Colorado here I come! (& bringing my face masks)…June & July 2020

Day 1 6.8
After going crazy being at home for 82 days, I declared it Independence Day! (well, actually our Governor released us to travel anywhere).  I headed out at 4:30 am going west to my favorite mountain town, Crested Butte.  My paradise had been hit hard by Covid, but was now welcoming tourists to come back.  I couldnt wait!

Under a Strawberry Moon, I sped toward my happy place.  It was super windy driving through Kansas & eastern Colorado, but I didn’t care.  I decided to drive over Cottonwood pass that had just opened a couple of weeks ago after being closed for over 2 years.  They had paved the other side & I know it’s a beautiful drive next to the Taylor Reservoir.


Then I took Jack’s Cabin cutoff to make it to my little town as quickly as possible.  12 hours after I left Kansas, I found one of my fave camping spots in Crested Butte on Washington Gulch road.  Yay!  I’m Back!!!


The temps were chilly & I knew there was a possibility for rain & my weather app, showed a tiny little snowflake.  I stayed in camp the rest of the day & into the evening, just so very, very happy to be here!

Day 2 6.9
As I curled up into my sleeping bag & tucked down under my Rumpl blanket I heard a little rain.  Then I fell asleep.  About 3:30 am I woke up to a world of white!  It had snowed a boatload.  I got out & the Castle (our giant tent we set up when we’re staying somewhere for more than a few days….great for privacy & holds your dispersed camping spot) was totally crushed under the snow.  I tried to move it, then thought I’d just wait until morning to deal with it.  

At 6:30, I climbed out of bed, bundled up & started to rebuild the Castle.  It was freezing cold, wet & not super easy, but I did get it back up & was surprised that nothing had broken. 

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Gothic Mountain sits right behind my campsite…pretty dusted in white.   

I went to my fave place for breakfast, Paradise Cafe & happily (as always) was greeted by the staff, “Hey Vicki, You’re back!”.  I love it here!   I decided today would be super messy to hike, so I took photos of the snow & drove to places to see what they looked like under a blanket of white!

The aspen trees holding the weight of the snow.

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The mountains that sit above the East River Valley.

It had snowed 5” & was 29 degrees when I’d gotten out of bed.  June in the mountains!  The day began to warm & the snow slowly disappeared. I drove back in town & strolled in & out of a few shops.

COVID-19 NOTE:  Masks are required anytime you are inside of a building or anytime you are outside & there is not room for social distancing.  You aren’t allowed in without a mask. No big deal & most everyone is complying.  

I met Conner (my friend Cheryl’s daughter) at the Brick for a beer.  We sat outside, in jackets but under the warm sun.  I ordered an 8 Wired Stout from a brewery in New Zealand…yum!  To say the least, it was a perfect homecoming for me.  I was at the Brick for 5 hours.  Dan, one of the owners, stopped by to chat with us & we all ended up drinking together, including some special beers (2013 Uncle Jacobs & Plank’d both from Avery) he brought up from the basement.  Dan is a true beer geek & is great friends with so many Colorado brewers & gets beer that hardly anyone else gets.  It’s always a blast to sit & visit with him.  And on a side note, some of the conversation was about Covid.  Turns out Dan was Covid #2 & Conner was Covid #4 in the county which had been hit hard & locked down quickly, efficiently & severely.  So, that’s who I was drinking with…but it had been since March when they’d had it, so I felt pretty safe sitting next to them.  So grateful they were both OK!

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I was ready to call it a night, so I said thank you! & drove back out to camp.  The snow was gone, the little wildflowers were trying to stand up straight again.  The night was clear & I watched the stars pop out one by one…so so so so so happy to be back here!

Day 3 6.10
No snow today!  It was frosty on the ground & on my windshield, but the sun was shining!  I made coffee, ate something & decided Id hike Brush Creek trail4 miles.  It was so great to be back on a beautiful trail!  Not so many wildflowers yet, but the views are fabulous!

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I wasn’t ready to stop my hiking when the trail ended, so I drove up onto Kebler Pass & hiked Woods Walk down to the Lower Loop (5 miles)  & a wonderful view of the river.


I went back to camp tired & very happy.  I’ve brought more food & other supplies with me this time because I didn’t want to tax the grocery stores that I knew at one point were running low on goods.  And, I also knew the restaurants weren’t at full capacity, so I thought I’d try eating more out of camper.  So, I made a salad for dinner & enjoyed my perfect view at camp.  Then I read & enjoyed a glass of Portwhat a wonderful day in Paradise!

Day 4 6.11
Another nice thing about this campsite is that I have servicefor the most part.  Not every text or phone call goes through, but this morning I was able to FaceTime with Emma & Claire.  I miss them so much & there are times the tears just come thinking about when will I ever get to see them & how their lives have been affected by this virus.  But, Im trying to take every phone call as a gift & this morning I was reading them books Claire & I had picked out before I left home.

