Yesterday, headed for backcountry skiing near Ashcroft above Aspen. We knew we were entering the Aspenfluf zone and joked about stopping at the Pine Creek Cookhouse and dropping a few hundred on beers.
It’s quite a scene up there on weekends. The snowcovered county road that continues up the valley from snow closure is a good place for towing your baby sled (as in $1,000 “Chariots”), and dogs are legal so it’s canine heaven as well. On top of that, Ashcroft Ski Touring center has a hippy tooling around on a snowmobile giving people lectures on how to use our public road — as many of you know, just that kind of thing I love.
So, despite all that I’m standing to the side of the trail, feeling the love, and gazing up at the beautiful alpine we’d soon be getting closer to. My reverie was shortlived. “Lou, that dog just peed on your leg,” I hear Lisa say in a bewildered voice. Sure enough, I look down and see the proverbial yellow beads gracing my new OR Tremor pants from the knee down.
I’m more amazed than anything, but when the dog owner only mumbles something about how it’s just on my plastic boot, without any adamant apology, I become indignant and get in a bit of back-and-forth with the guy. I wasn’t really all that angry, just amazed and stunned, with words to that effect. The conversation ended when the guy stepped up, handed me a bill and said “here, get your pants cleaned.”
I pocketed the dough without looking at it, thinking it was a few tens or something. A short time later, while reaching for my chapstick I grabbed the money and checked it out. In my hand was a Ben Franklin!
The rest of the day went quite a bit better.
|Louie’s skis kept floating up off the snow. That’s Star Peak in the background.
The bucks were like Prozac — or at least a double shot of espresso. With a big smile on my face and three people in tow I drove the Nytro upvalley and parked at Kellog Cabin, intention being a tour up into Pearl Basin. With avy danger rated Considerable and all slide paths loaded above what we call the “Valley of Death” (otherwise known as upper Castle Creek), instead of Pearl we opted for trying a new (to us) zone of glades and west facing snow you access by skinning above the road leading to Lindley Hut. The skiing was reminiscent of doing timbered powder laps in the Wasatch. We’ll be back — though it was interesting how much weaker the snowpack was in this zone in comparison to farther west in the Elk Mountains.
|Setting the skin track was an aesthetic wander up through forests and clearings. This lightning tree is one of the weirder we’ve seen.
|Colorado Fourteeners such as Castle Peak form the backdrop in this area.
|Scott enjoying the goods.
|You link up the glades by busting a few thickets. More time up there would result in memorizing the best way to fit things together. Thus, it’s not the kind of place you should visit only once.
|Throughout the day we joked about how to spend the windfall. Pine Creek Cookhouse was indeed tempting, but I was afraid of the dogs. We ended enjoying commodious sea food platters at El Horizonte in Carbondale — with enough change to buy some Valentine’s treats (or laundry soap?). As for canines, I’m wondering if they have some sort of cosmic communication, and getting my leg hosed was dogworld retribution for my avy dog comments of just a few days ago? If so, apologies to all doggies out there. I’ll mend my ways. Just stay away from my legs.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.