Sunday, July 12, 2015

Mountaineering, Part 2

A few hours with the breathtaking beauty of Lake Irwin left us ravenously hungry, so we decided it was time to tour the town of Crested Butte, with the first order finding a place to lunch.  Crested Butte has changed a little bit from the time I knew it so well, not so much in appearance as in content.  It used to be a sleepy little town with jewelry and art stores, tourist trap stores and a few restaurants.  Now it is less about the shopping and more about the eating and drinking.  The day we visited, it was buzzing with activity.  We were getting closer to the July 4th holiday and the tourist crowd was noticeably thickening.

For a tiny little town, there is an inordinate proportion of places to sample wines and beers and a wide variety of places to eat.  Alas, my favorite bakery where we used to acquire yummy sandwiches is long since gone, but we found a lovely little place with an outside patio where we could eat and people watch.

After lunch, we roamed around town and did a bit of shopping.  I found another choice miniature (the minis I brought back will probably get their own post when I wrap things up) and had a nice conversation with a gentleman who owned a better than average T-shirt and other apparel shop.  I had another lovely encounter with a lady in an art store where we ended up talking about a Beethoven print she had acquired in Paris.  It was a lovely couple of hours spent in a town that once was a favorite spot of mine.
Crested Butte, looking toward its namesake mountain

Crested Butte Main Street
It was a picture perfect day.
Although I hate to admit it, we found a Bluebonnet cousin that made our jaws drop.  It's really unfair that such a huge representation of the lupine family is found growing in Colorado and not in Texas.  They were abundant in the yards in this area, in all colors from white to pink to maroon to a very close approximation to our own Bluebonnet.  David placed his hand in the picture to prove to the folks back home just how big the things were.

Texas-sized lupines in Colorado
After we had reacquainted ourselves thoroughly with the charms of Crested Butte, we headed out into the back country on our second favorite scenic drive out toward the small historic town of Gothic.  Gothic would be a ghost town now if it had not been taken over by the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory and turned into a research center.  It really isn't a town any longer, but a restricted government area that you can drive through but not explore to any extent due to the biological studies that are in progress.

But if you keep on driving through, you begin climbing up into an area that is full of government campgrounds and some of the prettiest, most photogenic mountain scenery you could ask for.  The road gets a bit rough in places, but it is well worth the bumpy ride.
These are the mountains between Crested Butte and Aspen.

This is looking back at Crested Butte Mountain from the same point
as the previous photo.  You are surrounded by beautiful mountains on
every side.

David soaking up some clean mountain air.

Me, trying to blend into the lush green valley.

This was the point where we turned around to head back.  Just to the left
of this picture is a campground where David & Karen have tent-camped.
They were off exploring and reminiscing, while I was just drinking in
the mountains and enjoying a bit of meditative alone time, well
except for the non-stop traffic that was coming in from farther out.
It was difficult to get this photo with the clouds of dust being kicked
up by 4-wheel drive vehicles flying down the road.
On the way back toward Crested Butte, we made a point to stop and take a photo of the meandering stream that runs through the valley.  It has grown up a lot in the twenty years since I last stood at this spot and it was harder to get a photo, but the recent rains had the little stream full and the winding path of it is still such a lovely view.

Just above Gothic
There was a period of several years after I stopped visiting Colorado when I had a recurring dream of driving into Crested Butte and on out into the mountain valley beyond.  This part of Colorado is the stuff that dreams are made of and I hope the folks who are lucky enough to live there fully appreciate what they have.

As a parting side story, there was a time long, long ago when I actually seriously thought about moving to the Gunnison area and a vivid dream of running a yarn store with living quarters above the shop.  I subscribed to the Crested Butte paper for awhile and actually applied for a job.  I can't remember now what the job entailed, but I'm sure it was some kind of office position.  I knew it was an extreme long-shot that I would ever hear back from them, but in fact they did call and we had an interview over the telephone.  It turned out that the salary was barely enough to scrape by and not really a good enough reason to pull up roots and move, even with the pull of the mountains as added incentive.  So, being the pragmatist I am, I gave up the dream and settled for building that yarn store/apartment above in dollhouse form.  Every now and then I think wistfully of what might-have-been and go rearrange the dollhouse a little.

I was floored to find an actual source for yarn in Crested Butte, because I had looked for yarn stores in the areas where we were going to be and nothing had turned up on the Internet searches.  I'm fairly sure the lady running the shop doesn't depend on yarn sales for her living, but it was nice to be able to bring home some authentic locally dyed yarn as a souvenir of this trip.  It was just a wee bit like living out the dream, if only for a brief moment.


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