Unplug This Summer in Colorado Mountain Huts

June 19, 2022   7 Comments »

Dandelion, Red Violet, or Yellow Green? Decisions, decisions. Dandelion wins out. It’s a color and a flower that gets little respect in life, so I might as well use it.

This is what my day has been reduced to when on an unplugged vacation – coloring. And I’m pretty damn happy with it. After all, coloring takes you back to your childhood roots; a time when things were simple and days were full of fun, smiles and laughs.

It’s been so long that I’ve used crayons that I didn’t even know they had become worldly! Coloring is now multilingual. Next to Dandelion on the crayon was written diente de leon & pissen lit, Red Violet was violeta rojizo & violet-rouge, and Yellow Green was followed by verde amarillo & vert-jaune. I was pleasantly surprised and equally intrigued with this new international Crayola! I wondered to myself if I would have taken French more seriously in high school had I been exposed to it on crayons as a toddler.

Coloring
Coloring off the grid

Colorado Hut to Hut System

In addition to pondering crayons and language, I had ample time to ponder life in general at 9,700 feet. I was staying at Harry Gates Hut in the Colorado Rockies just outside of Aspen. The hut was part of the 10th Mountain Division Hut to Hut system that runs from Aspen to Eagle or Aspen to Vail. The system is a series of 20 to 30 Colorado mountain cabins that are strategically placed approximately 6 miles apart so that it’s possible to traverse the area on foot or via backcountry skiing in the winter from hut to hut.

What Will You Find in Colorado Mountain Huts

The huts are quite basic facilities, there’s no plumbing (outhouse toilets only), they are heated by stoves, and almost all of them are off the grid so leave the cell phones at home!

Each Colorado hut has 15 to 20 beds that can be reserved for a night or multiple nights for $35 a night per bed. You share the kitchen facilities with others staying in the hut, but can cook your own meals. Clean up after yourself, and share in the responsibilities of mountain cabin living with the other people who have rented beds.

Turn Rustic In Luxury and Rent an Entire Hut

Just like ‘real people’ in the pages of a magazine, these basic and rustically beautiful huts can be made over into luxury stays quite easily. Instead of a makeup and hair artist, all you need are the Aspen Alpine Colorado hut experience to your taste.

I was traveling with a number of writers and we were treated to a deluxe makeover. Steve from Aspen Alpine guides organized everything and provided all gear including toasty warm sleeping bags. They rented the entire mountain cabin for two days, and invited a local chef, a masseuse, a yoga teacher, and a number of hiking guides to accompany us…SHAZAM…we had a luxury Colorado mountain hut experience despite no running water and an outhouse!

6 Things To Do at Colorado Huts in the Summer

The outdoors is a place to recharge, relax, and rethink things – at least it is for me. The stay at the Colorado mountain huts was the perfect wellness solution for me. Here are 6 wellness-related activities you can do to recharge at the Colorado huts.

1. Hiking in the Rocky Mountains – It Doesn’t Get Much Better

The landscape in Colorado beckons you to explore it. It didn’t take us long to get out hiking. Under the guidance of the Aspen Guides, we took off for the waterfall through the green rolling valleys that surrounded us. It was super to not have to think about what trail to take or where to go, I could just turn my brain off and follow for a while.

After the waterfall, we broke into smaller groups to go different routes and I hiked with Avery, a Coloradan, and our guide Heidi, a professional climber.

I start to fall behind Heidi and Avery’s pace;  breathing heavy trying to find oxygen at 9,000 to 10,000 ft. Altitude…oh my! With every step and every breath, I realize there’s not enough oxygen for me to keep up this pace with the two Colorado women, so I happily fall behind and go slower giving me a chance to take in the scenery and think. The valley is green and filled with yellow wildflowers. The sun continues to dance in and out of the clouds in a complex tango. I like being behind, going at a slower pace, and being an observer.

2. High Altitude Rocky Mountain Meditation

Suddenly Heidi and Avery stop and wait for me to catch up. I greet their grins with heavy breathing. “We have an idea, “ Heidi says excitedly, “but we don’t know if you are going to like it.”
I’m a bit nervous but intrigued as I love trying new things. “I’m game for anything,” I reply.
“Do you know about chanting?” she asks.

Soon I find myself sitting cross-legged in a meadow surrounded by daisies moving my hands in an upward prayer positions and then diving downwards chanting words/sounds that I knew nothing about.

“It’ll last 11 minutes and it’s supposed to help clear your mind, “ Avery explained when I asked the inevitable question of “why?”

