Mud Season


Aspens near the valley floor just beginning to blossom

Other places have spring, but up here in the Colorado Rockies they have Mud Season. Mud Season spans from mid-April to approximately the second week of June, a time when it’s generally too warm to ski but too cold for the aspens to have leafed.  The weather is extremely unpredictable. A few years ago when we were here we took a few hikes in shorts, however this year we rarely got out of heavy winter coats, especially on our visit to the Maroon Belles where we encountered three feet of snow.


Mirror Lake by Carol Teltschick

To get to the lake in the photo above we had to trudge uphill often through fields of melting snow in the rain.  I slipped once, fell in the snow and had an icy butt all the way downhill towards the car (did I mention it was my birthday?).

During Mud Season many of the restaurants and shops are closed and the ones that are open offer deep discounts on their products. The town goes into a  frenzy of preparing for the summer season.  Restaurant facades get a facelift, city gardens get an infusion of snapdragons, petunias and other annuals generally associated with the spring, and its famed gondola only runs on weekends and holidays.


View from the gondola of the road far, far below

Thus the city is void of its usual throng of tourists and/or seasonal residents and/or celebrities willing to overspend on just about anything.  Except the rock sculpture gardens.  They’re free.


One of my favorite places in Aspen is the John Denver Memorial.  It’s on the riverbank just beyond a children’s park.  A simple memorial – several large boulders in a Stonehenge pattern with the words of his most popular songs carved into their smooth faces.


If you can’t read the lyrics, here they are:

Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy
Sunshine in my eyes can make me cry,
Sunshine on the water looks so lovely,
Sunshine almost always makes me high.

If I had a day that I could give you,
I’d give to you a day just like today,
If I had a song that I could sing for you,
I’d sing a song to make you feel this way.

If I had a tale that I could tell you,
I’d tell a tale sure to make you smile,
If I had a wish that I could wish for you,
I’d make a wish for sunshine all the while.

I must admit that when I was a kid I thought John Denver’s songs were a little too saccharin sweet and that his whole public image, too squeaky clean considering we were in the middle of the Vietnam War, the race riots, the clashes between generations – all of which he seemed to ignore, however, being high up in the Rockies, beside a healthy stream, soaking in the incomparable greenness of a newly budding aspen tree, I couldn’t help but savor his words.

29 thoughts on “Mud Season

  1. I love Sunshine on my Shoulders. 🙂 I didn’t now you had a “mud season”! Great to see how your area looks without all the snow/green/and the tourists!

    1. I was just vacationing in Colorado – I’m afraid I can only afford to be there in Mud Season – too expensive otherwise!

  2. I took a good fall coming down that hike and landed on a large rock. Yesterday, in an effort to get back into an exercise regime, I made the mistake of attempting a rocking sit up. I lie on my back; put my feet together – knees out like a frog; grab my ankles and rock into a semi sitting position using my abs to hold me for ten counts at a 45 degree angle. My bruised tail bone/butt was having none of it! I count my lucky stars it doesn’t hurt to sit in a chair.

    You were a trooper, Jan! Birthday and all! Love your blog!

    1. Thanks Mary Alice – so sorry about the bone/butt situation! I guess icy butt is a little easier to get over than bruised butt!

  3. Gorgeous photos, Jan!

    *Usually we have “Mud Season” but this year we have “Swamp Season” in Colorado.

  4. What a wonderful trip you took us on Jan. I can’t imagine snow in June (well actually I can because I remember it happening once but it was only a snow shower).

    I’ve heard that mud is good for the skin and complexion and I’ve seen people actually having a mud bath. I’m not sure how true it is but I’m guessing with the snow there would be no tempting you to have a bath in the mud?

    1. When I was younger I may have considered a skinny dip in the mud but now-a-days the thought of hiking for miles covered in mud is not at all appealing! Unless, of course, the mud was known to make wrinkles, cellulite and sagging jowls disappear!

    1. I wasn’t either but he definitely belongs to that special place in the mountains and up there, his words make sense.

  5. Happy belated birthday, Jan! Gosh, mud season in the Rockies looks/sounds like a great vacation, although I’m sorry about your fall. Coincidentally, I was in Walgreen’s the other day, and John Denver’s “Poems, Prayers & Promises” was playing on the speakers. I don’t think I ever really listened to the words of that song before, but the combination of his lyrics and pure voice brought me to tears right in the toothpaste aisle. He really was a treasure, and a unique talent.

    1. “Crying in the toothpaste aisle” sounds like an excellent title for a country and western song! Yes, it was a lovely vacation. Hard to come back!

  6. I’d say northwest Montana definitely has a mud season as well, but here in Boise it’s more like a semi-pleasant spring that then goes into four months of high desert hot summer days that are roasty and toasty.

    1. My brother was planning to move to Montana and then someone told his wife that there were mosquitoes the size of crows and she said No Way! We saw a few of the little varmints in the mountains but not many – too cold!

  7. This is beautiful. I didn’t know about mud season. And I didn’t know about the memorial, which seems perfect. I miss John Denver. Fly Away (with Olivia Newton John) and Calypso are among my favorite songs.

  8. Ah yes, but John Denver was singing about redtail hawks at a time when my buddies and I were banding and tracking birds of prey for conservation purposes. Rachel Carson had miraculously won her battle against DDT and hawks and eagles were making a comeback. J. Denver was saccharine, but with it.

    Lovely photos, particularly of Mirror Lake.

  9. Whew, that photo of Mirror Lake is simply stunning. What a worthy hike for a view like that. Mother Nature’s birthday gift. And then her awful sense of humor gag gift on the back end of it all (sorry bout the pun).
    I think going places off-season is incredibly smart, and it’s often such a lovely surprise to see how grateful proprietors are to have guests and that they’ll go out of their way to make your visit extra special. I hope it was a worthy trip.
    I think I recall enjoying John Denver’s music when I was a kid. He had some easy melodies to sing along to, and for me that was key, as I could never keep from singing. I bet the memorial was filled with a warm-hearted moment or two.
    Wish I had the patience and talent to rock balance.

  10. Those are dramatically beautiful images. I have always liked the simplicity of John Denver’s work.

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