Sunday, October 14, 2018

The Historic Town of Crested Butte, Part Two



My husband and I were away for a week on Long Island, New York, celebrating our anniversary and a special milestone anniversary of my oldest brother and sister-in-law. It was hot and humid while we were in New York and there were just the beginnings of autumn color. When we returned to Colorado autumn was happily still in full bloom and today we even added a little snow to the mix! I am continuing on this post with our early autumn trip to Crested Butte, Colorado. You can see its famous 12,168-foot (3,709 m) mountain, for which it is named, in the photo above.  (All photos and photo collages will enlarge if clicked on)



There was lots of beautiful autumn color and signs directing us as we approached the historic district in the town of Crested Butte. The park bench we passed in town made me smile--this indeed, was the place!


The East River Valley, where Crested Butte is located, was once used as a summer residence by the Ute people. However, they were quickly displaced when European-Americans first entered the area. The first white people to explore the valley were beaver trappers, shortly followed by surveyors. Captain John Gunnison, after whom Gunnison County is named, was one of the early explorers to enter the area. In the 1860s and 1870s coal and silver mines began to open in the surrounding area, and many little mining towns formed. However, when silver mining began to decline, many of these towns failed. Crested Butte, however, was in a better position to survive because it served as a supply town to the surrounding area. There were proposals in the early 1970's to open molybdenum mines on Mount Emmons (also known as the "Red Lady") near Crested Butte, but the town opted to continue to develop its ski industry instead. 


Crested Butte's Mountain Resort began in the 1960's and its popularity grew.  Hotels and resorts opened on Crested Butte Mountian. The annual snowfall average in the area is 198.4 inches (504 cm) with January recording the highest average snowfall at 40 inches (100 cm), so skiing and snowboarding are full winter activities.



The ski area base is at 9,375 feet (2,858 m). 14 lifts serve 1,058 acres (4.28 km2) of terrain. 448 acres (1.81 km2) of the terrain are double black diamond runs. A large amount of extreme skiing terrain at Crested Butte has attracted the US Extreme Skiing Championships. The longest run on Mount Crested Butte is 2.6 miles (4.2 km). The town of Crested Butte has a Nordic Center which has an ice skating rink as well as many miles of groomed cross-country skiing trails. Recently, Vail Resorts purchased Crested Butte Resorts.  I hope they will retain their nickname as "The Last Great Ski Town" even as part of this resort conglomerate!


When we visited Crested Butte on the first day of autumn, we were surprised and excited to see an annual "Vinotok Festival" in the town.  If you did not read my Crested Butte--Part One blog post--click here-- you may want to see what this fun bohemian Autumn Festival is all about!


The town of Crested Butte is a charming place.  Who wouldn't want to live in this cute little purple house seen in town?


I enjoyed walking around the town taking photos of the historical buildings. The town boasts fabulous restaurants, galleries, and shops


The Victorian era homes and businesses were colorful and well kept.


Real estate has become expensive as Crested Butte's popularity has grown. I was quite surprised at the prices of small houses such as these!

Crested Butte also has the nickname as "The Wildflower Capital of Colorado" as its surrounding mountains are filled with wildflowers in the late spring and summer, and there is an annual Wildflower Festival in July. It also hosts an annual Arts Festival. Film Festival and Music Festival.


Bicycling, camping, hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, whitewater rafting and kayaking, four wheeling, disc golf, horeseback riding and fishing are all popular summer activities.


The Crested Butte Mountain Heritage Museum, located at 331 Elk Ave is worth a visit to learn about the history of the town and area. It is housed in what was once a blacksmith's shop and then went on to be a hardware shop that had the first gasoline pump in town.


Ranching has also been a major industry in the surrounding Crested Butte area. We passed many a scenic ranch on our drives.


We also saw such amazing autumn foliage! 


One of the drives we made in the area was on the West Elk Loop Scenic Byway, over Kebler Pass, where there were the largest and highest aspen trees I ever saw and wonderful wilderness!  More about that on my next post.


