Camping in the Butte

Summer in Colorado is truly a magical thing.  Being from the east coast I often get asked if I miss the ocean, being close to the water. I can honestly say, with 100% certainty that I do not. Don’t get me wrong, the beach is absolutely wonderful. But living somewhere that in several short hours you can be surrounded by 14,000 foot mountains, jagged peaks that pierce the bluebird sky, with miles and miles of trails to explore and views for days, well that is a true gift I have not taken for granted since moving here in the winter of 2014.

So, when a group of friends threw out an email a few weeks back about camping in Crested Butte, we were in. Crested Butte is a small mountain town south west of Denver, about 4 ½ hours from our house. A bit far for a weekend getaway, so I took Friday off from work and we set off late Thursday evening towards Oh Be Joyful Campground, just several miles from the town of Crested Butte. Driving west, before we hit Monarch pass, we decided to take a pit stop at one of our favorite breweries, Elevation. There happy hour was amazing: $1.50 off drafts! We stayed for only one, but it helped break up the trip and get us recharged for a great weekend!

We rolled into the town of Crested Butte around 7:00pm, stopped in the cute little town to grab some beer, then headed to Oh Be Joyful Campground. Our two girlfriends had gotten there hours earlier to set up the tent area – what a treat that was to roll up into the site and have the area established! There would be 18 campers total throughout the weekend, so it looked like a small village with several tents having been set up by Stacia and Amanda. A beautiful spot right next to the Slate River was wide open, so we set up our tent and joined the ladies around the fire.

There is something truly special about enjoying a campfire with friends. I had prepped mason jar ramen, so dinner was uber easy. I marinated tofu & onions in amino acids, then put them in a foil pack. I prepped mason jars full of ramen noodles, basil, garlic, then boiled some water & veggie broth & poured it in. Delicious & so easy!

The next day, we woke up to a gorgeous Colorado morning, started a fire and had some breakfast. The spot we had was absolutely gorgeous, next to a creek, so we soaked it up and reveled in the gorgeousness.

Coffee never tasted so good! And the breakfast burritos I had pre-made at home (sweet potatoes, peppers, onions, daiya cheese, tofu scramble) hit the spot!

The day stretched before us and I couldn’t wait to get into it! On Friday, we decided to split up – boys would head out to mountain bike and the girls and the dogs would go hike the  oh be joyful trail. The trail head was about 1/4 mile from our campsite, with just a small river crossing to wade through. So, we rolled up our yoga pants, took off our shoes, and headed on through. The current was surprisingly strong!

 

The Oh Be Joyful Trail started off with a pretty steep climb. Since my ACL surgery on April 4, big hikes have been out of the question, as it’s still in healing mode, so even though this hike was over 16 miles, we committed to 6 miles. Wildflowers, waterfalls, mountains. Oh, this was quite the joyful trail indeed!

Our 6.5 mile hike ended up being absolutely perfect, with a bit of everything, including a rest under some fir trees while Amanda sketched the waterfall in the distance. It was a truly lovely afternoon. The guys met us back at camp, then we all headed into the town of Crested Butte to get some drinks at the Crested Butte Public house to cap off the perfect day.

The next day’s dawn broke and we had bikes on the brain! Three of us ladies were on the same biking level – with my ACL surgery, I had to take it easy, and the other two ladies were fiercely ready, but definitely ready for a beginner trail. We suited up, threw our helmets on, and grabbed our trustee steads.

The first trail we hit was up the road from the campground we were staying at (Oh Be Joyful) so we headed to the Lower Loop trail. Nature has never been so vibrant! Wildflowers were everywhere and as we wheeled down the trails, the mountain views almost made me fall of the trail!

