On the trail: A secret spot
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
“You’re not going to write about this, are you?”
We weren’t very far into our hike Monday when my companion suggested that our locale should remain secret, sort of like stellar fishing holes and secluded campsites with stupendous views.
It’s true, we didn’t see another soul there, and the trail was at times indistinct, as though few hikers ever bothered to explore this easy-to-access gulch. On the other hand, I’d never been scratched through the legs of my zippy pants before, or climbed up a ravine in which every potential handhold seemed to be another thorny bush of some sort. I actually ripped a couple of small tears in the seat of my pants on the way down, though I didn’t realize it until I was standing in a public place later.
Not only that, but I brushed away a tick ambling across my clothing on the way up and found another on the bathroom floor the next morning. Most disconcerting. And, when we finally turned around to retrace our steps, it was because we kept encountering hefty, overturned rocks along the trail – as in, a bear looking for grubs and whatnot had been there before us. How soon before us, we weren’t sure.
But what struck us from the outset was how unexpectedly spectacular this innocuous gully turned out to be. A tiny, spring-fed stream gurgled at our feet, and in places, red rock walls closed in tightly above us. The water coursed beneath a carpet of watercress, slid over waterfalls lined in slick, green moss and fed cottonwoods and other trees that barely fit in the confines of the space.
After about an hour of hiking, we popped out of the shady ravine into a narrow valley, dotted with sage and hemmed in by a ridge to either side. To our right, a densely treed forest on a steep slope appeared virtually impenetrable.
When the sage gave way to forest and the trees began to close in, we started to wonder about what we might startle. We talked. Loudly.
After we turned back and were approaching the ravine from the upper end, all manner of birds began screaming and diving in alarm at a marauding hawk. A raven chased the hawk into the gulch, where both birds dodged obstacles like rebel pilots in a “Star Wars” movie.
It was all quite impressive. I’d recommend it to anyone who can find it.
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