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getting in touch with my inner colorado girl

“Thanks for the ride down to Aspen”


I sometimes feel like I lead a dual life.  On the one hand, I love living in Denver during the week.  On the other hand, I think I would go crazy if I did not escape to the mountains every weekend.

This past weekend I of course escaped from Denver, as per usual.  My cousin and I had plans to camp and hike a 14er, and my friend Sarabeth was able to come along with us too.  We were originally going to attempt Handies Peak, because the wildflowers in the trip report pictures looked gorgeous.  However due to some sketchy weather forecasts, we set our sights on Castle Peak, just outside of Aspen.  You know your life is somewhat ridiculous when Aspen is your fallback plan.

We left at 9:30 on Saturday morning, which was a late departure by my standards.  We had plenty of time to make it to Aspen and set up camp before nightfall, so we took our time on the drive up, driving through Leadville and taking Independence Pass.  We passed the Twin Lakes, which were gorgeous and deserted.  They are definitely on my list for next summer.

Twin Lakes

The drive continued to get more amazing from Twin Lakes.  It was literally that mountain road with aspen trees and pine trees  that you see on postcards.  Independence Pass was pretty too.

Colorado 82 West towards Aspen

Jen, Sarabeth and I all stopped in Leadville for coffee and antique shopping, and we had visions of doing the same and briefly poking around Aspen when we arrived.  When we got to Aspen, we realized that it was not exactly our jam.  I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the area around Aspen and underwhelmed by the town and people.  We managed to find a somewhat normal sandwich shop then we pretty quickly headed out of Aspen to set up camp near the trailhead.

To my delight, I got to drive Sarabeth’s Jeep on the 4X4 road up to the trailhead.  I had a blast and basically want a toy Jeep now.   We found a nice little camp site and set up our tents just before it started sprinkling.  We all headed into our tents for some quiet reading time.  I felt like I was back at summer camp during rest hour, and it was awesome.

Camp site in the Aspen trees

After it stopped raining, Sarabeth and I went for a short walk up the road.  We ran into a dad, his two kids and a chocolate lab that had experienced two flat tires and needed a ride back down to cell phone service.  As it turns out, cell phone service range is basically Aspen.  We ended up dropping them off at a fancy Italian restaurant in downtown Aspen.  And their broken down SUV?  It was a four day old Land Rover LR4.  Very Aspen.

Even Land Rovers aren’t better than the mountain.

Our adventure in Aspen took at least an hour, but I did get a lot more experience driving the Jeep which was the silver lining.  After a dinner of chicken fajitas (best camp dinner ever), we went to bed and set our alarms for a 5:00 a.m. wake up call.

Chicken fajita camp dinner

The first few hours of the hike were kind of a blur, as we hiked up the road to the trailhead.  The actual trail to Castle Peak is not too long, but you need a pretty capable 4X4 vehicle to get there.  We added about two hours or so walking on the road up to the trailhead.  This was definitely a scenic trek in of itself though.

Hello sunshine

Remember how I said that the actual trail to Castle Peak is pretty short (well, by Colorado standards)?  I use the word trail loosely.  The hike was a difficult Class 2, which meant a lot of scrambling over rocks and snowfields.  We were pretty cautious about making sure to give each other enough room, as rock slides were a legitimate concern.

View of Conundrum Peak

Don’t worry, this is the trail.  We climbed this.

One of the reasons Jen and I had wanted to do this 14er was because it was off the beaten path.  A lot of the 14ers on the front range are packed on the weekends.  We maybe passed ten people during our entire roundtrip hike.  I was the first to summit the top, and it was the first time that I had ever had a summit to myself.  It was kind of a cool feeling.

Queens of Castle Peak – 14,265 feet

Looking towards Conundrum, Snowmass and Maroon Bells

This picture is what being on top of a mountain feels like.

Descending the mountain was much harder than climbing up, because the loose rock was much harder to handle.  A highlight of the descent for me was when Jen found a heart shaped rock.  It was a little love from the mountains.

Mountain love.

When we got back down to the Jeep, we were surprised to find a bottle of wine from our Aspen, LR4 owning friends that we had given the ride back down to Aspen.  The kids were awesome and told Sarabeth and I that we were “the nicest people in the whole world.”  I wanted that in writing!  But we had assumed that we weren’t getting a further thank you.  It was a surprise and a good reminder from the universe to believe in the goodness of people.

With that being said, I am running a half marathon in Aspen on September 25, and I am excited to see the beautiful golden aspen leaves and give the people and town of Aspen another chance.  Anyone game for an Aspen weekend?


Author: paulamahla

Typical Colorado girl that can't make up her mind. Trail running, hiking, climbing, camping, CrossFit, ultimate frisbee, and skiing? E, all of the above.

3 thoughts on ““Thanks for the ride down to Aspen”

  1. Amazing pictures, oh man, I need to go back to Colorado. I currently live in Pennsylvania but I was thinking about possibly moving to Denver. How many months of hiking do you usually get on those peaks, 3 to 4 months during the summer?

  2. “I sometimes feel like I lead a dual life. On the one hand, I love living in Denver during the week. On the other hand, I think I would go crazy if I did not escape to the mountains every weekend.” Describes me to a T


  3. Pingback: Race report: Golden Leaf Half Marathon | { return to the motherland }

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