Hunter Creek/Smuggler Loop

Once my home course when I lived in Aspen this loop is great for trail running and offers all conditions – hot and sunny, cold and snowy, mud and post holing in deep snow, and – all on the same day!  May 14, 2016 – parked at bottom of Smuggler Mountain Road and made my way toward Lani White Trail to connect to the Hunter Creek Valley with intentions of going up to Four Corners.  Oops!  Controlled burn going on and got rerouted up the backside of Smuggler.  Across Hunter Creek into a meadow, back into the trees and with late season snow, lots of snow and mud.  That’s why I wear my mud shoes on days when who knows what the conditions will be?  Fun adventure – talked to Bryce from Pitkin County open space who was ‘guarding’ the road to Four Corners to keep people from going up to the Controlled Burn.  We discussed forest fires in valley and beyond.  Good kid and we walked together across Hunter Creek bridge and along Hunter Creek  till trails split.  He is a UPer!  We talked about the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  He missed some stuff but not the mosquitoes and black flies!  His family has had a subsistence farm for 120 years.  Ran into Ryan at the top of the steepest part of the trail and he was observing fire across valley from a huge mine tailings pile.  We also discussed forest fires in the west.  He had been around.  Washington, Oregon.  Mount San Jacinto above Palm Springs.  Fire habits of strange behavior and weather conditions.  Unpredictability!  Told him about the forest fire simulator at Northern New Mexico College.  On the north facing trail, there was heavy snowpack for mid May.  I opted for the snow run which means going through heavy pine and aspen forest trail till I popped out at Smuggler Mountain road 4 tenths of a mile above Observation Deck.  Spectacular views of the Roaring Fork Valley.

Aspen Brewing Company has a tasting room in town.  Casual upstairs atmosphere with small deck and views of Aspen Mountain.  All of their beers are good in their category.  Because of my need for a hop fix after running Hunter Creek and doing over 12 hundred feet of vertical, my hop craving may be for their hops having anti-inflammatory properties.  My favorite is the Conundrum Red – well balanced in body, hops and malt.  For first timers, get the full on shotski sampler with all their beers.  As always, the brewery, which does not serve food, is dog friendly!  Always plenty of petting possibilities available!  Have a beer and strike up a conversation about beer or find out what people had been doing for fun earlier in day.  For me it was trail running but several 20 somethings were on their fourth pitcher as they had been up since about 2 am and skinned up (having traction skins under skis allowing to hike in snow) to ski down Castle and Conundrum Peaks.  The tasting room has a great vibe and while taking a sip of your fave ale, turn around and look up Aspen Mountain.  Their deck looks straight up the Ridge of Bell.  Skied many a mogul coming down that run.  Fun in soft spring bumps or deep powder!  Memories… 304 East Hopkins across from restaurant row.


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