It’s reminder time…especially for first time visitors to the area. Larger numbers and a little (entitlement) attitude make a big impact. It is July and we could all use a bit of help.
Several people touched base with me this past week about the numbers and their impacts on the place. There really should be no surprise when squeezing 1,000 people into a place where 750 fit comfortably that some things could go wrong. So we all need a little support—especially from the people who have never been here before…
More than a few people mentioned the traffic on Highway 285 coming from the Front Range. It was apparently bumper-to-bumper with the occasional Kyle Busch trying to pass to get—what?—two cars and 30 seconds ahead between Fairplay and Johnson’s Village?
The gas stations in Crested Butte ran out of gas for a brief period last weekend when the visitors filled up not just the truck but the RZRs and the ATVs being pulled by the truck. Hopefully they keep those off-road toys on the roads where (here) they belong.
Maybe the difference comes when a few rogue people feel entitled to walk through a wildflower meadow, crushing the color instead of walking on the trail. When a local “kindly and gently explained to them how this creates new trails and hurts the plant life, the response received from one individual was: ‘I don’t like walking on the trail.’”
Maybe it’s people not bothering to pack out the empty PBR cans they hauled up to Long Lake when they were heavier and full.
There are the people who camp by the no camping sign.
The campers who think it’s a good idea to dig out the fire pit and toss it over a rocky cliff that really is full of dry foliage and then start a fire.
How about the parents who watch their kids who run out between parked cars on Elk Avenue without looking and shrug it off when a car screeches to a halt.
The dude who can’t seem to figure out that gas-powered vehicles really can go 15 miles per hour.
The woman who didn’t think she’d have to poop in the woods on a hike like a bear but poops in the woods like a bear and doesn’t bury it.
So while July is not expected by anyone to be relaxing and mellow, there are limits to be aware of. Honestly, not all locals do what they should but most everyone tries to be aware. Many of the return visitors are almost evangelical in their zeal to protect the place. We are looking for help.
If you are new to the place, do yourself a favor and take a breath and slow down. You aren’t in Vegas so there is no need to act like it. Try to appreciate the nature around you and then think about how you are impacting it. It is best to try to not have too much impact. Nature will impact you for the rest of your life if you give it a chance.
The speed limit in Crested Butte really is 15. Take a picture of the signs and Instagram it or put it on your Facebook page so your friends back home believe you and then—seriously—drive 15. Better yet, park and walk.
Don’t pick the wildflowers. Again, take a picture and post it so your friends believe you saw something that colorful but leave them in the ground. That’s the way they come back next year.
It’s not unusual for locals or visitors to have a drink or two by the lake, the stream or the trail, but crush the can, put it in your backpack or car and toss it in a recycle container.
Don’t poop in the woods. Don’t leave your campfire until it is completely out. Don’t play loud music at midnight when you are camping near someone else. Don’t think you are the only one here for a good time.
Frankly, some locals started the summer season on an edge because it’s been a little rough the last few years. But most are polite and want to help the new people understand the importance of preservation. Don’t take offense when a polite person approaches you and tries to help you with suitable behavior for this environment.
This environment is different from that of the city and other places you might vacation. In fact, we now have several crews made up of locals whose goal it is to educate new people on backcountry etiquette. The local bike club’s Conservation Corps was up by Judd Falls on Sunday and for over six hours they reached out to the people in the 215 cars that parked near the trailhead in an effort to help them.
There it is. Help. The goal is not to embarrass you or degrade you or get you all defensive. The ultimate goal is to share knowledge about the place and have you embrace the specialness of this high mountain valley and then hopefully come back and help others do the same thing. This is a beautiful place and the town is unlike most others, so those who live here want to preserve that uniqueness.
Ultimately, we hope you’ll take that deep breath, slow down and appreciate the opportunity you have to be somewhere special. We want to keep it that way and we need your help to do that.
So—It’s not just about not doing stuff. Do breathe the air that is really, really clean. Do drink the tap water that tastes a lot better than anything you buy in a plastic bottle at the grocery. Do explore the woods and listen for deer and marmots and bears. They are all out there. Do stop in for a bite at the local restaurants and take home something from here instead of buying it online. Do watch the sun set behind a mountain while having a cocktail and take a photo of that for your Facebook because your friends won’t believe what you witnessed. Try out the single-track on a bike, one of the free concerts we hold or just step away from the TV about 10 o’clock at night, go outside and look up at the stars. You’ll see more than just about anywhere else in the world.
And have a good time doing it all…responsibly. Your soul will appreciate it—and so will we who live here all year.