One from the heart

Ron Rash
Aspen, CO Colorado

Two men came into Boogie’s Diner with ear­phones on and sat at the table next to our booth. Both men appeared to be in their mid­30s. I don’t think either had hearing difficulties.

A few minutes later Megan, my daughter, looked over the railing and said, “Dad, someone’s petting Murphy.”

I looked down to see our golden retriever with his front paws on the chest of a tall, friendly-looking fel­low who was ruffling the hell out of his neck and head. Murphy was in dog ecstasy. He was also engaged in behavior that was forbidden to him, jump­ing up on a human.

The man came upstairs and sat in the booth next to us. It turned out to be Bill Clinton ” one of my all­time favorite humans. When he sat down, my daugh­ter leaned over, looked him right in the eye and said, “You were petting my dog.”

I quickly glanced at the Secret Service. They seemed laid-back. They had done their Aspen home­work.

Bill gave Megan the kindest smile and replied, “You have a great dog. What’s his name, and thank you for letting me pet him.”

For the next five minutes the two of them chatted about dogs, schools, hometowns and living in Aspen.

He was completely gracious.

He never said anything to me, although he would occasionally look my direction and smile. All the time I was thinking I would love to take him for a hike just to show him around our beautiful communi­ty and the surrounding mountains. What better way to do that than to walk up the Ute Trail to the rocks to look back down at the entire town and valley?

I’m glad I never made the offer because he might have died trying to do the hike.

This was before he lost weight and had his open-heart surgery. I’m guessing Bill has always been challenged by his nutritional and exercise choices.

The distance to the rocks is slightly more than one mile, with a 1,600-foot elevation gain. There are 21 switchbacks, with 11 of those coming after you pass the prominent gully.

Years ago I used to run to the rocks and thought I was really doing something when I broke 16 minutes.

Since then I’ve heard that some fit runners have bro­ken 13 minutes.

To put that time in perspective, I would want to give Bill a couple of hours to hike to the rocks, and even then, I still think he might be in trouble. It kind of makes me sad to think that George, my least favorite human, could hike up to the rocks, have lunch, and hike halfway down, and Bill still would slowly be toiling his way up the trail. It would be Bill’s Everest to make it to the rocks.

The Ute Trail is definitely Aspen’s outdoor stair­master, and the popularity of the trail with locals and visitors alike is just phenomenal. When I first started hiking the trail, the path beyond the rocks was pretty faint. Now it’s a full-on trail all the way to the top. A wonderful way to protect the knees is to hike up, then ride down in the gondola.

If I did walk up there with Bill, I would take my full rescue first-aid pack, along with an oxygen canis­ter and radio. If you think I’m joking, I’m not. We would not want Bill doing a Cheney without having proper emergency procedures in place.

Every year, Mountain Rescue Aspen has one to two missions on the Ute Trail ” everything from sprained ankles, to hikers not being used to the altitude, to people getting off trail and stuck on steep terrain.

Here’s some advice for hiking this most popular trail: The uphill person has the right of way. If you have to grab a bush or tree let the uphill hiker have the trail. Never roll a rock down­hill ” the last 11 switchbacks line peo­ple up one above the other. Rolling rocks will go right across the trail and possibly take people out. More then one person has been hit by rocks on the Ute Trail ” fortunately no one has died. If you’re not used to the elevation yet, take your time. If you rush early on in your ascent, it’s easy to become ill. Lastly, stay on the trail because the surrounding terrain is too steep for safe travel.

Now that he’s in better physical con­dition, if only Bill would call me for that hike up the Ute. I’d even check with my ex- wife to see if Murphy could go with us.