Fiasco according to Webster: a complete failure
Jim didn’t want to leave the Cimarron area. He felt like we had the perfect camp site and with Labor Day coming up he believed that we would encounter crowds and a lot more generators than the one belonging to Pete and Jayne , our neighbors at Cimarron. They were courteous and mindful of when they were running their generator. But my Goldilocks persona kicked in and I felt that we could find something better than mooing cows as neighbors. Did I tell you he spoils me? So we packed up and started heading towards Gunnison. I had read about beautiful dispersed camping outside of Crested Butte in the Lost Lake area.
We arrived in Gunnison, late morning and my sweetie headed to the two fly fishing shops in town. I have been agonizing for him because of his torn rotator cuff. I know he is dying inside a little since he can’t fly fish. But he is determined to heal quickly and not let his shoulder freeze up due to lack of use.
Gunnison is a cool little town, small, touristy but not tacky and the people are very friendly. We made a stop at a little produce stand and picked up some fresh Poblano peppers; a small bunch of dried Chili Ristras, and a bag of medium hot freshly roasted mixed peppers. Then we stopped at Mario’s for two mini pizzas to go ( lunch on the road). Mario’s has been in business for 40 years so you know they are doing something right. The pizzas were delicious. Our only regret was that we didn’t get larger ones!
With our bellies full we headed towards Crested Butte and the access road to Lost Lake. The area surrounding Gunnison is beautiful and we pretty much followed the Gunnison River to Crested Butte. Did I tell you we stopped at a fly fishing shop in Altmont ? If it’s not a bakery we are seeking out it’s a fly fishing shop!
Did I mention that one of the largest brown trout was caught in the Gunnison at Altmont? 30 pounds, I heard that story many times so I felt the need to share with you, lol.
Crested Butte is a beautiful town, construction was underway for a new art center when we passed through. It’s a town known for cross country skiing, something we both love, so I have a feeling this town may be on our list for a return trip in the winter.
That list gets longer and longer. And we get older and older, both wishing we had started this way of traveling in our thirties. Oh well, no regrets. We’ve been camping one way or another since we married in the early 70’s. Wishing we were younger doesn’t make it happen. We work very hard at living in the present moment, enjoying what we have and what we can experience. With gratitude at all times we realize that each moment is our best moment. Are we surrounded by rainbows and sunshine, hell no! Is it all lovey dovey, hell no! We have our challenges and our “ I’ll never speak to you again “ moments. But we know what it is important to each of us and we know with all our heart what we are grateful for and we know we love each other.
When we left Cimarron, I told Jim he had the option to say “ I told you so”, if we arrived at Lost Lake and it was jammed packed; he just chuckled.
Highway 12 is the access road out of Crested Butte and its another incredibly beautiful drive over Kebler Pass (9200ft elevation). It’s a gravel road in pretty good condition, but very dusty and some surprise washboard type spots. There is no dispersed camping along Hy 12, the pullouts are clearly marked “No Camping”. But there are plenty of forest roads that branch off and looked inviting. But no stopping us, Lost Lake here we come.
Once we took the turnoff, forest Road 706, we began a non stop climb. We passed several sites with folks dispersed camping in the shade of the pines and my inner Goldilocks was saying oh oh. Jim was going to be saying I told you so at any moment.
We made it to the top and I could tell from his expression that he was not happy. Lost Lake was a fee area, and if you remember we did not have our access pass. Since our plan on this trip, and the reason for buying the 4×4 , was to get away from fee areas and out into the Wild, Jim was going to make a point that #1 we were not going to pay; and #2 we were definitely not going to pay full price. And we definitely weren’t going to take the last site, stuck in the shade of large trees. Good bye Goldilocks, no more camping decisions for you!
I knew he was upset with me, but not as upset as I was with myself. We didn’t speak all the way down off the plateau from Lost Lake. I told him I wasn’t going to make any more camping decisions and wherever he wanted to camp was fine with me.
He found a turn off into an open area surrounded by aspens with views of the mountains, it was a sweet spot. Unfortunately neither one of us were in a sweet mood. I grabbed my camera and took off on a hiking trail that pointed in the direction of a promising sunset. I was gone for about 45 minutes, giving us both time to cool off. I was welcomed back to camp with open arms, whew..
In the morning we came up with a new plan to point towards Paonia while keeping our eyes open for promising areas. As we came within about 15 miles of Paonia we passed National Forest access for Coal Creek. It looked really promising. We drove about 10 miles in, passing two or three potential sites. I knew we were climbing higher and higher and away from the creek. When suddenly I spotted a road far below us that paralleled the creek . I could see two campers at one end ,at the bend in the creek . But there were open areas away from them along the creek with plenty of sunshine.
Definitely a 4×4 road. When we got to the bottom we found our spot overlooking the creek. The water running over the rocks would lull us to sleep every night. We barely saw our neighbors camped to the north of us. And no one else showed up for the Labor Day week end. What an incredible spot. Scrub jays flying back and forth; river otters surfing the stream; hummingbirds flitting around and beautiful scenery every way we turned.
Talk about gorgeous, let me tell you about the Fish and Wildlife Ranger who showed up to check our hunting permits. Tall, slim waisted, muscular arms, tight jeans and a smile that could melt ice. Whew, double whew. He was so sweet when he found out we weren’t hunting, only camping, apologized for bothering us, and was on his way. Enough said!
We camped here along Coal Creek for 5 days and enjoyed every moment.
We had delicious, spicy hot poblano quesadillas; peppery pork fajitas made with the roasted peppers we bought in Gunnison; and we finished off that delicious mixed berry cream cheese and bagels from Backstreet Bagels.
We didn’t realize how steep and rutted the road was until we had to climb back out !
Where to next? Eventually, if we can reach him, we will end up visiting Jim’s Yellowstone hiking buddy, Kenny, in Canon City. We plan on checking out Maroon Bells, Leadville, Cottonwood Pass, And Buena Vista as we make our way towards Canon City.
Safe travels, happy trails and remember, This is the best moment of your life