Wednesday, August 5, 2015

A Summer Walk in Aspen

Rocky Mountain Treasures

I got up early this morning for a breakfast meeting. The balance of the appointments I had planned for the day cancelled, so I was rewarded with an unexpected day off.

I realized I could spend a day in Aspen staring at my laptop answering e-mails....or take a walk.

I started to walk kind of aimlessly around Aspen. It was nice just to take in the summer blooms and the fresh air. It was also nice seeing Aspen's worldwide visitors out walking, window shopping, hiking, riding bikes and even paragliding.

In fact, Aspen is all about its mountain, so that is the direction I began my walk. And I was quickly rewarded with a sight of morning paragliders lifting off the mountain top and then soaring above the valley with the moon setting behind them.

I Totally Envied the Paraglider's

I then came upon the remnants of Aspen's venerable Chair 1. Here I had to stop and take it in. 

Aspen's Chair 1

Although the US held the 1932 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, it was not until 1936 when the world's first chairlift opened in Sun Valley, Idaho. 

When Chair 1 began operations in Aspen a decade later in 1946 it became the worlds longest chair lift. And Chair 1 changed everything.

This relic of a chairlift helped Colorado become a global ski destination. And skiing's sudden popularity in the US resulted in a rush to develop ways of moving skiers faster and faster. Soon trams and gondola's joined high speed double, triple and quad chairlifts at ski areas from coast to coast.

And, just 25 years after it started running, in 1971, now obsolete, Chair 1 stopped running forever and began to rust.

Of course with skiing came the rich and all of the services they demand. Streets were paved in 1963 and the airport witnessed constant upgrading to accommodate the influx of commercial and private jets. Hotels and residences just kept getting tonier. And Aspen's streets are now lined with the world's most expensive luxury clothing, apparel and jewelry.

Aspen now treads the delicate balance of providing for the demands of the entitled rich, while trying not to completely lose its soul.

Walking down the hill I found myself amazed taking dozens of photos of the brilliant blooms gracing seemingly every building in Aspen.

Flowers are Blooming Everywhere

I found the Only Bargain Real Estate in Aspen

My walk then took me past Apsen's new Art Museum with its picnic basket weave facade. It was here I found this disturbing "road sign".

Guess Everyone Discovers Their Own "It"

As I walked down the hill I made my way to the Pitkin County Courthouse.

The courthouse is an architectural gem. It was built in 1891 when the population of this silver town was a bustling 10,000. For the next 50 years the courthouse quietly served an ever dwindling number of residents.  Then Aspen's fortunes turned and, for the past 50 years, the courthouse became the backdrop for a lot more history. 

The Pitkin County Courthouse

First came resident Hunter S. Thompson's ill fated 1970 run to become the Pitkin County Sheriff. His platform included installing stocks on in front of the courthouse to punish "dishonest" drug dealers.

In 1977 came the murder trial of the French singer Claudine Longet for the death of her Olympian boyfriend "Spider" Sabich.

Her friend Jack Nicholson joined her first husband Andy Williams in treks to the courthouse every day of the trial. She was eventually convicted of a misdemeanor and elected to serve her jail time on weekends. Between her jail time she vacationed with her (then married) attorney (whom she later married).

Later in the same year the courthouse was the venue for the trial of mass murderer Ted Bundy. While serving as his own legal counsel he was able to escape with a crash through the window of the second story law library.

In 1990 Hunter S. Thompson returned to the courthouse after drugs and explosives were found in his home. His charges were dismissed.

And, most recently it is where Charlie Sheen's stood accused of threatening his new wife with a knife on Christmas Day. Pleading guilty he received 30 days probation and had to attend an anger management class.

 Lady Justice 

Locals wryly note that while the nomrally blindfolded Lady Justice still holds the scales of justice, in Aspen, she is never blind.

Normally gold, in Aspen she is also adorned in silver, a requirement of the silver miner's who paid for her.

From the courthouse I ventured past some remnants of miner's cabins and on to the river and John Denver's memorial garden.

Some Miner's Cabins Remain in Arrested Decay

 John Denver's Song Garden

At that point it was time to begin my drive back to Grand Junction from where I'd soon be flying home. Along the way I stopped in Glenwood Springs for lunch. I had wanted to stop and see its giant hot springs swimming pool and walk through the Hotel Colorado.
Beside's being the host city to Doc Holliday's death, Glenwood Spring's fortune has historically been linked to its hot springs and strategic location along the transcontinental railroad. Passenger trains still stop here but nowadays few visitors use the separate spur built for wealthy visitors that needed a place to park their private Pullman cars while residing at the Hotel Colorado. The hotel hosted everyone from presidents to Al Capone (whose allegedly left an enterprising bellman a "tip" so large it put him through college). 

Off in the Distance the Amtrak Train Can Be Seen Departing for Denver

 The Hotel Colorado Today

I then drove to Grand Junction where I made only one stop. It was to Enstrom's candy shop for a couple of boxes of its superb almond toffee. Yes, it is that good.


As I wrote my post today I kept thinking about a Mary Oliver quote etched in one of the rocks in Aspen.  
"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"

Damned good question.

Roadboy's Travels © 2015

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