Crested Butte, Colorado

Crested Butte, Colorado

When we moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado in the mid-’90s, we couldn’t wait to take our first trip to the mountains.  I’m not sure why or how we picked Crested Butte for our first Rocky Mountain destination, but Crested Butte it was.

We packed up the vehicle, two kids, and the dog and ventured into unknown territory. I don’t remember which child said it first, but Crested Butte quickly turned into Crusty Butt.  Oh dear, out of the mouths of babes … 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 officially known as Crusty Butt.

Continuing with our Top 5 Must-Visit Colorado Mountain Towns

In no particular order, these are my top 5 favorite picks for must-see Colorado Mountain Towns … towns that I have returned to time and again because they’re just that special.

Wildflower Capital of Colorado

This quaint little mountain town will always hold a special place in my heart due to fond memories that were created during several family excursions to this part of Colorado. Aside from that, Crested Butte does offer a vibrant little community and is considered Colorado’s wildflower capital. It’s home to the Wildflower Festival held each July when the mountain meadows are covered in blooms.

downtown Crested Butte, Colorado, Colorado's wildflower capital
Downtown Crested Butte, Colorado

McGill's Restaurant in Crested Butte, Colorado, best coffee in ColoradoA stroll down the main part of town is always at the top of my to-do list. Elk Avenue is the main shopping and restaurant district and one of our favorite spots for breakfast is at McGill’s. The food is delicious but the coffee is even better.  During one of our visits, we couldn’t resist asking what kind of coffee they served, and we discovered that the coffee is actually roasted right there in Crested Butte by Camp 4 Coffee. McGill’s serves their Blue Mesa blend.

Camp 4 Coffee is a locally owned coffee shop and roaster. I love supporting local businesses. We consider no visit to Crested Butte complete without a stop at this establishment. A little afternoon latte pick-me-up followed by a purchase or two of their freshly roasted coffee beans to bring back home to the RV always fits into our schedule.

Another notable restaurant that we’ve enjoyed is The Last Steep Bar and Grill. Sitting outside on the deck is nice during beautiful weather.

Mount Crested Butte

As we head north of town just a little further, we come to Mount Crested Butte. This is where all the mountain action takes place. Although Crested Butte is known for its amazing ski slopes, it’s also considered the birthplace of mountain biking … well, I understand most mountain bikers might dispute this fact. The origin of mountain biking is something I’ll leave to the Colorado towns vying for that title. I’m merely repeating the Crested Butte information that I read online and at the visitor center.

Visiting the Back Country

One of my favorite things to do whenever I’m in the area is taking a little 4×4 backroad excursion. This is also where you’ll find the majority of wildflowers. During the Wildflower Festival, these backroads are active with tour companies and individual sightseers alike. The festival brings folks in from around the world, thus tourists are everywhere and it’s one of the busiest weeks of the year in Crested Butte.

Not to worry if you can’t make it for the festival. If you show up a week before or after, you’ll still be able to enjoy those blooms and with a lot fewer people around.

(This post is intended for entertainment purposes only. Please do your own research before driving any of these roads. Weather, rain, and flooding can impact the drivability of these roads and conditions can vary from one day to the next. If this is your first time to the area and you’re traveling with an RV, we recommend staying near Gunnison and explore camping options near Crested Butte first without the RV.)

Gothic Road, Slate River Road, and Washington Gulch Road are all worth exploring. A high-clearance vehicle is recommended as you travel further into the backcountry. A regular vehicle can traverse some of these gravel roads up to a given point and then road conditions can get a bit rough for the average car.

Emerald Lake, Crested Butte, Colorado, mountain meadow wildflowers along the shore of an emerald colorado lake in Colorado's high country
Emerald Lake. Can you spot the ledge of a road? I don’t think the road was even wide enough to accommodate a dually truck. Perfect for ATVs or small SUVs. I was so thankful that we didn’t encounter any oncoming traffic on this one lane width ledge of a road.

My Toyota Tacoma is perfect for these roads. With the exception of possibly a creek crossing, I don’t recall having to put the Tacoma into four-wheel drive. There are, however, a couple of real white-knuckle spots in the road on the backside of Mt. Baldy and above Emerald Lake. Yeah, those ledge type of roads that are the width of one lane, cut into the side of a mountain and are intended for two-way traffic are a real thrill!

Slate River Road, Crested Butte, Colorado
A portion of Slate River Road. An easy stretch.

During one of our first backroad excursions, we started off by heading up Slate River Road. We shared the road with other trucks, Jeeps, and ATVs/UTVs. We passed a large staging area for the trailered OHV (off-highway vehicles), as well as a camping area along the creek. We intended to make it a loop drive but decided to take a quick detour when we got to the turn for Washington Gulch Road where we decided to continue up toward Schofield Pass.  At this point, we were on the backside of Mt. Baldy and the road gets narrower and more precarious. I couldn’t envision two vehicles fitting on this ledge type of road. Oh, and I initially forgot that we’d have to retrace our tracks to connect at the Washington Gulch intersection meaning we’d be driving this ledge to and from. Eek!

As we rounded a blind switch back, we encountered a pickup truck loaded with people heading toward us.  The truck was lime green in color and set up kind of like an open-air safari vehicle with bench seating in the rear. My fearful thoughts had me mumbling, “Oh dear! How the heck are we going to pass each other?

I needed to back up and get us as close to the side of the mountain as possible (thank goodness, I had the inside).  The other truck and I both pulled in our outside mirrors and we slowly pass each other within inches. He was the one on the outside ledge and I could see his tourist passengers wide-eyed and a tad nervous. One slip, and down the mountain they’d roll.  Once we successfully passed each other, the driver waves and comments, “Thanks, we got’er done hon”. The passengers started clapping. I’m sure, they too were as relieved as I was.

I love exploring these backroads, but not on those narrow ledges. I’m always grateful to have Al sitting next to me assisting and encouraging me. He and I decided long ago that I would drive on these exploratory day excursions due to my many photo-op stops. This way, he gets to sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride and not listen to someone yelling, “Stop!” every five minutes. 😏

(To enlarge a photo in a gallery simply click on any image)

Not only do these backroads take you into some stunning countryside, but they also take you to some trailheads for some amazing hikes. Since we were traveling with an elderly dog during these summer visits, we had to pass on the hiking opportunities, but I assure you next time through, we will definitely add a little hiking into our schedule.

The itty bitty town of Gothic is also worth a short visit and a great place to use a public restroom before heading up toward Emerald Lake. I’m pretty sure the scenic drive to Gothic can be navigated with a regular car but do check at the visitor center in Crested Butte for up to date road conditions.

Lodging and Camping

Blue Mesa RV Resort, camping near Gunnison Colorado, Full-hookups in ColoradoSince Crested Butte is known as a tourist destination, finding a variety of lodging shouldn’t be a problem. During ski season, we usually opted for a condo near Mount Crested Butte. We’ve also stayed at the Comfort Inn in Gunnison which is about a one-hour drive south of the ski area.

