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July 15-17, 2016

For David’s birthday weekend, we visited Aspen and backpacked to Conundrum Hot Springs. I left earlier than he did so I could wander the streets of the quaint mountain town. I took the longer scenic drive from Denver which took me over Independence Pass. I made my first stop here. I parked the car in the lot at the pass and followed a trail to the edge to view the lovely surrounding mountains. The cool breeze sent me back to the car relatively quickly where I continued on to Aspen.

I stopped at a sandwich shop, Grateful Deli, for lunch. I thought I might be able to find something for a reasonable price. The meal deal which included a turkey sandwich, chips and a drink was $13…Ha! That sounds about right for Aspen. The shops were nice as well, Van Cleef and Arpel, Ralph Lauren, Rag and Bone among other fancy retailers.

David and I got a great hotel for the night. Hotel Durant was a few blocks from downtown and the ski mountain…easy walking distance to both. The room was spacious with a nice view. We were able to squeeze into the bar after a short wait for a nice dinner at Wild Fig. From there we tried out the brewery before turning in for the evening.

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Conundrum Hot Springs is a popular destination. The hike in from the parking lot is about 8.5 miles. We slept in until 7:30 and grabbed a quick free breakfast at the hotel before we made our way toward the trailhead. We knew with our late start, the parking would likely be a challenge. Of course the small lot was full, so we dumped our packs by the start and then drove a mile back to the main road where we parked on the shoulder.

So our day started by adding a mile to our hike. At least it was without a backpack. The next 8.5 miles led us mostly uphill over a rocky path. We passed through beautiful aspen groves, intermittent forests, and fields of wildflowers beneath a sunny sky. Fortunately, there was a light breeze that kept us cool in the unseasonably warm weather.

The wildflowers were nice though the dry, warm weather seemed to take a toll on them just as the biting flies took a toll on us. I’m not sure why I felt like this hike was so hard. It was my first time to carry a full backpack for the season, and it was steep in places, but it didn’t seem like I should have been struggling so much.

I will say I didn’t find walking across a boulder field or balancing on a log in the beaver pond to be too exciting. The variety on the trail, however, did provide nice changes of scenery which was quite enjoyable. About half a mile from the hot springs, we set up camp around several others. This area is so popular privacy is tough to come by and campfires aren’t allowed.

We hiked the rest of the way carrying a small day pack which included our swim suits, towel, sunscreen, off and the like. There were two hot springs, one larger than the other. Ten or so people sat in one that was a touch warmer than the smaller one which fit 4-6 people comfortably. Both springs were very muddy.

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David could have sat there all day. I, on the other hand, tried to sit there for a whole hour. Once I had shriveled up, I was ready to go. Actually, probably before that, but it was his birthday! We hiked back down to camp to cook dinner and have a nap. He mentioned he might head back up there in the morning. The morning came around 2am for him. He hiked up in the dark and sat in the pool with a few others who didn’t bring a tent so they just slept in the springs! He stayed until the sun came up and then some!

Once 7am rolled around, I figured I should check to see if he was alive. I hiked up to the springs and probably ruined his fun when I reminded him we had to cook breakfast, pack up, hike down, and drive four hours home. Though I think he enjoyed a night under the stars.

The hike down wasn’t too bad though with all our ailments between the two of us, we realized our backpacking days might be replaced with easier activities in the next five years. Upon reaching the parking lot, we wished we didn’t have to walk the extra mile to our car. Fortunately, a couple of guys picked us up.

After treating ourselves to a deserving lunch at the White House Tavern, we took a slight detour to Glenwood Springs before heading back to Denver. I wanted to see the historic Colorado Hotel where my mom used to stay as a kid. It is neat. I will have to stay there one day. Of course, the metering at the Eisenhower tunnel was in force, so the drive home took a while, but it was a nice getaway to the mountains. Aspen is a beautiful place! ETB

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