Crested Butte, CO

We moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado, in the mid 90’s.  With excitement and exuberance, we couldn’t wait to take our first trip as Colorado residents to the mountains.  I’m not sure why or how we picked Crested Butte as our first mountain destination, but Crested Butte it was.

We packed up the vehicle, two kids, and the dog and ventured into unknown territory.  Oh dear, out of the mouths of babes……  I’m not sure which kid said it first, but Crested Butte turned into Crusty Butt.  To dub such a beautiful, pristine place with such an unpleasant title is just wrong.  BUT to the four of us, Crested Butte was now known as Crusty Butt.

Mt. Crested Butte

Crested Butte holds special memories for me and remains a favorite of mine.  This recent trip allowed Al and me to reaquaint ourselves with the area, as well as explore the back country….a first for us.

Elk Avenue is the main shopping district in this beautiful mountain town.  During our three-day visit, we take the opportunity to stroll these shops and enjoy a few meals.  We ate breakfast twice at McGill’s.  The food was delicious but the coffee was amazing.  The coffee was soooo good we just had to ask, “what kind is it?”  Turns out it’s locally roasted…. Camp 4 Coffee.   McGill’s serves the Blue Mesa blend.

After breakfast we head on over to Camp 4 Coffee to take home some of these amazing beans.  Following our three-hour scenic loop drive, we stop in at The Last Steep Bar and Grill for lunch.  We sit on the deck enjoying a great meal and perfect weather.

Worth noting;  we found the prices overall in Crested Butte to be reasonable, especially for a tourist town.  I paid $35 for two T-shirts and about $30 for two people, breakfast/lunch.

Considering our lodging cost totalled $16, we felt we had extra cash to splurge on fun things.  It was always our plan to go out to eat a few times, which is why we left all the camp cooking gear behind.  This turned out to be a great decision, and I would plan it this way again in a heartbeat.

I purchased the T-shirts at Cottonwood Tees.  In a previous post I mentioned the young guy working the counter.  He was extremely helpful in sharing his passion and knowledge of the countryside.  Its because of his help, we explored and saw some amazing back country.

I look forward to future visits to try some of the other fun and interesting restaurants, and of course a little more retail therapy!

Washington Gulch Road

After a much-needed break near Mt. Baldy, we start the second half of our scenic loop drive.  We return to Crested Butte via Washington Gulch Road.  This part of our loop offers its own challenges.  The road is equally as narrow as Slate River Road but drop offs are fortunately not as severe.  However….

Washington Gulch Road

we did need to cross two small streams.  With the aid of 4 wheel drive, we cross with ease, although my knockles turned white from gripping the steering wheel so tightly.  Really, like that somehow would help!  We also encounter more wildflowers along this stretch.  The waitress this morning, at McGills, said this isn’t a very good wildflower season.  It’s been way too hot and dry.  She was practically apologetic and encouraged us to return another year.

Al and I don’t feel badly about the “poor” display of wildflowers.  The gorgeous scenery, perfect weather, and great coffee have put Al and me in a wonderful mood.  How could it not?  Yes, life is good!

We return to the town of Crested Butte at about  1:30 in the afternoon.  We check the gas gauge on the truck…nearly full.  Hmmm, we just drove about three hours and barely burned any fuel?  Ahhhh, 10-20 miles per hour with more stops than one can count sums it up pretty well.  Mileage wise, we figure we traveled less than 50 miles.

We have a cooler with food but decide to try out another restaurant.  We so enjoyed breakfast this morning that we’re eager to try out a new place for a late lunch.

Seeking Cooler Temps…

After a quick stop at Monarch Pass, we approach the town of Gunnison.  Gunnison, Colorado, is located 200 miles southwest from Denver and sits at an elevation of 7703 feet.  Gunnison is home to Western State College.  The economic base in the area is primarily tourism, education, and ranching.

