At Play in Colorado’s Wildflower Capital

Although the nights are currently growing cooler toward fall, I’ve been reminiscing about Crested Butte, one of my favorite Colorado mountain towns, which I’ve visited in both winter and summer, but, sadly never in fall.

Yellow mule's ear flowers brighten the Lower Loop trail in Crested Butte, Colorado.

Yellow mule’s ear flowers brighten the Lower Loop trail in Crested Butte, Colorado.

I love Crested Butte because of its glorious peaks, mountain meadows and funky historic town that attracts interesting residents and visitors.

Easily the most exhilarating thing to do in summer in Crested Butte is to view the wildflowers, which grow in showy abundance in July. The Crested Butte Wildflower Festival is a must-do experience, so I recommend penciling it into your calendar for next year. (It will be held July 12 through 18, 2010.)

Among the events you can sign up for during the Crested Butte Wildflower Festival:

  • Guided hikes: easy to technical
  • Bike rides and yoga classes in alpine meadows
  • 4×4 tours into the backcountry
  • Garden tours of historic Crested Butte
  • Photography classes
  • Art and cooking classes with wildflowers
  • Medicinal classes using botanical ingredients
  • Gardening with wildflowers
  • Birding and butterflies
Clumps of columbine, Colorado's state flower, are everywhere in the meadows near Crested Butte.

Clumps of columbine, Colorado’s state flower, are everywhere in the meadows near Crested Butte.

Last year, my husband and I joined a guided wildflower ID walk around the Lower Loop and Peanut Lake, and it really helped us get to know the flowers. Soon we were on a first-name basis with scarlet gilia, mariposa lilies, mule’s ears, shooting stars, prairie smoke, and the columbine (Colorado’s state flower).

After that, we were prepared for other wildflower hikes we did on our own, including the Oh-Be-Joyful trail and a portion of the Copper Creek trail.

We camped one night at nearby Lake Irwin, which has vast fields of wildflowers against a backdrop of the jagged Anthracite Mountains.

No matter where we went, we found more and more flowers—each more vibrantly colorful than the last. The entire experience was actually quite exhausting because from sunrise to sunset we pushed on to in our quest for petals. I took untold numbers of photos and did a few pen-and-watercolor drawings.

For more info on Crested Butte, my favorite Colorado mountain town, visit Gunnison-Crested Butte Tourism.

Laurel Kallenbach, writer and editor

P.S. Weigh in on your favorite Colorado mountain town during the summer. Just scroll down to the end and leave a comment below.

Sustainable Suppers (and Breakfasts Too)

Though Cannon Beach on Oregon’s northern coast is a small town, it offers some wonderful, sustainable food.

The Sleepy Monk sells organic coffee roasted right on site in Cannon Beach.

The Sleepy Monk sells organic coffee roasted right on site in Cannon Beach.

To start the day, you can find terrific organic coffee at The Sleepy Monk, a coffee shop that’s open, alas, only on weekends. Fortunately, The Sleepy Monk supplies many of the local restaurants with their locally roasted beans, so you can drink a conscious cup any day of the week. I love the quirky ambiance and the Italian pottery.

Coastal Dining with Class

One of the best meals I’ve had in a long time was dinner at Cannon Beach’s oceanfront Wayfarer Restaurant & Lounge. This excellent restaurant, which overlooks Haystack Rock and the beach, specializes in Pacific Northwest coastal cuisine. Executive Chef Will Leroux emphasizes organic, locally harvested fruits and veggies and serves wild fish, most of it regionally caught.

Leroux is reportedly an avid fisherman, clam digger, and forager of wild berries and mushrooms, so he “gets” the connection between nature and the food he presents.

In late June, some of the Wayfarer’s enticing entrees included Northwest Razor Clams, Oregon-Forest Morel Mushroom Chicken (natural), and Cedar-Planked Wild Salmon. For starters, there was an organic arugula salad and local bay-shrimp cocktail. Oregon wines round out the menu.

The Wayfarer serves breakfast, lunch and dinner with ocean views. For breakfast, local berries accompany a wild mushroom omelette.

The Wayfarer serves breakfast, lunch and dinner with ocean views. For breakfast, local berries accompany a wild mushroom omelette.

Did I mention the sourdough bread served at dinners was to die for? Ours was served piping hot and I literally could not stop eating it! (The bread served as toast at breakfast was equally as wonderful.)

Pub Grub with Pizzazz

For casual dining, The Lumberyard Rotisserie and Grill is a fine choice. Its pub atmosphere is laid-back and it stocks an extensive selection of regional microbrews to complement your organic chicken, wild salmon, or all-natural pork and beef entrees. While we waited for our Halibut Burgers to arrive, my husband and I enjoyed looking at the photos of Cannon Beach in the 1910s that decorate the walls. When the burgers came to our table, we were far too absorbed in their flaky-fish goodness to pay attention to anything else.

For more information on Oregon’s coastal treasures, visit Travel Oregon.

P.S. What have been your most memorable meals when traveling?

Laurel Kallenbach, writer and editor