Sunday, August 25, 2019

The signs and the crescendo

The signs are there.

I’m not talking about the sheeple who have bought a half a million dollars worth of plastic straws with Trump’s name on them at $15 for a pack of 10—about 150 times more expensive than the average straw—a sign that Donald’s support is strong with his people.

I’m not talking the number of Crested Butte restaurants and stores that have to close a day or two a week during the absolute busiest time of the tourist season because the staff is stretched so thin.

I’m not talking about what New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd calls the “purity racket” where certain “progressives” would rather embrace fantasy and insist everyone else must too instead of figuring out an effective strategy to replace Donald through smart strategic politics. Instead they castigate fellow Dems for what Dowd frames as zealots harping against “chocolate, high heels, parties and fun.”

I’m not talking about increasing frustration and shortening tempers locals are feeling as they feel squeezed. Well, maybe I am. It is that time of the summer tourist season.

But I’m actually talking about the first sign of fall red in the ground cover. The first sign of seeds showing on the dazzling flowers that continue to blanket fields. The mushrooms that are sprouting beneath moist tree trunks.

Yeah, Crested Butte summer is over. Okay, not over, but waning and understand that when it comes it can come fast. Right now, it still gets hot—I mean high 70s hot. The camping spots are still stacked up the Slate. Lines are still forming at 5:30 p.m. for dinner along Elk. But the sun rises later and sets earlier. The monsoon rains are becoming more typical. The smell of school starting in Texas, Oklahoma and Denver is starting to rise and those second homeowners are lamenting that their time in the high mountain village is coming to an end.

Summer started late this year. It snowed on the summer solstice. The deep powder of last winter didn’t leave. People skied until … now. The people who showed up in May of 2018 didn’t come here until late June or even July this year. My guess is that Front Rangers could easily monitor the backcountry snow situation so they knew that hiking or biking was limited. And it was comfortable in Boulder until a few weeks ago when the temps finally pushed closer to the 100-degree mark and they hopped in their cars, hit Highway 285 to find relief in the cool climes of these mountain valleys. Business owners have told me the numbers were down in June. July was the busiest month of the year, as has become the norm, and this year was no exception. This week is the normal crescendo of summer season.

Normally, the overwhelming summer busyness ends about the middle of August. That is likely to happen again. School is school and the visiting families will take off with memories of once in a generation wildflowers, sweet evening music, the Milky Way popping in the night sky and a small town with flower boxes on its one main street.

This is the crescendo. It is the weekend of the Crested Butte Arts Festival. Elk Avenue will be closed. The Friday evening opening can be one of the best times to stroll downtown Crested Butte. I like that this town celebrates art pretty much all year long but puts it in the middle of the core this particular weekend. I like that this weekend is the climax with art and ducks and from here a bit more sanity begins to return. It will still be busy and people will still make money from tourism for a few more months but the overwhelming deluge will begin to lighten up.

Which brings me to the issue I write about as much as anything. There are some, but not many, currently living here who want to see this level of busyness all year long. Ouch. Read what the Conservation Corps is dealing with: poop, entitlement, trash, backcountry chaos. Understand the strain on the infrastructure and our psyche when all we want is more, more, more.

We mostly accept it now and it helps us pay the rent and mortgage in October and that is a good thing. So don’t forget that when your temper begins to flare because a SUV cut you off at the Four-Way Stop. Instead of cursing the dirt biker on the trail he or she is entitled to use as much as you when you are hiking or mountain biking, look inside and call upon more patience and peace to share what we all enjoy. A smile goes a lot further and is better karma than a finger.

Know that we will soon see the light of the time when it is busy enough to work—but not all the time. The time is close when working one shift a day instead of a double three times a week is the norm. It will soon be the time to take a breath and appreciate why you live here. The slow season gives you time to experience the place—both the backcountry time and the Elk Avenue bench time. And I’d rather have more time than more money.

I have tried to convince the local powers that be to not tell the world they should come visit in the off-season. They don’t necessarily agree with me, so I think I’ve sort of lost that battle in September as the long weekend traffic continues to grow in the fall. Thank goodness October (and May and early June and early November) can be great as well. Shhhh.

But enough about the future. It is what it is and we’ll see what it is in a month.

In the meantime, the signs are there: Wildflowers are seeding, mushrooms are sprouting, red ground cover is appearing. Breathe a bit more deeply. Practice patience a little bit more diligently. Hang in there for the end of this season. The crescendo of summer is this week. As the sign we showed in the paper last week says: Be a Better Human. That is good advice for all of us.

Your time is coming.

—Mark Reaman

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