Marolt: Howling along peacefully over Owl Creek Road
Owl Creek Road is cool. Not many roads in the world can legitimately be described this way. Some are beautiful. Some are interesting. Some are exhilarating. But cool? That’s a short-list description for a strip of blacktop connecting point A to point B.
One thing should be stated before we go any further: Owl Creek Road is not a shortcut to Aspen from Snowmass Village as, apparently, the nincompoop in a four-door black Jeep with Texas plates thought the other morning as he passed me and no less than six other cars at about 60 MPH along the red barn straightaway, double yellow lines be damned.
Of course, it was a dangerous thing to do with many of our less-than-experienced teenage drivers taking that route to school at that time of day mostly to avoid the chaos of the faster paced Highway 82 and all. But more than that, it felt disrespectful. It was an affront to what Owl Creek Road means to us who know it. It is a familiar and friendly corridor that gets us from one part of the day to the next, preserving a sensory validation of why we live here.
Taking Owl Creek Road to save a couple of minutes is the mark of a newcomer. I’ve timed both routes between Snowmass Village and Aspen at all different times of the day, seasons and states of mind and I’d say 8 out of 10 times Brush Creek Road and the highway is the quicker route. I have confirmed this in races with other drivers. Speeding through the scenic route is like fast-forwarding through your favorite movie or asking the chef to put your sushi in a blender so you can chug it.
The setting is not idyllic. No artist paints pictures of bucolic scenes in front of modern mega-mansions or horses running through snow wearing expensive blankets. Yet, it weirdly works. There is a sense of harmony where farm animals graze on the same fertilized grass as wild elk, with bears on the perimeter scouting for berries or an unlocked trash can and coyotes on the lookout for rabbits all beneath enormous picture windows framing everything wealthy peoples’ realtors promised. It is what the dream that enticed us to move here looks like in a tastefully done cartoon.
I have alternately laughed at and been irritated with tourists parking their cars on the adjacent bike path to view the elk herd as if they are biologists discovering a lost species. But I have grown to appreciate this nightly carnival. It is something they never get to see in the world they are from. To me, it is reaffirmation of the very same thing. Should I really be irritated at them for my complacency at the sight of something so globally rare? Could there be any greater arrogance, or is it ignorance, to act as if this occurrence bores me and the people who are taking time to appreciate it are bugging me?
I came upon a rolled-over car on the side of Owl Creek Road once. There were some kids there I know who had witnessed the crash. They told me the owner was OK and that he told them he would be back to deal with the situation after a concert in town. Somebody picked him up next to the wreckage and took him there. There are no known ax-wielding maniacs on Owl Creek Road, so hitchhiking frequently proves fruitful.
Of course it is a crime to leave the scene of an accident and later it was reported that the driver of that car was higher than designer deer antlers on a two-story fireplace at the time of the crash, but I think it still says something about the calming effect of the road he was on that he felt it was OK to put a serious car accident behind him for awhile. This would not have played out as mellow in the city.
The only complaints about Owl Creek Road are with the speed bumps. There are only three, so if that’s the biggest gripe we can come up with, I think they should add a few more to add credibility to the protests.
It was not so long ago when the entire stretch of this road was dirt. As most were used to that, it is no wonder that many who never drove through its gravel and potholes complained loudly when the county decided to pave it. Now that the surface is clean and smooth and those same people drive across it all the time, we have not heard a single complaint. It is part of the mesmerizing magic of our road. Let’s hope the developers of Base Village never lobby to turn it into a bus route. It seems like something they might do.
Roger Marolt has seen it all on Owl Creek Road. Email at email@example.com.
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There will be no yards-long buffet tables, no “Best Salad” competitions and certainly no large-scale gathering with hundreds of attendees at the Westin Snowmass Conference Center this year.