Summer solstice and balance

That big sound heard Monday in the North Valley was not the noon whistle – it was a collective community sigh that there was a full day of sunshine and blue skies and, according to the weather icons on the phone, that is going to last more than a few days. It had been a rough spring with chilly temperatures, lots of rain and even some spitting snow with a four-inch June pow-cam sighting last weekend. Sunshine and a blue sky brought a big sense of relief. I know we always need the moisture, but it finally brought the balance we need up here where we expect 300 or more days of sunshine a year.

Summer officially started Wednesday with the solstice. It is the longest day of the year up here in Crested Butte and so we won’t mention the turn in terms of daylight that took place as a result. The summer solstice has also come to mark the start of the gangbuster summer tourism season and we are certainly witnessing the influx of visitors here to escape heat and tornadoes down south. It’s easy to want to be up here at 9,000 feet in the Rocky Mountains when it’s 100 degrees in Texas. And this is the time to accept those seeking a mountain getaway while sharing the town, the trails and the backcountry. Seriously. What’s the point of bemoaning the temporary influx of people to a nice place? They are part of the balance. The important thing is that we as a community actively address that balance…and we are.

There is the more than occasional need to remind some that live here that it is in large part because of the summer visitors that we get to live here year round. We as a community made the choice when we decided to successfully fight a mine that we are living in a tourist town. That’s a good thing. We have been fairly thoughtful in trying to mitigate ramifications of a tourist economy over a mining economy. That communal choice doesn’t mean that people can come in here and wreak havoc without consequence. There is no reason to put up with jerks who act entitled because they have a black credit card. They can eat dirt. But it also means that it makes sense to expect the crowds and all that they bring and understand that the next six to eight weeks is a time to fatten up the bank account while taking advantage of the events that wouldn’t be here without visitors. The addition of recreational amenities to our valley are due in large part to the tourists and second homeowners that appreciate the same things residents appreciate. It’s not the end of the road, undiscovered, tiny town that is the draw anymore. I miss that time and there are still elements of that attraction for sure, but it is the recreational and artistic amenities that makes a June snow easier to tolerate these days. 

The people who have chosen to live in this place have done a pretty good job of finding a balance between being able to reside in a mountain paradise and accepting the impacts that come with the challenges. Understand that there will be lines at any restaurant. There will be fewer places to grab a drink or bite to eat so maybe wait until August before thinking it will be easy to pop into your favorite eatery at 7 o’clock without a reservation. Know that a lot of people won’t understand what it means to actually drive 15 mph so be aware when walking or riding your townie and let the speeders know if they are going too fast or blowing through stop signs. Crusty local attitude is still part of the CB charm but think charming instead of jerky. If you think you can text your buddy in Michigan and get an immediate response anytime between, say June 29 and August 15, think again. The internet and phone service are about to get…challenging. The backcountry will be packed and the dust at sunset will indicate how many people are rushing back to their campsites after eating out.

The balance comes in acceptance and preparation. Whether it is the CB Conservation Corps out there educating visitors and picking up remnants of backcountry mayhem; the local governments working to provide more places for workers to live near their jobs; people working to encourage more walking and bike riding in the town; or the residents choosing to provide funding for expanded skateparks, schools and trails, the thought is there to find balance. It really is a thoughtful place.

When it gets to be a bit much, remember you can go another 500 feet up in elevation and usually find yourself alone. Walk the alleys instead of Elk Ave. Ride that trail no one has heard of instead of 401 (which may not be rideable for a while anyway). Don’t have the expectation that communication will be easy with your phone or that you can pull into a campsite up the Slate and find solitude unless you know where to go. According to this week’s Wildflower Watch, “yarrow flower essence is valued as a protector when dealing with some of our modern-day challenges, such as big crowds…” Hey, try anything when it gets a bit rough…and it will get a bit rough. 

It is what it is, so take the breath. Accept the summer tsunami. Thank the CBCC crew. Enjoy the needed sunshine that has come in the nick of time. It is all part of the balance.

Happy solstice everyone….

—Mark Reaman

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