“Hey, Colorado, it was not so long ago, I left your mountains…” -Colorado, The Flying Burrito Brothers, 1970
“Wow, it’s as if he never left,” is no doubt what you’re thinking as the long overdue NBAR #13 makes its appearance, but leave I did. On June 20, I tiptoed out of the bedroom at 2 AM and drove to Logan airport in Boston, 105 miles south of my little safe haven in the woods in NH. Of course, I arrived without incident or you’d be reading my obituary, hopefully with a hilarious turn courtesy of my daughter.
I was on my way to visit a friend deep in the Rockies, and ultimately, to make it to Colorado Springs to instruct, along with Dave Lange of NGC, a course on U.S. type coins at the annual ANA Summer Seminar; Dave likes to instruct alternate weeks, so this year we were there for Week 2. The flight to Colorado Springs involved a 90-minute delay in Denver, putting me into The Springs around noon instead of 10:30 AM.
I retrieved my luggage and rental car and I was off to beautiful Crested Butte, CO, a tiny town 8,800 feet up in the Elk Range of the Rockies. I take 115 South out of the Springs, then 50 West to Gunnison, then 135 North to Crested Butte, a scenic drive that runs through the heart of the Rockies, crosses the Great Divide at one point, and lasts a little over four hours. After stopping in Salida, CO on Rt. 50 at my usual “hey, it’s legal here, man” stop, I proceeded along the route, with a few minutes spent pulled over on the side of the road in a beautiful canyon for some relaxation, circa ‘60s style. Peace!
There’s a point on Rt. 135 North into Crested Butte where, though you’ve been enveloped in the picturesque Rockies for four hours, you drive around a big bend in the road and the entire valley where CB sits unfolds to your eyes; it is simply magnificent to behold and imparts that ‘how tiny I really am’ feeling in me each and every time I visit my friend in this secluded part of CO – did I mention Rt. 135 North terminates at CB? I arrived at my life-long (well, 48 years or so, anyhow) friend, Steve Newman’s place for our annual brotherly bear-hug and three nights-two full days of R&R (‘rest & relaxation’ or ‘rock & roll,’ take your pick…I chose both!).
Steve had gone fishing at about 11,000 feet the afternoon before my arrival, and two gorgeous cutthroat trout, each about 14” less the head, and each deep salmon-red in color from their steady diet of fresh-water shrimp, served as our entrée that night. Talk about delicious! My pal, Steve, is doubly blessed – he lives in the Elk Mountains at 8,800’, and his backyard adjoins the East River, a protected wildlife refuge.
Thursday morning at about 8 AM, Steve’s nephew, Michael (who is about to turn 50) and I were on the deck watching a mama fox and her three kits gamboling just 25 yards from us in the wetlands, and a deer even came out of the trees to see what all the ruckus was about. Mama fox left for the shade of a pine grove, and one of the kits, no doubt the ‘mama’s boy’ of the litter, ran frantically after her and disappeared into the copse in her wake while the other kits kept on with their wrasslin’ and frolicking. Soon I espied a large fox slinking through the high grasses between the beaver dams; I wasn’t sure if he was friend or predator, but when he loped out of the high grass with breakfast – in this case, a prairie dog -- in his jaws, the other two kits followed him home to the pines for a bite to eat.
The three humans, Steve, Michael, and I, along with Steve’s best doggie friend and ‘baby boy’, Eelco, the 12 y.o., 85-pound white husky, hopped in Steve’s four-wheeler for the five-mile trip into CB itself, a neat-as-all-get-out arrangement of late-19th and early 20th-century buildings surrounded by enormous mountain peaks. Mt. Crested Butte, the town’s namesake, is over 13,000’ and sits right downtown – literally. We ate a great breakfast at McGil’s, a place I’ve been to many times, and I even wrapped a sausage link in a napkin so Eelco – waiting patiently back in the all windows down four-wheeler -- could enjoy some breakfast, too. (Crested Butte may be the most pup friendly town I’ve ever been in, with doggie bowls of fresh water outside most of the small businesses in town.)
Then, off we went up into the 11,000’-12,000’ high country, for some hiking and reminiscing on Michael’s part…he grew up in a cabin up there 50 years ago! The cabin no longer stands, but that didn’t stop two old – and one young – hippies from taking a much-needed break on its venerated site. More hours hiking up where the rooftops of the occasional cabin down below resemble tiny pieces of pencil eraser, then the sometimes-perilous drive down the other side of the range and back into that tiny little slice of civilization, Crested Butte. Grilled steaks and veggies for dinner that night and plenty of music from when we were kids. Friday, the two old farts just hung out talking and listening to music, with occasional trips to the deck to enjoy the scenery and enjoy the finer things CO has to offer. And, playing around at 8,000’ to 12,000’+ and back for a few days and nights prepared me for the air in The Springs, a ‘mere’ 6,035’ feet above sea level.
Next week, NBAR #14 will actually get around to the Colorado Springs ANA Summer Seminar experience portion of my trip; if you’ve never been, what are you waiting for? See you next week!