My husband Michael and I have made a tradition of going somewhere new every New Year’s. So far we’ve done Italy, Spain and France, Switzerland, Jackson Hole, and, most recently, Crested Butte. However, that last trip was cut short for various reasons, and we’ve been anxious to go back all year.
While the beginning of summer is cause for celebration in many parts of the country, we Texans (or at least this particular Texan) wait to break out the bubbly until the end of this hellish season, and Michael and I decided that a post-Labor Day trip to Colorado would be the perfect way to toast the beginning of fall.
Last time we went to Crested Butte we drove the entire way (with our Great Dane). It was a pretty drive but it took a solid seventeen hours, so this time around we flew into Denver, rented a car, and drove the very doable four-ish hours to the Pioneer Guest Cabins. Aside from missing my dog, everything about our quick weekend getaway was perfect.
We got up at 3:30 a.m. to get to DFW for our 6 a.m. flight. Consequently, breakfast was the first order of business upon our arrival in Denver. But rather than heading into the city, I thought it would be infinitely more memorable to find a place to eat in a smaller town on the way to Crested Butte. We rolled into tiny Bailey, Colorado, about an hour later and stopped at the Cut Throat Cafe. There was a short wait because the tables were all occupied with locals and passers-through, and with good reason: the food and service are equally lovely. For such a small establishment, the menu was quite impressive. Michael had an omelette and I opted for a cup of hot chocolate and the two-egg breakfast, which at less than $4 was a steal.
Bellies full, we hit the road and drove the remaining three hours to Crested Butte. Check-in at the cabins is at 4 p.m., but we arrived a few hours early and asked if ours might be available. It was, and the owners graciously let us check in a little early. We unloaded our car, went out to fetch groceries and libations for the night, and came back for a power nap before starting dinner.
The cabins have small but impressively equipped kitchens, so I was able to whip up a pretty decent feast of pasta and garlic bread. Kita, the owners’ dog, decided to join us at the picnic table, and she was a welcome guest. After dinner Michael got the fire pit going and we sipped some very fine Belgian beer while warming ourselves in the chilly Colorado evening. Having slept so little the night before, we went to bed around 10:30, drunk on the pristine mountain air that seemed to rid us of all our pedestrian, lower-altitude troubles.
The next morning we woke up early, started the coffee maker, and lingered over a cabin-perfect breakfast of scrambled eggs and French toast. Afterwards, we set out to take advantage of the dreamy weather and decided to rent an ATV and explore the mountains. The roughly three-hour journey took us through some breathtaking scenery that we wouldn’t have been able to see unless we were very ambitious hikers. I haven’t seen anything quite so awe-inspiring since our trip to Switzerland.
After our ATV adventure we drove back to the cabin, rested up, and explored the tranquil hiking trails adjacent to the river just outside our door. The air was cool and clean, the sound of water rushing by was intoxicating, and the Aspen leaves all but glowed in the late afternoon sunlight. It was just what I needed after spending months in the mind-numbing Texas heat.
For dinner we went into town just as the sun was setting and stopped at Secret Stash, a lively pizza joint on Elk Avenue (I’d venture to guess that the name is a tongue-in-cheek nod to Colorado’s recent . . . herbal liberation). It was especially busy due to But Light’s rather obnoxious Whatever, USA campaign, which happened to have taken over Crested Butte during our stay. But the food was excellent and the beer selection was pleasantly and appropriately heavy on Colorado offerings.
We were in bed fairly early again that night and we woke up early the next morning in hopes of cooking all of our remaining food for breakfast before checking out. Some cabin neighbors had given us their leftover rations before departing the previous day, so we had a surplus of eggs and butter and potatoes. An epic feast ensued.
Our flight out of Denver wasn’t until 8 p.m., so we left Crested Butte around 11 a.m. and headed toward the city early to do some exploring. As previously mentioned, Colorado has a great many breweries, and we ended up landing at Great Divide. I highly recommend paying them a visit—$3 gets you three samples, and each additional one is just $1. I wasn’t a huge fan of their Belgian-styles, but their stouts and pale ales were spot-on. It was the perfect ending to a perfect trip.
Back at the airport, I reluctantly boarded our plane back to the real world, where summer is not quite over and nature is far less inspiring. But it’s nice to know that incredible places do exist, and that they’ll be waiting there for me until I can return.