No, 40 is not the new 20…It’s just 40…
Earlier this year, Sheila and I planned a hiking/camping trip to Scandinavia (Norway, Sweden and Finland) to celebrate my 40th birthday. We were going to drive to the northern reaches of the area and hopefully experience the midnight sun. Instead, I found myself in a doctor’s office checking my vital signs and ensuring everything was in tip-top shape. Welcome to mid-life! I can report that I am in good health (for a 40 year old black man). I have never feared getting older. While I wish I can slow the hands of time at certain intervals, I appreciate the wisdom that comes with getting older. I am a much wiser man than I was when I was 25 or 30 or even 35. But with the slow progression of age comes all types of challenges.
Despite finding myself in the doctor’s office as I was about to celebrate my 40th birthday, Sheila and I changed our traveling plans and spent a few days in Aspen, Colorado. I have always wanted to go to Aspen but never found the opportunity to travel deep into the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.
City of Aspen and Aspen Mountain from Smuggler’s Mountain overlook
The highlight of the trip were the majestic and picturesque Maroon Bells, an amazing set of 14er mountains on a lake not far from the Aspen city center. The mountain peaks are so popular that the Maroon Bells Park restricts access to the area during the busy summer and fall season. Sheila and I took the Aspen public bus from Aspen Highland Resorts to the Maroon Bells.
While it’s more of a shuttle service, I appreciate the tourist information provided by the bus driver on the way to the famous landmark. It was during that bus trip that we learned that all the down trees were from the large number of alvanches during the winter season. The lake near the visitors’ center can be quite crowded with tourists so Sheila and I decided to take the 3.6 mile roundtrip hike to Crater Lake, a lake much closer to the base of the mountains and a bit higher in elevation. Now, the first thing I did after arriving in Colorado was drink enormous amounts of water to fight altitude sickness and prepare for our hiking trips. While the hike was not as challenging as I thought it would be, hiking at 11,000 feet is like repeatedly running into a wall. And I was constantly reminded that I was nearing 40! Progress was slow and my breathing felt laborious as we slowly moved up to Crater Lake. At one point, we passed a couple doing the hike with their six month old son. It made me feel really good when Sheila and I passed them on the hike. I was celebrating the fact that we were moving faster than a man carrying 16 pounds on his chest (the small things). After over an hour of scrambling rocks (not like Old Rag) and taking breaks amidst the shade of the Aspen Trees, we made it to Crater Lake. Again, the view was amazing and breathtaking. After an hour relaxing on the shores of Crater Lake, we began the hike back down to the visitors’ center to catch the bus back to the Aspen Highland resort.
Crater Later at Maroon Bells, Aspen, Colorado
Aspen is a unique place with its multi-million dollar homes dotting the side of the surrounding mountains and travel lodges along the floor of the valley. Aspen doesn’t have your modern chain hotels like Hilton, Marriott and Sheraton. Instead, sandwiched between the multi-million dollar homes and travel lodges are boutique hotels that range from $300 to $1500 a night. Sheila and I joked that we should buy a home in Aspen only to watch our smiles fade as the first home listed on Zillow was $36 million dollars!
The City and surrounding valley offers theaters, luxury shopping, film, food, wine and beer festivals and some really good (expensive) restaurants. The city has everything from well-maintained hiking trails to horseback riding and endless camping sites. And let’s not forget the winter activities. The population of Aspen varies year-round but full time residents hovers around six-thousand people. However, it comes with a steep price. Just eating out at one of the local restaurants cost nearly $100 for two individuals with only had one glass of wine. But I had to remind myself that we were there celebrating my 40th birthday…
Birthday dinner with my mom and Sheila at Dauphin’s in Mobile, Alabama
Turning 40 is not so bad…and getting older is what we humans do. I look forward to the challenges and opportunities that will come in my forth decade on this earth. It will take sometime getting use to not saying I am in my 30s. But with Sheila by my side, I can only imagine what amazing things will come in my 40s.