6. Summer in the Mountains of Colorado…June, July, & August, 2022

Day 36 7.27
This morning I literally rolled out of bed & into the front seat.  I decided late last night I’d hike Maroon Pass today…weather forecast seemed good, but I wanted to get up the road early.  So, bumping my way up Gothic Road, through the trenches in the middle of the road, over the keeps-getting-crappier ledge part of the road, up to Scofield Pass then winding my way down to the parking lot.  There were some cars in the lot already…some got here earlier than me; some are probably backpacking over to Aspen then back.  

I started my morning routine, but instead of in camp, it was at the trailhead parking lot.  Everyone is so focused on their hike, no one even notices my camp stove boiling water, then me making my coffee, then eating a few bites of hummus, then changing clothes, putting on my hikers, brushing my teeth & washing my face, then finally getting my pack ready & hitting the trail.

West Maroon Pass is probably the most popular trail in Crested Butte.  Some people hike the 11 miles over to Aspen & take a super expensive shuttle back the long distance to CB…or do it from Aspen over to CB.  Some people, like me today, just hike up to the pass, from one side or the other & then back.

This hike isn’t an incredible difficult one at the beginning, but gentle flows up & down & up & down across the side of the mountain. Once the trail turns up valley towards the pass, you feel the elevation changes begin.  And the trail just continues to climb up & up & up until you get to the bottom of the pass then it gets super steep.

This trail is almost always filled with so many different colors & varieties of wildflowers….it’s just amazing!

The trail as it turns up valley.  The pass is way way up there…above & to the left of the larger snowfield.  Look for the rock spires & the pass is right there.

Looking up to the pass, just to the right of the spires.  You can see some tiny bodies up on top.

One awesome thing about this trail, & most trails out here in Crested Butte, when you stop to breathe….which happens often…& you turn around, the views all around are so magnificent.  This is a zoom shot into North Pole Basin…another hike I love love love here!

Even though this trail has a ton of people hiking it, once you leave the parking lot, until you get right below the pass, its easy for everyone to spread out & have their own space.

But, when you begin the last steep climb, people are everywhere.

The trail gets super steep & slick with scree.  The pass is just to the right of that center rock formation.

Almost there!

When I got to the top, it was a party.  It’s a small space at the top, but there were at least 30 people…about 20 in one group from Aspen.  I had to climb up past the pass to find a space to sit for a little bit.  You can’t see if from the photo below, but sitting behind those rocks, are soooo many people.  I’ve climbed this pass at least 6 or 8 times…twice on backpacking trips from Aspen; the rest out & back from Crested Butte.  But today, was the most crowded I’d ever seen it.  On the right side of the photo is the trail that goes back down to Aspen.

Looking from the top of the pass, towards Aspen.

I didn’t stay long at the top…it was too crowded.  I shoved down 1/2 a bar, drank some water, then carefully hiked the scree down, the continued down & down the valley.  The flowers were so gorgeous!

Note:  Here’s a super crazy thing that happened to me on this hike.  As I was hiking down the valley, before the trail turns along side the mountain.  Willow bushes make the trail narrow & tight sometimes.  But in one section, lined with willows but not too narrow, I looked up & something popped out on the trail a few feet in front of me.  My jaw dropped.  It was a rabbit…a bunny.  Like a pet bunny.  It was huge…bigger than my Sammy cat.  But, it was black & white.  The paws were white, but it’s back was mostly black.  This was NOT a native wild creature…this was a domestic bunny.  It looked at me & I looked at it.  It twitched its ears & I quietly said…"Hello Bunny".  Then it hopped off into the tight willows.  I stepped forward grabbing my camera & at the same time, bending down to peek into the willows to find this out of place critter.  I couldn’t find it.  Then I kept hiking forward.  I let the upcoming hikers know what I’d seen & joking said, "You need to stuff it in your pack & bring it back!”

I was in shock.  If a bear had jumped in front of me I would have been less surprised.  After my hike, I stopped by the RMBL Visitors Center, half expecting them to have contact information for someone who’d been hiking with their bunny & lost it.  But that’s not what happened.  They were as surprised to hear of my discovery as I was.  There also might of been a question or two, if I’d really seen what I had.  I was NOT a snowshoe hare…I know what I saw.  It was a very “Alice in Wonderland” moment for sure.

But later that evening, I felt so bad I hadn’t found the bunny or saved it.  It obviously did not belong there.  I don’t know how the hell I would have even gotten it back to the 4Runner much less what I would have done with it if I got it that far.  But as I told Danny, if it would have been a puppy or a kitten, I would have stayed until I found it.  So random.  So strange.  But, I know what I saw.

Back in town, I stopped at the library & checked out more books.  Once back at camp, it began to rain again…it does it every day now.  

