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

Day 8 6.15
The 401 is a  legendary mountain bike trailand its one of my top two favorites here in Crested Butte.  Hiking this today in early June had a few challenges, but this river crossing wasnt one of them.  It was easy to walk throughcould have driven through it but hiding around the road is huge hole filled with water that  you cant breach with a SUVat least I wasnt going to try it.

I hike the upper half of the 401 to the viewpoint…to get to the end would have meant hiking down into snow in the forest.  I almost always turn around at the top part of the trail.  This one has big views going & coming & in another couple of weeks, the mountainside will be filled with flowers!  It’s a fabulous hike!

There was still some snow on the trail …some as snow bridges & sometimes just made crossing the trail tricky, but all doable.


There was still a lot of brown at the top…some still damp from the melting snow.  But there was green at the base of those beautiful mountain I was staring at….love this mountain top!  I logged 9 miles by the time I got back to the 4Runnerfeet & legs much cleaner as I waded back through the river!

Going to dinner at another favorite place, I had yummy sweet potato & black bean tacos from the Last Steep.  It was happy hour so I added a margaritadouble yummy!  I shared a campfire with Meg & Ben & we visited a bit more.  I stayed up late sitting by the fire until it burned out.  What a good day!

Day 9 6.16
I  got to FaceTime with Emma & Claire this morning…always the best way to start the day!  I have a few regulars in the wildlife category that are visiting with me every morning & most evenings in camp.  I call these the three amigosthey must be best buds because theyre always together.

And this is Fredthe biggest fattest bumble bee Ive ever seen.  Hes as big as my entire thumb & sounds like a drone.  When he lands on the flowers they bend over like theyre going to break!  But hes hard at workearly in the morning & until dark.  Love Fred!

My neighbor, Ben, told me about a mountain bike trail I should hike called Deadman Gulch.  Its way down Cement Creek road south of CB.  He said it looked like Scotland at the top!  I haven’t been to Scotland, but it’s high on my list! So, I’m on a new trail today.  The trail is interesting…2.5 miles of more-shortish switchbacks straight up the mountain.  Come to find out, the trail is for mountain bikes & dirt bikes & is not like any of the other mountain bike trails I’ve hiked here before.  It’s rugged…filled with drops & gnarly terrain…not easy hiking on it.  

The trail is deep in the forest…no views until you get to the top.  I was passed by a couple of mountain bikers & thankfully heard before I saw the couple of dirt bikers zooming down the trail towards me.  I just kept going up the hard to walk on trail.  I finally made it to the top…& here was my view...


It was kind of pretty, but I have higher expectations of Scotland than that.  I looked at the rest of the trail as it wound downDOWN& back into the forest.  It didn’t look like it came back up for a view.  I started down the trail, but it was steepno switchbacks here.  Did I really want to go down after Id just spent all that time climbing up?  And I couldnt see where exactly it went back up again to see a view?  At the top of the trail, there was another intersection for a ridge trail.  Ok, that sounded like it might have a view, right?  So, I climbed back up the short steep section Id gone down, & started climbing up the ridge trail.  I hiked for about a mile, but it was all in the aspensno view.  I turned around a little dejected but looked at the ‘Scotland’ view once again as I started back down the gazillion switchbacks!  Not all trails lead to amazing views….but I’d definitely had a workout for the day!

When Ben & Meg stopped by my camp a few days later, he confessed he'd encouraged Meg to hike that trail (while he went mountain biking).  He said she was so mad at him!  That it wasn’t a good trail at all!  I know his intentions were good & it’s usually great when someone gives you a new recommendation.  Just not this time.

I drove into Gunnison to run some errands.  I went to Jill & mine favorite gear/clothing store & just looked around.  I wanted to go into the really fun toy store they have nearby, but it was closed.  Then I went into the brewery & ordered one of their barrel-aged Imperial stouts & Jill called.  We FT while I drank (one thing about social distancing in restaurants, is that if you FT or have a conversation on your phone, no one hears it!)  Then I made a quick run to the grocery store & Walmart.

For a couple of weeks, my friend from Lawrence, Cheryl has been sort of planning on coming out to camp.  There have been a gazillion texts back & forth about camping.  Then a friend of hers also wanted to come along.  There’d been an empty spot next to me this morning & Cheryl’s daughter (who lives in CB) was supposed to come out & set up a tent to save the spot for Cheryl & Jen who would be arriving tomorrow…probably.  But, when I got back to camp, no tent was there, but the open spot was still there.  I climbed up in the Thule & got down my screen tent & put it up hoping that would save the space & end the craziness about where they would camp.

