A third of our thirteen-hour drive to Aspen was totally unremarkable; Missouri offered nothing that we haven't seen in Illinois, just corn fields and pastures suffering from the massive drought. Kansas supposedly is completely flat and also boring. I'd say it's pretty, not because it contains anything spectacular, but because it's simple. Simplicity is beautiful to me. Miles and miles of wheat, sorghum, and bean fields, interrupted by unusually numerous billboards protesting abortion. We passed clusters of gigantic wind turbines, which actually power most of the state, and a few sunflower fields. The clarity and brilliance of the sky's blue collided picturesquely with the equally vivid golden yellows and shadowy greens of the fields.
We spent Thursday night in a Best Western in the middle of Kansas, then continued our journey early this morning. Once we passed the border into Colorado we were met with horse and cattle ranches. At first it was nothing too exciting, but eventually we met the mountains. The Rockies are by far the most breathtaking landscape I have ever seen. I can't even craft sentences poetic enough to describe how stunning they are. I could tell you that puffs of clouds pregnant with rain loom over summits dotted with patches of snow. I could tell you that masses of pines blanket the mountain faces perfectly, or how intimidatingly open the plains are, or how the mountain range scenically borders said plains. But that won't do it any justice. I have pictures and I plan on posting them when I get home Wednesday, but I'm not too confident about the quality.
The closer we crept to Aspen the more narrower and winding the roads became. The roads snaked up the mountains, constantly turning sharply, and sliced through the armies of pines and aspens. Purple and yellow flowers lined the road as if extending a welcome to visitors. Cliff faces, which were so smooth and perfect they seemed to be carved by a sculptor, were netted in case of any sudden rock slides. Once we reached a certain point there was nothing but mountains surrounding us, asserting their authority over the state silently, beautifully.
Aspen is thriving yet comfortably small. It boasts the title of one of the most scenic cities in the country, and its 7,000 citizens take pride in that. Everybody here is uncommonly fit and slim from the plethora of year-round activities; with hiking, rafting, skiing, and biking it would be damn near impossible for anyone to be ashamed of their waistline. Aspen's infrastructure is refreshingly old-fashioned. The houses are nestled cozily together, mingling with apartments and condos.
We walked through the shopping area, which was packed with sharply dressed locals and aimlessly wandering tourists. Parking is an absolute nightmare even though many, many people get around by bike or motorcycle. It's a haven for avid window-shoppers, but I was surprised by the number of fancy boutiques, bakeries, upscale stores, and restaurants that would be far too expensive for us. People here definitely seem to be upper class, people of posh taste. We spotted a couple of art galleries, too. I bought a simple blue T-shirt as a souvenir; I would've liked to shop more but we only had an hour before the stores closed.
So here I am in our hotel room, which is just as homy and cozy and snug as the entirety of Aspen. Tomorrow we plan on taking a gondola through the mountain, then visiting a ghost town that was formerly settled for silver mining, and end the day with a trip to Maroon Bells, which I am the most excited about. Maroon Bells is what many consider the single most beautiful spot in all of Colorado, and one of the most beautiful spots in the entire country. Supposedly the reflection of the mountains in the water is so incredibly clear that you can't see the difference between it and the actual Rockies themselves.
You can bet that I'll be taking a lot of pictures.