[ by Tyler Hansen ]
My sister lives in Greeley, which I mockingly call Greality behind her back. It’s a cow town, plain and simple. Cows and natural gas and really big lifted trucks. And there’s a Chili’s too, so I guess it’s not all bad.1
I have to tell you that in spring our quaint little mountain hamlet snuggled amidst purple mountains majesty with the woodland creatures’ Disney songs carried on the wind can feel less like the Shire and more like Mordor. Aprils are windy, dirty, cold, desolate, and boring. So much so that a little dose of Greality can seem pretty appealing.
“There truly is no other place, regardless of its offerings, I can imagine calling my home than this valley.
That’s how springtime in Crested Butte can mess with your head. As the saying goes, come for the winter, stay for the summer. Stay for the summer, stick around for the fall. Stick around for the fall, reconsider your life choices for the spring…something like that.
Thankfully our world was created with seasons and so long as you’re willing to be patient, the charms of QAnon monster trucks fade in the face of the most glorious human experience I can imagine: Crested Butte in the summertime. When June at 9,000 feet shows up, all of the miseries of the springtime dissolve in a type of short-term memory loss – washed over by a blanket of brilliant green valley floors rising to snow peaked mountains set off by the bluest sky one can dream of.2
June 1 hits and thus begins four months of the greatest living to be had. Music in the park, single track trails wending their way through pristine aspen forest, high alpine waterfalls spilling into valley floors, flower baskets covered in dew glistening in the morning light…it really is a charmed existence.
There is a spot (it’s sorta secret – I mean, secret enough that I’m not going to tell you where it is but not so secret that it can’t be found) my family goes every year that is arguably my favorite place on earth. With 12,000-foot peaks towering above on all sides in a dense pine forest you’ll find water tumbling down a hillside in various rivulets and meanderings amidst mossy rocks, ferns and wildflowers with rays of sunshine peeking through the trees illuminating all of it. And every time I visit I am reminded that no charm anywhere else; no created amusement or career advancement or potential paycheck or sizzling platter of Chili’s fajitas could ever be as good as this. There truly is no other place, regardless of its offerings, I can imagine calling my home than this valley.
But make no mistake, this bucolic idealized wonderland that is Crested Butte in the summertime has been discovered. The people are coming. More every year. And I can’t blame them. Nor can I deprive them of the same joy I feel with the first light of the morning or the rustle of the wind in the leaves.
We all get to share in this place and we all can contribute to its wonder. But for all of us – whether you’re a resident, a part-timer, or a visitor – simply being here carries responsibility. Yes, we can contribute to its wonder but we can also be a part of its demise. So while you’re here don’t simply consume this place. Instead, I invite you to participate in it. Be patient with the server who has twice as many tables as they can comfortably handle. Leave your car behind and ride a bike or take a walk; trust me, you don’t want to drive down Elk Avenue in July anyways. Be generous with those you meet in the backcountry, not resenting them for their impact but identifying with their retreat. And while you’re at it, minimize your own impact understanding that this place is made better when we care for it. And when we do that we get to play our own little role in honoring and celebrating summer at 9,000 feet. We become part of the narrative of why it’s so darn good.
And upon your return to (G)reality wherever it may be, bring a little bit of Crested Butte summer with you. Because I think the world needs more of what we have here. And you can probably have Chili’s fajitas where you’re from too, so it really is a win-win.
1Listen, if you’re from Greeley, I really do apologize. I’m speaking in hyperbole in an attempt to be funny. Your town is lovely, and I mean that sincerely. I think it gets a bad rap.
2While I don’t want to be too much of a regional chauvinist, Crested Butte in the summer is better than where you’re from. It’s not my opinion, is verifiable empirical scientific fact. It’s best to simply accept it and move on.