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Monday, October 1, 2018

Crested Butte--Part One--Vinotek Autumn Festival


I was away last weekend visiting Crested Butte, Colorado, with my husband, for an early anniversary getaway. Since moving to Colorado six years ago we have been trying to take trips to all its four corners and in-betweens of this beautiful state. Crested Butte has been on our list to visit and we felt that the autumn season would be a good time to visit the town as well as see some beautiful fall foliage along the way. We were not disappointed! (All photos will enlarge if clicked on)



Crested Butte has been fondly referred to a "The Gateway to the Elk Mountains," "Colorado's Last Great Ski Town. " and "The Wildflower Capital of Colorado." It sits at an elevation of 8,885 feet (2708 meters) and is located 28 miles north of the city of Gunnison, and a 228-mile distance from Denver, which was a 4-hour car trip for us.

We were impressed by the size of the 12,162-foot (3,707 m) Mt Crested Butte summit that is the site of the Crested Butte Mountian Ski Resort.


We stayed on Mount Crested Butte in the Elevation Hotel and Spa.


We could see the ski resort chairlifts close to our hotel.  Vail Resorts has recently bought the family-owned Crested Butte Mountain Resort and locals hope this won't change the ambiance of the town.


It was late afternoon by the time we checked into our hotel room and we heard from the front desk that the town was going to have a Fall Harvest Festival that evening that they called "Vinotek," which is a storytelling and fall harvest festival with ancient roots, and is a long-standing annual event in Crested Butte, that takes place on the autumnal equinox. You can read an interesting story about how this festival originated on this Colorado Public Radio link.

We had noticed some of the streets in town were closed off when we drove by and now we knew the reason. We had dinner reservations so instead of driving to town we took the free shuttle bus service that the town provides from the mountain into the historic district.


When we exited the bus the sun was on the horizon, soon to set. We heard the beat of a drum and people wearing costumes and aspen leaves in their hair walking towards the center of town. We followed the crowd and soon saw free-form dancing in the street.


All of the costumes and dancing were very colorful! We watched for quite a while as we waited for our dinner reservations.



As you can see by the video above==make sure to turn on the sound--or watch the video on this link on my Mille Fiori Favoriti facebook page, Vinotek is a fun and happy celebration for all ages!



Around 8 pm, the Vinotok Tribe presents the "Trial of the Grump." The community puts The Grump on trial with harvest maidens dancing and a play of the Harvest Mother, Dragon, Knight, and Green Man. The performance is amplified and lit so the community can hear and see the tale on the stage.



The Vinotek Fall Harvest celebration then ends with the "Burning of the Gump" bonfire. You can also watch this video on my Mille Fiori Facebook page on this link.



We dined at Marchitelli's Gourmet Noodle where we had the specials--Osso Bucco for my husband and Rainbow Trout over risotto for me, and since it was an anniversary celebration we indulged in desserts--spumoni with cannoli and a tiramisu. Everything was very delicious!



The National Historic town of Crested Butte is so pretty.


Many of its buildings date back to its early history as a coal mining town from the 1880's.  We went back to explore more of the town on another day and that will be on my next blog post.


After dinner, we returned on the shuttle bus back to Mt Crested Butte and our hotel. 


We had driven part of the beautiful West Elk Loop Scenic Byway over Kebler pass earlier in the day to see the autumn colors--more on that in a future post-- and we were tired from our long and festive day.


We were happy to spend this full moon and the first day of the autumn night in Crested Butte!  Come back soon to see more!

See my Part Two blog post about the Historic Town of Crested Butte here.

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Monday, September 17, 2018

Autumn in Colorado


Rocky Mountain National Park

I feel fortunate to live in a state that presents autumn colors slowly every year in a wonderful succession, from the north to the south, from the highest elevations down to the lowest. If one is fortunate to be able to travel to different locations in Colorado during the months of September through October, continuous autumnal glory is yours. (All photos will enlarge if clicked on)

Rocky Mountain National Park

This summer was very hot and dry so autumn color is coming even earlier than usual in many places, but the higher elevations are right on time.


When September arrives it not only brings autumnal beauty but also signals to the elk bulls to begin to bugle their love songs. 

 If you have never heard an elk bugle click on the video below or go to this link



Isn't it quite a sound?

We once stayed in a cabin in the YMCA of the Rockies outside Rocky Mountain National Park--click here-- and they serenaded us all night long!

Pagosa Pass

Autumn in Colorado is a vista of golden aspen trees...

Elk Mountains


 Elk Mountains

...as far as the eyes can see...


