On the Trail: Cardiovaskiller
When it comes to peak bagging, the one outside the front door isn’t what comes to mind.OK, there’s no knife edge to the summit, no need for pitons and rope. In fact, you can do it in tennis shoes, with only a water bottle for gear, assuming you’re not ridiculously anal about preparing for every possible contingency (space blanket, anyone?). But that doesn’t mean a hike up Aspen Mountain is easy.I’d forgotten just how easy it isn’t until I was six switchbacks or so into the Ute Trail (accessed off Ute Avenue, for anyone who’s not familiar with this popular, cardiovaskiller workout). It’s 17 switchbacks to Ute Rock, I think. I’m always delirious by about No. 14 and I lose count. I stagger out onto Ute Rock like a gasping pearl diver coming up for air. The rock offers a panoramic view of town from a height that justifies my labored breathing. The trail climbs more than 1,000 feet in elevation in a little more than a mile (but our staff doubts it’s 1,700 feet, as one trail guide claims).What possessed me to continue, I can’t quite say. But after a recovery period at the rock, I trudged onward and upward, where the trail grows steeper, but the lupines and other wildflowers are beginning to bloom in profusion on Gent’s Ridge. By the time I passed the bottom terminus of the Gent’s Ridge lift, I was ready to pass out. Those intermediate slopes never seem as steep when I’m skiing down them as they do when I’m walking up them.I invariably contemplate finishing the hike via the dirt road that winds it’s way to the summit. But that old adage about the shortest distance between two points always gets the better of me and I end up grunting my way up the ski runs in a manner that does not facilitate conversation. (Tip: Never take a fit, chatty person along with you on this hike.)The best part about reaching the top should be the vistas, but it’s really the feeling of sinking into one of those Adirondack chairs at the Sundeck with a beer, secure in the knowledge that the descent will be as easy as stepping into a gondola car for a free ride down.The last rides down are at 4:30 p.m., by the way.