Summer road trip Colorado…July/August.2019

Day 1 7.3
I was missing my happy place so much & with all the kids & grand babies gone, I couldn’t wait to get back there.  I knew it would be crowded & crazy & a total zoo, but all that couldn’t dampen my spirit to return to Crested Butte.

I had hardly unpacked Camper when I got home a couple of weeks ago, so in no time at all I was ready to leave.  I hit the road this morning at 5:30 & made it CB to look for camping around 4pm.  It was fulleverywhere I went.  Every nook & cranny.  I found an open parking space in the zoo (this is the dispersed camping area on Slate Rivertons of RVs, lots of loose dogs, & too much noise) but I knew Id just be there overnight.  Down the road from the zoo, is the place I’d camped for the past few years—with the exception of last year (it was always full last year).  So, I took in the view, happy to be back & see my mountains, but wishing I was in my old camp spot.  I never took anything out of the car, but at dark, tucked myself in & thankfully couldnt hear any people or RV noise & my only view was of the sky.  I slept well.

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Day 2 7.4
I left the zoo early this morning, before the craziness began in camp & headed to town.  It’s July 4th & nobody does it better than the people of Crested Butte.  The day starts early with a 1/3 marathon run from Gothic into town.  I’ve done this race once…the last race I ever did & thought I might die or at least throw up when I crossed the finish line, but I did neither.  I also quit running after that…I was never a serious runner anyway, but I’d wanted to try this once & that was enough.  I set out my chair among all the other hundreds lining the street, bought coffee & downloaded some books in Rumors, then cheered on the brave & hearty runners as they came into town.  Before long it was time for the parade…so much fun to watch!

The Has-Beens.

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Not gunsbut skis.

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The Red Ladies of Crested Butte.

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The Skunk-Cabbaged costumed students & professors from RMBL—the Rocky Mountain Biological Lab, are always a big hit!

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You never know what you’ll see here, but it’s always fun.  And the CB kids are so cute!

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After the parade, the fire department sets off a huge water fight & participants bring water guns & before you know it, everyone around the last block of Elk, is wet but smiling!

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The festivities continue with live music on Elk, food trucks & more fun.  I walked around a bit then went to have a burger at Paradise Cafe, one of my fave places to eat.  The staff, which is super friendly, was all dressed alike in fun t-shirts, big star earrings & red, white & blue poms in their hair.  I was greeted with a ‘Hi Vicki…you’re back’ from the owner & a couple of other staff & once again, felt so at home.  The burger was delish!  This is where I usually come for breakfast & their famous jalapeño cucumber lemonade, so lunch was another treat from this super cool restaurant.  

I drove out of town up towards the mountain, parked, put on my hikers & headed down the Meander trail for my first hike.  Such a happy girl.  This is neither a long or hard hike, but the trail goes along the side of the mountain & up above the East River & the magnificent valley the river flows through.  On one of the busiest days in CB, I never saw another hiker until I finished the trail & only a few bikers passed me.  It was peaceful & lovely…I’m so happy to be back!

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Two of my favorite flowers…the State flower of Colorado…the Columbine; & the Green Gentian.

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And I love, love, love hiking through my favorite trees…Aspens.

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When I was done with the trail, I headed down Gothic road.  This is such a magical place for me.  When I first came to Crested Butte, about 13 years ago, I tent camped off this road for the first 5 years or so.  About 4 years ago, they cut off the camping during peak season -June 15th through August 15th; I haven’t camped there for a long time.  I’ve had lots of great & a couple of not so great adventures along this road, but its such a special place to me & always, always makes me smile. The whole road is breathtaking & so many of my favorite trails begin off Gothic road.  The river is so full this year & I’m seeing more snow on peaks & some still on the ground than I ever have before.  This area was hit with so many avalanches this year; there is debris everywhere.

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There’s also waterfalls I’ve never seen before coming from the huge snowmelt that’s happening.

I took my time on the drive; stopped & checked out the river crossing at Rustlers Gulch then drove back towards Mt. Crested Butte.  There was a free concert tonight & fireworks on the mountain.  I think this is only the 2nd time I’ve seen fireworks here….there’s usually a burn ban & fireworks are so dangerous in the mountains when it’s dry.  I also met up with Sherry Ott & her family who are out here on a family vacation.  

Sherry is a travel blogger -Ottsworld Travel & Life Experiences- & goes on amazing trips all over the world,  I’ve followed her trips & writings for several years & got to meet & hike with her last year in CB.  This year we’d planned to hike together on the super popular trail that goes over the pass from CB to Aspen.  But last March, I emailed Sherry that the snow level was so thick, we wouldn’t be able to do the hike in July.  The snowplug that covers the road to the trailhead, will probably never melt out this year, which adds about 3 or 4 miles to an already long & difficult hike.  But, the big deal is the amount of snow that still covers the pass & trails & the huge water levels that would have to be crossed.

