My brother, having climbed all the 14ers, most of them in winter, has now taken up rock climbing, ice climbing, white water kayaking, mountain biking and skiing. When in Colorado, he describes the place with passion, and when he is away, he speaks of it with longing. The majestic mountains, the rugged, untouched landscape and the friendly people are just a few of the things that make this state a heaven on earth. You can go about with a smile etched all over your face the entire time you are there, and have no doubt that it will be enthusiastically returned by every single person you come across. Of course they'll look at you pityingly when you tell them you're from NJ or just about anywhere else in the world...but you'll let it slide when you realize they are genuinely sorry that you are wasting your life living anywhere else.
My brother had planned a beautiful getaway. We landed in Denver Thursday night, after a little in-flight hassle made me decide never to fly Continental Airlines again, if I can help it (no need to go into detail), spent the night at my brother's pad in Boulder, and left early Friday morning on the long drive
We were supposed to be back-country camping, but my brother had a surprise for us. He had booked a cabin in the little town of Crystal. 'Little' is an overstatement...Crystal (supposedly a ghost town), 6 miles away from the nearest town Marble and surrounded by mountains, is home to exactly 2 families. There are a couple of ancient but well-maintained cabins that are rented out to visitors who come to get their fill of fresh mountain air. The town is deserted 8 months in the year, when snow covers the precipitous off-road path, cutting off the town from civilization. Even in summer, only vehicles with 4-wheel drive can make it across the rocky road.
The agenda was to spend a relaxing weekend in the mountains, so no strenuous hikes were planned. I would have enjoyed climbing, but my foot was still tender and DH had a weak knee. We did do a short hike up to Lead King Basin, a mile and a half above Crystal. My brother pointed out SnowMass and Hagerman peaks, which he had climbed. As we were enjoying the views, we heard gunshots and hoped we were well out of range of hunters. We learned later that the "hunter" was white-bearded Lead King Paul, who had lived in the area almost all his life (even when snowed in, in winter) and took potshots at anyone who dared come anywhere near his property (he considered all of Lead King Basin as his property, apparently). We spent the rest of the afternoon in the cabin, watching the rain beat down on the mountains. Rain was forecasted for the entire weekend, so we didn't mind dealing with just a couple of hours of it. Instead of a shower, we took a very quick dip in Crystal Creek (the water was freezing, but so refreshing).
Next morning, we drove down to Redstone, about an hour away. After pottering about at an art exhibition that was in progress, we rented mountain bikes and puffed a mile or 2 up the steep road in White River National Forest, which led to the trails. My brother and I intended to bike up the trails, but I chickened out after covering a few 100 yards of rugged, steep trail. The rest of the day was spent driving back, lazing around and chatting with Ginger, the elderly caretaker at Crystal, who had been an avid rock-climber when she was younger. She said that every year, she thought of retiring...it was getting tough to spend 4 months of every year in the isolated town of Crystal. But when spring came around, the pull of the mountains was too hard to resist. We spent part of the night narrating ghost stories, in keeping with the spirit of the town.
All too soon, it was time to head back. We did the touristy thing on the way back...took the tour bus from Aspen to the much-photographed Maroon Bells,
getting educated on local flora and fauna along the way. We didn't have time to hit the trails, but we stayed long enough for DH to capture the scenery at different angles with his new Nikon D90.