The Secret Recipes of Aspen
DELSEY PARIS and THE UNSEASONAL have teamed
up to take a fresh look at travel destinations that go beyond expectations.
With its roaring rivers, abandoned mines, gloomy forests, and colorful wildflower meadows, the Rocky Mountains is a delicate pleasure. Colorado’s 58 sky-scraping snowy fourteeners, or mountain peaks at least 14,000 feet high, make the state the tallest in the nation. Pyramid-like peaks reach into the crystal blue sky. These challenging mountains are a huge draw to hikers from all over the world.
One of Colorado’s most difficult fourteeners to climb is Capitol Peak in the Elk Mountain range, west of Aspen. It requires crossing the mountain range’s famously exposed “Knife’s Edge” — a sharp cliff line separating the path from the destination, where mountain goats are usually one’s only company. This strenuous climb to the summit can be panic-inducing, as it bends steeply down with 2,000-feet drops on both sides of the narrow ridge, and there’s no trail that’s wide enough for a hiker.
Sharp rocks jut up and can only be crossed by scrambling. This climb requires not only experience but courage, especially during the summer’s high-country afternoon rainstorms. Some hikers encounter nuns sitting on the ridge. Their legs dangle down calmly; their eyes close in the sweet trust of God’s grace and humble meditation; and their gentle singing carries softly over the cliffs. Hikers continue until they reach Aspen, which sits nestled into the Rocky Mountains’ picturesque Sawatch Range and Elk Mountains, along the Roaring Fork River, at an elevation just below 8,000 feet.
Physicist George Stranahan founded one of Aspen’s secret recipes: an unstructured environment for fine minds in an atmosphere of creative freedom. His Aspen Center for Physics, which opened in 1962, gained a worldwide reputation for the pursuit of scientific knowledge. The valley’s greatness was tangible. Sharing 70 acres with the Aspen Institute and the Aspen Music Festival and School, scientists soon met intellectuals of all disciplines. Educated people from all over the world came to Aspen, joining the flocks of writers, thinkers, and hippies, and occasionally turning into happy ski bums.
“At the top of the mountain, we are all snow leopards,” Hunter S. Thompson wrote in his memoir, even though he only went skiing once. Most of the writer’s friends skied, so they took him to the top of Aspen Mountain and pushed him off. He crashed and never went back, not even to Buttermilk Mountain, where Art Pfister made a fortune when he turned his family cattle ranch into a ski resort for eager beginners and young mountain lovers. Attracted by Aspen’s countercultural spirit, Thompson — the declared king of gonzo journalism — moved to a home he named Owl Farm in Woody
Creek, seven miles from Aspen, with a royalty check he received from his first book in 1967.
Thompson soon became a regular at the J-Bar at Hotel Jerome, located on East Main Street in Aspen. The brick structure was built in the 1880s and is one of the city’s major landmarks — it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is Aspen’s oldest hotel. Thompson once duct-taped Bill Murray to a sun lounger and threw him into the pool, where the actor nearly drowned. When Thompson decided to run for town sheriff in 1970, he used Hotel Jerome as his campaign headquarters. The hotel also has been the choice of stay for many celebrities, including John Wayne and Gary Cooper.
With over 300 days of sunshine per year, Aspen is a popular year-round destination, offering world-class skiing for outdoor and adventure junkies in the winter and an impressive event calendar for arts and culture enthusiasts in the summer. The Snowmass Free Concert Series, the Aspen Music Festival and School, the Aspen Ideas Festival, the Food and Wine Classic, and the Jazz Festival are just a few of the events that attract visitors from June to September. Aspen boasts electric blue skies, puffy clouds, and cool summer temperatures (ranging from the high 70s to the low 80s) — all of which is the perfect backdrop for browsing the vibrant downtown eateries, boutiques, shops, and art galleries.
Despite the city’s small size, Aspen has over 30 parks. One of the most beautiful picnic spots is Heron Park, located on the east side of the city, where Main Street ends and becomes Original Curve. The shaded park invites visitors to engage in an outdoor yoga session or enjoy a nice, hearty breakfast on a picnic blanket under the trees.
A few miles to the east of Aspen is the Woody Creek Tavern. It opened in 1980 and instantly became a joint for the locals. One could find Thompson drinking Wild Turkey at noon on his usual barstool, across the pool table, which he had once tried to blow up. Serving both lunch and dinner, the tavern features 40 years of accumulated memorabilia, forming a multilayered collage that comprises the décor. Be sure to take your time when you visit. It will be a trip down Aspen’s memory lane.
For spectacular views of Aspen woodlands and Crater Lake, visit Maroon Bells, one of Colorado’s fourteeners located in the Elk Mountain range. Various scenic hikes, from easy to difficult, allow
you to explore the peaceful area. The most beautiful hikes in Aspen lead to Crater Lake, an alpine lake enveloped by lush fields of wildflowers.
Aspen’s breathtaking beauty and unique seasons are awe-inspiring. In the fall, the forests can leave you speechless when you encounter the white bark and golden leaves with the snow-capped peaks. In the winter, snowplows work their way up to Maroon Bells, where the mountain is covered with 40 feet of snow. In the summer, it’s an ice-cold pleasure for Woody Creek kids to jump from the Strawberry Rock into the roaring waters. The powerful rivers are known for their large trout. But when you go fly-fishing, don’t forget that it’s catch and release for all rivers and fish, regardless of their size. Or, as the nuns on “Knife’s Edge” might put it: Live and let live.
Images: Ger Ger Words: Tina Ger
The Unseasonal is a purpose-driven special projects magazine and alternative take on the world – a magazine about passion, travel, beauty, the change in seasons, the unusual, and the human condition. It features timeless pictorials, thoughtful stories, and unique collaborations. The Unseasonal embodies the feeling of a getaway, of slowing down, of exotic places, optimism, breathtaking dreams, unique architecture, and a lightness of being, traced with elements
from the past, the future, Romanticism, and impulses for making the world a better place.