Carolina: Cruising Past 70: Visiting Family and Friends in Colorado, Part 1

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Visiting Family and Friends in Colorado, Part 1

Colorado is such a beautiful state.  Fifty-five fourteeners make for its dramatic landscape. We are fortunate that family and friends live there so we can visit often. This year, Gretchen Bunnell (and hubby Don) invited her high school buddies known as the DUs (of which Bill is a member) from Pittsburg High School to have their off-year reunion at their lovely mountain home in Crested Butte.   Every two years they hold one; last year was Sunriver, Oregon (where I first met most of them), two years before was Tuscany, Italy.

The first to arrive were the Mackies, Jack and Joy, followed very quickly by us, the Colborns,  in the late afternoon of July 17.  Noon of the following day the Millers, Doug and Audrey, arrived. They were followed soon after by Kathy who drove with late husband Kenny Boone’s dog Luke from Colorado Springs.   Kenny passed away two months ago and he is the first loss to the cohesive bunch. Finally, later in the afternoon, Jim Thiesing appeared with his dashing Corvette driving all the way from Knoxville, Tennessee. Wife Carol had to go to their Flagstaff home to care for their son.

Expectedly, Day 1 was spent in getting updated with each other’s happenings, getting acquainted with the historical CB downtown, marveling at the mountains that enveloped the town, and gazing at the enchanting Aspen Glow from the Bunnell’s deck. The Millers and Kathy were ‘assigned’ to the Bunnell’s home because there they had two big dogs, Sam and Noah, and a cat. The not-so-used-to-pets Colborns, Mackies, and Jim shared the cozy Columbine Cottage, a 3-BR rental four blocks away.  And the day was capped by a tasteful dinner of Gretchen’s special lasagna and Caesar’s salad.  Yummmm!

CB is a former coal mining town which has transitioned into a mountain resort. It now has a population of approximately 1,500.  Mt. Crested Butte, a sister town, is nestled on the mountain slopes and has a population of 700.  Both are famous skiing destinations.  It is one of the locations where mountain biking is claimed to have started. The Mountain Bike Hall of Fame is located there. Other popular summer activities in Crested Butte include hiking, backpacking, whitewater rafting, and fishing.
So Day 2 was a hike to the summit of dramatic Mt. Crested Butte which stands more than 12,000 ft. above sea level (the town’s elevation is about 8, 800 ft.). Unashamedly, I did not make it to the top.  We rode the Silver Queen chair lift to an elevation of about 11,000. Then we slowly trekked to the top. It was no surprise that I often lagged behind (despite supposedly being the youngest in the group). At about every hundred steps, I took ‘breath-taking’ stops.  Just before the last haul at the timberline close to the alpine tundra, I chose to stay at the rest area to feed the chipmunks and to be fed to the mosquitoes, along with the Mackies. The rest bravely climbed to the top and briefly claimed the landscape for all of us to see later in pictures. 
The rest of the day was spent on a walking tour courtesy of Glo, the very popular bard in town, from the town’s museum where Don sits as director.  After the tour and a brief rest, we went to the grounds of the Center of the Performing Arts where every Monday, a free concert was buzzing.  The whole town must have been there! I dragged Bill to the great grass floor and we danced to our favorite Texas two-step and rock and roll.  And, as expected fair food was available for all of us to feast on!
Day 3 was a tour of the adjoining hills and mountains to see the blazing colors of the wildflowers (Crested Butte is known as the wildflower capital of Colorado), the gushing waters of the falls and cascades, and the rolling terrain of meadows gently punctuated by rivers, streams, and lakes. Our van was loaned to us by the Christian School and, though neither a 4-wheeler nor an ATV, it successfully crossed bridgeless streams strewn with rocks.  Lunch was a nice picnic of sandwiches and cold sodas close to the top of Gothic Mountain.
At the end of the day the ‘boys’ were treated to a game of hometown mixed softball where Don played.  Although they did not win, Don’s team did not heavily lose, as expected, and every one claimed it was because of the imported, though elderly, cheering squad.  Afterwards, everyone was hungry and hurried home to a wonderful Asian dinner from Audrey…a Japanese noodle salad with sweet-sour sesame sauce and grilled chicken! Another yummmm.
Day 4 was a whitewater adventure.  And, the coward in water that I am (even if I was born in a 7,100 island archipelago), I did not join the group and stayed home to write this post.  When they told me the stories later, I was so glad I did not go!  They told me it could have been an class 2 or even class 3 river rafting run. They went on the Upper Taylor (instead of Lower Taylor) tour plus an extended tour (for me it meant rugged). As for pictures, I didn’t expect any because I did think anyone would want his camera wet. But the tour operator had it all planned and provided a CD of the adventure.
Day 5 was supposed to be a rest day but we still got together at end of day for a fine dining meal at Le Bosquet, the best restaurant in Crested Butte.  Most of us feasted on the Day’s Special: garlic and olive oil-infused halibut with watercress/crab meat salad.  Others braved the ‘peppered elk and scallop/ specialty of the house. The evening featured the discussion on where the next reunion will be (2011) and the following places were nominated: Nova Scotia, Scotland, Austria, Ireland, and the Czech Republic. At the end of the meal we split into 3 groups: one went to a Chamber of Music concert, another to another of Don’s ball games, and I went back to the Columbine Cottage to finish the post.

Jim left on the morning of Day 6, so 4 couples were left for a nice wildflower tour in the morning near Kebler Pass.  The wildflowers were still ablaze in various hues of lavender, yellow, white, and orange. We also found out from Arlene, our guide and Gretchen's dear friend, that the area around Lake Irwin was where the movie Swiss Family Robinson was filmed.  The cabin there is still called the Hollywood Cabin. Then we had a scrumptious lunch at Last Steep Bar and Grill before heading on to an open rehearsal of La Boheme at the Center of Performing Arts. Then I got busy preparing the dinner for the night ( beef salpicado, green beans, carrots, and mushroom stir-fry) and Joy made her delicious blueberry buckle.

Then Day 7 was, of course spent shopping for souvenirs, idly chit-chatting and reminiscing some more, and just hanging out for more memories to be made.  In the evening Joy served her special chicken spaghetti and I helped with the garlic bread and buko pandan dessert for our last dinner together.

On our last morning (Day 8) we had a bountiful farewell breakfast before leaving for home. (Ours is at an RV storage in Denver near Bill’s daughter Suzanne’s home. The Mackies are driving to Houston, Texas and the Millers are driving to Denver and then flying to Concord, Massachusetts).  The thought of another reunion (the venue for which will be decided electronically by Labor Day 2010) gave us the courage of going our separate ways...for the meantime!

Next Stop: Visiting Family and Friends in Colorado, Part 2