The lower loop was magnificent, so much so that we headed towered the upper lower loop, which had absolutely breathtaking views. A perfect blend of up hill, flowy goodness. The girls and I killed the trails and we were psyched to head back to camp to share the tale of the trails.  The gang was all there, back from their adventures, and the cornhole was pulled out and the games began. After a few games, we all decided to go to Meridian Lake, an alpine lake up a steep mile trail, where a large lake stretched out before us, and a large sandy beach covered with beach go-ers that led into the lake. Beers were cracked, toes were dipped, and some of the boys even swam to the other side. I’ve never had such a fun time at an alpine lake!

 

 

After diving in the icy lake, we headed back to the campsite to change for a night in town. Heading to town, we ended up getting a frosty beverage at The Dogwood Cabin, then heading to grab pizza at The Secret Stash.  Beautiful evening with friends followed by a fabulous sunset.

 

Sunday morning, we packed up camp, some people took off, heading back to Denver, and I headed toward the Lower Upper Loop trail, taking it all the way to town.

The views were just as great as they were the other day and the permanent smile painted on my face held all the way to the main streets of Crested Butte. It was glorious! The rest of the afternoon was spent at the Crested Butte Heritage Museum, getting a download of the start of the town, the biking history that began there, and the amazing history that happened in this awesome mountain town.  After the history lesson, I met the guys at the Public House for a beer before we too took off for home. Another amazing mountain escape in the books!

Staycation in Breckenridge: Part I

Two years ago, we bought a time share. Yup, we were those suckers who thought they’d go and get a free weekend, do the tour, and leave. Nope. We bought. The Grand Lodge at Peak 7 has atually been quite a treat these past two ski seasons….parking on peak 7 (ski in/ski out), hot tubs afterwards, spa access, grills, bonus time, oh my! The winter is a playground in Breckenridge, so why not have a spot to make playing easier. So when we selected the week in the summer, every odd year, we laughed, thinking it was a means to a fabulous end: parking for skiing in Breckenridge!

Well, our week approached and I was actually super excited! Colorado is amazing in the summer and while we’re avid hikers, we rarely extend our stay past a night or two in the mountains….and never stay in a fancy resort in which we are 1/5,000 owners! So, we packed the car, the dogs, the beer, the bikes and headed to Breck.

The trip kicked off with a stop over Loveland pass, all the way up to the Continental Divide. The views were spectacular, super windy, but gorgeous! Heading into Breck, we could tell the town was jumping! We were able to check into the lodge at Peak 7 as soon as we got there, so we unpacked and took the babies (Winnie & Haley came too!) for a small hike up peak 7. The mountain looked so odd not having a ton of snow on it, but it was beautiful.

After the jaunt, we got cleaned up and headed into town to Mountain Flying Fish Sushi for a fabulous dinner followed by an evening stroll around the town, where the mountain views took our breathe away. We stopped at Mountain Top Cookie Shop to get a carmely, crunchy decadent cookie to kill our sweet tooth. Strolling through town, we appreciated how the air is different here, more crisp. I was in heaven.

Sunday Funday arrived and it opened up with a gorgeous sunrise on the mountain. I didn’t quite make it for sunrise, but Winnie and I headed out for a morning stroll. Breakfast was avocado toast & coffee in the room followed by the both of us suiting up for my first mountain biking ride since my ACL surgery! I was beyond excited to get out there, even though I was only 11 weeks, I felt great in the biking department. We mapped out a route, keeping it on the easier side, as I didn’t want to push it too hard. Leaving from Peak 7, we headed south across peak 8, through switchbacks and down into town. Mike took the more aggressive route down 4 O’Clock trail, while I veered off towards the road. We met down at the bottom of town and headed towards the Sunday market. Local vendors were selling their ware, SUP rentals were sending folks out on the small lake, and the tourists were out and about. Strolling a bit, we chatted up a local chocolate dealer, whose chocolate nibs came from Honduras. Of course we bought a bag!

The market had us thirsty, so we biked through town to get to the Rec path that would take us to Broken Compass Brewing, one of the best mountain breweries I’ve ever been to.  They have a coconut porter that literally melts in your mouth!

