The Mayberry of the Mountains
Look outside your window and imagine every color you see to not only be more vibrant but more diverse and subtle. Imagine the air is so clear that a tree is not simply green, but every color in the spectrum, from pastel to dark hunter greens. Next, imagine whatever landscaping you see to be covered in trees; fill the area with evergreens and yet somehow maintain a manicured balance. Finally, get rid of the sounds you hear, and, in this stillness, find the rustle of leaves, gurgle of water, and crunch of grass beneath your feet. This is Aspen, and this is downtown.
I have always feared the idea of ski towns in summer. I figured there was probably nothing to do in these places but meander past the seasonally closed shops or wander up some rutted out empty ski trail turned hiking trail. Like a car-boat (neither a great car or boat), I couldn’t conceive of a place that would be appropriate for both summer and winter. My mind was changed as soon as I arrived.
I don’t know how to describe it, but there is a kinetic feeling in Aspen during the Summer. The giant mountains surrounding the town are not only inviting, but motivating. The grassy slopes edged by crisp forest beacon me with an easy mystery, a promise of adventure without danger. Looking up to the peaks, I felt I could climb anywhere I wished, and yet would never leave my comfort zone. The staff of The Hotel Aspen was our best advisor; sending us to the must see sights of the city, and pointing us to the closest mountain trail.
Once up on the trail, the sparse undergrowth and towering trees shrouded us in nature while being open enough to provide great views, the dot of a city that is Aspen popped below us. The trail curled around until it met the Winter ski trails. Crossing underneath the still chairlifts, instead of feeling that I was driving a car in a lake, it felt like we had discovered a hidden gem, a Summer world hidden to most visitors but revealing its self to us.
Looping around and off the mountain, we headed into the downtown area of Aspen. However, based on the size of the town and the feeling of the community, it would probably be more accurate to say Main Street, as Andy Griffith might say, instead of the metropolitan sounding downtown. Like everything we had seen so far, this area was remarkably clean and comfortable, the citizens seem to care about each other. We only had time for a short stroll, so we headed straight to the site I never knew existed but suddenly had to see, the John Denver Memorial (thanks for the tip Hotel Aspen).
I have never imagined a memorial for a singer before, but somehow this shocked me in its ability to convey such a great amount of care and respect for John Denver while still feeling like a celebration of his life, instead of a memory of his death.
The last event of the day was the first official event of our trip, the Aspen Snowmass Jazz Festival. This is a yearly festival, held under a seasonal tent situated basically in a neighborhood. Tonight it was headlined by Sheryl Crow.
The best part of the evening was when one of our fellow writers decided that she had to get a better look and bolted down to the front row. We all quickly followed and ended up spending the night rocking out to Sheryl Crow, a phrase I thought to be an oxymoron until I came to Aspen.
This entire week is going to be action packed with events scheduled by the Colorado Tourism Office. If Aspen is any clue as to what the other towns we are going to visit are like, I think Colorado is going to become a must see destination for me.