Plenty to dig during summer in Aspen |

Plenty to dig during summer in Aspen

When you live here, Aspen’s beautiful bounty constantly reveals itself in different ways.

Whether you’ve floated the river a thousand times or whether you’re viewing a hallowed local landmark for the first time, the unbeatable Rocky Mountain summer means you can nearly always find something awe-inspiring and unique in our alpine backyard.

Take the Northstar Nature Preserve, for example.

It’s one of the area’s finest assets and it’s owned by the public. Anyone with a flotation device can spend lazy hours meandering down the only flat section of the Roaring Fork River. It never ceases to provoke a wondrous sense of awe and a profound thankfulness for being lucky enough to be there.

About two weeks ago on a late afternoon Northstar float with a friend, however, a National Geographic special unfolded before our eyes.

We had pulled over to relax, drink a beer and chat when a mama duck and her seven or eight ducklings came swimming upstream on the other side of the river. The ducklings’ cuteness factor was completely out of control and mom had her wings full trying to wrangle them all.

Not long after we returned to our conversation, we heard a commotion upriver and looked over to see the mama duck frantically beating her wings on the surface of the river.

Mama sent the ducklings across to our side, while she began to skim along the surface of the water, heading downstream. That was when we saw glimpses of a sleek, brownish creature in the water behind her, which I initially thought was chasing her.

But, sadly, that wasn’t the case. It was a river otter, who’d apparently snatched one of the ducklings.

Mama duck understandably lost her mind. She skimmed up and down river and flew in circles looking for her baby. The otter disappeared underneath the opposite bank, though. It was heartbreaking and fascinating and incredible all at the same time, one of those did-we-just-see-that moments.

My second recent moment of awe occurred Sunday. Two older family members were in town and we decided to drive to the top of Aspen Mountain to hear the bluegrass band because one of them wasn’t so sure about riding the gondola.

I’d never driven to the top of Ajax, so I took Midnight Mine Road up and Little Annie Road down.

Midnight Mine was fairly standard Colorado four-wheel drive road until we hit an open area nearer the top where the wild flowers were in full effect. Light purple flax and dark purple lupine lined the road, while yellow mule’s ears blanketed the slope above. It was magical.

But the mountain saved the best for last.

I’d never seen Little Annie Basin before and had a hard time believing my eyes. Equally as hard to fathom was the fact that I’ve been living in and visiting Aspen for 20 years and I’ve never seen it before.

I later told Pitkin County Commissioner Greg Poschman, who grew up in these parts, what I’d seen and how the green, sparkling expanse of the basin had blown my mind.

“It’s like the ‘Sound of Music’ isn’t it? he said.

Yep, that’s about it.

Summer in Aspen: Dig it!


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