Marolt: Reverting to roads less traveled |

Marolt: Reverting to roads less traveled

Roger Marolt
Cluster Phobic
Roger Marolt

We were sitting around dinner Friday evening and I don’t know how the subject came up since all of us there were natives and we don’t generally break the code of talking about touristy things, but one of my daughter’s friends admitted she had never been to Maroon Bells. She missed the kindergarten initiation trip due to some stomach bug or other and nobody gave it a second thought since.

I thought it a sign of the times; the attraction is so crowded that nobody goes there anymore except for perhaps Yogi Bear in search of a picnic scrap cornucopia. As amazed as I was that this young lady hadn’t been to our iconic tourist trap, I would have let the discussion fizzle, but a beer was circulating in my system and I announced that we had to go see that sight the next morning.

Adolescent-early Saturday the air was filled with as much excitement as two teenage girls with one of their dads can muster before nine o’clock. We bought our tickets and stood in line for the bus. There were going to be big crowds this beautiful August day.

The bus crawled toward The Bells, partly due to the huge number of cyclists grinding up the road pacing us and partially so that the bus driver/tour guide could hear himself speak and concentrate on the embellished history of the valley he told. As my mind weaved his words into a stocking hat of background noise an idea came: I’d thought we might hike to Crater Lake from Maroon Lake to get a little more flavor of the beautiful area, but I was afraid it would be a double scoop what we were already trying to lick – vanilla nut crowd. Instead, I opted for the path less traveled.

As we passed the East Maroon portal about two-thirds of the way to the lake, I yanked the cord above the window. The bell dinged and the driver pulled over. The girls looked at me like I was crazy. To the crowd on the bus it must have appeared we were jumping off into the middle of nowhere.

My idea was to hike the last three miles and approach Maroon Lake by foot. It was a good choice. We pretty much had the trail to ourselves. It was peaceful glancing up now and then to see the magnificent peaks of Pyramid and its cousins, North and South Maroon, grow taller one step at time. I even managed to get us slightly lost once and we traversed a rarely trodden spur of the trail through a thick aspen forest where we couldn’t hear the muffled drone of the buses.

We got to the lake and it was crowded, but we’d already gotten our nature fix and post-hike calm had settled upon us. We ate our lunch contentedly on the edge of the water not minding the people or mosquitos much. Maroon Bells never fails to impress once you’re able to look above all the people.

The next morning I did another crazy thing. Caffeine-induced optimism convinced me to try out West Government trail across the face of Snowmass ski area. I hadn’t ridden my mountain bike over it in years. Apparently I have not been alone in avoiding it. Between the wet summer and lack of use, the trail is nearly completely overgrown on the open sections of ski trails it crosses. When I wasn’t stopped trying to find traces of it, I was moving very slowly because I know the trail is rough and didn’t wish to spook any trouble the long grass was hiding.

Through the woods were all the old familiar challenges much worse for the lack of wear. It’s a bike trail to test you. The funny thing is I felt only about a day older than the last time I tried it. It was the opposite of a dogs’ life and I felt younger and stronger than a decade of wear and tear has left my body to deal with. I’m pretty sure it was more mental than physical. The daydream reminiscing I was doing between rock gardens and slick-rooted inclines that demanded attention was taking my body back in time, too.

Toward the end I noticed a new road, shoulder high and about six feet on my uphill side. About that time a shelled rider flew past on it leaving dust, me, and the sound of a purring sprocket succumbing to the Doppler effect behind. It wasn’t a road at all. It was one of the newer, lift-served downhill bicycle courses. My relapse to quieter times had been intervened and I noticed my weary legs.

Roger Marolt knows you can travel back in time for short periods of time; by luck, not in a machine.