Roger Marolt: Roger This
October 30, 2009
I am not the first one to say it, but I might be the first one to say it today: A view is the most overrated feature of a house … especially in the mountains! We stood at the edge of a bluff north of Ridgway. The drop beneath our toes must have been 2,000 feet into one of the Rocky Mountains’ most spectacular dividers. The forcefully sculpted San Juan Mountains jutted brutally beyond, thick with fresh snow while their midsections glistened darkly under fresh rain that had recently passed. The panorama contained impressionist forms comprised of the last colorful leaves clinging to protected sections of vast forests spanning the horizon. After 10 minutes of gawking (seven of them spent to justify the long drive out there) we were more than ready for a cup of coffee. I can only imagine what it would be like to live in one of the multimillion-dollar (based on latest data available; circa 2007) houses along the top of that cliff band. I had to imagine because there wasn’t a resident in sight. The houses were close to each other, but far from anything else. Give me a day hike or even a weekend of camping there, but not a home. When it comes right down to it we need to be near theaters, shops and bars.This moment is brought to you by my family’s second annual, deep fall trip to Hicksville. Last year we spent it in Meeker. This year we wanted to do something completely different so we headed south over McClure Pass to cover Hotchkiss, Paonia, Montrose.The “view” thing began from the beginning. My family spent the first night in Glenwood at the Hotel Colorado. I’ve seen that old building so many times from the outside that I couldn’t describe it to you in a million years. I’ve been in it once and could paint a vivid picture of the interior. What you can’t tell by looking at it from the Hot Springs Pool is that it is haunted, although the smelly steam there might heighten your curiosity. I could go on about this, but until you take the informal midnight tour from the night auditor and then spend a sleepless night caught up in its grisly, but interesting past, words are useless. Make sure you get to see the attic. It’s one of those things that you will be sorry you did, and not. We were so freaked out by our night at The Hotel that we barely stopped long enough for a couple of cappuccinos in the lobby coffee shop before heading to the Village Smithy to meet my brother and his family for breakfast. The only thing scary about that was the hour-long wait for a nine-top. By the time we were served I was in the mood for chili rellenos, which might have been the best breakfast I’ve ever had. (Sorry, Honey. Sorry, Mom. Sorry, Denny. It’s the truth.) Stuffed to the brim, we headed over the hill to Paonia. Living in Aspen, we tend to think we have an unfair share of natural beauty, and we do, but I don’t know if we have more than this part of the world. I am overwhelmed every time I head that way to come past the coal mine at Somerset and into the beautiful valley filled with idyllic orchards and farms laid out in rolling hills at the base of gigantic mountains. Don’t blink, though. Twenty minutes to the west later and you are in the deserts of Delta and putting your foot to the gas. Next stop, the Russell Stover candy factory in Montrose. OK, so after a huge breakfast you don’t think an hour-and-a-half drive is enough to rekindle your appetite? Well, there were extenuating circumstances involved – All Valentines candy was on sale at eight for the price of one. Chocolate Easter bunnies were going at four for one. Say what you want, it was a cheap lunch.Needless to say, we had plenty of energy for The Black Canyon. We drove up a winding road through the scrub and juniper, practically thinking we were lost. But, canyons can’t be seen for miles away and without warning it appeared directly in front of us, much like the ghosts at Hotel Colorado. Had there been ice on the road, we might be at the bottom of that magnificent gorge today. As it was, we made the trip down into the narrow yaw on foot, enduring every jarring step down and muscle straining lunge back up. We remarked that the log-cabin visitor center on the edge of a cliff would make a nice house, but that the 30-minute drive to and from town would make it a bit lonely. It would have appeared more attractive back in the real estate boom. At least then you could have made a nice profit off of it after you realized your mistake.We spent the night at a bed and breakfast out in the country. It was a school house a hundred years ago. The dining room used to be the gymnasium so it wasn’t a stretch to assume that our bedroom off of that was probably a locker room, or maybe the trainer’s room … heck, maybe it was an antique weight room for all I know.We in Aspen sometimes think we have a lock on interesting people, too, but I’m beginning to think they are everywhere. The husband in the B&B team was raised in the Orient mastering martial arts and making knives. He is also an engineer that patented a wonder alloy for his blades. In his workshop we beat and hammered a piece of his chrome, molybdenum, and tungsten mix and couldn’t make a scratch in it. Not even a millbastard file or a carbon-steel drill bit in a press could blemish it. We pumped him up by expressing our astonishment until he finally sold us three knives at half price for Christmas presents.On the way home we stopped at Zack’s in Hotchkiss for some of the best barbecue north of Llano, Texas. We struck up with a nice local family there, and they asked us where we were from. I told them Snowmass, leaving off the “Village” part and completely avoiding any reference to Aspen. I wasn’t exactly embarrassed about where I am from. I just wanted these people to like me.Our final stop was at a winery/orchard/fruit stand, just because it was so damn quaint that it was impossible not to. It was called Black Bridge, and a more idyllic scene you have never seen. The fruit was gone for the year, so we bought two bottles of wine and a bag of saltwater taffy to thank the nice people for sharing their spread with us for a few minutes.The time flew by, but it seemed like we had been gone a month. It was an inexpensive getaway, yet we would have gotten our money’s worth had it cost 10 times more. It reminded me that vacation spots are like views from the living room – highly overrated. It’s not where you go; it’s who you go there with. Next fall, we might even check out Basalt.
Roger Marolt is discovering that the next great place to be is where his family and friends are. Find him at email@example.com.