I cooked myself eggs, veggies & bacon bits in a tortilla shell for dinner & enjoyed the quiet & my wonderful view!  I drank a Plaid Habit (one of my favorite beers!) & read for a bit.  Then right before bed, I cleaned, straightened & organized the 4Runner.  Then it was lights out…& stars out!

Day 10 6.17
I drove up Washington Gulch road today trying to find parking near the trail I call Talies trail.  My dear friend Talie took me on it last year & it quickly became one of my favorites.  It had been filled with so many different varieties of wildflowers I was hoping for a repeat hike.  But there are only a couple of spots to park in & they were full.  Id just have to come back another day.

So, I drove over to Slate River road to the Oh-Be-Joyful trail & hike it into the valley.  Id read a trip report that stated it was super difficult to get up to the lake (a hard hike when conditions are perfect) because it was still packed with snow & what was melted was trail deep in water.  I put my shoes on & left my gators off, knowing you have to hike across the river before you can hike the 1 mile road that finally gets you to the trailhead.  Imagine my surprise, when I saw a sign that pointed to a bridge!  Ya-hoo!

They have also added extra pit toilets & more parking.  This is a super popular trail, but there wasnt hardly anyone else on it today.

Its a trail filled with wonderful waterfalls & wildflowers.  The waterfalls were plentiful & spectacular.  Its early for the flowers, but I did see more than I anticipated on the hike!

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I hiked through the meadow until I could see the view below.  Ive done this trail quite a few times & I know the trail climbs up through those pines then heads off to the lake to the left & to another beautiful basin to the right towards Daisy Pass.  Both areas would be covered in snow.  So, I sat down, had a snack & more water & just kept looking through my binoculars at those wonderful mountains.

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I love this hike & had practically been by myself the whole way…& no wet shoes!  I’d logged 9 miles…so happy to be out here on such a beautiful day!

I went in town to grab a burger & beer at The Brickyum!  Then I headed back to camp.  Cheryl & Jen got there in the evening & set up their tents in the space next to me & I took mine down & stored it back up in the Thule.  Then they headed back into town to meet up with Cheryls daughter, eat & have a beer.  I spent the rest of the evening in my quiet little happy place reading & loving being here!

Day 11 6.18
The next morning I woke up & made coffee as usual.  Jen & Cheryl got up a short time after that & came over & we chatted about the upcoming day.  As I sat looking out in my beautiful meadow, I saw something dark run across the road & up through the field towards the base of the mountain.  I grabbed my binoculars…I spied a bear!  Then I grabbed my phone.  I’ve tried to blow up the photo, but as you can see, the bear was pretty far away.  Far enough away that we were all excited…not threatened.


It’s the first time I’ve seen a bear out near this camp.  After about 10 or 15 minutes of watching the bear mosey up the mountain, it disappeared into the forest.  Once the excitement was over, I started packing up for my hike today.  I was going to do the 403 trail from the Gothic side…a big climb for sure, but big views & rewards when you get to the top.  Cheryl & Jen were off to do their own thing.  

I started up with switchbacks that climb steeply up the side of the mountain…I think it’s about 1,000’ at this point in the trail  You’re up high & the views back towards Gothic road are so lovely!


Huffing & puffing I made my way to the top where it flattens out (for a bit) into a beautiful open meadow.  

At mile 2, I came to stream crossing, which would have been no big deal.  But on the other side of the stream, in the forest, was snow.  Just tons of snow.  I couldn’t find the trail or any footprints or bike tire marks.  I kept looking all around the snowfield was big & I could tell it was about knee deep.  

Bummed, I turned around.  I did enjoy the hike back through the meadow.  

I ran into a group of 5 that were hiking up & told them what I’d found.  One of them had read a trip report saying it was really difficult to find a way through the snow, but they were trying anyway.  I hope they found it…for themselves & anyone coming after.  It’s always kind of disappointing to make the decision to turn around on the trail.  But, again, I’d had my workout climbing up that mountain!  