Gunnison is a major town located along Highway 50 and makes a great home base to explore this area of Colorado. It’s also the perfect place to stock up on supplies.

Camping: With our RV in tow, we’ve stayed at a private RV Park with full hook-ups along Highway 50 just west of Gunnison, as well as the Curecanti National Recreation Area along the Blue Mesa Reservoir. The Elk Creek Campground does have some electric sites, but the majority of campgrounds in the area are dry only.

Elk Creek Campground, Blue Mesa Reservoir, Colorado, camping near Gunnison
Elk Creek Campground, Blue Mesa Reservoir, Colorado

Closer to Crested Butte are some national forest campgrounds suitable for tents and small travel trailers. Even at our modest 31 feet, we were too big and tall for most. We loved tent camping at Lake Irwin. Although we probably could’ve squeezed into a site or two with our 5th wheel, it was just much easier with the tent.

camping near Crested Butte, Colorado, at Lake Irwin Campground, wildflowers, a picnic table and mountain lake
A campsite at Lake Irwin, near Crested Butte, Colorado

We’ve also seen some folks boondocking off CO Road 12 and 730 near Lake Irwin, but the most popular boondocking locations are off Slate River Road and Washington Gulch Road near Mount Crested Butte. The mountain meadows and views are beautiful, but this is a place for seasoned boondockers who are well acquainted with mountain travel. For first-timers, it’s best to leave the RV camped near the Blue Mesa Reservoir and take a day exploring camping options closer to Crested Butte with just a regular vehicle.

Blue Mesa Reservoir, Gunnison, Colorado
Blue Mesa Reservoir near Gunnison, Colorado

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

As long as you’re in the area, you might as well head a bit further west on Highway 50 and take in the unique beauty of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. But keep in mind, if you’re camped in the town of Montrose, it’ll be even easier to access this park. And Montrose happens to be even closer to our next favorite mountain town.

Final thoughts

Crusty Butt Crested Butte is the perfect place to chill and unwind. It’s lowkey, beautiful, and super dog-friendly. However, if you’re into music venues and festivals, I know just the mountain town for that. Stay tuned!

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We took Bear with us everywhere in Crested Butte. He was even welcome in the T-shirt shops.

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Uphill both Ways

Images of challenging hiking trails accompanied by beautiful scenery are most likely not the first thoughts that come to mind when envisioning city living, but Phoenix isn’t your typical city. Phoenix, Arizona, and her surrounding suburbs have done an amazing job with urban planning. There are parks everywhere … from small neighborhood playground type of parks to large picturesque, rural feeling parks complete with challenging hikes and even campgrounds.

Hiker on the trail at Pinnacle Peak Park in Scottsdale AZ with wildflowers lining the trail

I’ve made it my mission to visit as many of these larger parks as possible. During each of our winter visits, I try and explore a new to me park. Although, I do have my favorites that I find myself returning to time and again making it difficult to check out the dozens of other amazing parks throughout the Phoenix valley. I’ve already mentioned how much I enjoy the Superstition Mountains at Lost Dutchman State Park … a definite favorite, but I do have a couple more favs to share.

a red cardinal sitting on a cactus in Cave Creek, Arizona

Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area

I love hiking at Spur Cross Ranch so much so that I’ve introduced this park to a couple of blogging pals, as well as several local friends.

I never tire of the scenery. There’s something about the diverse eco-system found at this park that makes it incredibly special.

All the trails start off with the usual desert scenery, which in and of itself is stunning, but eventually, you’ll find yourself hiking among cottonwood trees and crossing streams, an unexpected surprise in such an arid desert climate.

There’s a wide range of trails to choose from making it perfect for every level of hiker. Our hike at Spur Cross with Liesbet and her husband turned into a longer hike than we originally intended, but with near perfect hiking weather, I believe we all enjoyed the three-hour six-mile hike.

We saw wildflowers, birds, folks riding horses, stood next to some of Arizona’s oldest living saguaros, crossed streams, and generally had a fun time.

two hikers among a forest of saguaros
Liesbet and me at Spur Cross Ranch

One word of caution about visiting Spur Cross Ranch …. flash flooding. Although the road to get to the trailhead is paved, the last couple of miles or so gets narrow and a little rough in spots. The biggest concern is during heavy rains, including rains from the night before. There’s a couple of low-lying places/washes that are known to flood making it impossible to cross the road until the water recedes. Normally those sections of road are bone dry.

flooding at Spur Cross Ranch, Cave Creek, AZEarlier in the year, I tried introducing a new neighbor at my RV park to Spur Cross Ranch, but our hike did not go as planned. Although we had no issue driving to the trailhead, we did have a problem on the trails.

The moment we started walking on the Dragonfly Trail, I could hear the rushing of water, a sound I hadn’t experienced before.

I knew the creek would be running fast but wasn’t prepared to see exactly how fast it was flowing. The nice little boardwalks that we normally use to cross the creek were washed away.

Hiking crossing a creek in Arizona
Blogging pal, Liesbet, having fun crossing the creek on the Dragonfly Trail. Look how gentle the creek looks here.
a flooded trail at Spur Cross Ranch, Cave Creek, AZ
There was no way Karen and I could continue the hike – trail flooded.
The water was flowing dangerous fast during my visit with Karen in mid-February.

One of Arizona's oldest living saguaro cactus

Unfortunately, my hike with Karen was short-lived due to trail flooding. I’m hoping Karen and I can try again next winter.

The upside to all this water results in a lush landscape. The saguaro cacti along the Metate Trail are said to be some of the oldest in the state of Arizona and have more arms growing than the usual saguaro. I’m guessing the healthy dossing of moisture they receive is due to their growth and longevity. Some of these cactus are supposedly over 200 years old.

Spur Cross Trail Map

Our three-hour hike with Liesbet and Mark started on the Dragonfly trail (DF). We then connected to the Spur Cross trail (SX) to the Metate Trail (MT) where we admired the huge saguaro cacti before returning to the parking lot. Great hike!

Pinnacle Peak Trail … uphill both ways

We’ve been visiting Phoenix, Arizona, regularly every since our son moved here nine years ago, but it wasn’t until this year that I discovered Pinnacle Peak Park. Sure, I’ve admired the peak off in the distance while driving the 101 freeway on the north side of Scottsdale but had not seen it up close until this past winter.

Pinnacle Peak trailhead in Scottsdale, AZ
The trailhead at Pinnacle Peak Park

The Pinnacle Peak Park in Scottsdale, Arizona, offers an amazing out and back hike. However, the trail does connect to other parks if you wanted to extend your hike. Personally, the 3.5 mile out and back uphill both way hike is enough of a butt burner for moi. It usually takes me about 2 hours to complete depending on how frequently I stop to catch my breath or take a photo. The wildflowers have been absolutely stunning lately requiring extra stopping!

wildflowers along the Pinnacle Peak trail in Scottsdale, Arizona
The trail is lined with wildflowers – stunning!

