In the saddle: Paradise revisted in Crested Butte
August 9, 2011
CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. – I returned to Crested Butte for the first time in a couple of summers last weekend and asked myself “why?” Not why was I there, but why did it take me so long to return?
My friend Bob and I used to make an annual pilgrimage to the mountain biking mecca of Crested Butte. That got interrupted two years ago when we opted for the Monarch Crest Trail and other riding around Salida on our annual summer getaway. We were so impressed we returned to the Monarch Crest last summer at the exclusion of the Butte.
Unfortunately, we have failed to coordinate our summer schedules to take trips to both Salida and Crested Butte. (We blame it on work responsibilities, family commitments and other outdoor adventures.)
We hit the jackpot with the timing of our return to C.B. this year. The wildflowers were still going nuts, if slightly past their prime. The mountainsides were unbelievably verdant. The mountain biking was wonderful. And, as always, the people were great.
Truth be known, we got a little beat up by the ride we selected on Saturday. It came highly recommended but we didn’t do enough advance research to learn which way to approach a particular loop. Let’s just say we did more hiking than biking at the start, but made up for it with some sweet single-track trail at the end. Beer, chips and salsa back at the car helped us forget the woes of the early part of the ride.
We enjoyed the hospitality of former Aspen buddies John and Robin Norton on Saturday evening and camped on their great property outside of town that night. Through the Nortons we met Mark Reaman, editor of the Crested Butte News, who served as our tour guide the next day. He pieced together six singletrack trails that made roughly a three-quarter loop around town, including the Lupine Trail and the Budd Trail, two additions built the last two summers by the Crested Butte Mountain Bike Association.
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Our fond farewell came while washing down burgers with beers at The Last Steep, a restaurant overlooking Elk Avenue. The street was closed to traffic and packed with pedestrians checking out an endless supply of arts and crafts booths. The mountains separating Crested Butte from Aspen loomed in the background. It was paradise indeed.