Ugly spring | AspenTimes.com
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Ugly spring

Willoughby CollectionWinter snow banks at Galena Street and Hyman Avenue caused problems in the spring, even for aspiring Davy Crocketts.
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Wet, windy, muddy, smelly and dusty inconveniences characterize Aspen’s least popular season: Spring. Let’s face it; springtime in Aspen can be ugly!

Before paving, Aspen’s streets sported chuckholes that rivaled local mine shafts. Highway 82 through town provided the only pavement. Dirt side-streets were graded for smooth driving and covered with oil each summer to keep dust down. As spring broke out, holes would reappear in the streets at the same places they had the year before. Every year they grew deeper and produced offspring.

The pavement on Main, Galena and Cooper Streets presented its own problems. Every few years, instead of patching the holes, the highway department added another layer of asphalt. The result was that the street grade kept getting higher and higher, while spring holes grew deeper and deeper. Cars had to run a life and death slalom on every town street.



The corner at Hyman and Galena endured the heaviest traffic and the worst problems. The street profile there was convex, with the center of the street two feet higher than its edges. A curb and culvert system, deep and large enough to handle massive runoff, filled with garbage. In those days, winter snow was plowed into huge street-side snow banks, trapping snowmelt with no place to go.

Every spring, small lakes first appeared on Galena Street in front of the post office, then inside the Elks Building. Every local picking up mail crossed or circumnavigated open water. Crossing in the right place presented a challenge. In many places, chuckholes hid from sight. You couldn’t see how deep muddy water reached. If you were neither skillful nor lucky, then you stepped into one of those traps, sinking up to your knees. Tiny tots could disappear forever.




The Hyman/Galena reservoir was not spring’s only hazard. The Maroon and Castle creek bridges offered a test of bravery. One was a converted railroad trestle; the other had originally been constructed with a wood surface. Both were prone to springtime pavement cracks. As asphalt disappeared, cracks grew to holes – some large enough to allow slow-going drivers a peek at the spring runoff flowing below.

Unpaved streets were “sanded” by winter road crews with Aspen’s biggest GDP, translated as Grime Dirt Product: mud. Mud migrated into every store and home, causing undue grief to store owners, housewives and their children, who could not avoid tracking it everywhere they walked.

When the sun blessed the town with its evaporating power, one problem diminished as a new problem arose: dust. Dust blew down every street, creeping into every car and lodging under every eyelid.

Visitors in the 1950s noticed Aspen’s extraordinary dog-to-resident ratio. In spring, the byproduct of Aspen’s canine population ended its hibernation beneath the snow banks. Six months’ accumulation of frozen feces baked in strong spring sunlight. The blowing dust that clogged your nostrils did have its advantages.

The most popular time to leave Aspen for a vacation will continue to be spring, until man discovers a way of transforming winter directly into summer, thus skipping the inconveniences of spring.


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