Outdoors: Valley splendor | AspenTimes.com

Outdoors: Valley splendor

Story and photos by Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Jon Maletz/The Aspen Times

ASPEN – My promise went unfulfilled at first. Admittedly, I was overly effusive in my characterization of the Maroon Bells earlier this week during a conversation with new Times copy editor Karl Herchenroeder. As we headed up Maroon Creek Road, I assured him that his first jaunt into this portion of the White River National Forest would offer both unsurpassed views of some of the planet’s most iconic peaks and the chance to soak in the sunshine while lounging next to the pristine, clear waters of two high-mountain lakes.

When we arrived, the Bells were nothing more than jagged silhouettes shrouded in a thick and rather ominous haze. (I was told it was a remnant of the Wyoming wildfires.)

Our hike to the usually serene Crater Lake also was underwhelming: Save for a diminutive puddle in a far corner, there was nothing more than an expansive dirt patch. The receding water had taken the wildlife with it, too.

Needless to say, I was a tad disappointed.

Then, I stopped and really soaked in my surroundings.

The landscape, stark last winter when a friend and I trudged through the snow above Maroon Lake while chasing his tireless Australian shepherd, now was alive.

Foliage in a Crayola-like assortment of hues – from deep green to bright yellow and orange – cascaded down the hillsides in completely random but brilliant arrangements. Shivering in the soft breeze, the leaves sparkled like the crystals on an ornate chandelier as Karl scurried across moss-covered boulders.

An impossibly blue sky framed the polychromatic terrain. I found it hard to believe my eyes or my camera screen.

This was life in Technicolor.

A few weeks back, I returned from my maiden voyage to Europe utterly convinced that Northern Ireland’s Antrim Coast was the most spectacular place I’d ever seen. It was a wonder to behold – everything from the lush countryside and the mysterious yet captivating Giant’s Causeway to the rock-strewn coastline. I still remember first laying eyes on Dunluce Castle, a 17th-century ruin perched on an outcropping high above the raging ocean. I still remember those late-afternoon shadows stretching from the crumbling walls across the tall, untamed grass.

It was awe-inspiring, but it doesn’t quite compare to home. It doesn’t quite compare to fall in the Rockies.

I promise.


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