Rocky Mountain High

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I recently returned from a two week trip to Aspen, Colorado. Nestled in a remote valley in the Sawatch Range of the Rocky Mountains, Aspen is best known for its ski slopes and ridiculously high cost of living, but it’s full of quaint and unexpected treasures, too.

Photography taken from a foot bridge over a rushing river with rapids. Pine trees take up the background and a mountain can just barely be seen over the tops of the trees.

I expected to fall in love when I first stood among the mountains; what I didn’t expect was how it would feel to stand among the mountains: the air was pristine, the sun seemed to penetrate and warm my skin more deeply than it does in good ‘ole PA, and the rushing water of the Roaring Fork and its network of creeks and streams was icy cold from the melting snow caps, which persist despite the summer heat. Perhaps the most intense feeling I experienced, however, was a very clear and overwhelming sense of smallness. The Rocky Mountains were formed 55 to 80 million years ago. Imagine everything that’s taken place among these giant witnesses to history.

Photograph of purplish-brown mountain peaks and the grassy valley beneath them.

Since returning to Pittsburgh, I haven’t been able to satiate my appetite for more mountaintop experiences epiphanies, but I have begun reading any and all travel memoirs that I can get my hands on. I first read Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed, a memoir popularized by a film of the same name starring Reese Witherspoon (DB 74646 / DVD 1095) back in 2014. I listened to it on audio as I commuted to and from work each day, focusing my attention on the authors’ experience of breaking away and living independently. Having just graduated from college, this made sense. With this second read, however, I’m focusing on the author’s descriptions of the trail as she follows it from the southern tip of California to the Bridge of the Gods between Oregon and Washington. Next on my to-read list is Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica by Sara Wheeler (DB 48147), a tale of the author’s own experiences on the ice woven with the epic expeditions of Antarctica’s most mythic figures.

View from the window seat on my flight from Denver to Pittsburgh. Rain speckles the window and the sun sets in the background as the plane waits to take off.

I hated to say goodbye to Aspen. I’m currently trying to figure out how to head back West… as soon as I can find the time and means to do so. In the meantime, travel memoirs and hikes in Pittsburgh are allowing me to reconnect with my time and experiences in Aspen, even if they don’t quite compare.

Have a favorite travel memoir? Tell us about it in the comments below!