During the peak of Aspen’s silver boom, the world’s largest silver nugget was mined out of Smuggler Mountain’s shadowy innards. The nugget had a weight of 2,054 pounds and was estimated to have a consistency of 93 percent pure silver. Unfortunately for the prospectors, the silver jackpot occurred a year too late; the Sherman Silver Purchase Act was repealed by Congress in 1893, significantly diminishing the value of the precious metal. The mine closed in 1918, ending the town’s silver era and ushering in a pre-skiing period known as “The Quiet Years.”
ASPEN -In the 1879, the U.S. Army chased the native Ute Indians away from their ancient hunting grounds in the Roaring Fork and Crystal River Valleys to make way for settlement and mining. However, before exiting Colorado for the rugged deserts of Utah, the Ute are rumored to have placed a curse on the Western Slope, mystically bewitching the land while handing it over to the white man and decrying the region would never make him truly happy. This old tidbit of Wild West folklore is occasionally applied to ski bums who take a semester off from college or med school for a winter with the intentions of going back but end up staying in the Roaring Fork Valley for 50 years trying to slap together a career as a bartender, barista, or lift operator. I’ve even heard the term referenced to overzealous developers and real estate agents pimping magnificent multimillion-dollar estates on once-sacred land who abandon their principles in the covetous process of building, buying, land acquisition, and ego conquest.
ASPEN, CO - This year marked my first adult birthday outside of Philadelphia's city life, and I wanted to do something out of the ordinary. I’ve always loved hiking and camping, but I had never been on a backpacking, camping trip before. I decided my 24th birthday was as good a time as ever to take the trek. I asked around among friends and co-workers to get the dish on the some of their favorites. Over and over again, recommendations for the Conundrum Hot Springs hike in Aspen came pouring in, and I was sold.
CARBONDALE, CO - In most of the Colorado mountain towns where I have lived, there is one peak that dominates the skyline. In Norwood it is Lone Cone Mountain, in Colorado Springs it is Pike’s Peak, and in my new home of Basalt it is Mount Sopris. Driving into the Roaring Fork Valley one cannot miss the stunning view of this peak. It rises over 6,000 feet in less than three miles to its twin summits, both at exactly the same height of 12,965 feet. For me it is a rite of passage to summit the peak that towers above the town in which I live. Not only does this help me to understand where my town lies in relation to the surrounding peaks and valleys, it also affords a familiarity with the mountain that makes gazing up at the peak even more enjoyable and meaningful. Last weekend, I conquered Mount Sopris.
I chose a date and invited some friends, sure that we would have to set several dates before the weather cooperated and we were able to summit. That morning, we woke up to a cloudless blue sky and the weatherman predicting that it would remain that way throughout the day. We drove to the trailhead munching peanut butter and apples, and energetically began the hike. Not long after we began, we passed a gnome, sitting quietly next to his pet chipmunk slightly off the trail. After about two hours of hiking under a canopy of yellow aspen leaves, we reached Thomas Lakes. They were so still that we could see the twin summits of Mount Sopris reflecting in the water. A small pond between the two lakes was covered with a thin sheet of ice, reminding us that winter was on the way. Our midmorning snack refilled our tanks and allowed us to continue onward and upward, constantly marveling at the beauty of our fall-colored valley.
We all know that Aspen has everything. That’s why you live or vacation here. Great skiing, great shopping, great music, great restaurants. Golf, hiking, mountain biking, rafting. There really isn’t much need to go anywhere else. Still, though, if you come to Colorado and just visit Aspen, you’re missing out on a lot of what makes the Centennial State so spectacular.
The Roaring Fork Valley, by anyone’s estimation, is a scenic wonder, with towering peaks, verdant forests and bucolic meadows. But as anyone who has ever visited the Maroon Bells can tell you, the side valleys in this area can be even more spectacular.
ASPEN, CO -The mornings in Aspen are getting frostier and the nights more crisp. This can only mean one thing, summer's on its way out and it's time to take full advantage of the last few warm weeks we've got left. Colorado, known primarily by its visitors for winter activities, is actually home to some of most exciting and enjoyable summers found across the United States. Agreeable, seventy-something temperatures and sunshine for days are paired with landscapes fit for the gods. Summer activities in Colorado give the winter classics a serious run for their money. Among the top contenders: whitewater rafting, mountain and road-biking and my personal favorite, hiking fourteeners! Not for the weak in spirit or strength, conquering these massive mountains leaves climbers with a true sense of accomplishment and self-reliance.
Many visitors to the Aspen area like to spend their time in the great outdoors rather than fancy hotel suites and handbag stores. Fortunately for these folks, the Roaring Fork Valley is blessed with a plethora of excellent Forest Service campsites.
Those of you who’ve hiked the Tabor Creek Trail and brought a map along may have noticed that there is supposedly a lake in the Tabor Creek valley. You also may have noticed that the trail goes nowhere near any lakes as it meanders up to the pass at the head of the valley. If this has left you scratching your head in bewilderment, you’re not alone.
BASALT, CO - In the spring, when trails in the high country are still covered with snow, or even later in the summer when afternoon thunderstorms become a problem, it can be hard to find worthwhile hikes in the Aspen area.