Summertime around here brings tons of free (or at least super cheap) opportunities to get outside, to get some exercise, and to smile at/with folks who are sharing the fresh air.
This morning found me
racing the clock hiking up Aspen Mountain to get to a $5 mountaintop yoga class. In a town of $28 drop-ins, five bucks is a no-brainer! You go. Even if your friends are busy and nobody is available to join you, you go.
This morning also found me trying to remind my feet how to
survive walk in my heavier heel obliterators boots, as Mike has a Washington adventure planned for us next week and, as much as I wish I could, I can’t put crampons on my trail runners. Or my Chacos. My heels are officially being tortured in training.
With the risk of feet self-amputation continually at the edge of my mind, I made my way up the shady, steep, and rocky Ute Trail. My fellow hikers were about equally split between folks who seemed genuinely happy to be out there and folks who had clearly been bribed, dragged, or shamed into joining their significant other up this
hell trail mountainside. The former met my greetings and returned a smile, and the latter either ignored me or shot me looks that seemed to question our collective sanity. Whatevs. My feeling is: We’re outside, we’re breathing in that clean mountain air, and I’m going to pant and wheeze at you say good morning to you – whether you like it or not.
There are about 1000 Fake Last Hills on the Ute Trail. You know you’re actually at the top when you crest the rise and see… the swing! The Aspen Swing Project has placed these awesomely perfect wooden swings on trails around the valley, and they are almost magical in their ability to make one forget about the hems and haws of
slogging up the mountain hiking and be instantly transported into a happy and childlike state of being.
When was the last time you got on a swing? I mean, like, for real. Not just sitting there on the swing, but actively pumping back and forth in order to generate and feel the breeze through your hair? It’s the best. Do yourself a favor and go find a swing this week. You’ll find your heels pushing up and your head tipping back in no time, I promise. The ensuing smiles are just bonus points. Take ’em.
The top of the Ute is only a fraction of the way up Ajax so after my obligatory swing and view-taking-in, I continued upwards. Folks always spread out above this point, as most people just turn around and hike back down. Not me. No way. The downhill is the most ouchy part of hiking, and I know that when I make it to the top there is a free gondola ride down. Sure, yoga’s great and all, but not having to hike back down was today’s biggest carrot.
Alone on the trail, I meandered up the rocky trail through fields of flowers, pines, and aspens. I kept a close eye out for the most perfect alpine strawberries you’ve ever tasted, but they were not quite ready. Their white flowers promised that moments of pausing and munching were not far away.
Pushed along by welcome breezes, I made it up with only one Necessary Blister Management stop. Not too bad, considering the
total control loud voice that my feet have over my activities. Since I couldn’t pull myself out of bed got a late start, I was kind of chomping at the bit, and I ended up with a way speedier ascent than I thought I could pull off. Made it with two minutes to spare before class started.
Now, if you know me, then you know that I think that yoga is always lovely. But some outside, en plein air,
post-ass-kicking post-hiking yoga is an extra special kind of lovely. Our teacher today (Laurie Searle) was visiting from the LA area, and she was awesome. I laughed and snorted my way through our practice, and ended up much lighter than I’d begun.
My Chacos went back on my feet (ahhhhhhhh!), my boots got slung over my backpack, and I headed up to the gondola to enjoy my pain-free descent. All in all, it was a pretty fantastic Tuesday morning.
Now. If only I could figure out how to attach those crampons to my trail runners…