Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Hartman's, Absinthe, Burley's, and Sherlock's

This past Friday Chad and I packed up the car and headed up to Gunnison and Crested Butte to spend the weekend. The plan was to stay with his brother Tyler and his girlfriend Brandi Friday night, hike Wetterhorn on Saturday with Meghan and Neil and stay in Crested Butte with them that night. Unfortunately, nature has a funny way of interrupting plans. Despite the fact Chad warned me there might be snow up on the mountains, I went ahead and rented a helmet in anticipation of my first class 3 climb. I wasn't going to be deterred. On the drive up, however, passing through Fairplay we saw that the Kite Lake 14ers (Demorcate, Lincoln and Bross) were covered with snow and low laying clouds. Then we reached the Collegiate Peaks in the Buena Vista area and this is what we were greeted with:

I believe I was in denial about the season. I just haven't been ready to give up my summer and 14er hiking. Coupled with the fact I was seeing this snow with my own eyes was the responses I was getting on 14ers.com about the conditions of Wetterhorn and how the way to learn how to climb a class 3 is not in mixed conditions. I felt defeated by the weather. I texted Meghan to tell her about the mountains and she said the Elk range was covered in snow too and that it looked like Wetterhorn would have to wait until next year. After all if every other 14er was covered in snow I'm sure Wetterhorn was too and with it being October, this snow wasn't going anywhere.
Weather wasn't going to put a damper on my weekend and I still knew with the abundance of things to do in Gunnison and Crested Butte plus great friends and family to see that we wouldn't go bored. After arriving in town Friday afternoon and meeting Chad's brother Tyler at his house in Gunnison, we walked over to the Turquoise Junction where Brandi works. Chad still owed me a piece of jewelry for our wedding anniversary so Brandi helped me select an awesome pale blue turquoise bracelet for which I can't remember the name of but it's one they are going to stop mining soon so it will increase in value. If you love turquoise or native American pottery and jewelry this place is worth stopping in and it's on the main street in town so it's hard to miss.
Friday night Neil and Meghan drove into town and we all went to dinner at The Trough. For how small Gunnison is, I still haven't experienced all of it's eateries or shops so I always like to eat someplace new when I visit. The Trough is a little outside of town on highway 50 and serves steaks and seafood as well as family style rolls and salad. They have everything from prime rib and lobster to chicken fried steak and scallops. I had the salmon which came, as all the entree's do with my choice of side so I had the baked potato. Coupled with the bread and salad it was almost too much to eat and I would say, well worth the $20 price tag. It's likely the most expensive restaurant in town (that I've ever seen at least) but the food is really good and the staff more than accommodating. Afterward we went to the Sonic for dessert where Chad's brother is the kitchen manager. You can't beat sonic for milkshakes!

Since we were not hiking on Saturday I was hell bent on doing something outdoors. I left it up to Neil and Tyler to come up with a perfect activity to which they suggested we head out to Hartman Rocks.

Hartman Rocks is open year round with the summer season extending from April to October. You can hike, rock climb, horse back ride, ski, snowshoe or (most popular) mountain bike through the single and double track trails. There are more than 20 trails on 8,000 acres of public land making possibilities for fun out here (as well as getting lost!) endless. Located just south of Gunnison, it's a high mountain dessert which is blessed, like much of Colorado, with 300 days of sunshine a year. Due to the fact there are no trees in the area, it was indeed very warm and made for perfect rock climbing weather - our goal for the day. There are an assortment of large boulders for the very popular "bouldering"- free climbing without rope and just a crash pad, but we opted for one of the many climbing routes. We were going to attempt Buddha's Belly but when we got there saw people on the route so we headed over to Beginner's Slab. If you head out here I'd definitely recommend getting a map or going with someone who knows the area because it would be easy to get lost out here and it's not like the climbing routes are advertised. Luckily I was with locals who not only knew the routes but how to belay and set up ropes as well!

Neil took me to the top of the route and showed me how to hang the rope into the bolts which are secured deep inside the rock. Then we went down to the bottom where he set up the belay and Tyler volunteered to go first. After seeing his attempt and some coaching from Meghan, I felt confident enough to go second.

Here I am getting my climbing harness checked. Meghan explained you always want your climbing buddy to check and make sure your harness straps are double looped. Then Neil and Tyler showed me how to tie my figure eight into the rope on my harness which would keep me secure. Note, I did not have to wear a helmet but since I rented one for the weekend I was determined to get my $11 worth!
Honestly, I wasn't sure how far I'd make it. I had just watched Tyler and he had gotten stuck right after this little ledge here:
You can't tell so much because it's a photograph of course but after that ledge there really aren't any hand or foot holds to speak of. So I took a break and assessed my situation:

I believe rock climbing, like yoga or hiking 14ers, is 90% mental and 10% physical. So I faced the rock and pretended like I was hiking a 14er. I told myself, "How are you going to hike the Maroon Bells if you can't even get up this?" That Dr. Suess quote began playing in my mind:
"When things start to happen
don't worry, don't stew
Just go right along,
you'll start happening too"
And you know what, it worked. I just started moving my legs, listening to my cheering partners below and things started to happen. Before I knew it I reached the top:

