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On the trail: Bugs, blooms and ‘shrooms

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Janet Urquhart/The Aspen TimesA big mushroom on the slopes of Buttermilk.
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ASPEN – What a shock: It didn’t rain this past weekend. At least, it didn’t rain on me, and I was able to get out for a bit of hiking on both Saturday and Sunday.

This spring’s monsoons, which abated only recently (sort of) have given a boost to the vegetation and the mosquitoes, as nearly as I can tell from my weekend outings.

Saturday was merely a hike with the dog up the Tiehack side of Buttermilk. My companion is affectionately known as the moose, or the spotted cow, at home, but she disappeared in the lush grass on the slopes of Buttermilk despite her size. It was nearly waist high on me and I was left to watch for her head and tail bobbing up and down to keep tabs on her whereabouts as she did whatever it is dogs do when they’re ecstatically dashing about in the great outdoors.

The lupines on the lower slopes of Tiehack looked like someone had slipped them a growth hormone and higher up, a variety of flowers were all blooming with the same sort of greenhouse profusion.

On the way down, I happened upon what I initially thought was a soccer ball nestled on the grassy ski slope, but upon closer inspection, I discovered a giant mushroom. If it was edible, then it was most certainly a prize, but I count on the grocery store to make that distinction for me, so I left it alone.

A friend and I spotted a different sort of mushroom I’d not seen before on Sunday, when we headed into the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness.

Our plan was to park at the Capitol Lake trailhead, walk from there up the road to the Hell Roaring trailhead so the dog could run free for a stretch, then leash her up and head up the Hell Roaring Trail to the turnoff to Williams Lake.

I didn’t really think we’d make it to the lake, but we didn’t even come close. The mosquitoes were intense. Even with repellent, they swarmed to such a degree whenever we stopped moving that we finally agreed the experience wasn’t particularly pleasant and turned around.

Back at the Capitol Lake trailhead, we took a stroll out the ditch trail, which links up with the trail to the lake farther up the valley. It was easy hiking, the mosquitoes weren’t nearly as bad and the dog enjoyed walking in the cool water of the ditch. And, we spotted the unusual mushrooms on our return trip, which had me pondering another addition to the guidebooks that sit on a shelf back at home, where they’re never in reach when I want to identify something.

janet@aspentimes.com


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