Ten miles. The annual summer hike that I do from the Maroon Bells of Aspen to the town of Crested Butte is ten miles and reaches an altitude of 12,500 feet. That’s all. Yet through the suffering of the altitude and the distance, I have gained memories I will never forget. The hike over West Maroon Pass makes its way through aspen groves and pine trees, over creeks, up a mountain, and down through the most incredible wildflower field known to man. The town waiting on the other side is just as charming; Crested Butte is the ideal Colorado town with bakeries, the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, and lovely clothing boutiques.
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The logistics of my trip are quite simple, but they involve friends and family to make it happen. At 6 a.m. on the morning of the hike, I meet with about 10 other teenage girls and many of their parents at a friend’s house in our hometown Glenwood Springs. We chat, eat donuts, and prepare ourselves for what is to come. Meanwhile, my parents and any other volunteers are on their way to Crested Butte; they will hike the trail opposite us. Those of us in Glenwood make the hour-long drive to the Maroon Bells trailhead, a popular tourist destination in our valley. We pay the entrance fee for our vehicles, park them, and begin our journey.
The hike itself is not for the timid. Difficult, rocky terrain mixed with incredible amounts of altitude do not bode well for the inexperienced. That said, I’ve been hiking the ten miles every summer since I was about 11. It is feasible, and it is incredibly beautiful. We carry raincoats (it rained for the majority of the trip one year), health food, water, sunscreen, and dry socks in our packs. We talk and laugh and sing. Mostly, we learn to help each other make it over a mountain.
We run into my parents halfway through the hike and exchange car keys; they will drive our cars back to Glenwood and we will take theirs to Crested Butte. As we continue on, the flowers smile at us. It’s true. There is no better end to a grueling hike up a mountain pass than a 4-mile jaunt through the flowers.
Everyone reaches the car in around 8 hours and we make the thirty minute drive to Crested Butte (the cars had been parked on CO Rd 317 near Schofield Pass). Upon reaching the town, we check in to our rented apartment at Three Seasons Condominiums, claim beds, and run to soak our tired feet in the hot tub. Later that night spaghetti will be cooked and the girls will stay up way too late giggling and watching movies.
In the morning we pack our cars efficiently and head into downtown Crested Butte to spend several hours shopping and eating. We have our favorite haunts but every store is to be admired in the town. We leave around noon and drive the three hours home.
The best thing about the hike, other than the famous flowers, is my friends and family. I am proud to have parents willing to hike the opposite way and I am happy to be with friends that share my love of Colorado. I’m thankful to breathe the fresh air, and I would be glad to have others discover this beautiful hike over West Maroon Pass.
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