Saturday, July 23, 2016

Aspen Mountain Hike

Monday morning was spent helping Shelley out--she had to go to Atlanta for the balance of the week for work, so she had rented a car to drive to the Denver Airport, needing to leave around noon to make the 4 hour drive to catch her flight.  But, given her ankle sprain from the day before, she really wanted to get a doctor to look at it.  Well, unimaginable though it may sound to our Atlanta friends, she was able to call the orthopedist's office here when they opened at 9, and was able to get in to see the doctor an hour later.  I drove her to his office and she was in and out within an hour after arrival--sounds like some fantasy, huh?  About the same time frame when Trisha went to the same office a week or so ago for her knees.  Anyway, they did X-rays, found no broken bones, but a pretty decent high ankle sprain.  Put her in a boot with the inflatable bag for pressure.  So I drove her to the local airport to pick up her rental car and she was on the road as per her original schedule.

That afternoon Trisha and I rode bikes out to Difficult Campground, along the East of Aspen Trail, and had a good time.

I had decided to give the Aspen Mountain Summit a try on Tuesday morning, but it rained all night, and was raining when I first woke up, so I was about to scratch my plans.  But after an hour or so, the sun came out so I went ahead.  First you go up the Ute Trail to Ute Rock, about a mile with 1200 feet of elevation gain--pretty steep climb!  I made myself go more slowly, since I knew that after Ute Rock I still had another 2000 feet of elevation gain to reach the top in 2 1/2 more miles.  Also knew I needed to go more slowly due to the all night rain, since there were some wet roots, making the footing a bit more of a challenge.  But it all went well and I had some spectacular views along the way.  After the Ute Rock, there's a pretty steep climb up into the ski run area and then the trail follows a lot of the paths of some different lift lines.  It turned into a beautiful day and the vistas along the hike and at the top were  just stunningly beautiful.  I made it to the top okay, but had to wait about 15 minutes or so until the gondola started running before I could get a ride down into town.    Another great hike!!

This shot was taken after I had passed Ute Rock and was up a ways

 Some gorgeous wildflowers along the way!
 This is an area called Bingo Glades for expert skiers--they only open it after there's been enough snow to sufficiently cover all the rocks, but it is incredibly steep.  Of course Ken and his son, Jack, have skied it a number of times, but tell me that in ski season they have all sorts of signs to warn people that this is considered an off trail area, and that only expert level skiers should go down--don't think I'd even try!!
 Looking down into the valley
 And then up to one of the peaks I have to make it over in order to get to the summit
 Emergency phone for ski season
 Made it through the Glades, in a bit of a meadow--the relatively flat section only lasted a little while!
 Looking down into town
 Over on the far ridge you can see some of the ski runs and I'm beginning to see the gondola lines
 Some shots of the gondola lines

 Signs for a black and a double black run
 Looking down into the valley at the sign
 Just never get enough of these incredible colors!!

 A part of the trail runs along a service road up to the top

 Lots of yellow flowers on the way up
 And here I am at Sundeck, the top of the mountain!!
 Looking beyond, toward Aspen Highlands Ski Area, across the valley

 Just glorious views!!

 Some other hikers coming up as I was about to board the gondola
 Heading down on the gondola

 Just crested a ridge and the town comes into view

Friday, July 22, 2016

American Lake Hike

Sunday, Shelley, Ken, Trisha and I hiked up to American Lake, one of the more gorgeous hikes we've done out here.  Davi went along, but we let Sophie rest at home--from the trail description, it looked like perhaps more steep climbs than she was used to so we decided not to push it.  Anyway, it was a beautiful day, lots of wildflowers, lots of varied terrain to traverse, some out in the open, across big meadows, some among the aspens, some among stands of pine, some across rock fields left by avalanche, and finally the lake, which was just resplendent in brilliant blues and greens, surrounded by mountain peaks, reaching to the sky--just a fabulous hike!

When we got to the lake, Davi had a lot of fun as Ken threw sticks out into the lake and he swam out to get them--I'm sure it was very refreshing for him to hit the water after hiking 3 1/2 miles up 2000 feet of elevation gain!  As I was sitting on a rock enjoying lunch, he came out of the water after fetching the stick and chose the spot right in front of me to shake off the water, before I could get out of the way, and it was indeed cold!!

The only downside to the hike was that on the way back down Shelley's foot came down on some loose rocks and she twisted her ankle, ultimately diagnosed as a high ankle sprain.  So she was in a good deal of pain for the rest of the way down.  She still managed to wrap it in an Ace bandage to give her enough relief to go to the Sunday afternoon symphony concert, though.  Monday morning she was able to see an orthopedist here, who put her in an air compression walking boot.  She had to fly back to Atlanta Monday afternoon for the rest of the week in connection with her counseling practice, so it was good she was able to see the doctor and get this boot before she had to leave.  Just so sorry this happened, as it will mean she won't be able to hike for several weeks--looks like it should heal fine eventually, but not being able to hike when you're out here with all these beautiful trails is really tough.

Anyway, Sunday afternoon the guest artist with the symphony was the violinist Midori, who was unbelievable!!  At 44 she's in the height of a brilliant career as one of the world's finest violinists, having first started playing at age 3.  There was a story in the program about when she was a student here at the Aspen Music School 35 years ago when she was 9.  She walked out onto the stage with a half sized violin in one hand, and a stuffed teddy bear clutched in her other hand.  She proceeded to set the teddy bear down on the floor and then gave a remarkable performance on her violin.  So we were excited to get the chance to see her live, and believe me, she didn't disappoint.  She played Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto in D and it was just amazing.  We were both in tears before she was too far into the first movement--the emotion she evoked was just overwhelming!  She had her eyes closed for most of her performance and she and the violin just became one, an unforgettable performance.  When she was finished, the audience gave her a thunderous standing ovation, calling her back onto the stage for curtain call after curtain call.  Such a treat!

Starting out, Ken and Davi taking off ahead of us--when you're 6'4", your stride is definitely longer!
 Some of the wildflowers along the way

 Shelley, pausing as we went up some steep switchbacks on the way up

 Now a little break from the uphill, as we went along a meadow

 And into the woods!
 Some pretty spectacular long views!
 Here's Trisha, standing on the edge of a precipice, along the avalanche rock pile
 Trying to show a little perspective on just how steep the drop-off was as the narrow trail follows this ledge
 First views of American Lake, with the majestic peaks sitting like a crown over the lake

 Time for lunch!

 How clear the water was right at the edge, shading into these lovely greens!

 Davi, patiently waiting for Ken to throw the stick again
 And he got it!
 Tons of cutthroat trout in the lake--tried to get a good picture of their reddish color through the clear water, but the breeze was making enough movement on the surface that it was hard to get a good pic. Maybe if you look hard you can see the fish

 On the way back down
 Trisha does not really like these narrow trails with big drop-offs on the side!
 But the views are stunning!
 And the flowers just brilliant!