Pinnacle Peak is a super popular trail and the parking lot usually fills by 9:00 a.m. and then hikers start parking along the road. The only time I couldn’t find an open spot to park in the parking lot was during my recent hike with my daughter. We arrived before 9:00 on a Friday morning to a full parking lot. What I failed to take into consideration was spring break … families and kids everywhere. Somehow the crowd had very little impact on us. Perhaps it’s because the trail is wide enough to easily pass one another.

trail marker in Scottsdale, AZ
We made it to the end of the trail.

Also, most of the families turned around at the summit which was a smart move. The most challenging part of the hike is on the backside of the peak where the last quarter mile is rated strenuous. I can definitely attest to that!

uphill both ways

Once we arrived at the end of the trail and it was time to turn around, we noticed exactly how steep the trail back up was and tried to focus on the pretty wildflowers instead of our huffing and puffing. Okay, my huffing and puffing. Daughter is in a lot better shape than I am. Let’s stop and look at the pretty wildflowers was my excuse for needing a rest.

desert wildflowers
Let’s stop and smell the wildflowers!

Pinnacle Peak is another beautiful trail in the Phoenix valley not to be missed. For those not wanting to hike the most difficult part of the trail, my recommendation would be to hike to the “Owl’s Rest” viewpoint then turn around. You’ll still experience a little of that uphill both ways scenario but nothing as strenuous as it gets beyond that point.

Pinnacle Peak Trail Map Scottsdale Arizona

My daughter waiting for me on the trail.

Do these images look like we’re in a city?

If we look through the images on this post, do we feel a sense that we’re in a large city … the fifth largest city in the United States? Boasting an average of 300 days of sunshine a year, a boatload of nature, and all the happenings available in a large city, it’s no wonder tourism is huge business around here.

Scottsdale wildflowers

Rural parks, award-winning chefs, and tons of shopping … yep, go for a strenuous hike in the morning, be a shopaholic in the afternoon, and go out for fine dining in the evening. What more could a gal ask for? Hmm, maybe I need to start checking out some of that fine dining … ya know, purely for blogging purposes 😉

Pinnacle Peak Park, Scottsdale, Arizona
Pinnacle Peak Park
This image was taken from the Pinnacle Peak Trail, Scottsdale, AZ –  photograph was taken after a rare snowstorm in February.

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A Visit to Crested Butte, CO

Some places we visit will always hold a special place in our hearts and Crested Butte, Colorado is one of those places. We moved to Colorado in the mid nineties when our children were young, and the first Colorado mountain town we visited was Crested Butte.

This former flatlander from Illinois was awe-struck with the majestic snow-covered mountains surrounding Crested Butte. Our family of four was immediately smitten, and subsequent visits to this lovely Colorado mountain town ensued over the years.

wildflowers in Crested Butte ColoradoAlthough our first visit to Crested Butte was during the winter, Crested Butte is every bit as much fun during the summer as it is in winter. The town may be known for its awesome skiing and winter fun, but summers offer a whole slew of other activities. As a matter of fact, Crested Butte is considered the birth place of mountain biking. Although, I’m sure there are plenty of folks that might disagree with this statement. There’s an ongoing debate about where mountain biking originated 😏

This quaint little mountain town is also considered the Wildflower Capital of Colorado and home to the Wildflower Festival held each July when the mountain meadows are covered in blooms. Once Al and I became empty nesters, we skipped the winter excursions to the mountains and focused on embracing those summer get aways.

Lake Irwin Campground Colorado Crested Butte Keebler Pass
Lake Irwin Campground, near Crested Butte Colorado and Kebler Pass

A memorable trip

July 2012 – It’s three o’clock in the morning and the dog is shaking and can’t seem to get comfortable.  He’s laying in the tent on a blanket near my side of the air mattress and he is clearly cold.  I grab my hoody and cover him, and he falls back to sleep.  I’m glad one of us can fall asleep so quickly.

After tossing and turning for a bit, I decide to step outside for a moment.  I reluctantly throw off the two layers of sleeping bags and scurry to the foot of the air mattress to put on my shoes.  No need to throw on clothes, since I’m already fully clothed in sweatpants and sweatshirt.  It’s cold at three in the morning camped at 10,000 feet in elevation …. as in 36 degrees Fahrenheit cold and this being mid July 😯

I’m not sure whose idea the tent camping excursion was considering we had a new 5th wheel sitting on the side of our house. Okay, it was my idea! We were such newbies at the time with the RV that we weren’t comfortable pulling it to the Lake Irwin Campground near Kebler Pass. Plus, there were only a couple of first come first serve campsites that we felt we would comfortably fit into.

camping near Crested Butte, Colorado at Lake Irwin
Our campsite at Lake Irwin near Crested Butte, Colorado

I quietly unzip the tent and crawl out. I’m immediately awestruck with the most incredible vision while my face is assaulted with a blast of cold air.  The stars and crescent moon are so vivid and bright that I have no trouble seeing around the campsite.  I stand there taking in the incredible beauty surrounding me before I’m reminded as to why I’m standing outside the tent at three in the morning …. and shivering.

Hmm, I contemplate the walk to the restroom down the road. This is serious bear and mountain lion country.  Since I have no inclination of being some animal’s midnight snack, I quickly take care of business at the edge of our campsite. I continued to linger outside admiring the sky before the cold has me crawling back into a nice warm bed.

After what felt like only thirty minutes of sleep, I’m woken by a very restless Brittany Spaniel. It’s only 5:30 in the morning and I’ve decided to rename my sweet little Bear…..”damn dog”.  (ya know, I love my Brittany Spaniel and wouldn’t trade him for the world, but he wants a walk at fricken 5:30 in the morning in the fricken cold while it’s still dark outside). Al remains sound asleep …. grrrr!

camping at Lake Irwin near Crested Butte Colorado
tent camping at Lake Irwin near Crested Butte, CO – July 2012

Damn dog and I go for a stroll, not venturing too far from our campsite.  I’m the only two-legged creature out and about.  Did I already mention we’re camped in bear and mountain lion country?  I’m on alert!  “Hurry up, damn dog”.  Finally with his “business” complete, we return to the warmth of sleeping bags and try to catch a few more winks of sleep.

By seven o’clock, the sun is rising and I hear other campers in the distance.  Al awakes and informs me how great he slept (damn husband).  In a not so pleasant voice, sleep deprived wife tells damn husband and damn dog, “We’re going into town for breakfast.  I need a cup of strong black coffee”.

McGill's Crested Butte, Colorado for great breakfast and coffeeWe drive aimlessly around Crested Butte looking for a place for breakfast.  Eventually, Al has me pull to the side of the road and stop. He jumps out of the truck and walks over to a pretty blonde lady watering flowers.

He and blonde lady chuckle in a flirtatious engaging way (do I really care? NO … need coffee).  When Al hops back in the truck, he proceeds to tell me to drive up Elk Street three blocks.  “Blonde lady says McGills serves a great breakfast”.  It was indeed a good breakfast, BUT the coffee was amazing and just what I needed.

