The end of the road…
By Mark Reaman
Finding yourself at the end of the road is unusual. There aren’t many such places in the world, but you are in one. The asphalt literally stops at Snodgrass Mountain in Mt. Crested Butte.
Since you are fortunate enough to find yourself in an end of the road place like Crested Butte, take advantage of the unique opportunities. There are plenty. As you are most likely aware, this mountain village at the top of the draw high in the Rocky Mountains is not easy to get to. It takes time and determination. Now that you are here, embrace what it offers. While sometimes challenging, the opportunities can be literally life changing. Welcome to the end of the road.
There are the obvious opportunities to experience the grandeur of snowcapped peaks surrounding lush valleys filled with working cattle ranches and people who like to recreate in the outdoors. It makes for stunning landscapes and no lack of activities. This is one of the few remaining places where there are cattle instead of condos in the broad open fields leading to a resort town. And this is a resort town where you can hop on a bike in the middle of town and be in the wilderness within minutes.
Last ski season, we had what locals describe as a “big winter.” It was big in the sense that a lot of snow fell, and the hope is that the mountain tops will remain white well into the late summer and fall and that the moisture we received will result in a bounty of colorful wildflowers all summer long. Crested Butte is officially the Wildflower Capital of Colorado and the hope is that after a big winter, we will have the opportunity to be considered the Wildflower Capital of the Galaxy.
That big winter will no doubt help fill the nearby rivers and lakes so watersports will go off. Paddleboarding the Lower Slate River or Lake Irwin should last longer than normal this summer. Fly fishers will be waist deep in opportunity while wading the Slate, the East, the Taylor and the Gunnison as they target rainbows and browns in the pools of the rivers. Blue Mesa Reservoir by Gunnison will get a boost and be ready for boating, skiing, fishing or just hanging out with a cold one on the water. Rafting and kayaking will be fast so take advantage of the adventure opportunity. This could be the summer.
The hiking and biking for which we are primarily known given our wild trails that lead to astonishing opportunities for all ability levels are located everywhere. Some are more challenging than others but all lead to magic. We expect that some of the higher trails, think 401 and any trail leading to the top of a mountain pass or peak, might open later than usual this year. The snow that fell in February and March was deeeeep. And deep snow results in not only a later date for the trails to dry out but also more mud and downed trees. Be careful out there. Embrace those paths that will take you to not only natural wonders found few places on Earth, but sometimes to wonders found deep within you.
Being at the end of the road at 9,000 feet tends to keep things small. Crested Butte is not a mountain city like Aspen or Vail. There are fewer opportunities for city things like restaurants and shopping. We still have plenty of choices and the good thing is that you will be sharing them with fewer people. But understand too that this appears to be a summer of transition for many of our core downtown businesses.
Several properties have recently changed hands and so the new business owners are working to spruce up the old buildings that were built in the mining days or the slapdash era of the 1970s. So, while you are not wrong when you walk Elk Avenue and notice that many of the properties are empty or being worked on, understand that when finished, the new offerings will be upgraded and still unique to Crested Butte. In the meantime, those restaurants and shops that are open continue to provide quality offerings that reflect the funky town that it is. It might just take a tad longer to get in than you want, but perhaps look at it as an opportunity to practice patience. Welcome to the end of the road.
One thing that has grown up here in the thin air is the opportunity for art. There are more galleries open throughout town and chances are good that you will see someone capturing the crystal blue skies, green mountainsides and colorful columbines through plein air painting in any number of places throughout the valley. Live music is a summer staple these days with free weekly outdoor concerts in both Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte. The bands are awesome and the opportunity to mingle with friends, old and new, are plentiful. The Center for the Arts, the big blue building on the right as you drove into town, is a busy community hub in the summer. Concerts, plays, art openings, dance performances, lectures and movies fill that space every single day of the summer. If looking for a way to touch your soul or expand your mind through art, that is probably the place. And you probably already noticed that our buses and even our trash cans are colorful, whimsical pieces of art to appreciate while in town. Again, welcome to the end of the road.
Now with all the opportunity this place offers, there is responsibility.
There is an ethic of shared responsibility up here. Do not trash the backcountry with junk. Whatever you pack in, you should pack out…including your poop. There is no need to speed in your vehicles since you are at the end of the road…you will arrive at your destination in plenty of time. If staying at a vacation rental, keep in mind the neighbors and don’t be hanging out in the hot tub blasting music at midnight. Treat the people who serve your food and drinks with respect. They are our neighbors and are here to experience the same things you came to experience. Being nice goes a long way to understanding this place.
A quick warning — cell service can be spotty when it’s busy, which is most of the summer. The tradeoff is connection with family, friends and nature. It is okay to put down the phone and be where you are. It is better than any social media post. If you look up after dark you will be awed by the stars and galaxies that you can see here. While you may be hiking or biking in what appears to be isolated drainages, there is a good chance you could happen upon a cow or 20. Welcome to the valley where we share the literally millions of acres of public land with not only wildlife like deer, elk, bears and moose, but cows as well.
You have chosen to come to a small place high in the Rocky Mountains. That already makes you special. Appreciate and embrace the opportunities that are here and have a great visit. Welcome to the end of the road.