If you’re lucky enough to be in the mountains, you’re lucky enough!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Good times in Aspen/Snowmass!

It was time for a little vacation and boy did we have a great week!  What better way to kick off a vacation than to have some great friends visit all the way from South Carolina.  A & J used to live within walking distance to us, but followed their roots back to SC more than a decade ago.  Dang we miss having them around!  So day one of vacation was a "staycation" day.  We did some tourist stuff, showed them around the Waldo Burn area, did a bunch of shopping, ate at Adam's Mountain Cafe in Manitou, and just had an all-around great day!  Mr A had a seminar in Denver all week, so they headed off to D-town Sunday evening and we packed up the wagon for a little trip to the mountains.
 Good times with awesome friends!

We have been chomping at the bit to get out to the mountains for a bit of new scenery.  Hope the intercooler is tuned up on your PC or Mac, as the photo dump is on!  Seems like with the fires and all, summer was really hacked up for us, at least schedule-wise.  So we booked some time in Snowmass Village and hit the road.  Monday it rained all day in the mountains driving up, and pretty much rained until late night in Snowmass (much needed rain).  Tuesday we woke to "sort-of sunny" skies and thick humidity.  It seems that a bunch of hazy smoke from wildfires in CA, WY, and MT all converged on the Rocky Mountains and sat there for days on end.  It never really smelled smoky, but boy did it put a dent in the scenery photos...
 Kathleen climbing the Rim Trail out of Snowmass Village
 Snowmass Divide and Mt Daly from the Yin-Yang Terrace on Rim
 Sweet singletrack through aspen forests - could it be much better?
 Kathleen climbing up on the exposed ridge - we are well above Snowmass at this point
Aspens anyone? Making the descent toward Lower Snowmass

Day one on the trails was perfect to wet the appetite - 11 miles of perfect singletrack and a great way to get rolling!

 The Bells on a hazy day

We missed out on riding the road bikes last time we were in Aspen, so we knew we had to ride the Maroon Creek road up to Maroon Lake and the base of the Maroon Bells.  The road is mostly closed to passenger vehicles during the day in the summer, so traffic is limited to tour buses every half hour and the occasional early-bird that got up to the Bells before the road closes.  The Maroon Creek road is just over 9 miles and climbs gradually to around 9600', where the expansive view above greets you.
 Sievers Mountain rises to the north of Maroon Lake
 HT decked out in bike gear for a change
 This little guy got a piece of our Snickers Bar that fell to the ground - 
then he followed us around the sidewalk as we were leaving!

We had a great day on the bikes, riding around downtown Aspen for a bit to grab lunch after descending Maroon Creek.  The ride ended up around 30 miles and was plenty of saddle time since I have not been riding much!

 Starting out on the Sleigh Ride Trail

Thursday we wanted to get in some quality time on the Government Trail, one of the premiere trails in the area.  It starts out on the Snowmass Divide and continues south, crossing Snowmass Ski Area and Buttermilk Ski Area before dumping out near Maroon Creek Rd.  We had plans for a loop starting out at the top of the village and then finishing in Lower Snowmass, catching the transit back up to the village for a sweet point-to-point run.  We used the Sleigh Ride Trail and Ditch Trail to get over to the Campground Connector, which would take is up many switchbacks to the Government Trail.
 Kathleen way below, under the Campground lift
 Finally on the Government Trail
 One of MANY stream crossings
 Coming up would certainly be anaerobic frenzy, but going down
was more like a footwork nightmare!
 Kathleen drops in from Government Trail

We took Government Trail all the way across Snowmass Ski Area, left the park boundaries, and finally connected to Anaerobic Nightmare Trail.  This trail is, coming from below, basically straight up and covered in gnarled roots.  We, however, were going down the trail and it was a foot placement puzzle at high speed, dropping 600 feet elevation in .6 miles!  And of course I biffed on it and skinned up the right knee.
 New trail - The Iron Curtain
 These bucks were so large, I first thought they were elk when I startled them at the "salad bar"

We finished off the descent on the lower Tom Blake Trail, where Kathleen peeled off to catch the shuttle after 11 miles and I took the Blake Trails back across to the Village to end up at 14 - another fantastic day!

 Kathleen in the wildflowers
 Oh, and more aspens - loved this stand of trees on Tom Blake trail
 Good Times!

Took the Snowmass tour via the Tom Blake Trails on Friday for a shorter 8 mile outing.  The run was 100% sweet twisty singletrack and the scenery, as always, was priceless!
 Oh, and we had to stop by and see how work on the new house was coming along.  As if....

 Mt Daly, with it's signature granite stripe

 While not peak season, there were still plenty of wildflowers
 Kathleen runs out the Ditch Trail along the Snowmass Divide
 Time for a group photo
Running the divide, with a nice view of the Snowmass Creek road heading out the valley

As is always the case, we didn't want to pass up one last opportunity to grab some trails before leaving.  We ran out the divide to the intersection with the Snowmass Creek drainage before loading up and heading for home.  A nice little 5 mile jaunt to help ease the boredom of the 3.5 hour drive!
 Views from Independence Pass
 That first switchback off the east side takes your breath away - no guardrails
All downhill from here - Happy Trails!
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