Saturday, October 08, 2011

Going Back to Aspen...

This last weekend, I took my daughters back to Aspen, Colorado to meet up with my mom. Over forty years ago, we had lived there, before it was so posh, with the downtown lined with designer store fronts like Gucci and Dior and beautiful people with their high falotting dogs walking the streets and fighting for parking spots with their huge Suburbans and Porsches. No joke it was like "Road Rage"! I guess a parking complex on such pricey land is out of the question and would be an eye sore?
When we lived there, it looked more like this-

 taken from Wikipedia Commons- as were the downtown pictures, the rest are mine.
 We lived there in the late 60's and early 70's  when it was the "hippy" capitol of the world, or so it seemed to my father, who was the District Ranger for the Forest Service...
(this picture more from the mid 50's)
 and who's responsibility it was to keep in check the "free love" that was happening in the National Forest that surrounded the tiny mountain town at the end of the Roaring Fork Valley.
In fact, we lived right at the Aspen Ranger Station, which is situated at one of the first intersections as you come into town.
Just around the visitor entrance, where my sister, brother and I were the first to grab every publication, coloring book, poster, pencil, rule or anything else put out by Smoky the Bear or Woodsy Owl...

 There is  a sidewalk, around the corner,  which led to the house next door, still situated on NFS land...
That in the 70's was the District Rangers house....
I was five when we left, but I remember many things about living there like the curved archways, seeing my mom play solitaire at the round bear claw dining room table and the long set of stairs that went down to the basements where my dad kept his stash of antiques bottles found at clean up sites in the National Forest, i.e.- from trash heaps in abandoned mining towns up in the mountains of Colorado. Often we kids would sleep down there, on NFS cots, in smelly, leaking  NFS down sleeping bags.
After my mom and dad divorced and she took us to Loveland to live with our grandparents, I still visited Aspen and that is when I learned about another piece of equipment important to families of those who took care of the NF, a radio- before cell towers and phones, the only form of communication for those out deep in the wilderness and those at home. My stepmother explained that to me. More critical, though my father did not do as much as our friends, when your loved ones were out fighting forest fires, a dangerous but profitable part of working for the NFS.  We have friends who define what they will be able to do in a year, not by $ but by how many fires there might be.
Disappointing to see now, the back of the buildings is now a parking lot, but when I was a kid, it was a jungle, with streams, hiding places and  the horse corral, where I never passed up an opportunity to climb the thick NFS brown fence and offer the horses some of the more chose green grass on my side.

The horses were there to be used in packing equipment and manpower into the forest when needed.
Pack Strings are still used today- both my dad and my father-in-law who are involved in Backcountry Horseman, still regularly work with the NFS when they bring their pack strings in to work on a Wilderness trail,  where absolutely No motorized vehicles are allowed, so the horses are still needed.

On our trip this last weekend, my mom got to tell my daughters of how their grandpa's saddle and saddle bags were stolen and how my father track down the thief because he had the saddlebags custom made to fit his clipboard he used in his grass management.

Behind the horse corral, there were other outbuildings including a workshop, where my dad would make me simple wooden toys like a piece of 2x4 we painted and stapled a shawl onto. There was a bunkhouse for the seasonal hands and smoke jumpers perhaps, college boys who were around every summer, oh I was way to young to appreciate that.... but I still think of the time in Aspen during fire season when they are stationed around the Four Corners, with there bright red and yellow trucks and all of them wearing olive green cargo pants and heavy workbooks.

Next door to our house  in Aspen, was an elderly couple, Mr. and Mrs. Jenkins. They had been ranchers in the area, and were bought out when the rich started to move in, so they lived out their years in this little Victorian house. He always wore overalls and a felt hat and she wore dresses and aprons made out of calico, wore cat eye glasses and little white socks with her shoes, or so I remember.

One day, I do remember watching their house from our side window and not being allowed to go outside until Mr. Jenkins caught and drowned the skunks in trash cans that had taken up residence under their porch.

We also drove up Castle Canyon to enjoy the changing colors and to walk around the ghost town of Ashcroft....