After our phone call, I drove out to Gothic road to see what shape it was in.  I made it all the way up to the rock pile, then parkedas had most people that morning.  There was a big washout in the road, that I wasnt going to drive through.  I walked up the road & was surprised there was NO snowplug!  When I left last August, that years snowplug had yet to melt & was still blocking the road.  And now there was none!

Emerald Lake was pristine & beautiful!  Last year an avalanche had thrown itself on top of the lake & it took weeks to recover.  But it was just perfect today!  I hiked down to the lake, then around & to the other side & back up high on the road (2.5 miles), checking out to see what wildflowers were blooming.  There were a few glacier lilies, but in the coming weeks, the earth near this lake will be filled with all kinds of colors & all kinds of flowers.

I knew I wanted to hike the 401 at some point, so I looked up high to see how much snow still lingered along the trail…looked like quite a bit.  The waterfall coming down off the mountain was beautiful!

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Driving back down Gothic road, I parked at the Judd Falls trailhead & decided to hike up to see how it was flowing.  It’s always a nice hike & the trails were not crowded…yet.  

In the past couple of years, I’ve enjoyed hiking beyond the falls another 1.5 miles on the Copper Lake trailhead, where the views open up & you can see the big gray mountain.  Copper Pass & Triangle Pass lie up on this mountain…it’s huge & intimidating & I’ve backpacked over it once before & another time, I’ve been turned around on the trail by lightening.  But, I do love gazing up at it everytime I’m on this trail.

I was hungry & was going to hit up another one of my fave places to eat.the Secret Stash.  I sat outside & ordered a slice of pizza.  The owner of this place has done amazing things for her community during the Covid crises.  And, they serve delicious pizza!  

After I ate, I went to the Brick & sat at their outdoor bar…the best bar in town!  I met Rick, a friend of mine that lives here & for a couple of hours we caught up on what had been happening in our lives since last summer  & I enjoyed another 8Wired stout.

After I left, I stopped & bought ice & then went back to camp.  As I laid in bed, I watched the milky way flow across the night skywow! wow! wow!

Day 5 6.12
I made coffee, ate a pitiful breakfast (Im not a fan) & drove out to Kebler Pass.  I wanted to hike the Cliff Creek trail to Beckwith Pass.  Usually, the flowers come out there first, so I was anxious to see if that were the case this year.  The trail starts in an aspen forestI love these trees!  It climbs up the mountain…not too many switch backs, just a meandering trail up & up.

It’s only a couple of miles up to the pass & the view is spectacular!  You’re looking over to the mountains near Scarp Ridge…Mt. Ruby & Mt. Owen.  It’s a great place just to sit & stare & all the beauty across the tops of the trees.

I always hike past the pass & back towards the Castles….a rock feature you can see from a little farther down the trail. These are the West Elk mountains.  There’s a huge rock which I climb on top of & just sit.  I’ve seen a herd of elk up on the ridge here before & theres a waterfall you can barely see only this time of year.  It’s a lovely spot & a great turn around point.

I turned around, eventually & headed back down the trail to the car.  I’d hiked 5.8 miles, but wasn’t ready to end my hiking day yet.  Across the road at Horsepark Ranch are another couple of trailheads.  I was hiking the Dark Canyon trail to the viewpoint…about 4.2 miles total.  This is sheep grazing area in August, & if you hike out here then, you’ll see but mostly hear tons of sheep.  There’s also history carved into some of these trees by the sheepherders.  But this hike also starts in the aspens.  This whole area is filled with these special trees…this is the largest aspen grove in the country & includes many different varieties or families of Aspen trees.

I was just hiking along the aspen-lined trail when I came to a field of pretty yellow flowers.  I took out my camera & bent low to get a close up, when I heard a huge C-R-A-C-K!!!  As I turned I looked over the trail & into the field & watched a huge aspen fall to the ground making a ton of noise.  It literally bounced when it hit.  WHOA!  I was glad it didn’t fall any closer.  How random, but since I wasn’t injured or didn’t die, it was pretty cool.  But, at moments when the wind picked up as I hiked, I couldn’t help but be a little leary of the big swaying trees hoping that would be the only one to fall today.

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Theres a huge beaver lodge in this pondonly today it seemed much smaller than it has in years past.  

The viewpoint is a pile of rocks you climb up, sit on & take in the spectacular scenery!

I drove back to camp, made dinner, had a beer & built my first campfire of 2020.  Another awesome day!

Day 6 6.13
Baxter Gulch is pretty much a town hikethat doesnt mean its easy, its just a close drive.  Last year, I started to hike this trail which is a series of steep switchback for the first part of the hike.  But, right after I got to the top, I had some sort of low blood sugar thing happen, which promptly turned me back around to head back to the car.  I was determined I would be able to hike this trail this year.  It wasnt a problem at all..yay!

Once at the top of the switchbacks, you get a great view of the town of Crested Butte.