But, it stopped in time for a lovely evening.  My friend Tracy was coming out to camp tonight & we were going to share some great beer (beer we both brought because theres no good beer in this town anymore).  We built a campfire & spent the next few hours chatting, laughing & learning more about each other & of course, drinking our fantastic dark stout beers!  Wow…it was one of the most fun evenings I’ve had since I’ve been here.  I miss the social aspect of CB these days, but tonight was just great!

Day 37 7.28
I woke to a rainy dreary morning under moody skies.  I made coffee & sat in the 4Runner reading one of my new books.  I decided I’d go into town for breakfast at Paradise.  But, when I got there, it was a day they were having a limited menu.  So, I walked up Elk to about the only other place that serves breakfast, McGills.  I’ve eaten here before, a long time ago, & it was just ok.  But the lines are always super long & so many visitors to CB eat here.  But, because I was just “one” in about 5 minutes, I got a seat at the bar.  The years have not changed the quality of the food…it was just again, OK.  Or mostly I thought, it’s not near as good as Paradise.  I took 1/2 my breakfast in a to go box & left.

Then it started to pour rain.  This may be the 3rd or 4th day since I’ve been here that I might not get a hike in.  I went to the library, plugged in my out-of-power laptop, & started to work on my website for about three hours.  Once the rain paused, I packed up & drove out Kebler to pullout with a view & parked.  I made lunch & got out my book which is awesome & read as the skies would go from dark to dry to rainy to booming.

It cleared, mostly, in time to go to a community picnic Talie had invited me to.  I stopped & picked up a bag of Oreos to take, then drove to Rainbow Park.  It was nice to meet more of Talie’s friends & I ate a freshly grilled brat…yum!  It was chilly out from todays storms.  I said my good byes & headed back to camp.  

Back in my little space, I tucked in camper with a blanket over my sleeping bag & finished my new book.  PS:  It’s called the Golden Couple & boy is it filled with twists & surprises.  A really fun read.

Columbine from a hike another day.

Day 38 7.29
Yesterday while I was reading, Tracy called me.  She had met a woman visiting CB that wanted to find a hiking partner.  Tracy had been off work yesterday, so they’d hiked together.  But Tracy asked me if I’d be willing to hike with her new friend Tullia today, while she was working.  Tullia is staying in Gunnison, but rides the free bus up to CB everyday to try to hike…Tracy is a bus driver & that’s how they met.  So, I said ‘definitely”.  Tullia texted me shortly & we picked a time to meet up at the 4way.

I got there super early, because I had to move everything out of my front seat & floorboard & into the back since Tullia didn’t have a vehicle in CB.  She is Italian, but currently lives in Florida.  When she pulled a parrot out of the cage she has strapped to her chest, I was pretty surprised (but not as surprised as seeing a domestic bunny on a backcountry trail)…then remembered Tracy had told me she had a parrot.

I wasnt sure what trail to pick for the day since wed never hiked together before & the afternoon storms seem to be coming everyday, but I chose the waterfall hike into Poverty Gulch.

Tullia was game for anything.  Her husband has a debilitating disease & she is very lonely & a super strong hiker.  She didn’t want to hike alone, not knowing any of these trails & couldn’t get to most trailheads without a car anyway.  I loaned her my Chacos since we had two big water crossings.  

She was delightful to hike with.  So expressive with her wonderful Italian accent & loving all the views.  Her parrot, Kiwi, was pretty good on the trail too.  She’d hide under her jacket when she was frightened & go back into her cage when Tullia needed her to be in a secure space.

Tullia was always smiling & so happy to be on the trail!  She would have kept hiking for hours, admitting to me she’s not frightened of any bad weather, but that’s not me.  As the skies darkened, I turned us around & we headed back down to the river & across to the 4Runner.

I see tiny wild strawberry plants all over when I hike, but this is one of the first times I’ve actually seen the fruit!

Back in town, she wanted to go to lunch so we tried the new Thai place.  She asked me if I’d hike with her tomorrow…it was her last full day then she was on her way to Breckenridge for a month.  I said yes & we made our plans for tomorrow.  Then I left her at the bus stop so she headed back to Gunnison & I went back out to camp.  As has been the normal now for the end of July, it rained off & on & I read off & on.  But as I was talking to Danny, the rain quit & a beautiful rainbow appeared right across the mountain in front of me.  No photo…but it was awesome!

