Rocky Mountain High in Aspen

We’re on the road again after a summer hiatus–if hiatus is the right word for the wedding of the season, five triathlons (four for Michael, one for Nancy), and countless paddle board competitions around the Pietropaoli raft.

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We had dueling paddle boards in the cove. Here’s Sandy P. on hers.

This year our plan is spending the fall and winter in northern California and then heading off to South America in January, countries TBD.

We left Keuka Lake on September 15 and visited relatives in Columbus, Chicago, and northern Wisconsin. (Thank you, Bachs, Reals, and Gusicks!) Then came the long drive across the Midwest, with 12 hours through Iowa and Nebraska in one day on our way to meet up with Pat in Aspen. Lots of corn and cows along that route.

Aspen is a quiet, peaceful town, at least at this time of year. Jordan’s job with the city involves checking construction sites, partly to make sure that any jackhammering or other activity doesn’t exceed 80 decibels. There is a lot of construction here, but no skyscrapers. With strict height limits in place, some builders have gone underground. One owner is putting in a full basketball court in a second basement.

Pat just finished a job that involved patrolling some of the downtown hotels overnight. Not too many criminals around, but bears wander into the town on a regular basis. On a late Tuesday afternoon, we saw a black bear bounding across the street near Aspen Highlands, one of Aspen’s four ski areas. We also saw two mooses (meese?) at the entry to the White Mountain Park.

Pat’s new job will be at Buttermilk, the second of the four ski areas in Aspen. (The third and fourth are Snowmass and Aspen, in the heart of the city.) He’ll be teaching little kids to ski, so pizza and French fries will be on his mind.

Pat and Jordan have been hiking Colorado 14ers, the mountains that have peak elevation greater than 14,000 feet. They have 5 to 10 down (or up) and 40 to 45 to go.

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Pat has his finger on Mount Sopris, one of their favorite climbs, just under 13,000 feet.

The town of Aspen gets over 140 inches of snow a year, but most of the sidewalks are heated. Visitors can travel between the luxury brand stores and the marijuana shops without getting wet.

Just outside the town of Aspen is the Maroon Bells Scenic Area, part of the White River National Forest. The USDA Forest Service claims: “The Maroon Bells are the most photographed peaks in all of North America.”

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With the right lighting, the two bell-shaped mountains are maroon. Pat met us for the sunrise over the lake.

We aren’t sure about that claim, especially knowing that the area is closed off for a big chunk of the winter because of the very real risks of avalanche. But we did spend one late afternoon and sunrise adding our camera experiences of the twin peaks to the photo count.

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We weren’t the only ones ready to photograph the Bells.

At this time of year, the foliage is beautiful. The evergreens are a deep, dark shade. The aspen show patches of green, light green, light yellow, yellow, mustard, and orange against a blue sky. With bits of breeze the leaves begin to shake, thus the name quaking aspen.

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Foliage near Maroon Bells

Another “big claim” bit of information says that Colorado aspen are the largest living thing on earth, since they grow with connected roots and all trees from one set of roots have identical genetics. One researcher found a stand of over 100 acres of 47,000 tree trunks that was one single organism.

Our photo above of the aspens near Maroon Bells was just “pretty fall colors” that brought oohs and aahs before we learned about aspen genetics. Now we realize that the clumps of different colors are so uniform because each is a single organism of hundreds of trees. Neat.

 

 

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