Ten best places to visit when you’re in Crested Butte

Carly and ross Holbrook take a break at the top of West Maroon Pass near Crested Butte while hiking from Crested Butte to Aspen. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman

Enjoy these pics from my last few days in Colorado. After three nights in the Crested Butte, I’m moving on today, to explore Great Sand Dunes National Park. Before I leave, I thought I’d share some of my favorite places to visit:

1. Secret Stash, http://www.secretstash.com: You can’t go to Crested Butte and not visit the Stash, where waiters wear T-shirts that say Pizza Kills. The decor is Indian (I have no idea), the crust is bubbly, the place is the bomb.

It’s chilly here in Crested Butte this week. Today’s morning temperature was 37. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman

2. Dogwood, https://thedogwoodcb.wordpress.com: An old cabin on a sidestreet that serves up craft cocktails. Go get lost in there.

3. Sunflower: Try the charred carrots (seriously) and one of the charcuterie trays at this high-end dinner spot. Also, the lamb ravioli.

The leaves are starting to change around Crested Butte this week. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman

4. Third Bowl Homemade Ice Cream, https://www.thirdbowl.com: I tried a scoop of carrot cake, but look for a rotating case of flavors like pineapple serrano or blackberry bergamot.

5. The Slogar Bar and Restaurant, https://slogar.com: Trays of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy and biscuits, served family style in an old 1880s-era house.

6. Montanya, http://www.montanyarum.com: Belly up to the bar and order the Kokomo, a blend of rum, lemon, lime, fresh mint, coconut and ginger beer.

7. Public House, http://publichousecb.com: They feature Colorado beers, and the best on tap (I think) come from Crested Butte’s Irwin Brewery. Sit at the bar and admire the cotton candy fur of the white goat mounted on the wall.

The Cristiana Guesthaus has a fleet of bikes out front for guest use. Pam LeBlanc/American-Stateman

8. Cristiana Guesthaus, https://cristianaguesthaus.com: I’ve got two favorite places to stay in Crested Butte now, and this cozy, European-vibe gets my vote for several reasons: Homemade pastries on the continental breakfast, fresh-baked cookies in the afternoon and complimentary red wine in the evening. Plus a fleet of bicycles out front for your use.

9. Elk Mountain Lodge, http://www.elkmountainlodge.com: This gets my other nod. I’m pretty sure things have changed since miners rented rooms here a century ago. Today guests can order drinks in the lobby, soak in a hot tub and enjoy french toast or homemade biscuits for breakfast. And it’s just two blocks off Elk Avenue. Comfy and cozy.

10. A bench on Elk Avenue: No need to get fancy. After you’ve finished hiking or skiing for the day, grab a seat on a bench and watch the people go by.

When in Crested Butte, don’t miss this high-elevation hike

Someone hung a tie-dyed T-shirt on a post at the top of Scarp’s Ridge.


I warmed up for tomorrow’s big hike from Crested Butte to Aspen by climbing to the top of Scarp Ridge today.

The trailhead lies just above Irwin Lake, about 20 minutes outside of Crested Butte. Park your vehicle on the side of the road near the green-roofed Irwin Lodge, which serves as a ski chalet in the winter, and head uphill.

Beautiful scenery looking up at Scarp Ridge.

The trail forks almost immediately. It’s a loop, but we took the left side fork first to cover the steepest stuff first. The trail meanders through clusters of pines and a few aspen. Look down and you can see the lake in the distance.

Hike the loop trail counter clockwise. That way you’ll cover the steepest terrain on the way up.

The round-trip hike only covers about 4.6 miles, but you gain a lot of elevation. We started hiking at about 10,700 feet and climbed to just higher than 12,000 feet. Along the way we got great views of mountain bowls, vistas and trees, and flushed plenty of chipmonks out of the underbrush.

We missed the summer wildflower show, but got a sneak peak of fall. The trees are just starting to turn here this week. Some of the aspens wore yellow leaves this morning, a nice change after their summer greens.

Hiking up Scarp Ridge.

Plan on a couple of leisurely hours to make the hike, and bring plenty of water. For more information go to https://travelcrestedbutte.com/crested-butte-hikes-scarp-ridge-middle-loop/.

Starting a Colorado adventure at Denver’s Union Station

Union Station in Denver was renovated in 2012 and includes hotels, shops, restaurants and a train terminal. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman

Don’t hate me, but I’m currently wrapped in a comforter, looking out the window of the Cristiana Guesthaus in Crested Butte, Colorado.

