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.
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.
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.