Steve and I couldn’t figure out where to spend our three day Memorial Day weekend. Not on the Front Range, not too far from Colorado… We had debated the Picketwire Canyonlands, in the vicinity of the Comanche National Grasslands. That area has some of the oldest dinosaur fossils in the world and would be fun to hike and camp. We decided, though, to head to Crested Butte with two other couples to hike, mountain bike and watch our friend Kris race in the Gunnisson Growler.
The weather forecast was rain, rain, rain. That’s ok! Adventure! I love road trips because you don’t have to worry about filling those ridiculously small travel containers of shampoo, pulling a deltoid because you refuse to check your luggage and haul it all through security, or cram your purse and laptop under the seat in front of you. Not to mention the planning part. On a road trip, there’s minimal planning involved. You can shove your stuff in the back of the Jeep and take off. I’m especially lucky because I don’t have to drive. Anyway, Steve, Schivonne, Kris and I shoved in our four mountain bikes, two tents, four mats, four sleeping bags, four backpacks, one cooler, numerous 6-packs of beer, four camping chairs, blankets, pillows, fly rods, and other camping necessities. Emphasis on shove!
So on the road, eating pasta salad and cookies, we sang songs and shared dark secrets. You can’t do that on a plane – someone will inevitably hear you. It rained our entire trip down to CB, and was still raining when we arrived at our camp spot, at 10:00 p.m. We rolled up to our secret camping spot on National Forest land, right outside of Crested Butte. We were still excited about camping, completely dry, and didn’t mind setting up camp and bearing with the weather. (Kind of like how you can always tell that a waitress is new – she’s still smiling, eager to help, and happy to be there.) So we slid in the mud, slipped on corn lilies, and set up camp. It was still raining.
Evening adventure. View from our camp spot. You can see the red dust that blew over the Rockies in early April.
Road up to our camp.
Saturday morning, oh my God, it wasn’t raining. This turned out to be an anomaly, but it just makes everything seem so much brighter when it’s not raining. We hiked the in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park that day. It rained off an on, but not enough to dampen our spirits. We were just happy to be outside. Steve and I had hiked the down the canyon over Memorial Day 2007, and camped at the bottom. That year, we started from the North Rim, which was easily accessible from the direction in which we arrived, around Paonia. This year we accessed the Park from the South Rim, the more traveled side. To hike down to the Gunnison River – usually a mile or two of actually hiking over at least 1,700 feet – you need a permit, a lecture on the dangers of hiking, a warning that you need to know how to self rescue, clear instructions to not poop in the woods, a thorough review what poison ivy is, and how you could and probably will die down in the canyon. We happily obliged – it’s a filter process that keeps the other hoohas out of dangerous situations that would otherwise eliminate those opportunities for adventurers like us. We received our permit, spoke with the nice lady, and hiked down. It’s not an easy hike, but it’s amazing to be down in that canyon, on a River that was completely undiscovered until about 100 years ago. It’s a very special place. Unlike two years ago, the poison ivy was mild and Steve didn’t make me wash my face the second he saw me brush up against poison ivy.
Poison ivy – beware!
Our two hour ride back to the camp site was peppered with casual comments along the lines of, well, what should we do if it’s raining tonight? How are we going to cook our food? Will our tents be wet? Are there hostels in the area? All comments were non-committal, as if the person mentioning them didn’t want to be the one who made the group go to a hotel, or didn’t want to bail, but didn’t want to be blamed for making the group sleep indoors and quit our adventure. We stopped at WallyWorld, bought some fire wood, a tarp, and hoped for the best, despite the fact that the rain was unrelenting. I know that people say that it’s just water, it will dry, but whatever, when it’s just water that’s keeping you wet for a steady 48 hours, you start to evaluate your options, and wonder what the meaning of vacation is.
In any event, we pull up to our camp to my new best friend, rain/mud, and look at each other. What are our options? I’m not sure at what point we decide to stay, perhaps it was a gradual decision fueled by both ingenuity and beer, but we did. Steve and I replaced the large tarp that was under our tent with the new WallyWorld tarp (this turned out to be a bad decision, and was the impetus for our hostel stay the next night), and Steve put those dendrites to work! He created a shelter for us by stringing a tarp through a few trees, some stakes and the Jeep. It was a wonderful little dry spot for us. We were able to build a fire under the tarp, make dinner, set up our camp chairs and relax under the pitter patter of the rain on our tent. It was a wonderful adventure.
Steve, Schivonne and Cory under our temporary housing unit.
On Sunday, we woke early to drive down to Gunnison with Kris for his mountain bike race. It was a chilly, wet morning, but he was off, and the five of us sat in a coffee shop for two hours and read magazines. It was one of my most relaxing memories in recent months. I love the feeling of being away from home, with no obligations, just the freedom to hang out and not worry about the time. After a while, we drove to a spot where we thought we could both run (Steve and I needed to get in a 8-mile run for our marathon training) and see Kris race.
Run in, Kris done, we then stood around wondering what to do now. Our tents were getting wet (especially ours, due to the tarp switch out that allowed water to seep in), we were not warming /drying up, and we had heard about a nice little warm and cozy hostel up in CB. I called, bargained with the dude, and got us a 6-person, private room for $15/person. Not too shabby! We packed up our camping gear, shoved it all back into the car. At this point, we still hadn’t used our mountain bikes. We lugged them all the way across Colorado, but it was too muddy to ride. We didn’t want to ruin the trails.
The rest of our trip was warm. We drove up to CB, walked around, I bought a Hershey’s Kiss halloween costume for $2.50 (here’s a preview: http://tinyurl.com/l578md), ate delicious pizza, and conked out. We had been on an adventure all day! We still had to polish off some of the beer we lugged around, so we did that, watched Tommy Boy, and fell asleep in our warm hostel beds. If ever you’re in CB and need an affordable, convenient, clean and accommodating place to stay, I would highly recommend the Crested Butte International Lodge and Hostel. It was cheap for us because of the off-season, but the prices are reasonable year round, you can cook in the kitchen, and it’s just a fun way to travel. And, they have Tommy Boy on DVD. Here’s the movie in a nutshell:
I got a D+! I’m gonna graduate!
You’re right! You’re not your dad! He could sell a ketchup Popsicle to a woman in white gloves!
It’s called reading! Top to bottom, left to right… a group of words together is called a sentence. Take Tylenol for any headaches… Midol for any cramps.
Shut up, Richard.
Oh gosh, such a good movie.
Anyway, still too rainy to ride on Monday, so we decided to go home. Not before eating the fluffiest pancakes in the world! Go to the Paradise Cafe on Elk Ave for a delicious breakfast next time you’re in Crested Butte. Just delightful! The last highlight of the weekend (aside from a drive through Tiny Town on the way home, which doesn’t deserve more than these sparse words), we visited Peanut Lake, about one mile NW of Crested Butte. I saw Peanut Lake on a map, and since that’s the cutest name for a Lake in the entire universe (try me), we had to visit. I would still call it Peanut Lake, but with an asterisk and an indication that it’s somewhat anticlimactic, given the grandeur of a name such as Peanut Lake, and the small little lake that it was. It was very pretty, though.
I think that despite the rain, the lugging around of stuff and the fact that Peanut Lake could have been shaped into a more defined peanut, this was an excellent weekend. I was happy to be with friends, eat fluffy pancakes, enjoy Crested Butte and Gunnison again, drink good beer, find my next Halloween costume, and more importantly, not sit at a desk.