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A hike in the rain in the beautiful mountains near Aspen CO

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Summer showers roll over the Maroon Bells near Aspen CO
Summer showers roll over the Maroon Bells near Aspen CO

DAY TWO — Sure Snowmass is a great family ski mountain—one of the biggest and best in the country, in fact.  But a visit here—and to neighboring Aspen—is a treat any time of year.  There’s hiking, biking (road biking and mountain biking), fly fishing, rafting… even a scenic helicopter tour.

Even better, rates at condos and hotels are discounted.  You could stay at one of my favorites in Aspen—the Limelight for just $140 a night and at the ultra luxe Little Nell for $400—half what rooms go for at the height of ski season.

Today, we drove to the Aspen Highlands ski area to pick up a bus to the trailheads of the Maroon Valley and the White River National Forest—a spectacular glacial valley surrounded by 14,000 foot peaks, past fields of wildflowers.  The Maroon Bells (twin bell-shaped mountain peaks) offer some of the most iconic hikes around here.  Last summer, we hiked from Crested Butte to Aspen—an arduous all day hike over mountain passes.  Many people back pack here in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness.

Cars can only come up in summer before 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m.; otherwise it’s the bus–$6 round trip.  As soon as we got off the bus, it started to rain.

But we couldn’t let that stop us.  We pulled on rain jackets and hoped it would stop. It didn’t.  We’d opted for The Maroon Creek Trail that winds itself downstream along Maroon Creek through rocky slopes, mountain meadows and aspen forests.  We hoped to see wildlife.

We didn’t. We didn’t expect the rocks to be slick from the rain or for the trail to be one mud puddle after another interspersed with horse manure.  We gathered the trail is popular for horse rides.  The trail was supposed to be an easy 3.2 miles.  It seemed a lot longer—and harder.

Hiking down the Maroon Creek Trail in the rain near Aspen CO
Hiking down the Maroon Creek Trail in the rain near Aspen CO

It could have been worse.  We could have been backpacking.  When we finally got to the road, we were able to flag the bus down to take us back to where our car was parked.

Now we’re back at our Portico Club house in Snowmass, wet clothes in the washer, and sipping hot tea after a blissfully long hot shower. Portico Club offers luxurious rental homes around the world with all the help you need to have a memorable vacation—an “escapists” who helps you plan, a well-stocked gourmet kitchen  and daily house keeping.

Who wants to clean up on vacation, after all?

Later, we head down the mountain and 10 miles to Aspen for dinner at the Little Nell’s Element 47, which just opened last ski season.  While the ultra luxe hotel (think $800 rooms) may bust most people’s budget in winter, there are plenty of fall deals (The Little Nell and Limelight Hotel both are offering deals for fall, including complimentary fly fishing; biking packages; 25% off and more. )  We loved the  small plates for sharing—the wine pairing  and the scrumptious deserts (think panna cotta with lavender bing cherry compote or dark chocolate praline mousse)  I liked the kids’ menu presented as a story book that kids could color (a picture of a chicken pushing a grocery cart with a big vat of soup for chicken noodle soup) I also liked that the menu featured more “grown up”  and healthier fare—grilled shrimp,  steak; salad, broccoli, a bowl of fresh fruit.

Decadent desserts at Little Nell in Aspen CO
Decadent desserts at Little Nell in Aspen CO

Clearly, the restaurant likes kids. A local mom told me her sons’ first “grown up” meal was at  Element 47 and the staff couldn’t have been nicer to them.  “My husband and I actually got to relax and enjoy our meal,” she said.

 That’s the way it should be, of course.

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