What other choice than American Lake for a backcountry hike on the Fourth of July? American is a glacier tarn south of Aspen, off the Castle Creek drainage. It’s arguably the most popular hiking destination in legal wilderness accessed from Aspen; a fairly easy trek of just over three miles, 2,000 feet elevation gain.
|At American Lake, Colorado.|
What’s interesting about a popular alpine hike in an affluent area such as Aspen is the number of people who take Fido on their walk. Yesterday, at least 3/4 of the people up there had dogs with them. What’s also interesting is how many of these probable lovers of legal wilderness will remove Fido from his leash at every opportunity — or just ignore using a leash altogether. That is, until you have a Forest Service employee present in uniform.
When we got to the lake, we noticed a tan shirted government worker gal (we’ll call her Judy) ensconced under a tree next to the rippling waters of the lake. I was amazed. This was one of the few times in decades of wilderness travel that I’ve seen one of our forest stewards anywhere but at a trailhead or in an office.
The dog owners seemed to have a sixth sense about Judy’s proximity — or perhaps they noticed the Forest Service vehicle parked at the trailhead (or their dogs were trained to sniff out leash enforcement officers?). Whatever the case, I’ve never seen so many dogs on leashes in the backcountry. It was surreal — like a tableau from a walking path in the city.
More, it was amusing watching said dog owners sussing out Judy’s location, then sneaking a quick unsnapping of the leash so their beloved pet could join the marmots and squirrels in feral celebration of freedom from civilized restraints.
Judy told us that some dog owners were pleasant to deal with, while others came up with angry statements such as, “coyotes chase wildlife, so what’s wrong with my dog doing it?”
That person might actually have a point about coyotes vs dogs. Even so, we’d just as soon see all those canines kept on leashes when they’re in legal Wilderness their owners probably support (at least during summer when potential dog food critters are abundant). But I’d hope that happens by choice, not having tan shirted police writing tickets.
(And can someone lend us a dog to defend our Jeep from marmots?)