A full tummy and two cups of coffee later, we’re back to “dear husband” and “adorable Bear”.  I love my boys! Al and I discuss exploratory options for the day, but first I need a little retail therapy.

Crested Butte ColoradoWe enter a T-shirt shop. Al and Bear head over to the counter where Al strikes up a conversation with the young man behind the counter. We love the fact that this town is so dog friendly that Bear is able to go with us everywhere except inside restaurants. 

We’re the only ones in the store and during the course of idol chit-chat with the shop clerk, he notes we drive a Toyota Tacoma. He drives a Toyota 4-Runner, sister to the Tacoma lol, and immediately recommends a backcountry scenic loop drive that we must experience.

We’re given a complimentary map along with a few pointers and warnings from this knowledgable local. Two t-shirts later, we hit the road heading into the backcountry … ready to explore.

dog friendly Crested Butte Colorado
Crested Butte is very dog friendly. Bear went everywhere with us.

A scenic drive

We head up Slate River Road, just north of the town of Crested Butte.  As expected, the pavement ends quickly.  We pass some beautiful homes early in the journey.  As we start to climb in elevation and the road starts to narrow, we see campers , ATVer’s as well as local wildlife.

Slate River Road Crested Butte Colorado
Slate River Road, Crested Butte, Colorado
Crested Butte backcountry 4x4
local wildlife – Moooove!
mountain homes near Crested Butte Colorado
Beautiful mountain homes dot the landscape near Crested Butte

A little further into the remote landscape, I finally start seeing some wildflowers.  Up to this point I wondered, “Wildflower capital of Colorado”?  Say what?  The drought conditions severely affected the display of wildflowers during the summer of ’12. Even though the wildflowers weren’t impressive, the scenery was spectacular.

I usually drive during these exploratory excursions to maintain marital bliss, but more importantly to control photo-op stops. Yeah, I can go a little overboard with the photo-op stopping which can get a tad annoying for a non photographer 🤗 Besides, Al says he likes being chauffeured around by a pretty lady.  Awe, ain’t that sweet!

Slate River Road Crested Butte Colorado
Slate River Road – two-way traffic on this one lane road

We continue up Slate River Road.  It’s narrow but in good condition. This one-lane road is meant for two-way traffic which is why we like driving the Tacoma in lieu of the F-250 while exploring mountainous backcountry.

We pass the turn for Washington Gulch Road and continue toward Schofield Pass.  The road gets narrower and more precarious. I can’t imagine two vehicles fitting on this road.

As we come around a blind switch back, we encounter a truck loaded with people heading toward us.  The pickup truck is colored lime green and set up kind of like an open air safari vehicle with bench seating in the rear. “Oh dear! We are going to need to pass each other!”

I need to back up and get us as close to the side of the mountain as possible (thank goodness, I have the inside).  The other truck and I both pull in our outside mirrors and we slowly pass each other within inches. He’s the one on the outside edge and I can see his tourist passengers are wide-eyed and a tad nervous. One slip, and down the mountain they roll.  Once we successfully passed each other, the driver waves and comments, “Thanks, we got’er”, and the passengers started clapping.  Since this is Wildflower Festival week, there are all kinds of additional tours, vehicle traffic and activities planned throughout the week.

Schofield Pass Mt. Baldy Crested Butte Colorado
Near Schofield Pass and Mt. Baldy – over 11,000 feet in elevation

We’re on the other side of Mt. Baldy now and we stop for a much-needed break.  The scenery is breathtaking.  Al checks his phone and is shocked.  “It works!”  No cell reception at the Lake Irwin campground, but it works up here.

This stretch of road is tame and easily navigated. Wish it had all been like this.

After a few photo-ops near Schofield Pass, we retrace that ledge of a road back to the Washington Gulch turn, all the while I pray I won’t have to pass anyone.  That would put me on the outside edge … yikes!  Fortunately my prayers are answered, and we don’t meet another vehicle for quite some time.

Washington Gulch Road Crested Butte Colorado
Washington Gulch Road – we saw more wildflowers along this stretch

Washington Gulch Road does present its own challenges with a small creek crossing, but nothing the little truck can’t handle. We also noticed a few RV’s boondocking off Washington Gulch Road.

(We were such RV newbies at that time, that we couldn’t imagine pulling our brand new RV to any of the boondocking locations we saw. Now? Piece of cake and we wouldn’t give it a second thought. But then again, our RV ain’t so new anymore … as evidenced by the dings and scratches and as one person recently referred to us …. we’re “seasoned” RVers 😏)

backcountry roads near Crested Butte Colorado

What a great Day!

We had such a fabulous time exploring this stunningly beautiful landscape that I would highly recommend this excursion to anyone with a high clearance vehicle. However, please check at the local visitor center in the town of Crested Butte for up to date road conditions, and do note, there are some areas where the road is literally cut into the side of a mountain causing severe drop-offs. Thus, I don’t recommend it for anyone with a fear of heights.

For a more tame backcountry excursion, we enjoyed driving Route 12 from Crested Butte to the tiny town of Paonia. Paonia is a small community with wineries, lavender and agricultural fields. No four-wheel drive needed when we took this drive in July of 2012. Please verify and double-check road conditions before embarking on this remote stretch of road over Kebler Pass.

Quaking Aspen at Kebler Pass

As Al and I continued to explore Colorado’s backcountry near Crested Butte, we take in the sights and sounds of the stunning terrain.  We travel from open mountain meadows, through scented pine forests, and pass through densely populated aspen groves.

Aspen Trees Keebler Pass near Crested Butte Colorado
Kebler Pass – forest of Aspen trees

The unique sound of quaking Aspen Leaves lures us in. The sound has us wondering  if there’s a gentle waterfall in the distance or is it merely the fluttering of aspen leaves?

This particular grove or colony of aspen trees along Kebler Pass is aspen treederived from a single seedling and spread by means of root suckers.  New stems in a colony may grow as far away as 130 feet from the parent tree. It’s kind of like there’s one mommy tree and all the rest of the aspen trees are children. Fascinating!

An individual tree can live  40-150 years above ground, but the root system of the colony can live for hundreds of years. Legend has it, the aspen tree can drive off evil spirits.  An aspen stake was believed to be one of the few weapons suitable to kill a vampire🧛‍♂️

Colorado is synonymous with this famous white-barked tree, adorning golden leaves in the fall.  Colorado gold comes in many forms. Beautiful golden leaves dotting the landscape and the peaceful sound of quaking leaves are just a couple more reasons to love Colorado!

Aspen grove at Keebler Pass Crested Butte, Colorado
driving through an Aspen groove at Kebler Pass
Colorado gold
Colorado Gold in the fall.

For Coffee Lovers

After three days and four nights of tent camping near picturesque Crested Butte, it was time for us to break camp and head home, BUT first, we needed (or rather I needed) to have breakfast one more time at McGill’s to drink up some more of that yummy coffee.

breaking camp at Lake Irwin campground Crested Butte Colorado
Al breaking camp – it was fun, but I missed the comforts of the RV

Al is not normally a coffee drinker and when he does drink coffee he sticks with one of those designer concoctions like a macchiato or mocha, but after trying my cup of black coffee, he ordered a cup for himself 😲

Camp 4 Coffee Crested Butte ColoradoWhile the waitress was refilling our coffee mugs, we mentioned how good the coffee was. She was quick to share the name and location of the local coffee roasters and the blend McGill’s uses.

