On the trail: The home loop | AspenTimes.com

On the trail: The home loop

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
Janet Urquhart/The Aspen TimesKali makes a loop at Crown Mountain Park in El Jebel.

EL JEBEL – If my favorite trail in the valley can be defined as the one I walk most frequently, then Crown Mountain Park in El Jebel tops the list.

Most mornings find me there – at first light in these ever-shorter days – with my dog ambling along in front. It has become our routine, walking along the fence that marks the rear perimeter of the park’s upper bench and then looping back toward the front to stroll through the neatly clipped grass of the expansive playing fields (yes, I have a bag in hand, just in case).

She dutifully monitors the smells at predictable points in this familiar circuit, keeping tabs on I have no idea what. As long as she’s not rolling in them, I give her free rein.

I’m more likely to focus on the clouds – streaks of pink and gold on many a morn lately.

If we happen to visit on a hot afternoon, my companion makes a beeline for the break in the fence where, a short distance down a path, an irrigation ditch runs all summer long. A wide spot in the ditch offers a fine wading pool and, for a brief stretch when the water is at its highest, a swimming hole. Mostly, though, she just stands in the cool water, scanning for “cookie fish.” I made the mistake of tossing a treat in the water, letting her snag it as it floated past. Now, she looks for floating goodies every time we go to the water, hopefully snapping at whatever detritus bobs by. I always make sure a cookie fish materializes.

This is my seventh autumn as a resident of El Jebel, and I’ve made more laps in the park than I can count, first with two dogs and now just the one. I don’t need a calendar to mark the changing of the seasons; I watch the slow progression during our daily constitutional – the dusty footprints that give way to muddy prints that become frozen prints. Then, snow offers a clean slate on which to leave our tracks until the progression repeats itself in reverse.

The birds in the tall grass have all but disappeared now, but I know it’s only a matter of time before I notice the undulating swoops of bluebirds and the trill of the meadowlarks in the greening field.

There’ll be fresh scents, as well, though I’m not the one who will notice most of those.


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