Friday, August 12, 2011

Crested Butte weekend of rafting and relaxing

This past weekend my in-laws came to Denver and we headed up to the mountains for a little weekend getaway. My in-laws have a cottage in Northern Michigan and spend almost every weekend there in the summer, so it's rare that they travel to Denver this time of year. They usually wait for the snow to fall when they can get away from the gray days of Michigan and go skiing in sunny Denver. For years they have been saying they want to come visit in the summer and enjoy a different perspective of the mountains. Well this year was finally the year.

Crested Butte is one of their favorite mountain towns in all of Colorado so it was decided we would spend the weekend here. It's also convenient for my brother in-law and his girlfriend since they live in Gunnison and have a baby which makes traveling a little harder for them. Friday morning we packed up the car (my in-laws, Chad and I) and made the 4 hour drive to Crested Butte. We decided that, since it was summer and the road was open, we would take Cottonwood Pass. If you remember, this is the pass we camped on the weekend before last for the Collegiate Peaks music festival. Chad and I had wondered what was on the other side of this pass and where it led too so we were in for a treat. After you get to the top of the pass the road turns into dirt but it's not a bad dirt road and the views are amazing:

You can see the Elk Mountain Range from the top of the pass and then it winds you down through the trees and finally to the Taylor Reservoir (which we spotted last weekend from the top of Huron!).

I would say this option for driving to Crested Butte shaved at least 20 minutes off our arrival time and is a beautiful scenic drive in the summer. Cottonwood Pass is closed after September.

Upon arriving in CB we checked in to the Elevation Hotel and Spa which was formerly a Club Med. It's right at the base of Mount Crested Butte ski resort and we had a view of the mountain from our balcony. It's mountain biking season now so we could watch the bikers come down the trails on the front side of the mountain.

The hotel has a restaurant which we had breakfast at and served as our happy hour meeting spot in the evening. I thought the food and drinks were great but the service leaves much to be desired. There's also a restaurant called The Avalanche which is right around the corner from the hotel which has a little faster service and cheaper drinks. Of course my favorite coffee spot ever, Camp 4 now has a spot on the mountain (the original is in town) which I highly recommend for your morning beverages. The hotel is pet friendly and has a kitchenette in the room and the staff is very hospitable. They also have free yoga on Saturday mornings so bring a yoga mat if you stay here. The gym was one of the best I've ever seen in a hotel (and I have stayed at a LOT of hotels) and they also have a steam room in the locker rooms. The ladies had massages and facials at the spa there which made for a relaxing end to the weekend. I can't remember the last time I've had a massage or facial so that was a special treat.

Our Saturday activity was white water rafting. This has been on my bucket list for quite some time so I was excited my father in-law had arranged this for us. We used the Three Rivers company and I would highly recommend them for any first time rafter. We did the Upper Taylor Extender trip which gives you an extra 2.5 miles of rafting. I must say I was a little nervous in the beginning when your guide gives you the low down on how to save yourself should you find yourself thrown overboard, but it turns out once on the water the paddling comes naturally. Our guide was named Emil and he did a great job navigating us through the Taylor and even getting us un-stuck off a rock when we nailed one (they call it, having an "archeology project").

(taking a break on the banks with our guide to the far right)

(white water action)

Usually in August there's not a high enough water level left to have a successful rafting trip but we had so much snow melt that conditions were perfect for our trip. I started out in the back which is a good place to be if you are nervous or don't care to get too wet. However, by the end I traded with Chad for the front where all the action is. Listen to your guide and paddle when he says and you won't be in any danger of falling out or getting hurt.

Our stay at the hotel included free lift tickets for the Silver Queen so after our spa day on Sunday we took the lift up to the highest point you could on Mount Crested Butte. I should have known better and prepared for the wind that picked up along the chair lift but of course I didn't think to wear long pants.

While the rest of the family rode the lift down, Chad and I took the opportunity to hike to the summit of Mount Crested Butte. It took us about 45 minutes from the chair lift to the top and was well worth the hike. There were quite a few people making the trek up but it's not really an easy hike once you get to the rocky part about a quarter mile from the top. There's some rock scrambling so be prepared and don't wear shorts like I did and you won't be paranoid about skinning a knee. The views from the top (elevation 12,162 feet) were amazing and you could see Pyramid Peak and the Maroon Bells very clearly:

(Teocali in the front with Pyramid Peak behind it - a notoriously hard 14er)

(the Maroon Bells - another goal in my 14er hiking career)

(summit bandits do it again)

The views from the top of the mountain were on par for any of the 14ers I have summitted so far but with half the work involved. If you visit Crested Butte this is a must do for any avid hiker and you can also make the trek from the base of the mountain as well.

Like most weekends when you are having fun, the time went by far too quickly and before we knew it, it was time to pack up the car and head home. While in town visiting the Art Fair that was going on we dined at The Secret Stash which is my favorite restaurant in CB and always a crowd pleaser. For having such a short weekend in such a beautiful part of the state we managed to fit almost every "must do" in. The best part, however, was spending time together as a Magee family and enjoying every minute of each others company. CB in the summer is beautiful and in my opinion it's even better there this time of year than winter. You will also find cheaper prices on lodging and shorter lines in the restaurants...well everywhere but Camp 4, but hey people need their Americano's year round!

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