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Skiing and Snowboarding : Camping

Conundrum at Conundrum Hot Springs: Are We Loving Them to Death?

Condundrum_mcgoughConundrum Hot Springs party people, mid-August. Photo: Will McGough

By Will McGough, Wake and Wander

Sitting in the nearly 100-degree water, among several naked bathers in the Conundrum Hot Springs near Aspen, Colorado, I looked around at the pine trees and boulders and white clouds over the mountains, the green of the valley below and the tight groups of Aspen trees. It’s not hard to figure out why so many people are willing to walk 8.5 miles to get here.

The secluded location simultaneously relaxes and excites, the booze sipping and joint passing further fueling the overwhelming feelings of freedom that the springs incite. The beauty and brightness of the large valley provoke a free spirit in all its visitors—it’s almost as if nature is calling you to go on, cut loose.

And cut loose they do, both in a good way and a bad way. Uniting with a hundred people in the middle of nowhere seemed to me even more special (and rare) than two days of solitude. But popularity can certainly tear something down in a hurry. Overuse has become a problem in the eyes of the U.S. Forest Service, the increase in human presence degrading the once pristine valley.

Andrew Larson, lead wilderness ranger for the Aspen-Sopris District, told the Aspen Times in May that maintaining the natural conditions at Conundrum is difficult due to the remote location and newfound fame. “We're supposed to provide for a primitive experience,” he said. “A lot of people come up here for a party experience.”

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Campfire Classics: Coghlan's S'mores Maker

#1230 Camper's S'mores Grill[1]

Nothing says autumn like campfire s'mores. There is a certain delight in getting little bits of bark in your mouth from the stick you jammed your marshmallow on, and in the sticky fingers that come from smooshing your marshmallow, chocolate and graham crackers together. Unless, that is, you are camping in bear country or there isn't a water source nearby to rinse off.

That's why Coghlan's invented the s'mores maker. A graham cracker-shaped mini grill, this car camping gadget takes backcountry cuisine to the next level.

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Baby’s First Epic

PabstRigging the raft for hands-free floating is key. Photo: Katie Arnold

You know how sometimes you ask other parents, including your own, for advice or insight about kid-related quandaries, and so often people scratch their heads and mumble, “Uh, I can’t remember?” And you find this totally incomprehensible because parenting is so profound and mind-boggling that it will be burned on your brain forever and you will never, ever forget? Well, guess what, you will.

I’d forgotten, for example, how stressful it is to take a baby on a river trip. Of course it is! You are mixing a tiny, mostly helpless infant, moving water, and wilderness. But in the two short years since my littlest was a newborn, this fact had somehow slipped my mind. Until it came flooding back to me last weekend on a two-night float trip on the Rio Grande with our friends Elizabeth and Win and their 10-month-old daughter, Camille.

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Give It Up: Life Lessons From Family Camping

Rab_wiThe quiver at Oh Be Joyful Campground. Photo: Katie Arnold

There are few places in the Rockies more beautiful than Crested Butte. The Colorado mining town-turned-mountain-biking-nirvana sits at the dead-end of a wide, lush valley in the exact middle of the state. Ringed by craggy, glacially sculpted peaks that burn with a red glow in the summer haze and high, green meadows carpeted in wildflowers, CB is made only more picturesque by its downtown, a tidy grid of colorful Victorians with gingerbread trim and ramshackle front porches stacked with bikes and skis. But it’s not as precious as Telluride or as pricey as Aspen, and it’s peopled with far more diehard mountain athletes, former pro skiers, and adventure families than ritzy celebs. 

If there’s anywhere that will guarantee you and your clan a state of instant summertime bliss, it’s Crested Butte, right? It’s all about attitude.   

Rab_wiCresting the 401. Photo: Katie Arnold

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Kelty Airpitch Tent: A Pole-Free Shelter You Pump Up


It’s not the first inflatable tent, but it might be the most affordable and easiest to use.

By replacing traditional poles with inflatable "AirPoles," Kelty’s family camping-sized shelters set up in under a minute with a dual-action floor pump, the kind you’d use to pump up an inflatable raft. The rainfly is pre-attached to the body of the tent, so there is no futzing with inner and outer layers.

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