Pinterest A Grateful Life Lived: Unforgettable Runs: Rio Grande Trail, Aspen, CO

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Unforgettable Runs: Rio Grande Trail, Aspen, CO

photo credit:
     During an amazing trip to Colorado last summer, my family spent a few days in the ski mecca: Aspen.  I absolutely loved it, because it was a sleepy and homey town without the winter crowds to hit the slopes.  The first morning we were there, I left the Mountain House Lodge where we stayed-- I have to write about that in another post, it was such a neat place!  The hotel manager was a hiking-skiing-cycling outdoors-man and directed me to a park that was right down the block.  From there, I could hop onto the Rio Grande Trail, and run for basically as long as I liked.  It was a perfect morning for a run: 60 degrees and wide open blue skies.  My mom set out behind me, and I began to weave my way through the park and onto a path that went behind some houses.
     I am an HGTV nerd; I love anything dealing with houses.  Running past those amazing Aspen, CO houses had me wishing I'd brought my camera!  They were sitting right on the river, and it was as if their floor to ceiling windows were standing watch over the furious rapids below.  Every one I saw was my favorite.  After a few miles-- and a turnaround after going the wrong direction-- the landscape began to change as I left the center of Aspen.  Occasionally, I saw a large house, but I was mostly swept along by the river to my left and rock formations on my right.  It was so beautiful!  The river began to carve into the rocks as I went along, until it was like a small canyon of to my left.  It was black at first, before turning to a magnificent burnt ember as I ran along.  The crisp air felt wonderful on my legs, and the idea crept into my head: what if I just keep running, forever?  I entertained the notion as the path began to rise.  What had started as a small river in the city had now grown to a rushing body of water, now very far below the path.  I was up on a cliff, running in the sunlight and wishing I could pick up my life and drop myself right there in the midst of the Colorado mountains.  I came around the corner as the trail took a sharp right, and carefully navigated my footing so I wouldn't end up as floating cargo in the river below.  That's when I saw the most beautiful trickling spring, falling from the rocks above me.  There was a pool carved out on the right side of the path, leaving very little room for anyone to pass the narrow spot.  Sprinkled with water, I once again felt remorse that I hadn't brought even my phone, for a picture.  "Maybe mom will have made it that far," I told myself wishfully.  I looked at my watch, and realized it had almost been an hour.  I had to make it around that bend though!
     I could see the trail curving for many miles on ahead, carved into the mountainside and glinting in the sun.  I decided that I had to make it a little further at least!  In all honesty, I was picturing seeing the Pacific Ocean on the other in: I ran all the way from Aspen to the west coast of California.  I guess the scenery got the best of my creative brain...
photo credit:
     Alas, I turned the corner and saw no ocean.  I did see birds though.  Lots of birds.  Sitting up on the rocks to the right of the trail.  Rather than ocean Seagulls however, they were evil Ravens that were cawing like crazy.  I inched my way past them, aware that there was a steep drop to my left if I happened to get a little jumpy.  I prayed my way past the birds, and only then did I realize that unless I wanted to send my mother into a panic attack, I should really turn around.  I cringed, realizing that I should have checked my watch three minutes ago.  Not only was I much later than I'd promised my mom, but I had to pass those stupid birds again. I decided that the slow-inching method had only terrified me more, and the best option was to gather my resolve and sprint pas the birds as fast as I could.  "Please Lord. Please Lord. Please Lord," my mind frantically prayed as I rushed past the Ravens and toward the falling stream.  Safe!
     I wasn't exactly home safe yet though.  See, I have this clever way of challenging myself in most everything I do.  In running, it combines with my poor math skills to consistently give me a longer run than planned.  Most everyone knows, that if I said I'd be out for an hour, it'll be more like 75 minutes.  I always run a bit faster on the way back-- I love to finish strong-- and I like putting myself in that exciting time-trial situation.  That being said, it has also gotten me in big trouble with parents and coaches alike.  Most of the time, it's subconscious though, I just kind of keep running before I turn around!
The stream/waterfall I ran past (photo credit:
     I kicked into high gear though and pushed past the waterfall.  My layers of clothes had seemed like such a good idea that morning, but I was getting pretty hot after such a long, fast run.  "More motivation to get back," I told myself excitedly.  I wound my way back through the canyons quickly.  I kept my stride firm as the path began to decline and wind its way back near to the houses.  Begrudgingly, I didn't linger to take in the architectural genius  and instead picked up my pace again.  Although my legs were exhausted and I seriously had to go to the restroom, I was loving every minute of that run.  It was exhilarating  a change of pace and a challenge for my competitive nature.
     Finally, I sped through the park and sprinted down the street before keeling over at the entrance to the lodge to catch my breath.  I walked up toward the room, where the rest of the family was packing up for our big hike that day.  "I'll be read in just a minute," I told my mom-- after explaining and apologizing for my extended absence.  With that, I cracked open the porch door and collapsed onto the floor.  My oldest brother stopped packing the Camelback for a minute and chuckled at me: spread out on the floor with a big grin stretched across my face.  "The run," I said, still catching my breath, "It was beautiful!"

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