Hartley: Experience autumn with expert tips From Fodor’s
The following is an open letter to renowned travel and tourism publisher Fodor’s:
I, like many Coloradans, love autumn in the high country. This one was particularly spectacular, with the aspens and scrub oak bursting out in every conceivable shade of yellow, orange, brown and red.
I dearly wanted to try a new adventure this fall, and I came across a story on your website dated Oct. 15, written by Emily Saladino, titled “9 Great Adventures for Fall.” One of the adventures, “Get Inn Shape,” sounded like exactly what I’d been looking for. I’ve always heard one could hike from Crested Butte to Aspen, and I figured if there was anyone I could trust to tell me how to do it correctly, it was Fodor’s — the experts.
The writer’s description of the hike sounded positively blissful, so my wife and son and I joined another couple and their young son, and we attempted to do just what Ms. Saladino suggested when she wrote, “Pack your snowshoes when you depart the Nordic Inn in Crested Butte, and then hike 11 miles through the aspen- and pine-covered Maroon Bells Peaks until you reach the historic Limelight Hotel in Aspen.”
We booked rooms at the Nordic Inn and set off bright and early the next morning with our snowshoes on our backs, and we hiked for what felt like 10 or 11 miles. This brought us to a town of sorts, and I remarked to my wife that Aspen seemed a lot smaller than I would have guessed.
Only later, after we’d knocked on the door of the building most likely to be the Limelight Hotel, did we learn that we had not reached Aspen. We were in some place called Gothic.
The friendly lady who answered the door informed us that to hike to Aspen, we needed to start at a place called Schofield Park, which is about 45 minutes by car from Crested Butte. So we hiked back to the Nordic Inn, spent another night and then drove the harrowing dirt road to Schofield Park in the morning, still eager to start our great adventure.
The six of us set off from the trailhead at Schofield Park, and for a few miles, the hike was wonderful. We went up a valley with beautiful stands of aspen and pine, and though we encountered a little snow, we weren’t concerned; we had our snowshoes with us, just like you suggested.
As we approached the head of the valley, we encountered a hiker coming the other way, and we asked him if the mountains we were seeing were the famous “Maroon Bells Peaks.” He gave us an odd look before informing us that they were simply the Maroon Bells, and yes, that was them.
They were magnificent! But 12,500-foot-high West Maroon Pass, which your article neglected to mention, proved a little problematic. There was a lot of early-season snow, and though we used our snowshoes, we unfortunately lost the other couple in an avalanche.
Not to worry, though; my wife and son and the other boy and I soldiered on, and after 11 miles, we arrived at a parking lot and bus stop by the shore of a beautiful lake. There was a structure there, and thinking it might be the Limelight Hotel, I went inside, but it was only a restroom.
We asked a woman for help, and she told us we could take a bus if the buses were running this time of year, but they weren’t, so we hitched a ride to a place called Aspen Highlands, where we caught a bus that brought us to downtown Aspen.
We eventually reached the “historic” Limelight Hotel, rebuilt from the ground up in 2005, and spent a pleasant night there. However, the next morning, we encountered some problems trying to do what Ms. Saladino suggested when she wrote, “Had enough trekking for one weekend? The hotels will happily send a helicopter or limousine for the return trip.”
It seems neither the Nordic Inn nor the Limelight Hotel owns a helicopter, and we couldn’t find one that would fly us to Schofield Park on our own. We ended up emptying our savings account to pay a guy from Aspen to drive us back to our car, but we made it safe and sound — at least four of the six of us did.
Anyway, just wanted to thank you and Ms. Saladino for the suggestion.
I’m With Stupid
Todd Hartley reminds you that no one except ultramarathoners has ever actually hiked from Crested Butte to Aspen. To read more or leave a comment, please visit http://www.zerobudget.net.