Local beauty running deep | AspenTimes.com

Local beauty running deep

Tony Vagneur
Aspen, CO Colorado

There’s a temptation to tell you about the country I mosey around in, how beautiful it is, how crisp the cool air feels on my face, and all that other stuff that you’ve experienced and heard about for a long time. Why should I? You already know about it, in some form or another.

Whatever it is, though, it drives us forward through our days, and the anticipation of another glimpse drifts us off to sleep on many nights. My high school English teacher, Meg Heath, once had us write an essay on the definition of “beauty.” Wise guy that I was, taking up space in her classroom in what is now the Red Brick Center for the Arts, I simply wrote, “Look out the window.” But, it runs much deeper than that, if we let it.

Sitting at the top of Buzzard Basin, wolfing down a homemade sandwich and looking out toward the craggy summits of Capitol and Daly, it’s hard to decide if the grandness of the peaks is more worthy of my eye than the patchwork of yellow, red and green down below in the changing leaves. Or, is the appeal more in the conversation between a couple of cowboys who, close to 30 years apart and in spite of facing the same challenges in life as most everyone else, seem to always put a unique, western spin on things? Would the discourse be as figurative in, say, Wagner Park or a bustling bar somewhere?

Several years ago, my buddy Ed Pfab and I skied the Crystal Chute of Mount Sopris. In preparation for our expedition, Ed said something that changed the tone of the trip, however subtly. “Once you’ve skied Sopris, you’ll never look at her the same again.” The difference is hard to explain, but basically it’s kind of like the unknown beauty down the street, whom I grew up admiring, suddenly becoming my much cherished and respected mistress. Today, the unexpected sight of Sopris from different vantage points around the valley puts a quickness in my chest that wasn’t there prior to our excursion.

At a funeral sometime back, an outdoor remembrance for a well-respected old-time rancher who reluctantly crossed the great divide, do we marvel at the view of the Crystal River Valley, laid out behind the preacher’s podium? Or, does the admiration come from watching the arrival of rancher after rancher, old boys and gals themselves, who have given their time on this earth to a way of life that used to be so big around these parts that it’s still huge, even in steep decline? As we watch, it’s clear that some of those arriving won’t be around this time next year, but even in their faltering steps, they move with a majesty that speaks volumes about integrity and love of the land.

Yesterday, my good friend Valerie, my winter skiing buddy, invited me on a hike of excellent magnitude, up a little-known drainage, and before I knew it, we were ensconced on a wind-driven ridge at timberline, looking down on unsurpassable mountain terrain and an almost unseeable, distant valley floor. The magnificence of it all was (and I must say it) breathtaking, especially when standing on the very edge of a pronounced precipice. Sharing the hike with the same friend I share ski mountains with gave the day an impetus that couldn’t be found any other way.

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There’s a lot of beauty around here, that’s for sure, not all of it visible with the naked eye.

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