On the trail: Near-perfect days up the Fryingpan

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

BASALT – I had the pleasure of hanging out in the upper Fryingpan Valley for a good chunk of last weekend. It’s always splendid up there, but we had to accept the bad with the good.

On the good side of the ledger, the wildflowers were peaking on a trip to Fryingpan Lakes, the weather was superb, the company was excellent and the post-hike beers were particularly tasty.

On the bad side, the mosquitoes were even more prolific than the wildflowers.

We hit the Fryingpan Lakes Trail at 9 a.m. Sunday, later than we wanted but the forecast was favorable. It’s a great hike because it’s relatively long but not very steep. Plus, you pop out of the woods into a series of meadows at regular intervals. Often you stay burrowed in the deep, dark forest on Fryingpan Valley hikes. The columbines and bluebells in the meadows were as thick as kids flocking around the Aspen water fountain on a hot summer day.

After the hike we puttered up the old railroad grade to one of my favorite camping spots over the years near Ivanhoe Lake. The spot itself is nothing to brag about but it offers a stunning view of Hagerman Pass and the Continental Divide that flanks it. We had an evening that enhanced the natural beauty – clouds to the east tried to spill over the divide; clear skies to the west. That was a recipe to light up the clouds in a fiery glow at sunset.

Kamikaze mosquitoes made it difficult to fully appreciate the view. Long shirt sleeves, light pants and copious amounts of bug spray prevented them from biting but not from irritating. They buzzed around us in swarms, looking for any opening in our defenses. We took a pre-dusk walk to seek respite only to find them hovering in clouds. A brisk wind materialized from the east finally brought relief.

The mountain scenery is lush beyond belief this year, but it comes at a price. Oh, well, if not for the bugs the conditions would be perfect, then everybody would be out and about.


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