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.
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.”
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.
Rigging 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.
The 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.
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.