... lighting up the state!

Mount Sopris

Autumn has always been my favorite season so I make sure to go out and see as much of it as I can every year and enjoy its splendor. 

"And the sun took a step back,
The leaves lulled themselves to sleep,
and autumn was awakened."
~ Raquel Franco



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Monday, September 10, 2018

A Ride on the Leadville Colorado and Southern Railroad



This summer we drove into the town of Leadville, which at 10,152 feet, is the highest incorporated town in the United States. In the late 19th century this silver mining town was the second highest in population in Colorado after the city of Denver, and once the most famous silver mining camp in the world. Leadville once overflowed with fortune-seeking miners, and infamous outlaws. Wealthy businessman Horace Tabor, the Silver King, and his second wife Baby Doe and gun-slinging dentist Doc Holliday are just a few frontier characters who contributed to the town’s history. (All photos and photo collages will enlarge if clicked on)

Please click on to enlarge 

This sign located along the entrance to town tells of some of Leadville's history


I loved that Leadville's nickname is the "Cloud City," as the day of our journey up from the Denver area was filled with sights of beautiful and mesmerizing low lying clouds.


Most of the town of Leadville looks like a page from the past, with an old west flavor and Victorian-era buildings built between 1880 and 1905. It is situated between two mountain ranges, the Mosquito Range to the east and the Sawatch Range to the west; both of which include several nearby peaks with elevations above 14,000 feet, Mount Elbert, at 14,440-feet elevation (4401.2 m) is about 16 miles southwest of Leadville, and is the highest summit of the Rocky Mountains of North America and the highest point in Colorado. Mount Massive, which lies west-southwest of Leadville, at 14,428 feet elevation (4,398 m) is the second highest summit in the Rocky Mountains and state of Colorado, and the third highest in the contiguous United States.



We were excited to have tickets to take a trip on the Leadville Colorado and Southern Railroad on the day we visited. The train runs daily from late May to early October, The train journey is full of breath-taking panoramas across the Arkansas River Valley and humorous narratives about Leadville's colorful past


We chose an outside seating car so that we could enjoy the scenery to the fullest. 



The two and a half hours train ride is narrated with the history of the line and the Leadville area as it travels north along the Arkansas River Valley, rising up 1,000 feet off the valley floor, giving us some spectacular views of Freemont Pass and the two tallest peaks in Colorado, Mt. Massive and Mt. Elbert.


Some glaciers can be seen on the high peaks.


There were many picturesque views along the train ride...


...beautiful valleys and mountain views.


Views of forests...


...and wilderness.

I noticed that there were a massive amount of pine cones on the trees and there is a myth that the more pine cones on the trees the more severe the winter will be ahead. What do you think? According to the Farmers Almanac, the winter of 2019 in the northern hemisphere will be a "teeth chattering" cold one, with plenty of snow. Colorado can certainly welcome a lot of snow, and while I like cold weather I'm hoping the weather will not be excessively cold!


At the end of our ride, before returning to Leadville, we had a view of the Climax, Colorado Mine area. The Climax Mine is a major molybdenum mine. Shipments of molybdenum from the mine began in 1915. At its highest output, the Climax mine was the largest molybdenum mine in the world, and for many years it supplied three-fourths of the world's supply of molybdenum, which was mainly used in the production of steel and armor plating during World War I and II. After a long shutdown, the Climax mine has reopened and resumed shipment of molybdenum on May 10, 2012.


On our return train ride back to Leadville we saw more magnificent views and even a zip line rider that crossed over the train. The Leadville Colorado and Southern railroad offer a zip line special along with other special event train rides on their website on this link.



We really enjoyed our ride of the Leadville Colorado and Southern Railroad.  This was our third train ride in Colorado, as we traveled on the Georgetown Loop Railroad --click here to read that post--and the Royal Gorge Route Railroad--click here
Of course, we rode the train at the nearby Colorado Train Museum many times--click here--and even the miniature train in the adorable Tiny Town--click hereI'd say without planning it we've become train aficionados! All of the trains offered different experiences and scenery and all of them have helped to keep a part of Colorado history alive. There are many other things to do in Leadville, and we know we'll be back to do more someday, but the taking a train ride on the Leadville Colorado and Southern Railroad was a great way to spend the day!


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