The Arctic of Colorado…Crested Butte 4.2008

saturday, april 5, 2008       day one

I've been trying to figure out when I could get back to colorado; it seems like it's been forever since I've been here

then late this week, a super great airfare popped up from kc to gunnison...and you know me, I thought it was
"a sign" that it was time to come back.  in a flurry, I made a phone call to my co-worker and boss to see if it was okay for me to skip a day of work, then booked the trip.  this morning I was up at 3:30am; left the house by 4:30am, and the state by 6:50am

the flight to denver was uneventful, and I spent the whole time reading

a quick change of planes and I was on my way to gunnison.  this was a really small plane and held about 40 people, but there were only 10 of us.  we all had to move to the back of the plane because it was "front-heavy" and everyone cheerfully complied.  this was a prop-plane and the first part of the ride was a little bumpy...but I couldn't wait to fly over my mountains...they were spectacular.  the photo on the right, below is of one of the ski towns...see all the runs?



 I had decided not to rent a car so I booked a round trip on the shuttle that goes from the gunnison airport to crested butte...about 30 miles north.  I had also booked three nights in the crested butte hostel.  danny and I have showered and laundered clothes here before (after backpacking), but we've never stayed overnight there.  knowing it was really nice though, I booked a bed in the girls dorm



 the room may not be much, but the living room area and kitchen are great


 crested butte has gotten record snows this year...up on the mountain it's been over 350".  I read the crested butte newspaper every week (online) so I know there's lots of concern about what havoc this much snow is going to cause.  while the skiing/snowboarding has been great, property owners are struggling.  roofs are collapsing; the amount of snow on the roofs is causing problems with the gas pipes; the snow is so deep around the houses, that the first floors of the houses are dark because the snow outside covers the windows; people are buying flood insurance like crazy; and no one knows when it's going to stop snowing, melt or where it's going to go when it does.  here are some of the photos I took while walking around the town




I've seen these "finder" poles along the sides of the roads here in colorado, but never attached to a hydrant.  that's me standing next to a pile of snow that's been cleared for the sidewalk


crested butte has great, free public transportation around town and up to the mountain.  I'd driven by the ski resort several times in the summers, but never "toured" it.  so that's what I did when I first arrived today




after popping in and out some of the ski shops, and sitting on one of the restaurant decks (sipping a pear soda) watching the skiers and snowboarders for a while, I caught a ride back to town on one of the buses

crested butte has some really cool little houses that have been remodeled...but don't let the size fool you...this 3 br, 2.5 bath, has a sales price of $1,100,000 (and not even a porch!)


I hadn't had any coffee since 4:00am, so my first stop in town was "camp four"; cb's wonderful little coffee house (this town is so small, I think the only corporations here are a couple of gas stations)

the weather had warmed up some, so people were sitting outside ...and I joined them, with coffee in hand.  of course, you know me, before long I had met two new friends.  we ended up talking for about 45 minutes.  they were a retired couple; splitting their time between boulder, co and miami, fl.  their son is a councilman, fireman and gas station/cafe owner here in crested butte 

but the really cool thing was that the guy was one of the very first emergency medicine doctors (the program isn't all that old) and began to tell me of his career.  he and his partner started a company that staffed er docs in emergency rooms in prisons and army hospitals employing 25,000 er physicians

his wife shared stories of their travels, including a winter trip to yellowstone (watch out danny, I have the whole scoop on this trip now).  okay, so maybe it was a little longer than 45 minutes, but it was great.  the photo on the left is the camp four coffee house; the one on the right is their sons business


there are times when I'm traveling alone that I wish danny or one or all of the kids were with me, or my girlfriends, but there are joys in traveling alone too.  and one of the best is that I meet so many cool's never failed

next, I decided to walk around and visit all the shops.  I was very, very good, and didn't buy anything (even when I found my favorite brand of socks in one store....see? I can be disciplined when I try...really hard) 

here are some photos crested buttes downtown (actually there's not much more here than this, except houses surround the shops by 5 or 6 blocks in all directions)


I decided to have an late lunch/early dinner and went to my favorite cb restaurant...the last steep.  I enjoyed scrumptious vegetarian egg rolls. 


after my meal, I walked back to the's about 3 or 4 blocks.  it had begun to snow and was very pretty.  I've been working on this travel site, enjoying the comfort and warmth of the hostels living room.  there is no one else here in the whole building...I think they'll come to open the check in desk soon though

but for now it's quiet.  I thought I would try to cat nap and rest before tonight...but for me...that's always only a "good idea", I can't ever actually go to sleep 

it's started snowing even harder in the hour or so since I began to write, and it's just beautiful

tonight I'm going to the "eldo brew pub" around 9:30pm to hear a local rock band and reggae musician.  They have their own special brown, and I can't wait to try it.  below is a photo of the pub I took earlier.


as far as tomorrow goes, I checked in to going dog sledding....very unaffordable and only one of the companies is still offering trips this time of year and it's all the way back in gunnison...all and all it would take up most of one of my precious days here.  I also checked in to snowmobiling.  it's a guided trip over kebler pass (which I've driven on several times before and it's beautiful), but for some reason I want to be outside, hiking and in the quiet (snowmobiles are horribly loud)

I'm not sure what the weather will be like tomorrow, but I've planned a hike.  there is this amazing road...slate river road...close to the hostel...that I drove down last year.  part of it has been plowed this year, so, the plan so far, is to hike down the road until it's no longer hikeable. 

