Mountain Biking in Crested Butte

Walking through Mt. Crested Butte in search of the Crested Butte Rental & Demo Center we watched the padded up mountain bikers lapping the trails. Never one to ask directions, my husband Wade broke down and stopped the first official-looking person we ran into to show us the way. The man had soft white shoulder-length hair complimented by a white goatee. On his back was the red cross signifying status and authority as ski patrol, his precise directions confirmed my quick diagnosis.

The boys ran ahead to get geared up for our family mountain biking clinic that was to be held in the Evolution Bike Park, a park that offers over 25 miles of downhill and cross country mountain bike trails.

With three boys, all of our trips were always very active and included adventures but with the eldest boy teetering on the edge of being a teenager, the adventures were needing an edgier boost and this bike clinic was what he was most excited about but that did not stop the negative comments emoting from “His Dudeness,” “I bet we’re not going to do any real riding because they’re going to make us stop and view the wildflowers, aren’t they?” I assured him that we would save the wildflower viewing for later and rushed along behind them to make sure that all went smoothly.

Gearing up for our lesson the name H-Baum was dropped quite a few times, from the looks of it we were taking a clinic from THE Crested Butte guy. And in he walked, the same man who had given us directions. We had unearthed Crested Butte gold.

The H-Baum!
The H-Baum!

From the very beginning, as Wade and I rushed back and forth to the hotel room collecting forgotten articles, H was informative and patient. It takes a certain special somebody to coach a family with three youthful boys on the elements of downhill biking, but he managed to succeed with great finesse.

BIKING CRESTED BUTTE:

IMG_0484After a preliminary lesson in a dirt parking lot, we rode the Red Lady Express chairlift up the mountain and the boys sped down the well-maintained trails with fun wide burms and whoop-de-doos; Primer, Awakening and Warming House. That is, some of us sped. Tucker, our seven-year-old, who looked like a little turtle in his gear with a chest protector, was traumatized, hopefully not for life. Ready to have some fun together as a family unit, we tend to push our little guy before he is ready. Being that it was his first mountain bike ride I think his temper tantrums on the trail were quite justified. It took blood, sweat, and tears to get down but once safe in the confines of our hotel room he wanted to do it all over again.

The nice thing about where we stayed, at the Elevation Spa and Hotel, was that it actually was possible to do it all over again, for everything we needed was to be found directly outside; the biking, the Bluegrass Festival, and the Adventure Park where the boys practiced their triple flips on the bungee trampoline, the Butte looming ominously in the distance.

The living room had a kitchenette, a sleeper couch and space enough to fit in a cot. It also had its own bathroom so that my husband and I could enjoy our separate large bedroom without having to worry about being invaded upon by our three rug-rats.

Axel getting his downhill on

It has always been a dream of mine to be in Crested Butte during the Wildflower Festival. In the many times that I have hiked and biked over to Crested Butte, the grand cabins dispersed throughout the bucolic fields surrounded by jagged 14,000 foot peaks, have always reminded me of Switzerland, especially when the clouds are lying low, as they did all through the weekend. I was truly looking forward to witnessing those fields laced with wildflowers. Unfortunately, due to the dry weather, the wildflowers were late to bloom this year and were said to be more spectacular up in the high country, which we did not get a chance to investigate.

The rain had finally arrived and as welcome as it was, it put a bit of a damper on our afternoons. Thankfully, there was miniature golf in the Adventure Park, an all-time favorite recreation for our family. We played over and over again on the eighteen-holed course. We could hear the sweet melodic notes emanating from the Bluegrass Festival going on adjacent to the park as we got our cheap competitive thrills on with Tucker who was making up for his biking incompetence by acing many hole-in-ones. A true lover of Bluegrass, I was sad to not have the opportunity to attend this Festival that I have heard so much about, a manageable festival with notable musicians strutting their talents in a majestic field in Crested Butte. We’ll have to come back!

The next day to get my own yayas in, I arose early to bike up the trail without anybody to tend to. With the clouds still hanging low over the Butte I had the trail, and the mountain all to myself, except for the occasional white Crested Butte maintenance trucks that appeared out of nowhere already hard at work perfecting the trails.

Climbing up switchbacks and through Aspen Groves in the quiet of the mountain, with nothing but the chattering of squirrels and the chirping of birds, was wonderfully healing and invigorating and I wished that I had a ride like that where I live in Basalt, CO, to help maintain my sanity in my forever chaotic world.

After biking we met up with Jane Chaney, Executive Director of the Gunnison-Crested Butte Tourism Association. Jane is a spunky woman who seems up for any and everything. She took us up to Lake Irwin just North of Kebbler Pass for a picnic lunch and as Stand Up Paddlers cruised the lake in the background, she told us interesting facts about Crested Butte such as; once known as the state’s leading mountain coal operation in 1882 with coal mines and coke ovens developed by The Colorado Fuel and Iron Company, Crested Butte is now known as the wildflower capital of Colorado. We also spoke of her very own incredible wildflower garden that she and her husband have created with the help of Gunnison Gold compost. People of The Gunnison Country seem to understand the importance of using local products and make clever use of its resources, as also seen at the Sunday Farmer’s Market where I met a man selling medicinal herbs gathered from local plants in the nearby forest and countryside. Products included vials filled with homemade Arnica for bruises and a wide selection of teas.

At the lake, the boys ran around an enormous rock in an attempt to collect items needed for a fishing rod. They were followed by Jane’s roaming neighbor, Shamu, a giant pussy-cat of a Malamute, its fur shaved to make him resemble a lion with a full mane and a puff at the end of his tail.

Our intention at the lake was to hike over to some nearby waterfalls but the thunder came a-crashin’ immediately followed by lightning and we hightailed our little bottoms out of there.

Crested Butte is 131 years old and situated in Southwest Colorado in Gunnison County. Gunnison has a 110-year-old college in Western State. With any college, this brings culture, youth, and vitality to a town. Combine this with outrageously rocking sports activities and world-class cultural events, all presented in a breath-taking landscape where old-time ranchers raise cattle and grow hay on the outskirts of a town that has storefronts painted in deeply rich Victorian colors and you get the bare essence of Crested Butte. But there is oh so much more to explore and be a part of, so much so that one may not be able to come up with many reasons as to why they should ever leave.

There are those who seek in other climes the joys they might have known

Mid the mountains and the meadows of the land they call their own

I would find the shady canyons where at night the gentle dew

Comes to kiss the rose and heliotrope

when stars are all in view

I would stand amid these mountains, with their hueless caps of snow,

looking down the distant valley,

stretching far away below:

And with reverential rapture

Thank my maker for this grand

Peerless, priceless panorama,

That a child can understand

~ by Cy Warman, the poet laureate of the Rockies, describing the Gunnison Country in 1900

*Disclaimer: Meals, rooms and activities were complimentary on this trip but all opinions and reviews are my own.

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