As I’m chanting I’m thinking about the 11 minutes, I’m thinking about how the area between my shoulder blades hurt, my apple in my bag, I wonder what the words mean, I think about what I have to pack for my next trip; I’m clearly not clearing my mind.

Yet for a short moment, I got lost in it, sort of as if I was sleepy and nodding off. Yet the words were still coming out and my arms were still moving.

Suddenly it was done and the sounds still rang through my head as we got up, put back on our packs, and kept going. It was like a little half-time show in the middle of our hike. These Colorado women were intriguing; “I like people who push my boundaries” I think as I continue to fall behind them again on the trail.

3. Colorado Huts Cooking

For me, cooking is a form of stress relief. I love chopping and preparing…and eating food! You’ve heard of Shabby Chic decor, the mix of old shabby pieces made to look hip; we had our own version of Hut Chic going on with a chef cooking up gourmet food in a rustic hut environment.

Chef Barclay Dodge doesn’t need running water or electricity to cook up an amazing feast for hungry hikers, all he needs are locally sourced ingredients from the Roaring Fork Valley and a little pre-planning.

As we came back from our hike Chef Barclay (who looked like Dennis Quaid) was putting his final touches on a feast of Vietnamese Banh Mi sandwiches, deviled eggs, homemade potato chips, and fresh fruit salad. In a hut chic way, it was a menu with the perfect mix of wilderness hut and ethnic gourmet. Before we dug into his masterpiece, he explained that all of the ingredients were locally grown or produced. Chef Barclay even made the pate for the Banh Mi sandwiches himself.

Like any good camp menu, he had simply prepared a menu ahead that was 75% completed and all he had to do was put the items together once in the hut or cook them up.

The food orgy didn’t stop there, later that day we continued with the local theme; happy hour drinks with Colorado craft beer and distilled spirits from Woody Creek Distillery near Aspen. And Chef Barclay went complete chic gourmet with a dinner of grilled asparagus with lemon dressing & shallots, sugar snap pea risotto, and marinated & grilled pork loin.

4. Enjoy Mountain Stargazing and Time at the Fire Pit

Then we all went out to gaze at the night sky with more after-dinner drinks by the campfire before returning to our sleeping bags and bunks. Roast some marshmallows, and enjoy the peaceful Colorado dark skies.

Fire pit and stargazing
Enjoy a night bonfire

5. Do Yoga Surrounded by Mountain Peaks

We had a yoga instructor join us in our luxury Colorado huts experience, it was the perfect way to start off the morning as the sun came up over the mountain peaks. Even if you didn’t have a yoga instructor, there’s nothing stopping you from getting a good morning flow on!

colorado mountain hut yoga
Colorado huts yoga

6. Unplug and Enjoy the Silence

Most of all, I enjoyed the ability to unplug at the Colorado Mountain hut.  It allows you to disconnect and simply enjoy the nature around you.

Colorado huts can provide any level of comfort you desire, and it will most definitely get you closer to nature and the opportunity to get to the backcountry. And no matter what level of comfort you choose for your Colorado huts experience – independent, guided, or the lux hut makeover, you will get some much-needed time off the grid to soak up nature, do a little yoga, try some chanting, and sit around the campfire doing nothing.

coloring and unplugging
Coloring off the grid

I love days when the biggest decision I have to make is what color should I use… Dandelion, Red Violet, or Yellow Green? After all, it is Color-ado.

How You Can Recreate My Colorado Mountain Hut Trip near Aspen

Colorado Hut rental with 10th Division Hut Association
Stay in the hut we stayed in – Harry Gates Hut
Lux it up with Aspen Alpine Guides

Other Colorado Hut to Hut Hiking Options

I personally haven’t done this yet, but it’s on my wish list! Even though the Colorado huts were really put in place for winter backcountry activities, they are starting to offer more hut-to-hut hiking options.

The San Juan Huts are offering hiking hut-to-hut trips. The San Juan Hut system is located a little south and west of Aspen near the cute town of Ouray. Complete the whole Sneffels Traverse starting at Last Dollar Pass above Telluride, CO, and ending in Ouray, CO. Hike through the Sneffels Wilderness area and spend one night at each of the four huts. This includes five to nine miles of alpine hiking trails a day providing some of the very best views in the state. You will hike through alpine meadows, aspen groves, and beneath jagged peaks.

They even arrange a food drop at Blue Lakes Hut, which is halfway through the Sneffels Traverse, to ensure you never have to carry more than a couple of days of food. This trip is perfect for those looking for a lightweight and more secure and comfortable backpacking experience or for mountaineers looking to cover a lot of rugged terrain with minimal weight. This means that you can really lighten the weight on your hikes between huts!



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