Or my top anyways. I could not find a solid hold past that crack and work my way up the overhang. Maybe with a little more practice I'll be able to do it someday.
Chad took his turn after me and did very well for someone who is self professed, "Out of shape.
Since Chad went to Western State he is very familiar with Hartman Rocks and spent a lot of time out here in his college days. He hasn't climbed in probably just as many years as I haven't. I was so proud to see him make in his element and he in fact made it farther than I did - he got his feet in that crack but still couldn't make it over the hump to top out. It would take Meghan to finally prove that reaching the top could in fact be done. She is a natural climber and was scrambling up the rocks on her turn before we could blink our eyes. She told me her first date with her now husband Neil he took her rock climbing so it's as embedded in their relationship as hiking is to Chad and I's.

Here we are in awe at how far she made it so quickly:

And here is my favorite photo of the weekend taken right before Meghan reached the top. Don't they make a great husband and wife team?:

There was a lot of encouraging going on here because she wasn't sure of her footing and there's basically nowhere to put your feet or your hands but somehow she made it and we were all so proud.
I think everyone should go rock climbing at some point with their significant other. It teaches you a lot about strength and trust, especially when your partner is the one belaying you. I also realized through rock climbing that sometimes you can't always see where you are going but that doesn't mean you aren't headed in the right direction. Trust your instincts and don't give up and you may surprise yourself. I can't wait to enjoy this activity more in the future and as a bonus my pecs and lat muscles are still sore.

After a full day outside we decided to head indoors to the Dogwood Cocktail Cabin in Crested Butte. I mentioned this place in my last post and it did not disappoint. Being that it's that awkward time in mountain towns between summer and winter seasons we learned the Dogwood was about to be closed for the next 6 weeks after Saturday night. This meant they were out of a lot of signature cocktails, however, they were practically giving the martini's away at $6 which is $4 off the regular price (you can still catch this deal during happy hour when they reopen after Thanksgiving). We chose to start off the night here because their cocktails are so delicious we wanted to actually taste and remember them before the real drinking of the night began.

If you like, or have ever wanted to try absinthe this is the place to do so. The cocktail in the champagne glass that I had is Ernest Hemingway's drink called, "Death in the afternoon." it's absinthe, champagne and lemon and it was amazing.

Here's Chad and I with our martini's. I don't remember exactly what was in mine except it was infused with habanero which sounds disgusting but actually gave the drink a nice firey tang to it - perfect for cold winter nights in Crested Butte.

After a few cocktails we walked down the street (I love how you can walk anywhere in town here) to the Secret Stash. While I have had and enjoyed (obviously) their pizza before, Neil turned me on to the locals favorite: the Sherlock. It's not on the menu of course, but you order a Sherlock pie from the waitress which is basically chef's choice. We also ordered an, "Everything but..." which was a vegetarian's delight complete with truffle oil and tons of mushrooms (which I hate but the pizza was good anyways). I must admit with it's variety of dipping sauces it was served with and the combo of sweet and spicy, the Sherlock was my favorite:

After a night out on the town the best part of waking up on Sunday was the promise of breakfast from the Gas Cafe. Another favorite that I mentioned from my earlier post, it just wouldn't be a complete trip to CB without breakfast from here. It's a little bit of a longer walk from N&M's house and it was chilly out so we opted for the most popular transportation in town - biking!

N&M were kind enough to let us ride their tandem bike while they rode their cruisers. This is the same bike they rode down the mountain into town on their wedding day. Yes, Meghan rode a bike in the freezing rain on her wedding day, she's a trooper! I have to say, I have never rode a bike like this before and always wanted too so check that off the bucket list. It's a little tricky to balance the weight but once you get going it's so much fun. Chad is always ahead of me biking so if we had one of these we could always be right together and it makes talking to each other easier. I am definitely adding one of these to my Christmas list!
Meghan and I went shopping around town while the boys watched football where I bought some Red Lady Tibetan prayer flags. If you are familiar with Crested Butte there's a big issue going on with Red Lady and the people who want to mine the mountain vs. everyone else who doesn't want to see it destroyed. I've always wanted some Tibetan prayer flags and these are authentic and the proceeds benefit saving Red Lady. I bought mine at the Crested Butte history museum right on main street but I am sure other stores in town sell them as well. A great cause and souvenir from the area.
Just when the weekend began it seemed it was over and time to go home. I know we will be spending a lot more time in Gunnison and Crested Butte in the future as Chad and I will be an aunt and uncle soon and we will definitely want to be back to visit our soon to be born nephew. I'm so thankful for our friendship with Neil and Meghan too and though I'm sad they live far away, I'm so happy they live in such an amazing place we get to go visit. Denver is great but I hope to be a part of the mountain lifestyle in the future. All the mountain needs is snow now in Crested Butte and our new activity will be going down instead of up!

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