But, we met up tonight & she invited me to sit with her family & introduced to me all of themsuch a fun group!  The fireworks were great & everyone enjoyed it!  I love fireworks!

It was late & dark & I knew there’d be no where to camp, so I went to a trailhead I thought would be ok, parked & ended another good day in CB.

Day 3 7.5
Well, I didnt sleep much last night, but the Milky Way was amazing!  I drove to town, grabbed some coffee & had my weekly chat with Jill.  I decided there wouldnt be any point in staying in town or trying to find camping here on a Friday, so I drove out Kebler Pass.  All the sites along the road were stuffed, then I drove up to Irwin Lake.  Wowthere were huge groups of people in each sitecrazy!  The road up to Scarp Ridgeone of my very favorite hikes in CB, was still snow covered, so I couldnt even get to the trailhead. I turned around & kept heading up Kebler Pass.  I stopped at the Cliff Creek trailhead, because thats where I was hiking today.  I backed in thinking Id probably just camp there tonight.

I was doing the short, but sometimes steep hike up to Beckwith Pass.  I always love this hike.  Its mostly in the forest, with big views from the pass, but sometimes the flowers bloom here early.  But, not today.  The trail starts steep, so I was huffing & puffing, but not many flowers yet.  There was still big huge places of snow to hike over.  I did spot a few of the bright yellow Glacier Lilies along the trail, but that was about it.

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After the stream crossing I lost the trail under all the snow.  But this is also a horse trail, so after a few minutes I found the hoof prints & just followed them until I found the muddy trail again.

Then I climbed up to the pass with its wonderful views of Mt. Ruby & Mt. Owen.  The day was beautiful & I am so happy to be back hiking here.

The secret to this trail is to hike beyond the pass.  Twice Danny & I have hiked all the way to the Beckwith Bencha 12 mile challenging hike, but the bench is beautiful.  I wasnt hiking that far today, but if you hike just beyond the Pass, through the cattle gate (which puts you on the Bench trail) for about another 5 minutes, you get an awesome view of the Castles.  There’s a huge rock right alongside the trail, I like to climb & just sit & take it all in!  Behind you rises a giant mountain, (I don’t know the name of it) & this year, because of the snowmelt, had a great big waterfall plummeting at it’s base.  Such a fantastic spot to sit & enjoy the beauty of this place! (Waterfall just to the right of the lowest snowfield on the mountain.)

I enjoyed my hike back, mostly downhill & enjoying the sunshine & mountain air.  Theres a few legit camping spots by the trailhead I was parked at & when I got back, the site across from me had just opened up.  I pulled in to the super un-even space & looked around.  A few minutes after I got there, I noticed three young adults walking around looking for a site.  I knew Id be better off in the flat parking space Id been in than in this uneven campground spot.  I asked them if they were looking for camping, they said yes, & I offered them mine.  I pulled back into the parking spot & made a late lunch/early dinner.  After I ate, I read for along time.  The kids set up camp, then left.  It was quiet & nice & the day was going greatuntil, another car, filled with 5 loud kids showed up & pulled into the site across from me & started unloading a bunch of their stuff.  They were joining the three Id offered the spot to.  Yikes!  When they were all there, it was loud.  And, it continued that way for a few hours.  I sort of regretted my kindness, but whatever.  At dark, I tucked myself in Camper, turned on my twinkly lights & read until it was time to go to sleep.

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Day 4 7.6
I had originally planned to do another hike out here on Kebler.  But something made me want to drive back into CB, on a Saturday no less, to look for a camp spot I could call my own for the next couple of weeks.  I cant explain thisit seemed crazy, but I did it anyway.  First I drove to Washington Gulch to see if my spot from last year was available.  It wasnt.  There looked like a couple might be packing up in the field, but next to them was a huge group camping.  The guy from the huge group was also watching the couple pack up; I was watching him & he was watching me.  This is when you know the camping is crazy.  He was closer to them than I was, & I figured even if I got there first, I didnt want to be camping next to a huge group.  So, I drove away.

I drove down Slate again...stuffed with all kinds of campers, tents, & tons of vans.  I went to check MY old spot.  There are only two camping spots there, however at times, desperate & rude people think there are four or five & will cram in between everyone else.  This morning there were only two campers down there & someone parked at the dead end road, probably fishing.  I had just started to turn around to back out, when I saw one of the couples pulling out their tent pole to dismantle their tent.  I slowly crept down the road & said “I don’t want to be rude, but are you leaving?”  Yes they said.  I asked if they minded if I parked out of the way, so I could have their spot when they left.  I emphasized that I was in no hurry & again, didn’t want to be rude.  They were gracious & said no big deal, that would be fine.  I pulled way out of the way back towards the entrance, & just sat & read a book while they broke camp.  The guy in spot #2 was also leaving & actually left his spot before the other couple.  But I wanted MY spot.  And once they left, I leaped for joy at truly being back here again.  I’d get to stay here for at least 14 days.  I set up the backpacking tent & then the screen tent with a place in between so I could back in to park & sleep at night.  YIPEEE!!! I was super stoked!