I feel so lucky to get to come here in the winter time...I've dreamed of this so often and now here I am

(and I have a giant smile on my face!)


sunday, april 6, 2008       day two

it snowed a couple of inches overnight and was very overcast this morning 


I decided that I would try out the "gas/cafe" that the couple I met yesterday suggested.  when I arrived there, not only was there son cooking, but they were there too. I was a little skeptical ordering breakfast here.  it was definitely decorated very cool, really clean, but still was a gas station.  the breakfast menu was really varied and looked good, if you were a meat-eater.  however, the chef (owner and son) cooked me up a wonderful breakfast sandwich with grilled veggies, hash browns, cheese and egg all on a tasty english muffin.  I'm not kidding....I would definitely go there again (and might before I leave town).  I enjoyed more conversation with the couple and the chef himself even took a few minutes to come over and visit.  evidently, this cafe has been written up in ski magazine for the great food as well as somewhat of a "cult" following.  what a nice surprise! the station's motto is "eat here/get gas"


my plan today had been to hike slate river road and take in the views of the mountains on either side of this small valley.  but after breakfast, the skies were thick with clouds and mist.  the photos below are the view looking towards the valley....don't see the mountains do ya? 

I walked the six blocks or so to the coffee house, sat outside and enjoyed my espresso, then walked back to the hostel.  I thought I'd wait an hour or so in hopes the skies would clear. while waiting, I finished up a book I'd been reading:the sea of cortez...a couple re-creates a voyage john steinbeck did was good


when the book was finished, the skies weren't any better and it was snowing like crazy.  So, I decided that I would take the bus and go up to the mountain and hang for a while.  The bus atmosphere is like a party in itself...interesting.  they have a cool little outdoor fire going...and it was warm sitting there...a little wet, but warm.  I inquired about the tubing, but it was over for the season


I'm so jealous of everyone skiing and snowboarding, but have vowed to not fall in love with another sport that I can only do a couple of times a year.  the season comes to an end next weekend, so everyone was enjoying their time on the mountain in spite of the snow in their face.  Since I don't do the winter-mountain sports, I thought I would try the "apres-ski" sport....which is sitting in a bar, by a fire, with a great view of outdoors.  I mastered this on the first try.  the drink is called a "slap-shot" and it's made of coffee, rum, ameretto, kaluha with whip cream on top.


I'd been fighting a headache all morning...which could be the altitude or just one of my many headaches...but I'd also been feeling sluggish and kind of icky, probably directly due to the abrupt change in altitude.

I took the bus back to town and revisited a couple of shops for an item or two.  I was going to try to eat a late lunch/early dinner at the "ginger cafe" which closes down at 3pm between lunch and dinner.  I made it by 2:30, but it was already closed...not unusual in small towns, nearing their "off season".  so I went back to "the last steep".  I ate a wonderful salad called "coconut curry shrimp" with greens, veggies, grilled shrimp, cashews, coconut served with a curry! um! um!


I  left there feeling a million times better.  the locals in cb ride bikes anytime and everywhere.  they have this parade in the summer, where everyone rides their "townies" over all the bridges in and outside of town....old fashioned bikes they've revived and use to get around town.  I'm sure most of them also own super-technical, expensive mountain bikes, since crested butte has some of the best mountain biking in the country

Since I was feeling better, I wanted to find this road that I was told about that would be a good hike.  It parallels the slate river road, with the valley and the slate river snaking it's way in between.  It was snowing just lightly and temps were just fine.  I'd thrown a nalgene bottle of water in my bag earlier in the day, so I was ready to go.  I think it's about a 4-5 mile round trip from town to the end of the road.  It was just great...not really backcountry, but as close as I was going to get on this trip.   here are some of the photos I took along the way



this is a self-portrait I did titled "really happy girl"

the road was really muddy in places...I can't imagine what it will be like when the 10' of snow on both sides, and all the snow coming off the mountains that line road, begin to melt


there are cross country ski trails in the valley and skiers taking advantage of them; the slate river is the photo on the far right


I got back into town and stopped by the gas/cafe again.  their are a gazillion signs around town like the one in the photo on the left.  Most of the buildings/homes have the metal roofs, like so many  places that receive a lot of snow.  but parking beneath one, evidently can be hazardous to your car!  I bought a bag of microwave popcorn (to pop later tonight), some twizzlers and a bottle of cream soda (funny how I rarely drink soda at home, but usually will enjoy at least one when I travel)


my boots and pants were a muddy wet mess, but the walk i took today has been the highlight of my was just great....beautiful, and quiet, the only thing that could have made it better would have been clear skies...but as I've said take what you get,  weather-wise, when you travel, and I'm so glad I got to do this today


back at the hostel, I knew what my next plans shower.  I took a long  hot one and felt all refreshed.  I tried out my new "travel" blow great

I have a room mate tonight...a young girl from buena vista (about 2 1/2 hours east) formerly from texas who came with a friend to ski this weekend. they are gone for the evening, so I'm alone here for now.  it's peaceful, quiet, and warm.  Most of you know I don't enjoy watching much tv, but I've found an "extreme" sports channel, so am watching it while also working on this web site (I'm so good at multi-tasking)

one of my favorite books is "travels with charlie" by john steinbeck.  tonight I begin a new book "travels with barley" guessed it....the book is about beer.  Unfortunately, the hostel doesn't allow alcohol, so I won't be partaking while reading....but I do have my soda

I don't have plans for tomorrow....but hopefully the skies will be blue and clear...i'm always such an optimist!

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