On the Trail: American Lake
October 17, 2007
ASPEN I recently hiked American Lake Trail for the first and last time this season.It’s unfortunate, I know. I realized I was three weeks too late when I started the climb and saw that the aspen stands were down to their bare bones. No leaves left up there. It was nothing but gray.After I made the steep climb in less than 30 minutes, I realized while I strolled through the forest, meadows and scree fields that I hadn’t been up to American Lake, outside of Aspen, in at least six years. I had moved away for five long years, and I didn’t get a chance to make it up there when I moved back last fall. When I drove into town last October, winter had already set in. I vowed to myself that I would hike American as much as I could the next summer. Another empty promise to myself.For some reason, I could never make it up to American this summer. I guess it was because of the time commitment during the week, since I spent nearly every weekend this summer either on the golf course or on the river. It’s all about priorities.But last Thursday, I took the day off and made American the first priority. I headed out with the dog in the late morning and took my sweet old time getting there. That’s because I missed the turn on Castle Creek Road and found myself in Ashcroft. Like I said, it’s been a while.I remained disoriented the rest of the hike. Nothing looked familiar on the way up. At every turn, I thought I was at the summit. I estimate that I’ve hiked that trail 100 times over the years, and I couldn’t believe it was unrecognizable to me. When I did eventually make it to the lake, that’s when I remembered why I love the trail so much. The water was crystal clear, and the snowcapped peaks surrounding it were breathtaking. I sat there for a moment, watching the water lap onto the shore and listening to the quietness of the high country.On the way down, I could hear the aspen trees creaking and swaying. In the distance, I swear I heard a bear. The dog did, too. On a trail that is usually full of people, I didn’t see a soul the entire three hours. Who goes up to American when it’s past its prime? Slackers like me.There’s always next summer. Promises, promises.