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“Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads” (Henry David Thoreau)
You can buy your way into many things in life, but the real gems you gotta hunt for. If you’re the adventurous type you’ll find many of these hidden treasures in your lifetime. If you’re lucky every once in a while you’ll hit the jackpot and find something so outstanding, so special that you’ll want to wrap it up and keep it forever.
Of course, Paul was one of those finds (can I hear a collective “awwwww”?), but we managed to snag another one a few days back just outside of Aspen. We’d come to this posh town mostly for a look-see and after a 3-minute drive through the main drag we’d accomplished that task completely. With time to spare and an adventurous spirit we decided to explore a little side-valley ~1 mile out of town that we’d seen on the way in. Well, as it turns out, the side-trip was the cherry on the pudding and one of those keeper finds that etch themselves in your memory forever.
Maroon Bells is ~183,000 acre preserve in the Elk Mountains ~10 miles up Maroon Creek Road off Hwy 82. As you drive up the alpine road it reveals itself to you suddenly and with astonishment, like a colorful flower bursting open from a dull pod. Sharp, show-white peaks tower majestically above a crystal-clear lake enclosed by crimson cliffs and active streams. It’s a jaw-dropping place and totally unique to the area. Crafted by glacial movement and tinted by hematite (iron-bearing mineral), it’s the result of 34 million years of creation. Given it’s splendor it’s popular with the locals, but like all parks you’ll only need to walk ~1 mile down any trail to get away from the crowds. Six of the spectacular peaks crest over 14,000 feet, and with over 100 miles of trails several going over 12,000-foot passes you’ll have no issue losing yourself in the wild.
So, next time you find yourself in Gucci-Aspen, skip the pearls and go explore the bargain-gem next door.
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