With that said, we couldn’t possibly leave town without a visit to this coffee roaster. Camp 4 Coffee is a locally owned Crested Butte business and has a cute little shop  just down the road from McGill’s.

There was no way I was leaving town without a bag or two of Camp 4 Coffee.  I purchased a couple of pounds of the Sledgehammer roast and a pound of the Blue Mesa blend which is the blend McGill’s serves.

Can you believe, after thirty plus years of marriage, I turned Al into a coffee drinker thanks to Camp 4 Coffee. He still prefers those designer coffee concoctions, but when I splurge and buy a special roast, he’ll join me in drinking his coffee black. Wonders never cease!

Yep, Crested Butte, Colorado remains one of our favorite mountain towns and holds special memories for our family!

Monarch Pass Colorado

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Enamel Percolator
Dome Tent
Camp Propane Grill/Stove
Yellow Mug

Danger in the Desert

With the temperatures rising and starting to surpass 100 degrees, it was time for us to raise the jacks and get the wheels rolling in a northerly direction.  Our two month stay in Phoenix, Arizona, was filled with lots of socializing, some home maintenance projects, and plenty of hiking surrounded by beautiful scenery, vegetation and interesting critters.

I don’t know about you, but I never tire of fantastic scenery dotted with wildflowers. During our first week back in the valley of the sun, we hiked at the Superstition Mountains as much as possible, which wasn’t nearly enough.  It never is.  If I haven’t already told you, well even if I have ….. I love, love, love hiking here .

We were first introduced to this area about five years ago during our six-week road trip with our brand new 5th Wheel.  It was also during this trip back in 2012 when we were enlightened on the concept of full-time RVing.  My how time flies ….  fond memories!

I truly enjoy my time in the desert southwest, but it’s not for everyone and there are dangers to be aware of.

As the temperatures soar, the snakes come out making me a very cautious hiker.  Last spring I had a rather close call that rattled me.

And then of course, the extreme temperatures are not to be taken lightly.  Folks seem to underestimate how dangerous the sun and heat can be and hiking trail rescues become a regular occurrence during spring and summer.

I love it when the saguaro cactus bloom
I love my dear friend, but he can be a prick  😆
The desert feels so alive during spring time!
Watch where you step – the desert can be a dangerous place!

Our time in Phoenix may have come to a temporary end, but our time in Arizona has not. We’re now comfortably parked in Prescott Valley, a mere one hour plus drive north of Phoenix and are settled into a nice campsite for the next couple of months.  I have some favorite places around here that I’m looking forward to revisiting.

More of this to come!

 

 

 

Tony Northrup’s DSLR Book: How to Create Stunning Digital Photography

 

Oh, and one final thought……
Happy Cinco de Mayo – what’s for dinner? I made these delicious hatch chili hamburgers and they were so yummy especially paired with grilled asparagus and a tall margarita. If anyone’s interested, I’ll share the recipe in an upcoming post.  All you have to do is ask 😉

Urban Planning at its Finest

I’ll admit, I wasn’t always a fan of Phoenix, Arizona. Quite frankly, if our son hadn’t moved here eight years ago, I’m not sure how much time we’d actually spend in Phoenix, but let’s add in the fact that our daughter also lives here now …. well, need I say more … this place has definitely grown on me.desert wildflowers

With that said, Phoenix, Arizona, has since become our ‘home’, our home base so to speak.  We always manage to find some place in the Phoenix valley to park the RV for a desert birdlengthy stay and get in as much parent/child time as possible.  Although, from Al’s and my point of view, there never seems to be enough time spent with the kids.

Gosh, they are adults after all and do have demanding jobs and lives of their own.  Thus, we take what time we can get.

Our two favorite pastimes to spend together as a family are hiking and eating, and there’s no shortage of either around here.

As far as urban planning goes, I think Phoenix has done a fabulous job.  Traffic can be a bear just like any other major city, but the road system is laid out in a hikingsomewhat  organized manner compared to other cities and is easy to navigate. There are several expressways looping around the city to assist in keeping the dense amount of traffic moving.

Over the past several years of visiting Phoenix regularly, at all times of the year including summer, we’ve had the opportunity to observe traffic patterns and noticed there seems to be a sharp increase in traffic during the months of January, February, and March when the valley is loaded with snowbirds from the north.  Once these snowbirders move on …. come April, the density of the traffic seems to lighten, and by May the city can once again breathe.

Phoenix, AZ
This sure doesn’t look like a big city, does it? And check out the dense amount of wildflowers.

But what impresses me the most about Phoenix is the park / trail system.  No matter what side of the valley we park the RV, there’s always a trailhead within a short distance.  Quite hiking in Phoenixoften these trails feel remote, are rugged, and vary in challenge.  Don’t be fooled, there are some very challenging hikes in this city.

There’s also tons of groomed, kid friendly parks with playground equipment perfect for families. Yes, urban planning at its finest.

Although the Superstition Mountains remains my favorite place to hike while in Phoenix, I’ve discovered several other wonderful trailheads.

Most recently, I’ve been spending a fair amount of time hiking at the Sonoran Preserve.  The Desert Hills Trailhead was recently completed and is less than ten minutes away from our RV Park.  The Apache Wash Trailhead is located a little closer to where our children live and makes for a great place for us to meet up.

desert wildlfowers
the wildflowers have added a joy to my hiking

This spring has been especially enjoyable hiking with the abundance of dense wildflowers.  I’m a girly girl and a sucker for flowers.

hiking
hiking with my daughter regularly has been a wonderful treat

So, while it may not have been love at first sight, I’ve come to appreciate and embrace all that Phoenix has to offer.  Of course, the fact that my babies live here adds to mommy’s overall enjoyment ☺

Sonoran Preserve
Sonoran Preserve – Desert Hills Trailhead
share the trail
Whether you’re in the heart of the city or further out, you’ll share the trails with all kinds
share the trail
“I don’t mind sharing the trail”
desert birds
it’s not just the sights that are lovely … natures sounds are musical
desert wildflowers
love, love, love the desert wildflowers
happy camper
Me – happy camper, hiking near Lost Dutchman State Park

Moon Take a Hike Phoenix: Hikes within Two Hours of the City (Moon Outdoors)
Lawn Gone!: Low-Maintenance, Sustainable, Attractive Alternatives for Your Yard

Color of Spring in the Desert

Thanks to the unusual and excessive rainfall this past winter in the desert southwest, the hills have come alive.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Phoenix valley so green, but it’s not just an abundance of green that has carpeted the land.

hiking in Phoenix
Superstition Mountain – Apache Junction, Arizona

Everywhere I look, I’m greeted with a delightful kaleidoscope of color. The wildflowers are on steroids this year and I’m loving the view.  Each bloom, bush, and tree is a wonderful sight to behold.

poppies
me photographing the wildflowers

desert wildflowers

The stunning display of wildflowers is an unexpected surprise to those visiting the desert for the first time.  The desert southwest is lush with vegetation and color and a far cry from the drab, barren brown most folks associate with a desert.