Plus, this had been the furthest I’d ridden on a bike since my ACL surgery and I was extremely excited to celebrate. After two glorious pints, we headed back to town, up the gondola to the Grand Lodge at Peak 7 and had some lunch in the room.

I had made chick pea salad with carrots & artichokes for one of our meals and it hit the spot after an active morning. Topped with peperoncinis and homegrown spinach, the nutritious plant-packed lunch was delicious.

After taking the dogs for a small hike around the mountains (this was the most exercise the dogs had gotten in a LONG time as well!) we got rinsed off and put on our nicer mountain attire for a beautiful dinner out at Blue River Bistro. They had a great happy hour from 3-6 and live jazz music. Score! The drinks and bartender were lovely, ambiance absolutely perfect, but unfortunately, my meal turned out awful! I had to send it back twice as the croquets were frozen the first time around, fish was raw the second time. Truly disappointing after a gorgeous lead into the evening….the salad and appetizer were amazing! They did take off the entree and glass of wine I had, so they should have, but the meal was still $105 dollars, so left a bad taste in my mouth for the place. Oh well, the evening had still been delightful, so we called it a night, as I had to work in the morning, and took the complimentary shuttle back up to the Grand Lodge.

Monday morning came bright and early, and while I worked the day away (after greeting the day with a morning mountain stroll with the pups), Mike took a long bike ride on Peaks Trail into the town of Frisco. The trail was full of sharp rocks, roots and curves and when I went to pick him up later that afternoon, his knee bled with proof of how hard it was. Thank goodness he was ok, as he had been ridding alone!

I work on east coast time, so after scooping Mike up in Frisco around 2pm, we had a late lunch at Park and Main, a delicious vegetarian friendly restaurant with veggie loaded options and a heady staff. I got the salted sweet potato sandwich and Mike ordered the Zucchini Parm. Both were delightful!

After we wrapped up lunch, we headed back up to the Grand Lodge so I could wrap up my work day and Mike could wash the trail off. He took a rest while I typed away. That evening we planned to watch the Sunset on Boreas Pass. We packed a picnic dinner (a Thai noodle dish with sauteed veggies and sriracha) strapped the dogs into their harnesses and we were off!

The pass road is quite bumpy, but the views throughout are spectacular! Heading all the way up to the continental divide, we parked the car and strolled around. At 11,481 elevation, we had a beautiful view of the sinking sun.

The several small cabins used to be part of a town, then workers quarters, who would clear the water lines during the dead of winter. We spread out our Thai picnic and snuggled in for the show.

It got chillier as the sun dipped, so once the last rays tucked into the mountains, we packed up and headed back to the lodge. The beauty of the mountains, the stillness of nature were something to truly marvel and the awesomeness that we were so lucky to have just witnessed was not lost on us. It was another spectacular day in Colorado.

Tuesday arrived with a glorious amount of sunshine and I took Winnie for a small sunrise hike. Grand Lodge on Peak 7 is right at the base of independence chair on Breckenridge resort and has trails right out the door. Winnie absolutely loves the outdoors and will scamper through the woods sniffing for critters. After logging a few work hours after an early rise, we biked down town for a quick breakfast at Clints. They have fabulous bagels, coffee and a cute atmosphere. I headed back to work and Mike headed to the spa to de-compress…several hours later (yeah, he fell asleep!) he came back up to the room, I wrapped up work and we headed into town on the gondola for a late lunch/early happy hour.

Modis, right on Main Street, has a phenomenal happy hour and delicious bites to nosh on. We chatted with two locals who lived in Alma, about 30 minutes north of Breckenridge, on 10 acres of land. Boy did that sound like an amazing set-up! We ordered oven-baked fries with gourmet dipping sauce and some Shrimp Ceviche & Blue Corn Fritters….amazing! That evening we had reserved one of the private screening rooms at the Grand Lodge, so we gondola-ed up to the lodge, cooked some pizza & made a salad and headed to watch a movie in luxury. The night, day and mountain staycation was everything we had hoped to be an more up to this point!