There were tons of flowers blooming along this 7.6 mile trail.



The water crossings weren't bad & very pretty.


The forecast predicted afternoon storms about 3pm, but at 11:30am the skies started to grow dark.  Then they started to boom & boom!  There were a couple of other bikers & a family of 4 women hiking on the trail that I could see.  Then the skies opened up & the rain came down hard, huge & cold.  Then it started to hail.  I was about a mile from the car approaching the down section of switchbacks.  It was probably pretty funny to see me trying to run that mile with hiking poles & working hard to not slip & fall.  I made the bad mistake of not stopping to put on my pack cover & rain jacket which would have been the smart thing to do.  The hail was freezing cold pounding on my skin, but I eventually made it back to the car.  The hail stopped & the rain grew more gentle, so changing clothes, socks & drying off was not too bad using my hatch as cover.  But I was a muddy mess…mud up to the back of my knees.

I can be as vain as the next person…but this is what you look like when you’ve run (more like an old lady jog) down a mile of switchbacks in rain & hail!

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I drove back to the 4way, parked & used way too many paper towels to try & clean all the mud off.  Claire called & I got to FaceTime with her for over an hour!!!!  I also got a free hot dog from a guy named Logan who runs the CB hot dog stand at the 4way.  He said they were giving them away that day, courtesy of the Chamber.  Claire & I continued to talk…we were building a school & filling it with students (she had toys; I just had to help with my imagination a bit).  I love every minute I get to talk to Claire & Emma (Emma was taking a nap when I was talking to Claire).

After I was warm, dry & my heart was Claire-filled-happy, I walked up the street to Bonez…home of the best margarita in CB.  Happy hour started at 4 & I ordered my house margarita & their white cheese dip…my standard happy hour order here.

Then I went back to camp….I could tell my ‘running’ muscles are way different than my ‘hiking’ muscles already.  I should really take up trail running again.  Maybe.  Sounds like a good idea.  Except for all that falling I do…seems like it might hurt worse if I was going at any kind of speed.  Well, I’ll just think about that for awhile.

I sat in the “lounge” (the back of Camper in my rocking flat camp chair) because it was very chilly & windy out.  It looked like it was going to storm.  And it did.  I had spoken with Claire on the phone one more time in camp & told her about the Crested Butte rainbows.  Paradise is filled with magic & that includes double rainbows.

And, so that’s what happened.  The storm came & went & left a breathtaking magnificent double rainbow.  Have I mentioned how much I love it here?

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Day 7 6.14
Today was the Farmers Market in spite of Covid.  There arent near as many vendors & no artists, but I thought Id go check it out.  Id also heard great things about a new bagel shop called Butte Bagels.  So, I ordered one with cream cheese & walked around & ate it.  It was just a bagelI wondered what I was expecting.  I probably havent eaten a bagel in a year.  They sort of all taste the same.  But I was fueled up to go hiking.

There is a 10 mile trail that parallels the East River Valley.  Danny & I had done one end of it several years ago.  Its a bikers trail but I was going to hike 1/2 of it today.  I started at the Gothic end…the one wed done before.  And the trail climbs up the mountainclimbs & climbs.  The views are wonderful but the noise (sounds like a freight trainoh wait.thats just me breathing) is kind of annoying.


Theres beautiful aspen forests you hike through.  And the trail is very soft here…good thing because I fell coming back down this section.  It was a slow-motion fall…hiking poles went down with me, not stopping me as they usually do.  Then, after I was down on both knees, I slo-mo’d over the edge of the trail making a little ‘whoosh’ noise in the ferns.  I’m sure it was all very ungraceful & funny to watch.  Good thing I hike alone…there’s no one there to laugh.  I was just grateful my ‘natural-padding’ all over my body had cushioned me from injury.  I slowly got up, tried to dust off my knees like a 5 year old would, straightened my pack & poles, & took off down the trail.  Still a happy hiker (a super grateful hiker too!)

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In August, this becomes cattle ranging area.  But no cows here today (yay!).  But look at those mountains!  You feel like you’re right at the bottom of them, but you’re not even close.  

The skunk cabbage are growing everywhere.  In a few weeks they will be as high as my chest.

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I got to my half way point, turned around & headed back down the trail.  I met Conner at the Brick for another stout.  When I got back out to camp, it was a little more crowded, but still not July-like-crowded.  There are no porta potties there this yearguess theres not enough people to keep them clean.  So, were all on our own.  Which is no problem for me, but there are so many rude, ignorant, crazy campers out there.  I really hope they dont leave TP & crap everywhere this year.

I met my neighbors that were in a cute little 14 trailer.  They were originally from Oklahoma, then moved to Boulder.  When Covid hit, they hit the road full time.  Meg & Ben were fun to talk to & I love hearing their story (from 6 awaywhich is a typical distance campers seem to stand from each other anyway).  Its going to be another chilly night tonight!


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