Temperatures are hovering in the 30s out there, with highs predicted in the 50s. I’ve got a few days of hiking on my agenda, plus some sand surfing and a burro race.

I started this year’s Colorado adventure in Denver, where my sister and her husband live. Before heading to the mountains, I spent half a day downtown, checking out the trendy LoDo area.

I stayed the night at The Born hotel, adjacent to Union Station. The first railyard was built here in 1881, but it burned in 1894. The existing terminal was finished in 1914 and renovated in 2012. It’s a great community space, with a splash pad outside, museums nearby and lots of activity day and night.

The station still serves as the city’s central transportation hub, with rail and bus service in addition to an assortment of hotels, shops, restaurants and bars. It’s located at the intersection of 17th and Wynkoop Streets.

The whole place feels European, and if you’d told me I’d somehow been transported to Switzerland, I’d probably have believed you, until I noticed that the trains weren’t all precisely on time.

The historic terminal is done just right, with wooden benches and huge hanging lights, brass detailing, leather couches, tile floors and a pair of shuffleboard tables. The Terminal bar serves up cocktails, and an ice cream joint sells milkshakes made with shots of booze.

Today, hiking around Crested Butte. Tomorrow, if the storms hold off, I’m walking from Crested Butte to Aspen, returning the following day.

Stay tuned.

Fit after 60: Austin 60 Strong reveals faces of 2019 calendar

Miriam Raviv was one of 12 people selected for the Austin 60 Strong calendar. Family photo

Congratulations to a dozen of Central Texas’ most fabulously fit older residents, who will be featured in an upcoming calendar.

Two local physician networks set out to find inspirational residents, ages 60 to 69, to feature in the 2019 Austin 60 Strong calendar. They’ve announced the winners, who include cancer survivors, pole vaulters, a former stuntman, a nurse and more.

A panel of judges – full confession here, I was one of them – selected winners based on their health, fitness, wellness, community involvement and volunteerism. We wanted to highlight people who exemplify that worn-out phrase “living life to the fullest.” We found plenty who inspired us.

Austin 60 Strong judges gather at the Eberly to review and select the Austin 60 Strong Ambassadors for the 2019 Austin 60 Strong Calendar, Wednesday Aug. 29,2018, in AUSTIN, Texas. (GonzoFotoz/Rodolfo Gonzalez)

In addition to appearing in the Austin 60 Strong calendar, winners will be honored with a kickoff party, a professional photo shoot and compensation for their modeling time.

Proceeds from calendar sales will benefit Capital City Village, a virtual community of seniors committed to aging in place and community while maintaining healthy and active lifestyles.

Without further ado, the winners are:

  • Ben Barlin, a cancer survivor, hiker and blackbelt in jiu jitsu.
  • Toni Bourke, a military veteran and nurse who walks daily.
  • Rev. Dave Corna, who lost more than 200 pounds and runs with Austin Fit.
  • Kim Cousins, a former educator who paddles, swims, cycles and more.
  • Shelley Friend, who volunteers with Faithworks and the Iron Butterflies Project and exercises daily.
  • Dan Garrett, who’s been running for nearly 40 years and volunteers as a coach.
  • Mike Gassaway, a former stunt man and motorcycle racer who does yoga and volunteers in dog rescue.
  • Lisa Kurek, a Crossfitter who volunteers at the Austin Center for Grief & Loss.
  • Susan Joiner, a cancer survivor who works out six days a week and follows a whole foods diet.
  • Susan Mobley, who started pole vaulting in her 60s and bakes cookies for local firefighters.
  • Grace Perez, a Meals on Wheels volunteer who walks daily.
  • Miriam Raviv, a longtime triathlete and swimmer, cyclist and runner.

Fall running season officially arrives Sept. 7 with Zilker Relays

Pam LeBlanc, Jody Seaborn, Mercedes Orten and Chris Thibert jump before the 2014 Zilker Relays.


According to my race calendar, but definitely not the thermometer, fall has nearly arrived.

The Zilker Relays, unofficial kickoff to Austin’s fall racing season, takes place Sept. 7 at Zilker Park. The four-person, 10-mile relay starts at 6:30 p.m. on roads in and around the park, and wraps up with a party on the Great Lawn featuring live music by the Staylyns, food from Tacodeli and free beer from Strange Land Brewery.