I drove into town & went to Rumors coffee house where I’d purchased a gift card during the lockdown.   I bought a chai & a Townie Bookstore (same owners & attached building) travel mug…gift card blown!  But I love my new purchase!  The owners are a super cool couple with a set of twin girls the same age as Claire.  I stopped in & said hi to Arvin & we chatted about the state of things & he asked my how my camping was going out on Washington Gulch.  I just love this little town & the people that live here are pretty special too!

Cheryl & Jen were going out to dinner again, but I just stayed in camp, made dinner & had a beer.  I can be boring once I’m in camp…I love to read & am always mesmerized by my view!  And those sunsets….just perfect!

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Day 12 6.19
It rained overnight & there are thunderstorms predicted for early today, so I wasnt sure what my plan was.  I got to FaceTime with Claire & read her some books.  I just love our chats!  And, I can’t describe how much I miss these girls.  Emma has changed so much since February & I talk to her the least, so it feels like we don’t even know each other that well.  OK…eye leakage.  Lets move on.

I headed out to eat breakfast at Paradise diner…my fave spot for early food.  Cheryl texted me & soon her & Jen joined me.  Then the three of us parted….none of us quite knowing what our plans were.  Soon,  I decided I was going to talk a long drive up Kebler Pass & check out Lake Irwin, peek up at Scarp Ridge & maybe go farther driving through the aspen groves.  I texted Cheryl my plan & they decided they’d follow me in their car.  I showed them Lake Irwin & then we drove down to Lost Lake & walked up by it….the gates were closed for the campground, but I was still able to show them the lake.  

As we were there, the sky got dark & we discussed driving all the way over to Paonia to visit the wineries.  Cheryl & Jen are big wine girls.  So, because I thought it was going to storm, I didn’t feel like I would miss out on any hiking.  It’s a long slow drive, but beautiful to Paonia.  Our first stop was at the Stone Cottage winery…a pretty little place that sits about a mile off the highway.

I like wine, but rarely drink it.  I love Port, but it would seem none of the Paonia wineries make it.  So, I was just along to taste. 

Our next stop was Azura….gets my vote for the coolest sculptures around the winery!

Our 3rd winery, was definitely the friendliest; owned by a Mother & Son.  They also served really good food, so we sat outside & ate lunch here.  I think Cheryl liked the wine everywhere…I think she bought some at each place.

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Ive had Big Bs Cider beforethey sell it at the Brick & they come to the Sunday Farmers Market in CB, but Id never been to their store in Paonia.  It looked pretty cool, with camping available & an outdoor stage & a big swing!

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After our day exploring the wineries, & I might add under beautiful blue skies, we made our slow but beautiful way back to CB over Kebler Pass.  The weather looked perfect once we were back in town. I hate to miss a day of hiking!  Cheryl & Jen stayed in town to eat & drink, but I went back to camp.  I sat & watched Fred the bumblebee land on all the wildflowers & Henry the hummingbird buzzed by a few times to say hello too.  

My neighbors Ben & Meg had moved their little trailer to a different spot across the road, but stopped by to visit & say hi.  Cheryl & Jen came back to camp & we sat & talked for a bit, until the chilly but beautiful evening sent us all to bed.  It turned out to be a cold, cold night!

Day 13 6.20
I saw the bear again this morning.  As I was rounding the curve that goes around the meadow, it ran right in front of my car!  I’d never been that up close to a bear before.  It continued across the road & into the woods.  I grabbed my camera, but it was long gone.  So cool!

I left super early this morning & drive out Kebler to hike Scarp Ridge.  I wanted to get a parking spot before the masses got there & the only thing left would be some vertical spot over a rockI detest the parking changes theyve made in the past couple of years.  I wasnt in a hurry to get on the trail, just to score a decent parking place.  I was the second car there & chose a flat space as possible on a skinny mountain steep road & one that I’d hoped couldn’t be blocked in.  Then I ate something & changed clothes…layering knowing chances are it’d be chilly at the top.  Then I took off before anyone else showed up.  I’d decided I’d hike the little longer but less steep way, because I figured the other trail still had a great big snowfield.  I’ve climbed over that snowfield a few times before & this morning thought I’d rather not.  

Looking over towards Green Lake on the way up.

Not too many flowers yet, but these guys looked happy to be blooming.

Looking back down at Lake Irwin for part way up the trail & over into the West Elk Wilderness.

Still some snow as I got closer to the top, but nothing I had to trudge through.

