Sitting on a tiled patio watching a lightning storm move across the lake, thunder rolling between the deep green hills, is a pretty nice way to spend a Friday evening. Especially after a day on the boat and in a wild thermal waterpark no American insurance company would touch located below a volcano. This isn’t Crested Butte.
To travel is to experience, and for me, it still brings an appreciation for what we have in our mountain valley, even as the changes speed up. It is a reminder that there are other beautiful places in the world. I am in Costa Rica as I write this and the views from the beach and in the jungle were incredible and the sight of the lake beneath verdant hillsides is like a Gauguin landscape.
As I talk to the locals on our journey, the conversation is similar to what we hear in Crested Butte. Change is coming to every nice place. Longtime locals leave to search for what they originally found in a special place. Meanwhile, others move in with all the extra comforts and fight against any more changes. The cycle continues to spin.
I read that residents in Monteverde voted to not fix the rough, potholed road so as to discourage more people from coming and overrunning their community. I can respect that. My housemates in CR didn’t all understand, given the potential economic benefits.
In Crested Butte, it has always seemed to be our path to choose to pursue changes and “improvements” that make our lives better—and if the visitors appreciate them, then that is fine. But the decisions we make are not an attempt to simply attract more commerce. Holding on to that core value is, I believe, important.
Which brings me to the case for perspective I have made before and I am sure I will again. It is not just the beauty of Crested Butte that is the draw that attracted and kept you here. It is ultimately the people. The like-minded souls who appreciate what you appreciate. The people who accept your quirks and ignore your mainstream foibles. The unified group wanting a rural existence with some modern comforts. Who can handle being far away from a Costco or a major airport or a food court. The people who desire incredibly easy and unusual access to the mountains and nature while also appreciating art and dance and discussion. The people who accept day drinking, weeding and sobriety.
Yeah, it is expensive to stay in Crested Butte. Yeah, the roads are more crowded, the trails more well-worn. But it is the ability to connect with like-minded people—your friends from years ago or the newbies who like what you like—that make a community. The migrants—yes, the migrants—who came here about the same time as you probably have become some of your finest friends. If those friends remain, it is the glue that can make or break the experience of community for you. That is the ultimate challenge of “the change”—keeping our friends here.
It is not the striking views of Paradise Divide, the wind playing music in the aspens or the experience of an evening ride on 401 that keeps you here. It is the people you can share those things with. It is the people who understand that magic experience, whether you are personally close to them or not. Whether it is riding 401 with a partner or perhaps sharing the experience over a beer afterward with a friend who had to work, it is the human connection that makes a community special. It is the fact that these experiences can be understood by a group of kindred individuals that makes one feel comfortable here. We all just happen to have found one of the good places.
That is the big reason Crested Butte continues to work as a community. It is the people who come together to make it a good place. They share the pain and the joy of community, whether it be a birth, a sudden death, graduations, weddings, new business ventures or any other myriad changes that come with a dynamic community.
So while it’s easy to get frustrated with the fast changes that seem to be constantly eroding away at what many see as “their” community, try to step back and see that while it may not always be easy, it is the people—your people—who truly keep the foundation of a community. Enjoy the evening bike rides and go listen to the wind in the aspens, but keep reaching out and sharing it all with your people.
Watching a Central American lightning storm is a fantastic experience, especially with the community of eight we have in this fantastic house. So is swimming in Arenal or getting thrashed in the waves of Nosara, but honestly, I can’t wait to return for the simple joy of a late afternoon ride on Lupine and then having a beer after to chat with friends—something most everyone in “my” community can understand.
It is the people…