May 31, 2014

Adventures in Aspen

Hello, from the Top of the Rockies! We are currently in Aspen for two weeks, and while Kevin is in his seminars, the kids and I are exploring the glorious environs. Normally, I would hit the trails, but with three kids in tow I can't venture that far from the condo. There's just too much stuff to carry—and too many little people to keep up with.

That said, we did drive up Independence Pass a few days ago to do an "easy" hike. But the wilds of nature felt a little too wild for me. The trails were still mostly covered by a foot of snow, the mountain streams for roaring, and I kept imagining hungry bears awoken from their winter naps by the sounds of my loud little family. Then, on the knuckle-gripping drive back down the narrow switchbacks, we passed a minivan just like ours that had just run off the side of a cliff and was nose-down some thirty feet down a ravine. The state troopers had just arrived on the scene. So, I think we'll just stick to town, thank you very much...

Fortunately, there is lots to do in town, and lots of nature, too. Almost everywhere you turn there is some secluded park or winding river or mountain view. The John Denver Sanctuary features an awesome boulder garden that was just the right scale for my little climbers. The Jenny Adair Wetlands has well-trod paths that make you feel as if you are out in the "jungle" even though you are pretty much in the middle of town. And the Aspen Center for Physics, where Kevin is attending a conference, has wonderful stream winding through the campus. The boys have loved picking the heads of dandelions and dropping them at the top of the stream, then chasing them "down river" to the end of the property. I do think we could spend all week just doing that!

But we've also spent a lot of time at the Aspen playgrounds, which are more adventurous than any playgrounds I have ever seen and all feature prominent warning signs reminding parents to supervise their children, as they slide down three-storey slides or scale 30-foot tall ropes courses, or play "King of the Mountain" on huge, man-made mountains (with no rails!). I like to think I'm a pretty laid-back parent, trusting my kids to navigate the playground without my hovering attention. But, boy, these playgrounds have made me hold my breath more than a few times since we arrived!

Our favourite place, though, has been Herron Park, a quiet little grassy knoll that sits at a bend in the Roaring Fork River (which is truly the loudest, fastest river I have ever seen). But the bend is quiet and calm and has a shallow sandy beach just the right depth for my boys to wade into. We picnicked there every day this week until Wednesday afternoon, when Colin raced out of the river screaming bloody murder! 

Turns out, he had been climbing up one boulder carrying a large rock (which he planned to drop from the top of the boulder to watch it splash into the river below), when he slipped and smashed his fingers between the stones. One thumb and one index finger were already blue with blood and swollen to twice their normal size. Two hours later, we emerged from a nearby medi-clinic with finger splints on his likely-broken fingers. I thought this might finally slow him down, but, no. The next day, he was back scaling the highest heights of the Aspen playgrounds, finger splints and all!

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