Heres the weird & strange occurrence for today:  As Tullia & I were almost back at the 4Runner, she was still at the river changing out of my sandals & into her boots, I continued on.  Before I could get to the 4Runner, a horsefly bit me THROUGH MY LONG SLEEVE BAMBOO SHIRT.  My body doesn’t like bug bites…it has a huge aversion & almost always some type of reaction.  I swatted at the stupid thing noticing I instantly started itching.  Tullia & I continued our time at lunch & in town & the itching got a little worse, but the top of my arm was also getting hot.  By the time I got back to camp, I could feel the heat through my puffy coat.  I stripped my arm of clothing & inspected it.  There was nothing…no swelling or hive that I could see.  But that heat was kind of intense.  It stayed hot until about 4am, then slowly the heat left.  And then the top of my arm felt bruised….like it’d been hit by a baseball bat.  I could feel it all the next day for about another 24 hours.  Then, it went away.  So freaking weird.

Day 39 7.30
Tullia was again, up for any hike I wanted to choose.  I know Rustlers Gulch is a popular one & it would be crowded on a Saturday, but its also an amazing hike…both for it’s wildflowers & it’s gigantic views.  We met early at the 4way & hit the trail.

Kiwi tucked inside Tullias jacketitwhere she’d go when she wanted to hide.

Tullia & Kiwi with a fantastic view behind them!

The wildflowers were still amazing & blooming in so many colors!

The turn around point at the top where the waterfall is.

Tullia loves to show off Kiwi to other hikers.  People were so  amazed that she hiked with a bird.  A lot of people wanted their picture taken with Kiwi.  This hike has soooo many more people on it than yesterdays hike, so we stopped frequently so Tullia could talk about her parrot with others.  I thought this guy was the ‘best dressed hiker” that had his picture taken with Kiwi.  I love his socks!

Tullia had picked some mushrooms on our hike down the road that she wanted to give to Tracy.  It just so happened as we got to the bus stop at Snodgrass, the bus came.  So, Tullia started to jump out the 4Runner & Kiwi jumped onto my steering wheel!  Yikes!

She wanted to go to lunch again today, but I begged out.  We exchanged Social media info & hugged goodbye.  We’d become fast friends & she has invited both Tracy & me to her home in Florida.  She was a delight to hike with!   Then it started to pour & a little hail .a great time for me to visit the laundromat.

Tracy told me about a bar in CB South called Tullys.  They advertise $7 cheeseburgers at happy hour so I thought Id try it out.  Im glad I went, & I knew the bartender from the Last Steep, it has a cool atsmophere including live music some nights, but next time I’ll be ordering the Bourbon instead of beer.  But, hey, it’s Saturday night & I wanted to check it out.

Those tap handles used to belong to the Bricks bar.  I wished Tullys had the beer selection the Brick didbut sadly, they dont.

A chilly chilly night at camp tonight…I”m all bundled up!

Day 40 7.31
I was tired this morning so I had a lazy morning in camp (these are getting more frequent)….reading & watching for wildlife.  Once I was ready to leave, I chose the super short & super close hike to my camp called Long Lake.  I hadn’t been up here this year yet & I knew they were adding a new trail, so I went to check it all out.

Long Lake is partially on private land & has big homes nearby.  It’s where the locals go to swim, kayak & paddle board…& a few hundred tourists go to do the same.  I used to see more people swimming here, but mostly what you see are SUP these days.  

It was a short hike at Long Lake, so I drove into town & hiked a little on the Lower Loop.

The Storywalk is something I’ve only seen in Crested Butte & I look forward to it every year.  The Lower Loop trail…both for hikers & bikers is a family friendly easy hike close to town.  Each year a book is chosen & placed in about 15 different kiosks with the next pages of the book—so as you hike you can read the story.  There are so many times I wish Claire & Emma could be out here with me, but I definitely think of those sweet little love-to-read kiddos when I do the Storywalk.

I did have plans this afternoon.  I’d noticed my library was having a Harry Potter Birthday party this afternoon.  I’d asked the librarian the other day, if it would seem to weird if I came too…without any little kids.  The Old Rock Library is awesome, so I wasn’t surprised when she said…."Everyone is invited!”  

I’d sent Claire & Emma a Harry Potter Surprise capsule (they each had gotten one when I was there in May).  Both are sick today & Sara was working, but I called to tell them a surprise was on its way.  Right before the birthday party started, Claire FaceTimed me saying Amazon had delivered.  Her Dad was busy trying to help Emma feel better & Claire had sole use of the phone.  She opened her gift.  But when the party began, we were still on the FT together.  While it would have been SOOOO MUCH FUN to have them there with me, actually participating, it was great to have Claire on the other end virtually participating.  No one seem to mind I had the phone with me.  So, I showed her the Herbology Class where the kids were potting succulent plants; the Potions Class where they were bottling color sand mixtures; the Quidditch Game which sort of looked like beer pong; & the stations inside….writing school letters with quills & wax stamps; coloring pages, postcard station, you could go online & take a test to see which house you’d be sorted in then make the matching button, butter beer, cake & cupcakes.  She got to watch as kids showed up dressed in costumes.  I think we both had a good time; although I know she wishes she felt better & could have actually done all those things. She asked me if I’d do a Harry Potter theme day for them when Danny & I go to see them in September.  You bet! (Gotta get working on that!)