Phoenix hiking
Spring hiking in the desert is the best!

desert wildflowers

I always look forward to spring in Arizona, and couldn’t wait to share some of my favorite Phoenix valley spots with my daughter.   First up was hiking at the Superstition Mountain located on the far east side of the valley. This is my absolute favorite place to hike in Arizona.

Superstition Mountain
My daughter – it was a glorious morning to hit the trails.

March 2nd – Al and I managed to snag a lovely campsite in the overflow loop for a couple of nights of dry camping at Lost Dutchman State Park.  This is a popular state park and without a reservation, it’s difficult to nab a site with electric.

Lost Dutchman State Park
Lost Dutchman State Park, Apache Junction, Arizona

By camping at the base of the Superstition Mountains, I was able to hike multiple times throughout the day and photograph the beauty that surrounded me. Sharing this amazing scenery with my daughter was a special treat.

wildflowers
Fields of poppies blooming at the base of the Superstitions

If you ever find yourself visiting Phoenix and looking for an entertaining way to spend a day, here’s a post I did a while back about the Apache Trail that you might find fun.

Lost Dutchman State Park
The desert provides the best skies

Who knew the desert could be so colorful?  ‘I know, I know’, she exclaimed with raised hand!  And once the wildflowers wither, it’ll be time for the cactus to bloom. The color of spring in the desert is a memorable and unique experience …. not to be missed.desert wildflowers

CMT 1 Pair – Anti Shock / Hiking / Walking / Trekking Trail Poles

Pinty 2L Hiking Backpack Hydration Pack with Water Bladder Cycling Climbing Camping Bag (Pink)

Data Diet

I love my mobile lifestyle.  To be honest, the lifestyle can be quite addictive. What started off as we’ll do this for a year or two until we find that special place to settle down has turned into four years and soon approaching year five of full-time RV living.  Egads, where does the time go?Desert Wildflowers

My one big dislike, a bone of contention, to this RV lifestyle centers around the internet.  The internet?  However, did we manage to survive before this remarkable invention?  I still remember a time when the TV flipper was the youngest kid in the family.  The invention of a TV remote control was a life changer for my little sister.

butterflyBack to the internet … when we first hit the road in the RV full-time, we started off with a Verizon mobile WiFi hotspot / jetpack with 5 GB of data that worked fine for a few months.

However like any RV newbie, we were so busy running around exploring those first few months that we didn’t spend much time on the internet. But once reality set in, we needed to get back to business which meant back to needing steady and strong internet connection.

Thus, we signed up for 30 GB of data, first through a Verizon reseller, and then later directly with Verizon.  All was fine until about a year ago.  We never stream. We don’t watch videos.  I don’t use the GPS on my iPhone and yet we seem to gobble up data twice as fast as we did previously.

egret
Data usuage? Gag!

We’ve run in to other location independent folks who seem to be experiencing similar data problems.  Some have switched providers or changed their plans.  I still haven’t desert poppiesfigured out why the increase in usage since we haven’t changed our habits.  If anything, we spend less time on the internet.  It’s been extremely frustrating.  I’m not sure what the fix might be, but in the meantime, I’ll need to curtail my internet fun leaving the gigs for our internet biz.

So yes my dear friends, I’m on a data diet and it does not make me a happy camper 😭

Our two months in Texas really spoiled us.  The RV park offered strong free WiFi right at our campsite. And boy oh boy, did we take full advantage of endless internet.  The you tube videos were rolling regularly … the educational kind, not the funny cat trick kind ……. well ….. maybe the cute puppy dog kind, but mostly educational.

So much fun!  But now that I’m back to using our jetpack with limited data (sigh, sad face, tear), I’ll need to plan visits to the library or coffee shop more strategically, which is just not as enjoyable as sitting at home with feet propped in my jammies and socializing with all my blogging pals.wildflowers

Oh well.  Such is the life of a full-time RV’er.  Life could be a whole heck of a lot worse. Seriously! Check out these photos of the amazing desert wildflowers.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Phoenix valley covered in so many beautiful wildflowers.  It’s crazy pretty around here lately.butterfly

I’ve tried to get out with the camera to capture her beauty, but between RV repairs, health matters, visiting with our children and navigating data issues since our return to Phoenix, Arizona, it has been a bit of a challenge.

But where there’s a will, there’s a way, and with the valley heat soaring those flowers won’t be sticking around too much longer.  Thus, over the next couple of weeks this gal will be hitting the trails with the camera at every opportunity.  Stay tuned!wildflowers

Superstition Wilderness Trails West: Hikes, Horse Rides, and History
Hiking Arizona’s Superstition and Mazatzal Country: A Guide to the Areas’ Greatest Hikes (Regional Hiking Series)

My, Those are Big Ones

When Al and I set off in the RV full-time three years ago, we didn’t have a long bucket list of places we wanted to see.  We didn’t even have a list per se, but we did have a few places on our radar that, over the years, we had talked about wanting to visit.Grand Teton

One such place – Jackson, Wyoming, and Grand Teton National Park.  Having lived in the neighboring state of Colorado for nearly twenty-five years,  I’d say this visit was long overdue.  And it did not disappoint.

I mean really…. how could anyone be disappointed with views like these?Grand TetonsAt 13,775 feet, Grand Teton is the tallest mountain peak in the Teton Range, which is a subrange of the Rocky Mountains.  Although I don’t speak French, it is common knowledge that Grand Teton means large breast.  Earlier settlers also referred to this range as Le Trois Tetons = the three breasts.   Regardless of the name, these large, pointy, granite rock mountains are big and beautiful and a sight to behold.Grand TetonsWe visited this stunning landscape the first week in June, just in time for a lovely showing of wildflowers.Grand Teton

The wildflowers were just beginning to bloom, and added a special touch to the already breathtaking landscape.

TetonWe camped at the popular Gros Ventre National Forest Campground (pronounced; gro vont).  This is a first come, first serve campground meaning no reservations accepted.

Although the campground does offer a loop with electric hook-up, we opted for a dry camping site.  After all, our intentions were to spend the majority of our time out exploring.  For me, that meant a lot of picture-taking.

A selfie - Me sitting on the bike trail with my other little camera on a tripod - two cameras and two Joby Gorilla tripods. I did attract a little attention with my antics.
A selfie – Me sitting on the bike trail with my other little camera on a tripod – two cameras and two Joby Gorilla tripods. I did attract a little attention with my antics.

More than once, Al remained back at camp so I could flit about with my cameras.  The Jackson Hole area is a photographers delight and so worth visiting.

The barns at Morman row are a popular location.
A popular photo-op location – the barns at Mormon row.

