandoned settlers cabins in just the right state of disrepair. All too perfect to be real, like it was all set there strategically. A “virtual Colorado,” or the Rocky Mountains doing a cover song about themselves.I half-expect John Denver to hop out from behind a bush and say “Welcome, stranger.” He’d wave a hand like a flight attendant indicating exits to point out the splendor. Press one for stunning sunset. Press two for Rocky Mountain High.Not a soul in sight. The grass waves in a light breeze.I put on a thin layer and start my descent toward my new home. It’s not just about gravity and sweat.