RELATED: Channel your inner superpowers at CASA Superhero Run

“There is no other race where you can run through Zilker Park in the evening, with a view of downtown Austin, and wrap it up with great food and drinks and live music into the night,” says race founder Paul Perrone, whose grin is perhaps my favorite in all of Austin.

The race will make anyone smile. Usually, it rains. Or it’s hot as heck for the first 2.5-mile leg, then a storm hits, then it gets muggy.

It’s a big deal. Last year more than 1,300 people participated.

A children’s relay kicks off shortly before the adult relay and every child participant will get a cape and Tacodeli meal.

This year, Zilker Relays will once again partner with the Lesedi Project to raise funds for the Ethembeni School in South Africa, a school for physically disabled and visually impaired children.

For more information, go to www.zilkerrelays.com or https://www.facebook.com/zilkerrelays/.

Channel your super powers at CASA Superhero run on Sept. 16

Kid superheroes line up to chase villains during the CASA Superhero Run in Austin, Texas, on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN


One year I met Superman – not an imposter, but the real deal. He was nice to me, probably because I was wearing my Wonder Woman costume (which, by the way, I wore to rappel down a 38-story building last year, and also to the movie theater once.)

Another year I met Batman, and that was scary, because he didn’t even crack a smile.

On Sept. 16, you can mingle with caped crusaders and superpower-wielding human beings at the CASA Superhero Run 5K and Kids 1K.

RELATED: On your mark! Iram Leon and Elain Chung tie knot at run-themed wedding

Superheros of all shapes and sizes turn out en masse for this run, which raises money for CASA, which advocates through the court system for children who have been abused or neglected. This year’s race also serves as the opening event of the Austin Distance Challenge, a series of running races that leads up to the Austin Marathon in February.

Abigail Harrell, 3, shows her Wonder Woman superhero powers after completing the Kids 1K fun run at the CASA race in this 2011 file photo. Ralph Barrera/AMERICAN-STATESMAN


The race moves to a new location this year, the IBM Client Innovation Center at Broadmoor Campus, 11501 Burnet Road. The 5K begins at 8 a.m.; the Kids 1K, with villains to chase, starts at 9:15 a.m. A dance party and costume contest will follow. Besides the foot race, expect bounce houses, special superhero guest appearances and lots of fun family activities.

CASA Superhero Run

The event supports the CASA programs of Travis, Williamson, Caldwell, Comal, Guadalupe and Hays Counties, which works with volunteers to advocate for abused or neglected children in the court system.

Why superheros? Here’s what CASA says about that: “Superman was adopted. Spiderman was raised by his aunt and uncle. Batman grew up with his butler, Alfred, and later took in Robin to raise as his ward. Wonder Woman was made out of clay by Amazons and brought to life by the gods. Few superheroes grew up in a typical family situation raised by their own parents, yet they all accomplished great things as adults. CASA believes all children deserve the chance to grow up happy and healthy and become superhero adults themselves.”

To register go here.

Let’s play ‘Look where they parked that bike/scooter’!

Dockless bicycle going for a swim in Shoal Creek. Photo by Jim Berry


In yesterday’s blog, I posted a photograph of a Lime electric scooter that someone tossed in Shoal Creek along the hike and bike trail near Fifth Street. I spotted it while riding my bike to work yesterday morning.

Dockless bicycle taking a nap near the Lance Armstrong pedestrian bridge over Shoal Creek. Photo by Richard Zelade

That post prompted a flood of photographs taken by people who have spotted abandoned dockless scooters and bikes around Austin. (Thanks for the crowd sourcing, people!)

Dockless bicycle getting a closeup look at the pavement at the intersection of Seventh and Lavaca streets. Photo by Richard Zelade

Which now prompts me to post some of those pictures, and encourage everyone to send me pics of bikes and scooters buried in golf course sand traps, dangling from tree branches, clogging sidewalks, swimming in lakes, dismembered in dark alleys and what not.

Let’s see what we find!

Dockless bicycle climbing a tree in Seattle.

And no cheating. I don’t want more people contributing to the problem. Let the record show that I want you to park your scooters and bicycles responsibly.

Dockless scooter taking a sip of water in Shoal Creek near Fifth Street. Photo by Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman

How not to park a scooter …

An electric scooter from Lime lays half submerged in the creek alongside the Shoal Creek Hike and Bike trail this morning. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman

Check out this electric scooter I found abandoned in Shoal Creek near Fifth Street this morning.

