I’ve heard good things about Crested Butte: it was recommended in both my guidebook and in a magazine as a great little small town. And since they’ve also got a hostel, I decide to go. The hostel turns out to be the newest and largest hostel I’ve been to, and I have it almost all to myself. But the town turns out to be pretty much shut down: it’s too late for skiing and too early for good hiking and wildflowers. In the morning, I find all the stores and restaurants closed. It’s a bummer. But walking down the deserted street I notice that even if everything were open it wouldn’t be my kind of place. The restaurants are mostly either Mexican or pizza. The stores are the kind that sell $300 hiking pants and bicycles that cost more than my car. It’s too bad. Such a beautiful setting for a little town.
I stop in the visitor’s center and take their advice on a local hike. At the trailhead is a sign warning that mountain lions were seen in the caves at the top of the hill a couple days ago. I’m not terribly frightened of mountain lions, but when I get to the top of the mountain I see that the trail leads right in front of the caves, and the path is steep and slippery and muddy so that I can’t really take my eyes off the ground to make sure there aren't any mountain lions around. So I feel a little more vulnerable making my way past the caves, trying not to look like an injured deer as I slip a little. But once the danger is past I take a look back. The caves are pretty cool.
The next day I come across Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. I’ve never heard of it. It’s a small park with a road along the rim of the canyon and a lot of pull-offs to walk out to the edge and snap pictures. The rock walls aren’t particularly beautiful in terms of colors, but there are a couple of ‘wow’ moments. One view is named Painted Wall for the ribbons of contrasting stone that band the cliff. Looking down at the vibrant green river way down below on the valley’s floor it’s hard to believe that such a deep canyon was created by such a small river.