For information on photographing the Tetons, I found Nina’s blog post  extremely helpful.  I even dragged myself out of bed a half hour before sunrise one morning.  It didn’t take long for disappointment to set in by a thick layer of cloud cover which made for less than favorable light.Pronghorn

The alpenglow may have been elusive, but coming across a couple of pronghorn sparring  made the early morning rise well worth the effort.pronghorn

Pronghorn

With sunrise photos a bust, I was on my way back to camp when I spotted the pronghorn, aka antelope, a short distance from the road.  Excitedly I stopped the truck, rolled down the window, and turned off the diesel engine.  I felt privileged to watch and photograph these magnificent animals until they decided it was time to move on. Grand Tetons

Jackson Wyoming

Our visit was over way too soon.  And although we did manage to get in a great deal of explorations, Al and I both agree Jackson, Wyoming, is a place we look forward to revisiting time and again.Jackson, Wyoming

Update: We ended our work camping gig in Arco, Idaho on July 5th, a little sooner than planned.  Although the gig was going fine, Al and I did consider shortening our stay in SLEEPY Arco.  With oscillating plans, it was an unexpected phone call that catapulted our exit.  We love the flexibility of our home on wheels.  It allows us the ability to change direction easily.  Crisis averted, we have no complaints about our unanticipated summer detour.   All is well….. P1030431

that is with the exception of my on going computer saga.  I’m still dealing with an old laptop that my son gave me when my computer crashed last spring.  It sometimes takes me four tries just to log on to my blog.  Thus, my blogosphere habit has been temporarily curtailed, but do know I’m still here and reading posts when my computer allows.  In the meantime, I guess I’ll be spending more time with the camera.  I know, it’s a tough job!Jackson Hole

JOBY GorillaPod Hybrid Tripod for Mirrorless and 360 Cameras – A Flexible, Portable and Lightweight Tripod With a Ball Head and Bubble Level

Eerie yet Beautiful

Upon entering the park for the first time, I was met with a diverse flood of thoughts ranging from eerie to beautiful.  The land appears stark and foreboding, but if you look close, a vast array of life can be seen.Craters of the Moon

I was lucky to visit Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve at the very beginning of wildflower season, and since arriving in Arco, Idaho, in early May, I’ve been dropping by the park regularly to keep an eye on the status of the craters of the moonwildflowers.   With each visit, more and more delicate beauties were popping up.

In early June, I was able to share this strange and scenic place with friends, Faye and Dave.

I believe the peak of wildflower season is suppose to be in mid June, but we thought our timing was darn good and were overjoyed with the abundance of blooms everywhere we looked during our early June visit.

Dave and I were going crazy with our cameras trying to capture the gorgeous periwinkle color of the Scorpionweed.

those wildflowers captivated our attention
Scorpionweed flowers captivated our attention

Since I’d had a few weeks to explore Craters of the Moon before Faye and Dave’s visit, I knew exactly where to find an abundance of wildflowers to photograph up close, but that would require a bit of a climb… a climb up the inferno cone.

it was hard to photograph 'inferno cone' and capture its size. Note the hikers on the trail - offers scale.
it was hard to photograph ‘inferno cone’ and capture its size. Note the hikers on the trail – offers scale.
me climbing the Inferno Cone at Craters of the Moon
me climbing the Inferno Cone at Craters of the Moon

With less than a half mile up and back, this large, black, barren hill is worth the 160 foot elevation gain.  Once at the top, there are views in all directions and a surprise bonus of wildflowers.  We were also able to observe the spatter cones from above.

At the top of inferno cone - views of spatter cones
At the top of inferno cone – views of spatter cones

What exactly are these cones?  A cinder cone, like the inferno cone, are formed when gas-rich volcanic froth erupts high into the air then falls back to earth forming a huge mounded pile of cinders.  Spatter cones are miniature volcanoes that form when thick, pasty globs of lava plop up to the surface, piling up in the shape of a cone.

Craters of the MoonThe volcanic nature of the park, creates a lunar like terrain.  So much so, that NASA routinely uses Craters of the Moon NM for research and development.  In 1969, Apollo Astronauts prepared for their moon mission here at Craters of the Moon.

Next week, the Mountain View RV Park (our work camping home this summer) will be hosting a large group of NASA scientists/engineers, which will keep all of us super busy for a two week period.  All hands on deck!

After Faye, Dave, and myself hiked the inferno cone, it was time to explore another interesting geological feature – a lava tube.  Lava or magma?  Hot, molten rock from deep within the earth is called magma. When magma erupts onto the earth’s surface, it’s called lava.  A lava flow that hardened on the outside while the lava still flowed within, creates a lava tube.

me inside Indian tunnel lava tube
me inside Indian tunnel lava tube

There are several lava tubes in Craters of the Moon that are accessible for exploring, but most are geared toward those familiar with caving.  Since we didn’t fall into that category, we opted to hike the Indian tunnel cave/tube which is clearly marked and offers enough daylight to explore without a flashlight.  There is one short section though where I thought the aid of a little artificial light was helpful.

There is a fair amount of rock scrambling involved in this hike, especially at the end of the tunnel where we exited out of a small hole.

The exit
The exit
Me exiting Indian tunnel lava tube
Me exiting Indian tunnel lava tube

Before embarking on any lava tube exploring, a permit is required.  The permit is free and is simply a matter of answering a few questions at the visitor center regarding any previous caving.  This is for the health of the bat population and to stop the spread of white nose syndrome.

Yes, we were hiking down in there!
Yes, we were hiking down in there!

I have to admit, the first time I hiked the lava tube, I was extremely uncomfortable.  This time around, I knew exactly what to expect and was familiar with the general area of the trail.  Thus, the second time around was much more enjoyable.  Oh, and entertaining company always helps 😉

me, Dave, Faye inside Indian tunnel lava cave tube
Me, Dave, Faye inside Indian tunnel.  Dave enjoyed introducing us as “his wives” to fellow hikers.

Although the caving was a fun experience, those wildflowers were calling.  And several more stops were in order.  Over 600 different types of plants have been identified growing in Craters of the Moon.

Dave stalking wildflowers!
Dave stalking wildflowers!

We stayed on the road to photograph the stunning display of wildflowers.  These delicate plants have to overcome a lack of moisture, meager soil conditions, and surface temperatures that can exceed 150 degrees Fahrenheit.  The thought of accidently stepping on one of these beauties, was not an option.  Respect and admiration for these tough little things were at the forefront of our minds as we took in the amazing sight.

Cryptantha
Cryptantha
Scorpionweed and Dwarf Buckwheat
Scorpionweed and Dwarf Buckwheat

Equally as striking were the carpets of pink produced by the Dwarf Monkeyflower.  If there was any open space, the Monkeyflower was eager to fill it.

a pink carpet of Dwarf Monkeyflower
a pink carpet of Dwarf Monkeyflower

Monkeyflower

Dwarf Monkeyflower up close
Dwarf Monkeyflower up close

Thank goodness for digital photography or I fear Dave and I would’ve easily run out of film.  Eventually, we returned back to camp where Al was eagerly awaiting our return.  While we were having fun, he was busy building picnic tables and seems we all had worked up an appetite.

