On the Trail: Rediscovering Aspen’s Hunter Creek | AspenTimes.com

On the Trail: Rediscovering Aspen’s Hunter Creek

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” Sometimes, hiking is about reconnecting with an old friend. On Sunday, the trail was the old friend.

For more than a decade, I easily logged more miles on Smuggler Mountain and into the Hunter Creek Valley on the edge of Aspen than at any other favorite hiking destination. More than just a quick, convenient spot to hike ” not to mention the only mountain bike ride I’ve ever truly enjoyed, thanks to the novice-geared, flat traverse that awaits anyone who climbs into the extended expanse of easy pedaling through its meadows ” the valley was a place of solace, peace even. It was a place to recharge.

I remember vividly my first glimpse of the valley, as a newcomer to Aspen on an exploratory trek on the Smuggler cutoff road. The road takes a big turn at a flat spot, where the now well-marked Iowa Shaft Trail cuts into the valley, and I got my first glimpse of the long-abandoned house, crumbled barn and outbuildings that sit near the Forest Service boundary at the lower end of the valley. I was fascinated to find such a seemingly solitary outpost so close to civilization.

The scattering of old log cabins in the valley’s upper reaches, slowly being reclaimed by nature, always take me to a different place in time, as well as mindset.

A hike up to the valley’s upper reaches, where the trail finally peters out, took me past the rocky outcropping where I often sat, overlooking the creek, and contemplated the past, and the future, during my early days in Aspen. There was the boulder in the meadow where I sat down for lunch amid bluebird skies and sparkling snow on the final day of the last century.

And, newly noticed, were the granddaddies of aspen trees standing amid much younger saplings. I couldn’t encircle the trunk with my arms, or even come close.

Words don’t do justice to scenery that never fails to make me stop and take notice. I call the midvalley home now, but I need to visit Hunter Creek more often.


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