The birthday cake!

A couple of the stations at the party.

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I had so much fun with Claire on the phone.  Sara got home from work, they had to go through school supplies & my phone battery was running out.    Boy I love talking to those girls!

The evening in camp was dry & beautiful.  I had a long conversation with Pete which always wonderful.  I got the binoculars out & saw some elk in the meadow in front of my camp & that was awesome!  I made myself a camp cocktail & just enjoyed the memories of another good day in Crested Butte.

Day 41 8.1
I had another lazy morning in camp & spent some good time on the phone catching up with my sister-in-law.  I finally left to go into town; I had a gear errand to run.  And, when I was getting out of the 4Runner, I ran into my friend Susan.  We made plans to meet at the Alpenglow concert in the park tonight.  Fun! 

It was so late by the time I’d get to a trailhead, I trashed my original hike & made a Plan B.  The 403 is a trail that is super popular & I hike it at least two or three times every year.  I almost always do it when I first get here (like this year), hike it with Danny (we did that) & for the past few years hiked it with Jill (but not this year).  Most of these hikes start at the trailhead at the top of Washington Gulch road, so you drive most of the elevation, then hike a couple of miles up to the viewpoint.

But, this year, I hadn’t hiked the 403 yet, from the trailhead down on Gothic road.  It’s not a long hike, but boy is it a climbing hike.  All you do is go up.  There are a few sections that flatten out, but never for very long.  The beginning is steep switchbacks & the end is just straight up the mountain.  I didn’t get started until around 11am…which is usually my turn around time for hikes in late July.  The rain & storm was predicted around 1 & I knew I wouldn’t make it back by then.  

So, I started up & up, huffing & puffing all the way.  But these views are spectacular!

A blooming Green Gentian….I haven’t seen more than a few growing & blooming this year.  Some years they are everywhere & taller than me.  This must not be the year for the bloom.  I really should find out more about this lovely plant.

Look at the tiny pine tree growing out of the dead log…love it!

Still some pretty varied colors of wildflowers in the forested part of this trail.

Love how the flowers make their way through, up, over & around all the downed trees & limbs.

The views from the top.  This is the third time I’ve hiked to the viewpoint this year…although the first time this year I’ve done it from Gothic.  Clear skies & dark skies floated above me.  I was at the time the forecast said it would begin to storm.  I’m such a chicken.  I didn’t stay long up here before I headed the way back down down down down down down….down.

Look at the one piece of sunshine breaking through in the middle of the photo.

Hiking back down to Gothic roadI never get tired of the views of Avery (the big red mountain).

Boy, this hike felt hard today.  And, I feel grungy too.  I thought I’d head back out to camp & take a shower.  But, before I could get there, the temps started dropping & it began to sprinkle.  A cold shower isn’t that enjoyable when the temps are warmish, but it’s not great at all when it’s chilly.  So, I skipped the shower & drove into town & got a To-Go-Mo at Momo's.  Warm & yummy & tasted so good as it started to rain harder & I sat outside on a bench on Elk covered by the Stash’s roof.

The 4Runner is almost always parked at the 4way, so I walked back there & decided it was a good time to work on the website & get it caught up.  What else is there to do in the rain?  The storm blew in, then blew out, the rain stopped then started again.  I texted Susan & we both decided it wouldn’t be much fun to go to the concert in the rain.  So, I drove back out to camp where the skies are really dark.

I’m still tucked in camper….it has rained a lot since I’ve been in camp.  I’ve been getting “flash flood” alerts on my phone all evening & everything out here is soaked.  I may have to get out soon & pee while getting rained on.  I should just take a wash cloth & soap & go stand in the downpour & clean up.  But that sounds super cold & the ground is muddy.  For now, I’m caught up on tripscribbles & ready to tuck in & read a bit before turning off the twinkle lights, talking to Danny & probably falling asleep to the sound of rain on my roof.  

Night night.

Day 42 8.2
Lots of foggy stuff hovering this morning.

My lovely & super fun friend Susan had a little bit of time from work this morning, so we met at the Oh Be Joyful trailhead & took off up the trail chatting all the way….it was great to share the time & trail with her!

After our hike, I went into town ran errands & bought gas (yay! it’s gone down a little bit!)  Talie & I built a campfire & enjoyed such a nice night.  I think I peppered her with a hundred questions about her travels!  She was wonderful & shared her experiences…what an incredible amazing life she has lead.

Beautiful night sky.

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