As you climb higher, you can see down into Peeler Basin.  Someday over a beer, let me tell you the scariest hike I ever did with Danny that ended in this basin.  Still a big snow shelf yet to melt out.

A sweet but lonely bouquet.

And, then I was at the top!  So incredibly windy today.  Before I climbed the last bit up to 12,216’, I tucked my hat into my backpack & put on my rain jacket for wind protection.  It was freezing cold & I thought I might blow away (not really).  But with views like this, who cares?

Looking down into Oh-Be-Joyful valley with a view of Blue Lake…which surprisingly looks more thawed than I thought it would.

Here’s a zoomed in view of Blue Lake.

And a panorama of what was below & in front of me.  So So So So beautiful!  I can’t wait to hike this again when I come back in a few weeks.  I love to see the changes that will take place.

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One very happy, freezing cold, wind-blown, did I mention happy? girl!!!!  Love love love this hike!

I was on top for about 20 frigid minutes…all by myself.  It’s funny that this spot has cell service…no where else on the trail or mostly all along Kebler Pass has service.  So, I FT Danny…wishing so much he was here with me.  

As I was headed off the top coming down the rock pile, a woman was coming up.  That was all I saw on the trail for about another 20 minutes.  Then there were masses it seemed.  All I could think of is “where did everyone park?

When I got back down, I could see my 4Runner, but jeeps & SUVs had squeezed in tight next to her.  It took me several go back a tiny bit, go forward a tiny bit, repeat, repeat, repeat to get out.   I love this trail, but I hate the parking!

I went to eat a late lunch at The Last Steep & treated myself to a CB Crush.  Not sure what it has in it besides vodka, but it tastes like a boozy orange creamsicle.  Cheryl had texted me earlier that her & Jen were going to hike a little bit of the Oh-Be-Joyful trail, so I drove out there, parked, walked up the road & met them coming down.  They had really enjoyed the hike!

We all went back to town to enjoy Happy Hour at Bonezhome of the best margarita in town.  I never eat thereits kind of pricey, but I love their white queso dip & a house margarita.  Cheryls daughter, her boyfriend & another room mate also joined us.  They were all staying & having dinner.  I cut out before their meals came & headed back out to camp for the evening.

Not sure what went wrong, but was sick in the middle of the night.  It was awfulno puking, but for about three hours I thought I would.  Yuk!  I hate it when that happens.  I can live without a toilet to pee & poop in, but if Im going to vomit.well, I cant do in camp, dont want to do it my pee-bucket, so I had a doggie bag ready.  So grateful I never had to use it.  But it was a super long miserable night.

Day 14 6.21
Jen & I were supposed to go hiking together today.  Shed wanted to do a hike with me & Cheryl was wanting to take the day off & willing to take Jen out to the trailhead & pick her back up (I have no extra room in my 4RunnerIt's full.)  But after last night, I wasnt sure.  I got up, made coffee & waited to see how that settled.  I thought I was over whatever made me miserable, so we got ready to hit the trail.  

We were hiking Rustlers Gulch.  I knew we wouldnt go the whole distance, be hopefully we could get way up into the valley to see some incredible views.  And, we did!

There are multiple water crossings on this trail.this is usually the one to worry about.  But it was good today.

And, there were flowers!

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And, Jen snapped a photo of me!

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Cheryl was at the trailhead when we got back.  They headed into town, but I had a stop to make on my way to meet them for dinner.  I wanted to visit with my friend Greta, who works at the RMBL Visitors Center.  I’d seen her briefly last week, but wanted to catch up with her & she’d told me she was working today.  The VC is currently closed, but the small staff has other obligations, but she was available for a nice long chat.  She’s a super cool woman & I love to talk with her!  It was a wonderful visit & I’m super glad I stopped when I did.  (She told me about a raven that visits the center everyday  she works & how social it is with her.  She named him.  Made me feel really good about the three amigos, Fred & Henry…if I’m crazy, I’m in good company!)

I met Cheryl & Jen at the Stash for pizza, then we all went to the Brick for a beer.  I stopped & bought ice, then went back to camp & built a tiny little fire out of almost nothing.  It was campfire war all night as the pitiful little fire barely burned, but that wood lasted a long long time.  Jen & Cheryl came back in time to enjoy some of the puny fire, but shortly went to bed.  

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