My husband Nick was accepted as a composition fellow for the 2013 Aspen Summer Music Festival, so the week before last I took a six-day road trip out to Aspen, Colorado to drop him off for the festival. I had been once before, just for a quick overnight to visit a friend a couple of years ago.
We left Kansas City Tuesday morning and made it all the way to Denver to stop for the night at our cousin’s house. The next morning, we took off early to get to Aspen in time for Nick to check in at the festival and register. There are basically only two ways to drive into Aspen: normal highways, or the scenic byway through the mountains. After several hours traversing the Kansas plains the day before, naturally we chose mountains.
The Top of the Rockies Byway (Youtube search) goes south from Copper Mountain (southwest of Denver) and twists and turns through the mountains as you gain altitude, all the way up to Independence Pass (elevation 12,093ft) and then back down, ending in Aspen. Much of this road, even at its highest, narrowest places, has no guard rails. One accidental jerk of the wrist and its a SHEER DROP. Sheer terror! GAH! I was freaked, but really glad we went that way. (Needless to say, when I left Aspen alone, I drove the other way out. Never thought I’d be so relieved to be on normal flat highways 🙂 )
When we arrived in Aspen we went directly to the music festival campus for Nick to register. It’s beautiful and tranquil, all-new facilities set on a little pond adjacent to a clear rolling stream, with mountains and aspen groves behind it. I hope that Nick is able to get a lot of great composing done in this setting! Registration done, all moved into the dorms… now it was finally time to party.
Aspen is a tiny resort town, so everything is very accessible by foot or bus (free, by the way). We tried out several restaurants (expensive!) and walked all over the place. On Thursday I explored on my own, since Nick had some finishing up to do on his music. I went up the gondola to the top of Mount Aspen and hiked around a bit. I walked up and down Aspen, shopped a little, and just generally enjoyed the scenery. I bought four books at the one and only bookshop there (left for Nick to read, but I look forward to getting my hands on them again at the end of the summer)!
One morning I hiked around a bit on a few trails. My favorite one (that I had time for) was the Red Butte Trail. It wasn’t very far, maybe only a half-mile one way, but the views of the valley with mountain peaks in the distance were stunning. It was almost a 360-degree panorama of this (tilted because I was standing on a bunch of craggy rocks):
Twice during my trip we went to the Aspen Brewing Company and sampled beer flights:
The best meal we had was at the White House Tavern. Nick had a melt-in-your-mouth delicious French dip (roasted prime rib… <DROOL>) and I had the crispy chicken sandwich with a fresh crunchy coleslaw. YUM. So so good.
It was a long drive back (you already know what I listened to in the car on this trip!) and totally weird to leave Nick behind, but I’m already counting down the days until I return to pick him up. Hopefully I’ll be able to catch a concert at the end of the festival when I’m back out there in August!