Al, Dave, Faye, and me at our place at in Arco, Idaho
Al, Dave, Faye, and me at our place in Arco, Idaho

We enjoyed a healthy meal of grilled chicken, baked potatos, steamed broccoli, followed by my somewhat healthy carrot cake cupcakes.  For my carrot cake cupcake recipe, click here.

I’m sure as the summer progresses, I’ll continue to visit Craters of the Moon, but up next, Al and I take a vacation!

Craters of the Moon
Syringa growing in a crevice

Live life to the fullest.  Don’t let the weeds smother out your flowers – unknownWildflowers

Here’s my latest addition to my arsenal of photography toys…. after having a camera topple from a fence post, I felt it was time to invest in a light, easy to carry, tripod.JOBY GorillaPod Hybrid Tripod for Mirrorless and 360 Cameras – A Flexible, Portable and Lightweight Tripod With a Ball Head and Bubble LevelJoby gorilla pod

Top 5 Colorado towns continued

We’ve enjoyed our stay at the Chatfield State Park despite Mother Nature’s wrath. Colorado’s front range received a ton of spring rain and now with the runoff from mountain snows melting, the Chatfield Reservoir is at record high levels.  The flooding is so severe that the west side of the park is closed as are all the boat ramps.  To top things off, ALL sewer services within the park have been shut off.  That means, no RV sewer connections, no dump station, no restroom flush toilets, and no showers anywhere in the park.  Restroom buildings have been locked and lovely construction porta-potties placed onsite in lieu.  And I won’t begin to mention the power outages.

Chatfield Reservoir
Site B-74 at Chatfield State Park near Denver, Colorado

If there’s anything this RV life has taught us, it’s to expect the unexpected and learn to roll with the flow and adjust accordingly.  And of course, a good sense of humor always helps.  So although we endured a few inconveniences during our Chatfield State Park visit, we still enjoyed our stay immensely.

ColoradoOne afternoon during one of those power outages, fellow campers were out and about checking with one another…. “Do you have power?”  During such an exchange, we ended up meeting some folks from Illinois.

As former Illinoisans, the conversation flowed freely.  The young couple, camping in a small travel trailer, were on a two-week vacation and wanted to see and experience Colorado’s finest.

Al and I did our best to answer their list of questions.  We offered recommendations on roads to avoid while pulling the trailer, keeping in mind this was their first visit to the Rocky Mountains.  Roads that Al and I are comfortable pulling aren’t necessarily roads we’d recommend for those less seasoned when it comes to mountain driving.

One particular question that had hubby and I torn – “What is your all time favorite, must see, Colorado town?”  (ah, a blog post(s) was born)  Al and I agreed it was a toss-up between Crested Butte and Grand Lake.  Both towns are beautiful in their own right and are very different from one another.  They both share plenty of charm, character, and beautiful scenery.

Crested Butte Colorado
the back country north of Crested Butte, Colorado

Mount Crested Butte, ColoradoWhen we moved to Colorado in the mid-nineties, Crested Butte was the first mountain town our family of four (plus doggie) visited.  I think Crested Butte will always hold a special place in my heart due to the special family moments experienced here.

One memorable trip occurred three years ago when I had a crazy idea to go tent camping at Lake Irwin.  I wanted to take the little truck (Tacoma) and explore some of the 4×4 back country roads north of Crested Butte.  Thus, we left the comforts of the RV behind and packed up the camping gear.

Crested Butte ColoradoLake Irwin is located west of the town of Crested Butte near Kebler Pass and sits at an elevation of 10,000 feet.  Somehow that elevation thing didn’t register properly in my mind when I set up this excursion.

Since this was in the middle of summer, I knew the temperatures would still drop substantially during the night, but I never imagined they would drop below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.  Thank goodness, hubby brought an extra sleeping bag to throw over us.  Even poor Bear was shivering during the night until I covered him with my sweatshirt.

Crested Butte
Exploring the back country north of Crested Butte

Crested Butte ColoradoIt was mid July and the Wildflower Festival was in full swing.  No coincidence there.  The trip was planned with the wildflowers in mind.

Crested Butte relishes the title of “Wildflower Capital of Colorado”.  Although according to locals, the drought conditions of 2012 lead to a dismal display of wildflowers.  No matter who we talked to (merchant, waitress, gas station attendant) everyone apologized for the pure showing of wildflowers and asked us to please come back next year.  Regardless, the countryside was and is stunningly beautiful.  The town of Crested Butte is filled with charm and character.  Mount Crested Butte is a little further up the road and this is where the ski slopes are located.  Even though the 1980’s architecture at Mt. Crested Butte is lacking in style and character when compared to downtown Crested Butte, it’s still worth a stroll around and there’s new updates yearly.

The back country north of Crested Butte is not to be missed, but strolling the town of Crested Butte can also be pleasurable.  Of course, there was a little T-shirt shopping involved during our visit (a habit of mine). Not wanting to leave Bear in the vehicle, Bear shopped with us and was welcome in most stores.

wildflowers in Colorado
back country road north of Crested Butte – Slate River Road

To read more about Crested Butte, visit our 2012 excursion – click here and here.  We revisited again in 2013 and I share a little more info here.  I wonder, with all the moisture Colorado has received this year, if the wildflowers won’t be in abundance and offer a stunning show for this year’s wildflower festival.  Who’s willing to check it out for me?  I’d go, but I already have commitments 😦

Crested Butte Colorado
camped at Chatfield State Park

Camping?  With a tent, truck camper, or small trailer there’s a bunch of options to choose:  from the Blue Mesa Reservoir to Crested Butte to National Forest back country.  With a bigger RV the list quickly dwindles.  With our modest 31 feet, we could fit into a few sites at Lake Irwin providing one such site was available.

There does seem to be wildflowers in Coloradosome free boondocking off-road 730 (Ohio Pass) just south of road 12 (Kebler Pass) which we would consider, but it does require traveling gravel roads to get there.  Washington Gulch Road also has some spots.

When we returned to the area in 2013 with the 5th wheel, we stayed at an RV Park off Highway 50 near the Blue Mesa Reservoir (west of the town of Gunnison).  During that visit, we spent some time checking out more campgrounds.  You can read about those camping options here.

For any first time Crested Butte RV visitor, I would highly recommend staying in a park off Highway 50 and exploring the Crested Butte area WITHOUT the RV first.  We all develop our own level of comfort when it comes to roads and parking conditions.  Al and I find the camping accommodations around Crested Butte to be a little more challenging than we’d like with the RV, but that’s not to say it wouldn’t work for you.

The stunning scenery in this part of Colorado should not be missed.  Crested Butte is definitely at the top of the list when it comes to “must see” places in Colorado….. it’s a favorite.  Up next, we’ll visit Grand Lake.


The Next Exit 2015: The Most Complete Interstate Hwy Guide

Weber 50060001 Q 1000 Liquid Propane Grill