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Fall is a fine time to take the kids and family to see Colorado’s beauty

The Maroon Bells in fall foliage near Aspen

The Maroon Bells in fall foliage near Aspen

By Eileen Ogintz

Tribune Content Agency

It’s called fishing, not catching.

That must be why I’m not catching anything, though I’m standing in one of the premiere fly-fishing spots in Colorado — the Roaring Fork River on the edge of Aspen.

It is picture-postcard beautiful — the crystal clear water, the mountains, nobody in sight but us and our affable fishing guides. We had to slide down on our backsides to get to this fishing spot after suiting up in waders with neoprene booties and waterproof boots provided by the Little Nell Adventure Shop.

Trevor Clapper, one of our guides, tells me fly-fishing is a top choice for those visiting here in summer and fall and I can see why. “It’s something you can only do certain places,” he explains. But catching a fish isn’t necessarily part of the equation. “It’s totally about the experience … just being in the river,” he says. “You just chill and enjoy.”

“Kids love the river,” he adds. “They get to wade and feel the moving water and slip and slide.”

That includes grown kids — like my two 20-something daughters and a friend, who are all having a blast and didn’t mind in the least getting up at 6 a.m. on vacation to be here. “It was really pretty and relaxing,” my 27-year-old daughter Reggie said.

Sure we’re all learning a little about fly-fishing this morning, but the real point is being together in a place we can all enjoy now that my daughters live far from home.

Mel Yemma with guide Trevor Clapper in the Roaring Fork River

Mel Yemma with guide Trevor Clapper in the Roaring Fork River

This week, in fact, was the first time in three months we’d gotten together. I picked Colorado because I knew we’d all have a good time and could gather with extended family. The key to vacationing happily with grown kids, I’ve learned the hard way — is choosing places and activities they enjoy. That’s why my city-loving son has declined our invite for a week hiking, biking and fly-fishing.

We opted for a house in Snowmass Village about 10 miles from Aspen, arranged through The Portico Club. Not only was there more than enough room (and bathrooms) for everyone, wrap-around decks with views of the mountains and the services of a concierge and housekeepers (who wants to clean up on vacation), but the place turned out to be a bargain — for those who want upscale accommodations anyway.

The idea of this travel club is that once you pay an annual members’ fee ($2,500) you get access to luxurious digs around the world that you might not have found otherwise — at discounted prices. The Snowmass house where we stayed sleeps 8 to 10 — perfect for a multigenerational group. In ski season, the house is $1,250 a night. That may sound like a lot, but consider that single hotel rooms in Aspen can be $800 in prime season. In summer and fall, the rates are nearly half that. The locals we invited to a barbeque certainly thought the place was a deal.

Fall, in fact, we discovered, is a terrific time to gather the grown gang in Colorado. The days are sunny — warm enough for stand-up paddle-boarding and kayaking — and the evenings crisp. There’s plenty to do, whether you want to browse in Aspen’s shops, peruse the Saturday farmer’s market, hike or bike or even attend a film festival (Sept. 26 to Oct. 1). Go paragliding or see the mountains from a hot air balloon. Run a half marathon — at altitude. (The Vasque Golden Leaf Half Marathon on Sept. 21 gains 970 feet in elevation ending at 9,400 feet above sea level!)

There’s plenty to do elsewhere in Colorado too. See the largest Aspen grove in the country —Kebler Pass — in southwest Colorado and join the Gunnison-Crested Butte Valley’s month-long celebration. Explore the mountains on horseback at the Broadmoor’s new Ranch at Emerald Valley outside Colorado Springs (www.broadmoor.com/). Tour historic Breckenridge before the winter crowds come and Rocky Mountain National Park after the summer crowds have gone.

You’ll also find some of the cheapest lodging of the year (Aspen’s historic Limelight Hotel, is touting rates starting at $135 a night with additional savings for three- and four-night stays) and added amenities (spend the day fly-fishing followed by a mountain picnic at no cost when you book at The Little Nell).

In Snowmass, we cooked up a storm. (The kitchen of the Portico Club house is the best equipped rental house I’ve ever seen, thanks to a partnership with Sur La Table )

We hiked in the famous Maroon Bells— the two towering 14,000-foot mountains in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness — located in the 2.3 million acre White River National Forest. One day we hiked in the rain, another day we celebrated the sunshine and picnicked on a hiking trail east of Aspen.

We rode bikes on the Rio Grande Trail along the Roaring Fork River, past horse ranches, all the way to Basalt — more than 20 miles — where, since we were with grown kids, we stopped for a tour and a cocktail at the new Woody Creek Distillers that is making vodka from potatoes grown nearby. (We shuttled back to Aspen so we didn’t have to ride uphill.)

We stopped in at the Aspen Center of Environmental Studies to visit the resident golden eagle and at their Rock Bottom Ranch in Basalt to check out all the farm animals. (The piglets and baby bunnies were especially cute!) We should have brought a picnic to the bucolic 113-acre farm! (There are free tours daily. If you have foodies in your grown gang, come for the three-day butchering class the end of September, which culminates with a Farm to Table dinner.)

The fly-fishing was a high point, my daughters thought. So was our long bike ride and hula hooping atop Snowmass Mountain.

But to me, the best was kicking back at the Portico house drinking coffee after a big breakfast my husband cooked, playing Scrabble and just catching up with our far-flung girls. The house gave us the space to relax together — and get away from one another when we needed to.

So what if they rode far ahead on their bikes. So what if I didn’t catch any fish. That rare time together — in such a beautiful place — is what really mattered.

“Thanks for arranging, mom,” they said as we hugged goodbye.

Then they headed off on a backpacking trip — without us.


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