This summer I drove to the top of Independence Pass for the first time. It was so much fun I did it again, this time going down the west side of the pass into Aspen to meet up with friends who had generously invited me to spend a night with them in Basalt. You might think that going down the other side of a big hill would be pretty much the same as the uphill side, but that wasn't the case. It was much narrower in places, as in 1 ½ lanes to share with oncoming traffic instead of the usual one lane each way. It occurred to me while navigating those curves that going down the other side of that mountain pass is a lot like growing older. You feel like you are going really fast, so you shift into low gear, steer carefully, dodge the crazy people coming at you and try not to go over the edge. You might as well just take a deep breath, say “screw it” and enjoy the ride.
Thanks to my navigation system I maneuvered my way through the very busy streets of Aspen to the parking garage at Aspen Highlands where I was going to meet Marge, Michael and Jan. After hugs and jokes, we boarded the bus that would take us to Maroon Bells, the most photographed peaks in Colorado. It was my first visit there, and I was not disappointed. There aren't enough words to describe the beauty of seeing Maroon Lake resting in front of those towering peaks. We enjoyed a short hike and just enjoying the serenity of the area before taking the last bus of the day back to the garage.
Jan joined me in the drive back to their rented cabin outside of Basalt and it was nice to catch up with her. Once leaving CO 82, which has turned into a divided highway since I was on it 30 years ago, we drove through the lovely, peaceful canyon along the Frying Pan River. Their log cabin screamed Colorado with its beautiful carved banisters and huge deck built to enjoy the woods and the views. Just perfect! The Mexican dinner Michael made was outstanding and Marge made yummy margaritas to go with it. They are both excellent cooks and I always learn something from them. We played Scrabble and card games for three hours before calling it a night. The next morning we did a short hike above Ruedi Reservoir before heading to Aspen to ride the gondola, another first for me. From the top you get a different view of the Maroon Bells and the surrounding ski areas. It was a great way to wrap up my visit. About 1:00 pm off I went into a gondola going down the hill to find where I parked and tackle the drive over the pass once again.
In the car I started mulling over the word “independence”. I realized, not for the first time, how much independence and freedom I have at this stage of my life and how very important it is to me. As much as I loved being a mother, and a wife (for at least 30 of those 40 years, lol), I was not an independent (or confident) younger woman. I was a total chicken as a child; my mother had to kick me out of the house to go roller skate or ride my bike, and I had few friends. Now my dance card is always full. In my 30's I would sooner starve than eat in a restaurant alone. These days I do it all the time with pleasure. I think the first time I flew by myself I had a panic attack. Now I embrace it all. The freedom to do as I please, doing it when I please (or not at all), without giving a crap about anyone else or their wants or needs has been an amazing and unexpected gift. I suppose someday I will lose some independence due to getting older, so right now I cherish it.
Speaking of independence, there are probably few creatures more independent than a burro. A couple of weeks ago I went (independently) to Gold Rush Days in BV. Part of the celebration was the burro race and I wanted to see it. The winner of the previous two races in Fairplay and Leadville was a cutie named Mary Margaret. If she won the BV race, she would be the first “mini” to win the Triple Crown.
Being kind of a “mini” myself, I was cheering for her. The start of the race was exciting, and none of the burros refused to run. All except one of the “poop squares” remained empty except, appropriately, number two. Since no one had bet money on that one, all the proceeds went to Chaffee County Search and Rescue. Since it would be a couple of hours before the burros returned, I wandered over to check out the vendors and enjoyed the free music.
Later as I watched the first group of burros returning across the bridge after their six-mile run, Mary Margaret was approximately in fifth place about ¼ mile from the finish line. Those burros and their fellow runners were haulin' ass, pun intended. I walked over to the finish line and discovered that she had won. Take that, big boys!
I have added some pictures of my latest excursions. These included a wonderful small boat trip across Twin Lakes to the old Interlaken Hotel with my friend Peg. It was beautiful, educational and reasonably priced at $20, or $18 if you are independently older like me.