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I have no internet out here but sometimes can send & receive text messages or FB messages & sometimes decent voice service.  After I’d set up camp, I just sat in my chair looking around seeing if anything had changed since I was here two years ago & checking out the huge amount of snowfall on the mountain.  Then I headed to town to celebrate & have lunch at another of my fave places to eat, Momos.  As I was driving into town, I received a message from Tina Bost, a Sister on the Fly whose daughter moved to CB a couple of years ago.  I’ve met Tina once at a Meet & Greet Sister event in Lawrence.  Since our initial meeting, she’s messaged me a few times when she’s been out here to see if I was here too.  For the first time, we were out here at the same time.  We agreed to meet at Third Bowl…the best ice cream anywhere.  I could eat ice cream before lunch right?  So, we each got a dish & sat outside & visited & got to know each other a little better.  Then we walked over to her daughters place so I could meet her.  Tina was leaving in just a bit to head back to Kansas, so with a hug & a “safe travels”, I left.  By the time I got to Momo’s, he was out of the food I ordered.  Karma is Nepalese & has a huge local following.  He’s open 11-2 but it’s not unusual for him to run out of something before 2.  

So, I headed to the Brick, my favorite outdoor bar with so many great beers on tap, the nicest friendliest staff & great owners.  I found a stool at the bar & was greeted by Angela, a long time employee of the Brick with a ‘Hey Vicki, Welcome Back.  I only have one barrel aged stout on tap right now…”  Have I mentioned how much I love this town?  I ordered the stout (Odells Bull Proof) & my favorite Brick sandwich…BBQ & candied pulled pork & chips.  Angela & I caught up on what ever had happened over the past year.  My smile was big & so was the beer…so happy to be here!

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After I ate, I ran took care of some ME (mundane errands…like the endless purchase of ice, etc.)  I also stopped by the liquor store hoping to buy more of the Port I discovered last year.  I couldn’t find it but when I asked the person who worked there, he told me sadly they don’t carry it anymore.  He loved cheap Port too, so took me back to where it all was & we discussed Port.  I left with a new brand of Port to try & started referring to the employee as the “Port Authority”…it gave me a chuckle.  Then I headed back to my camp-home, so excited to be back in that spot.  I built a fire, drank my new Port (not as good as last years) & read, but mostly just sat & watched the ridge across the river.  I’ve spent hours over the years looking for & at the wildlife on the ridge.  When I first set up the tent this afternoon, the first wildlife I spotted was a Mama deer with two young fawns.  It was like a big welcome back since every year I’m here, I see at least one set of twin fawns.  There are tons of humming birds, sounds of all other kinds of birds, & always deer scattered across the mountain.  But this evening, right before dark, I was looking at the ridge, for the first time ever out here, I spotted a bear!  It was dark brown & just moseying across the ridge headed to a stand of trees.  I watched for a few minutes, until I lost it in the trees.  Then it grew dark.  The stars came out by the thousands.  I am so very, very, very, grateful to be here.

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Day 5 7.7
I spent the morning in camp, binoculars close by, coffee to drink & steel cut cold soaked oats to eat.  While watching the ridge, I spotted something large that was colored like an Elk, but as big as a buffalo only rounder.  It was a cinnamon colored bear.  I watched it for 1 1/2 hours as it wound its way up the hill, nibbling as it went.  So spectacular!  Then about 30 minutes after it disappeared into the trees up the mountain, the dark bear appeared following in its footsteps.  More binocular watching.  The brown one followed the same path, which I thought was pretty cool, then disappeared too.  What a wonderful way to start the day!

I headed into town & had some time to kill before my afternoon hike.  I went the library to checked out some booksboth to read to Claire & for me.  I was meeting Sherry & her sister & niece for a hike out on Kebler Pass.  Sherry had chosen the hike & it was one Id never done before.  I had done the first couple of miles of this hike, but never the whole 5-6 mile loop.  We werent sure if the weather was going to cooperate or not, but we took off anyway.  Sherry rode with me & it was so much fun getting to know her better.  We hiked the Horse Park Ranch Loop hike; through groves of Aspen, to view points, by huge rock outcroppings & up & up & up.  Her 26 year old niece has such a great sense of humor & Sherrys sisters is a fast, non-water-drinking, doesnt even breathe heavy, leaps across water crossings mega-hiker.  It was a blast to be hiking with them!

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The storm never happened over usyay!

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Sunny skies & more big views were right around the bend!

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Huge Aspen trees!

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(photo credit: Sherry Ott)

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It had been a super fun hike:  great views, a good trail, & awesome company!  I headed back to camp-home, built another fire & drank some Port.  Sherry & I made another date to hike before she left Crested Butte.  

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