A Gunnison valley ranch

As we drive through this western town, it’s obvious ranching is big business around here.  Cowboy hats, jeans, large belt buckles, and boots are in abundance, but the surrounding area says it best.  Ranches and cattle in the Gunnison valley can be seen in all directions.  Some are absolutely gorgeous and my photography does not do it justice.

I fell in love with this barn. I would live in this barn!!!
same barn, different angle….how cool!

Hwy 50 travels through the center of Gunnison and this is where we pick up Highway 135 and head north to Crested Butte.  First we stop for lunch where Al indulges in a tasty Buffalo burger at the Palisades Restaurant. Al and his hunting buddies would frequent this place when they used to hunt the Almont triangle.

After lunch, it’s back on the road for another 28 miles before arriving at our destination.  Al and I take our time and admire the countryside and buildings.  The valley is a combination of ranches and small subdivisions.

I’m pretty sure this is what a successful Ranch operation looks like 🙂

We haven’t decided where we’ll spend the night and, since it’s the week of the “Wildflower Festival“, we aren’t sure if we’ll find an open campsite.  Prior to lunch in the town of Gunnison, we stop in at the U.S. Forest Service for some free maps and information.  The young gal is polite and friendly.  She gives us a map of the area and notes on the map potential boondock spots (i.e. dry camping, on your own, middle of no where, no facilities, you get the picture).  Al and I look around and pick up additional free maps and brochures to aid in our adventure.

Could we have made a reservation at a campground?  Of course, but then where’s the sense of adventure or freedom?  The reservation would lock us in and what if we didn’t like the spot?  No, traveling on a whim is how we like to fly these days.  Or as Al likes to say, “flying by the seat of our pants”.  😉

Al and Bear in Crested Butte

“Are we there yet?”

Crested Butte, Colorado……this is probably my favorite mountain town.  Unfortunately it’s been about ten years since we last visited Crested Butte and even then, we never had enough time to explore and do everything we wanted.  We reacquaint ourselves with the town before continuing north toward Mt. Crested Butte.

Mt. Crested Butte

Mt. Crested Butte is the name of the mountain most associated with this area, as well as the name of the community at the base of the ski slopes.  This is the area with ski-in ski-out condos and hotel lodging.  During this particular trip, we drive past the village and continue north on Gothic Road ready to explore the back country and find a campsite.  Pavement quickly turns into gravel.  Two lanes turns into a lane and a half.  We are definitely venturing into the hinter land and it’s absolutely gorgeous.

back country off Gothic Road

More on this to come….stay tuned!

Wildflower Festival

Ah, that infamous itch has once again returned.  That itch that can’t be relieved by Calamine lotion.  That itch produced by the Travel Bug.  We’ve been home a little over a month and Al and I are ready to pack up and head out on another trip.  Another trip?  Oh, where shall we go?

Al and I pull out the Colorado map.  Colorado has been on fire….figuratively and literally.  We note the locations of wildfires.  Nope, don’t want to head in those directions.  We note the unusual high temperatures Colorado has been experiencing.  Therefore, up in elevation we must go to find relief from the heat.

Crested Butte, Colorado, is a scenic three-hour drive for us and sits at about 8,885 feet in elevation.  Crested Butte is a former coal mining town turned outdoor recreation destination, most notably for skiing.  The large amount of extreme skiing terrain has attracted the U.S. Extreme Skiing Championship, as well as the X Games.

This historic town is also a great summer destination.  Crested Butte is well known as one of the locations where mountain biking is claimed to have originated.  Other popular activities include; hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, rafting, four-wheeling, fishing, and camping.

Some lavender colored wildflowers growing near...
Some lavender colored wildflowers growing near the trail. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Crested Butte is designated as the wildflower capital of Colorado by the Colorado General Assembly and hosts a number of unique festivals and parades throughout the year.

July 9th – 15th is this years Wildflower Festival.  I think this just might be what we need to scratch that itch.  Crested Butte here we come 🙂