It’s the freakin’ weekend… time to get out and play! They say that people move to Colorado for our world renowned powder snow and back country skiing, but end up staying for the absolutely gorgeous summers. I agree. With the Rocky Mountains as our back yard the opportunities for outdoor recreation are endless; hiking, mountain biking, floating the river and boating on on of many large lakes or reservoirs and not to mention camping, are just a few choices offered up by Mother nature herself. Last weekend held a 6 hour excursion up and over Willow Pass to Willow lake in the Maroon Bells – Snowmass Wilderness Area with great friends and my new pup, Daisy.
The trail starts at popular tourist destination Maroon Lake below the Maroon Bells, the most photographed peaks in North America according to Stay Aspen Snowmass. Hike for about 50 minutes up to the Crater Lake / Snowmasss Trail sign and take a right towards Snowmass Trail. A rather steep climb will take you to, through and out of Minnehaha Gulch which in turn leads you through a beautiful mountain meadow. If you are lucky enough to do this hike during wild flower peak season any fatigue you may feel from the tough climb fades in comparison to the absolutely stunning scenery. About 1/2 mile into the meadow you will come across a sign that reads Buckskin Pass / Willow Pass.
Stick to the right and start climbing switchbacks through shrubbery terrain until you reach a basin. A few creeks will be crossed while making your way through the basin. Willow Pass can be seen ahead and will be climbed with another set of switchbacks until you reach the summit. Willow Lake is visible to the right, and sits 1 1/2 mile on the other side of the pass. This is where we enjoyed the lunch wraps I’d made the night before our adventure: Chicken Salad Wrap with Walnuts and Dried Cherries. This specific recipe was very slightly modified from Jeff Mauro’s (you know, the Sandwich King) Lemon Roasted Chicken Salad Wrap I love to indulge in meals such as a wrap or pasta salad while out on longer hikes as it provides the necessary energy to keep on going.
It took us about three hours one way, different sites report the hike to take anywhere from three hours to a full day. Camping is allowed by the lake and we ran into some fellow hikers who were spending the night up there. Note that parking is becoming an issue at the base of Maroon Bells due to increased popularity of the area. It is recommended that you park by at the Highlands parking garage just outside of Aspen and hop on one of the many shuttle buses that run hikers up the mountain to Maroon Lake. In fact, if you arrive after 9 am this is the only way to make it through the Forrest Service gates as personal vehicles are not allowed up the road past that time. If you do decide to drive your own vehicle and hope to find parking there is a $10.00 fee per car. Visit the US Forest Service website for more detailed information regarding the Maroon Bells Scenic Area.
- 2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
- ¾ cup 2% Greek Yogurt
- ¼ cup mayo
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- ½ cup toasted walnuts, chopped
- ¼ cup dried cherries
- 2 celery ribs, diced
- 1 small red onion, minced
- 2 lemons, zested and juiced
- 1 6-ounce can water chestnuts, drained and chopped
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 12-inch whole wheat tortillas
- 1 pint micro-greens
- Prepare all of the ingredients; shred chicken, dice celery ribs, onions and so on.
- Mix all together in a large mixing bowl - chicken thru chopped water chestnuts.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Layer whole wheat tortilla with micro-greens, top with chicken salad, then wrap it up.