Bikes, Opera, and the Artic Gentian

My last post from Aspen. Sigh. The past few days have been full.  Today the US equivalent of the Tour de France starts here at 1 pm–you bet we’ll be there to cheer them on as they start stage one, from Aspen to Snowmass. Tomorrow, we’re heading very early up over Independence Pass on our way home because they close the highway at 9 am for stage 2, which takes the cyclists over that extreme climb to 14,000′. The best bikers in the world are here, the town is stuffed with colorful bikes, cyclists, tents, onlookers, etc.–very exciting! I took this photo yesterday when things were just getting organized.

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Yesterday afternoon the music festival wrapped up with an opera performance–three arias from Verdi and three from Wagner. It started out sunny and warm, then when Wagner began the dark clouds rolled in. Fantastic!

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The day before was the best. We started out early on a 3.5 hour hike at 13,000 (highest I’ve ever hiked!) to Independence Lake…a hanging lake we’ve never been to before. This was the most beautiful hike ever–through endless alpine meadows of wildflowers with spectacular views in every direction. You can see how high we are by the tips of the mountains in the distance. I just love the spaciousness of Alpine hiking.

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About 2/3 of the way through this hike, I stopped and doubted I could make it the rest of the way…short of breath. But I looked down and around my ankles there was a pool of tiny bright sky-blue butterflies–no more than 1/2″ wingspan. I took it as a hopeful sign, and carried on (they stayed with me for about 1/4 mile then disappeared). Wonderful experience. At this altitude I found the Artic Gentian! White with purple streaks.

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As if that weren’t enough, on the way down we spotted a family of marmots cavorting on a huge rock (they stand about 3′ high and look like enormous prairie dogs). Then we looked up higher and saw their village–where five others were standing up looking right at us. Hysterical!

That evening, I went to a production of Monteverdi’s The Coronation of Poppea,  (I love baroque opera but they are so rarely produced.) It was held in the Wheeler Opera House, built in the 1800s. Very intimate. I was in the first row of the balcony, best seat in the house but folks must have been a lot smaller in those days–because we were really crammed in there! My knees were underneath my chin. The voices were OK, but not great. And I was hoping for a more authentic production. They modernized the costumes and set—which detracts from the baroque experience. Although they did have the authentic 17th century instruments–a few lutes the size of small boats! I’m glad I went. The music is just wonderful. And the story is interesting. Plus, this theater is just the size of the theaters in the 1700s in Europe where these operas were first produced–so that was cool.

Tomorrow, back to the land of lakes…and reality.

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