On the Trail: Smuggled to town | AspenTimes.com

On the Trail: Smuggled to town

Nate Peterson

You’re new to town. You’re trying to get your bearings, so you keenly observe the locals to figure out what it is that locals do.Your amiable office manager/landlord at The Aspen Times tells you to take a walk up Smuggler Mountain Road, because, well that’s what locals do. It’s right up the way from your quaint apartment on Park Circle, so you go. This is early August. That first walk up the mountain, you feel like an outsider. No one, however, is checking your credentials.Attractive pairs of middle-aged women say “hi” to you as you pass. Hearty old-timers toss you a smile, or give a nod when your eyes meet with theirs. Married couples ask, “How are you doing today?”You stick out a little because you’re alone. Most everyone you pass on the road up the mountain is with someone else. A friend. A significant other. A sibling. A dog. You don’t know anybody, but you pretend like you’ve walked Smuggler hundreds of times before and that you prefer to walk alone. You pretend that you’re a longtime local.You start walking up Smuggler about once every week, sometimes twice. Some days you pack a water bottle and push yourself. Some days you doddle. Some days you don’t go all the way to the top. The only constant is this: On the days you walk out your front door and head up the road, you do it to clear your head. New town. New job. New grocery store. It can be a lot at first. You walk Smuggler to remind yourself why you’re here.The leaves start to change. The air gradually grows colder. Some days you put on a rain coat and hike in the rain. Some days you wear glasses to protect your eyes from the sun. You start to feel like a local, sort of. You begin to recognize Smuggler regulars. The greetings are still generic, but you feel like you somehow know them. They seemingly know you, too. The shared road is the connection. The up and down. The clear blue Colorado sky. The hush of the trees. It’s all therapeutic. You quit thinking about how you haven’t yet found a good friend with whom you can hike with once a week. Spend a whole year here, you say to yourself. You’ll meet plenty of people.In the meantime, there’s always the road. You know it’s there for support.