On the Road: Back in time | AspenTimes.com

On the Road: Back in time

Jon Maletz

I’m warming up to the idea of playing host for the lady friend. The company sure beats hours on the telephone. I’ve been eating well (honestly, there was no way to go but up). I am learning to appreciate going to the outdoor market on Saturdays. And I’ve gotten to cross some of the area’s tourist attractions off my to-do list.Saturday, we decided to head out to the Ashcroft ghost town. We got off to a bit of a late start, but were winding our way up Castle Creek Road by noon, taking in the views of the surrounding peaks and vistas that dominate the landscape.What little I knew about Ashcroft I learned while doing research on the history of Aspen. The town was highly populated during the height of the silver boom in the 1880s, then deserted some 10-15 years later. During the height of operation, the town had between 16 and 20 saloons – now we’re talking.As we pulled into the dusty parking lot and I shut off the engine, we were overwhelmed with calm. Flowers and tall grass waved gently in the breeze. Running water could be heard flowing in the distance. Aside from a handful of cars, there was little sign of life. It was hard to imagine we were just 11 miles outside Aspen, which was surely a hive of activity at that very moment.After being allowed to proceed despite not having the $3 entrance fee (I’ll blame Laura for not reading the summer guide’s fine print), we made our way up the wood-slatted boardwalk. Then, we made our way back in time.What we saw was a modest grouping of well-worn buildings (the others must’ve succumbed to the elements). We passed the old laundry, the post office and, of course, a saloon. In one building, I noticed cardboard and burlap covering the walls, which I learned villagers used as insulation during the cold winter months – hardly the materials that would earn a high energy star rating. The sun was high in the sky, but I shivered to think what life would’ve been like in Ashcroft in January. We soaked it all in, wielding our cameras and snapping shots in seemingly every direction. We stared at the two-story hotel, half expecting it to collapse like it had in 1974 – there must’ve been a few rolls of duct tape holding all those beams in place.When we had reached the outskirts of the town, Laura and I continued on, following a trail as it passed under the welcoming shade of aspen trees. Before we turned back, we slipped off the sandals and dipped our feet into the frigid waters of Castle Creek, steadying ourselves in the current. We took a moment to fill our lungs with fresh air.It was the perfect getaway.