I’m pretty sure half submerged and ditched in a creek alongside a hike-and-bike-trail doesn’t fit the recommended parking guidelines for dockless electric scooters, but there you have it.

I ride my bike to work three to five times a week, and my commute takes me up the Shoal Creek Hike-and-Bike Trail. I’ve seen a dozen or so scooters left on the trail in the last month or two, but this is the first I’ve spotted in the actual creek.

It looks like it’s from Lime, one of the companies that released a fleet of dockless scooters and bikes across the city.

Uncool, people. Uncool.

On your mark! Iram Leon and Elaine Chung tie knot at run-themed wedding

Chris McClung, center, officiated the ceremony at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Photo by Andrew Holmes

Invitations printed on race bibs. A group run the morning of the wedding. A ceremony in front of a race start line. Running shoes with formal attire.

Iram Leon and Elaine Chung, the president and vice president of Austin Runners Club, tied the knot Saturday in a ceremony themed around running, which shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows them. They met, after all, through the Austin Runners Club, while both were training for a marathon.

Wedding invites were printed on race bibs.

RELATED: Austin runner with brain cancer pushes daughter in stroller to marathon win

I met Leon in 2013, just after he’d won the overall title at the Gusher Marathon in Beaumont – while pushing his daughter in a stroller. He’d been diagnosed with brain cancer in November 2010, after collapsing at a birthday party.

A marble-sized tumor is entwined in the memory and language hub of his brain and has invisible “tentacles” that even doctors can’t detect. The average survival time for the disease is four years; only a third of patients live five years after diagnosis.

But Leon is 38. At his most recent checkup in June, doctors told him his tumor is stable. He’s still running regularly, and if you didn’t notice the scar that snakes across the side of his head you’d probably never guess he was sick.

Iram Leon, left, and Elaine Chung, right, tied the knot at a running-themed wedding on Aug. 18, 2018. Photo by Andrew Holmes

RELATED: Catching up with marathon runner and cancer survivor Iram Leon

Chris McClung, a running coach and co-owner of Rogue Running, officiated the ceremony, working in as many running puns as possible. He wrapped things up with this: “With the power vested in me by the state of Texas and getordained.org, I now pronounce you man and wife.”

Daughter Kiana, 11, pretended to forget the ring, then dashed off to get the family dog, who carried it in.

The accompanying bash featured both Chinese and Mexican food, to honor both the bride and groom. Guests played lawn games, worked puzzles, and at one point joined a group stroll through the gardens of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

“We wanted to show our guests a good time while showing them some of us,” Leon says. “I was marrying Elaine, not an idea or an institution.”

Elaine and Iram were married beneath a race start line set up at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on Aug. 18, 2018. Photo by Andrew Holmes

Ingredients for next Fit City adventure: One stubborn burro plus a steep trail

Pam LeBlanc will team up with Little Jonah to run the Gold Rush Challenge race in Victor, Colorado, next month. Photo by Susan Paraska

I’ve never raced up a mountain with a pack burro at my side, so on Sept. 8 I’ll do that, with a four-legged little beast named Little Jonah.

I’ve rented Jonah from donkey matchmaker Amber Wann in Idaho Springs, Colorado, who loans out animals so (crazy) people like me can participate in a series of pack burro races in small towns around Colorado. And no, I won’t be riding the burro – runners lead their partners up steep mountain trails in races that honor the gold mining history of the area.

RELATED: Looking for adventure? Fit City is making it a lifelong pursuit

Wann paired me with 17-year-old Little Jonah, a resident of Laughing Valley Ranch in Idaho Springs, Colorado, because she thinks our personalities match. I looked up his results for previous years, and, well, let’s just say I’m not expecting to win this year’s race, not that it matters. Jonah’s track record makes me think he might just screech to a halt.

I’m fine with that. Plus, it’ll make a more interesting story if Jonah decides to pause to take in the scenery for a few hours.

RELATED: Next wave of adventure? Jet surfing

“He has come in last ass on a time or two , but that is because the folks running him were not speedy people to begin with,” Wann told me. “Burros like Little Jonah could go either way, speed wise, depending on the person navigating and encouraging him to keep going.”

Just chalk it up to this Life of Adventure.