On the trail: Exploring the back of Aspen Mountain
July 18, 2011
ASPEN – I’m making an effort this summer to hike where I haven’t before, but should have. This basically means getting to some obvious locales that are close to home, but which I’ve inexplicably overlooked. The back of Aspen Mountain is one of them.
The mountain extends well back from the ski area, along what’s known as Richmond Ridge, and one side of the ridge drops down to the Castle Creek Valley. It’s criss-crossed by dirt roads that traverse a lot of private property. On Saturday, I hit an obvious route – Little Annie Road. Two of us and a dog drove up to the small parking area where Little Annie and Hurricane roads meet. We walked up into Little Annie Basin, where sweeping, open meadows are covered in wildflowers. Lupine and a some yellow flower (don’t ask me what) are among the dominant varieties. Biting flies are also in abundance.
One can stroll all the way to the Sundeck, the restaurant atop the ski area, but we didn’t. We took in the vistas and the flowers, with no particular goal in mind.
On Sunday, I took a solo jaunt to explore the Stirling Cooper Open Space. The trail begins at the first parking area, immediately after turning onto Little Annie Road. There’s a small, laminated map posted to a tree.
This collection of mining claims was purchased by Pitkin County in 2009. There’s a lollipop trail (go out, make a loop, and return) that stays almost entirely in the trees, and going up is steep.
I headed right when I hit the loop, went past Dick’s picnic area, eventually lost the trail briefly (it hasn’t seen a million footsteps and some parts are less distinct than others) and made it to Storm King Cabin, an interesting relic that appears to have seen some off-and-on residency since the mining days. Then I lost the trail. I couldn’t find another telltale ribbon tied to a tree to guide me this time.
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I wound up on a route, no doubt private, that dumped me onto Hurricane Road. I walked down to Little Annie Road and down to the trailhead. Then I headed back up the trail again, intending to turn left at the loop and find out what I did wrong. It was seriously steep and some of it overgrown, but I made it back to Storm King. FYI: If you’re doing this loop counter clockwise, walk beyond the mine tailings pile at the cabin, then drop back toward it. The trail crosses the pile halfway down the debris. Then look for an immediate, overgrown right to stay on the trail. A faded ribbon is tied to a tree at the turn.
Next: Midnight Mine Road.