It would not be hard to fall into a pool of insanity these days. We have a pandemic that has upended our lives. The grass is becoming crunchy underfoot, signaling fire danger lurks beneath us. Murder hornets and drought are out there. People are on a razor-thin edge so the slightest twitch can set someone off beyond what would be a normal response.
You want to go insane? Here are some opportunities.
—Head out to any trailhead in the upper valley with the expectation that it will look like it did five or 10 or 20 years ago. Oh no. The equation is messed up with more people here in general these days and health orders saying you shouldn’t ride with friends so everyone should take their own vehicle to the start of a backcountry hike or bike. The Long Lake trailhead on Washington Gulch stretched up and down the road with parked cars for what seemed a mile on Sunday afternoon. Trailheads are getting pounded.
—And so is the backcountry, as relayed by the Crested Butte Conservation Corps. This fine group is out there engaging people and cleaning up the backyard that is getting pounded. And everything points to a lot of cleanup being needed. People—both locals and visitors—are out camping and a lot of them aren’t that good at it. They are going where they shouldn’t, being loud when they should be quiet, leaving trash when they should pack it out and just not treating our backyard like their backyard. The CBCC is trying to spread the word through education but it appears there is a stream of newbies here to party and isolate themselves in what they think is a Disneyland but is really a delicate wilderness.
—Speaking of… Try finding a private camping spot near town on the weekend. The drainages are full of people coming from all over Colorado, Texas and California. What would normally be a getaway from people is more likely to be a meet-and-greet of new neighbors. And as pointed out above, not all of them understand backcountry etiquette. When I first moved here a friend said it didn’t take that much to leave people behind. ”Just go up another thousand feet,” he advised. That advice probably still holds but instead of being alone near the top of the Slate River it puts you on top of Frigid Air Pass a few feet from the frat party from Boulder.
—Here’s an idea to easily push you into insanity… Schedule a really important phone call from your cell phone during a busy summer holiday. Closing a big deal? Transferring money? Finally find the courage to ask her out? Dial it up any time between Thursday evening and Sunday. Make sure you are outside of the towns and just far enough away to get a bar or two in the upper left of the screen. What could possibly go wrong?
—Want to grab a quick dinner on Elk? Good luck with that as local restaurants have done what they can to meet public health orders meant to stem the spread of the coronavirus but still can’t find enough employees. That means the wait staff and kitchen crews are scrambling in the newly opened outdoor areas designed to keep people safe from the virus, but they are maxed. Give the people helping you out a break and understand they’re doing what they can under very strange circumstances. Don’t expect a 40-minute gig from sit-down to paying the check. That’s more likely the wait-list time. So take your time and enjoy where you are. The food will be great, the service fine. Just enjoy what is offered.
—Try getting from the school parking lot to the Gas Café really fast about 4:30 in the afternoon? Sure. It actually won’t take super long but you will be in a stream of bumper-to-bumper traffic making its way through stop signs. You’ll get that nice city feel. There is no car pool express lane so it would actually be faster to ride a bike at that time of day. Thinking you’ll “be there in a second” will drive you insane. If you are trying to turn left across that stream of cars, take a really deep breath.
—Why wouldn’t you think you could go to the bar and tip a few back with your friends while running into people you haven’t seen in a while? Because there’s a pandemic! And you can’t do a lot of things you would like to do. There are now measures in place that have proven to slow down that dang virus that can ultimately kill some people. So pay attention. Don’t mingle in the bars like it is spring break. Wear a mask if you are able and they are now required even outside in certain places. Wash your hands and just try to stay socially distanced from people—especially the sneezers who have a dry cough.
—Try finding out the absolutes about COVID-19. There remains so much mystery still about the little virus that has shifted how the world works. Who will get it? The elderly and those with certain health conditions are more likely than the young but COVID can snag anybody. If you had it and tested positive for antibodies, are you immune forever? No one will absolutely say that’s the case. Will it mutate and bring a second wave? Maybe. It’s the maybes that can push you over the insanity edge.
—Will it be all over in a month or two? You wish. Maybe Donald is right and it will just go away. I hope he’s right but just thinking that sounds insane. Tuesday’s headline on the internet was: “Texas reports more COVID-19 cases in single day than any EU country as cases rise by 10,000.” That doesn’t sound like it’s disappearing tomorrow.
—Will lifts spin in November? If not, it will be insanity central. Let’s not go to that edge yet.
As the number of people coming here goes up like the temperatures, people find themselves more on edge. Add in the pandemic situation, dry conditions that have pushed us into a fire ban, and rules that have changed our lives going into day 115, and there is a flammable mix out there.
I will say again: Take a breath and slow down. Look around and appreciate where you are. It’s really nice here right now. Don’t have expectations that can only disappoint. Try to stay socially distanced, wear a mask if able and wash your hands. Keep doing the good work that keeps the virus down in this valley. The weirdness will pass eventually but in the meantime, avoid (or embrace) the insanity.