Cousin Kate and Crested Butte

Cousin Kate is pretty great. She loaded our bikes into her chariot (a Toyota pickup from the 80s) and saved us two days riding by depositing us in Crested Butte by motor vehicle.

From the get go she started telling us (very animatedly) about her art, her cat, her roommate, it was all great. She runs an Air BnB operation out of her spare bedroom. If you’ve never used Air BnB, I highly recommend it. Regular people rent out rooms in their houses, or sometimes their entire house, and you can stay there instead of staying in a shitty hotel. So if you’re ever in Crested Butte, stay with Kate.

Let’s talk about the house. First of all, its In downtown Crested Butte. 

Crested Butte is a ridiculous little resort town that has attracted a large artist population, in addition to the typical Colorado outdoorsy type. If you want to know what the typical Colorado outdoorsy type looks like, it’s this


My boyfriend has “gone Colorado”.

I would like to assure you that I am still wearing all black when I can, and the only fashion irregularity that lets you know I’m on a camping trip is my Lady Crocs, which look like flats and aren’t immediately recognizable as garden wear.

Anyway, the house. It was built in the 1880s. It’s a weird, slanting, two story cabin that has been added onto over the years.


Kate bought it a while back and has made it awesome, with antique and junk sale finds, marvelous houseplants, and charming animal inhabitants.

The animals! There is Phoenix, who is a wolf dog pup who belongs to Kate’s roommate Jess. 

He’s a baby, but he’s also half wolf… Luckily the only ways he gets into trouble is trying to nab the butter off the counter and chewing up the toilet paper.

Then, there’s Shackelton.

Shackelton, the adorable diabetic cat. He was recently diagnosed, and Kate is doing her best to keep him healthy— feeding him a raw diet, giving him shots of human insulin, monitoring his blood sugar levels by catching his pee in his litter box. I became slightly obsessed with Shackelton.


 He’s enormous, for starters. Also he has great big blue eyes that bug out a little bit. He has the most pathetic meow— he just lets it squeak out a tiny bit, like he’s losing his voice. Also, his favorite game is “the chewies”, which means he likes to be gnawed on by a little dinosaur grabber toy.

 I find myself reminiscing about Shackelton— I’ll ask Travis, “What do you think Shackelton is doing right now?”

We spent a lot of money that night at a great Asian fusion restaurant called Ginger. It’s extremely difficult to not spend a lot of money every time we’re around places to spend it. Our logic is, “We spent two whole days eating tuna and trail mix! Fancy Pad Thai time!!” What’s great about Crested Butte is that there are so MANY great places to spend your money— gourmet coffee places, mountain bike rentals, bookstores, art galleries. Luckily for us our choices are limited because we can’t carry anything. However, I DID find the perfect boots that I’ve been looking for for YEARS. 

They were in a thrift store and I bought them and mailed them home, that’s how perfect they are (I can wear them with pants OR shorts!).

Kate is extremely busy. She talks fast, she jokes, she moves on from one idea to the other in a heartbeat. Idea examples—  plant a garden out behind the cabin so she can serve Air BnB guests truly local meals; start a goat dairy and make artisan yogurt packaged in reusable terra cotta containers, delivered by bicycle by some of the hundreds of mountain athletes in the area (“Like the milkman used to do!”); at baby showers, expectant mothers receive their baby’s ONE STRAW which he or she will use over the course of a lifetime so as not to waste plastic (she really hates plastic). One idea that came to fruition was Poo Fest, an annual Spring event during which residents of Crested Butte pick up dog shit that has been accumulating in the winter snow. Kate was just really tired of stepping in dog shit everywhere. Also, in years of heavy snow, she constructs a “snow cave”, which is a multi-roomed cavern dug out of the snow embankment in the backyard. 

This lady is for real.

Kate’s a successful artist and makes her living from it. She helps run an artist co-op, does some freelance work, and features her pieces in monthly Art Walks. So saw her some, but we were left to ourselves during the day. So of course, we went for a bike ride. It wouldn’t be a full day unless we climbed a mountain, amirite?


Crested Butte is the Wildflower Capital of Colorado, and it shows. We even technically missed wildflower season by a few weeks, but they were still spectacular

I don’t understand why more places don’t follow Colorado’s example— in Florida, we mow all our wildflowers, plant sod, then pay someone to mow it every two weeks. There’s no reason we can’t have blanket flowers, coreopsis, and clovers growing by our roadsides. Florida means flowers for chrissake. 

A neat thing about working in agriculture is being able to recognize wild cousins of cultivated crops and landscape plants. We know dill, so we recognize cow parsnip. We know carrots, so we can pick out Queen Ann’s lace. Same thing with wild roses, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, yarrow, amaranth, echinacea, and dracaena. 

We got hungry after our nature ride, and ate a very late afternoon pizza snack. A little while later, Kate invited us to the local movie theatre to see Wolverine, which was badass. The movie theatre, not Wolverine. Wolverine was kinda stupid but Hugh Jackman does have great abs. No, the movie theatre! 

You can buy liquor drinks there! And beers on tap! And when you get popcorn they put clarified butter on it for you, and you can top it with nutritional yeast! Nutritional yeast at the movie theatre! Popcorn for dinner!

It’s things like nutritional yeast at the movie theatre that make Crested Butte a part of what I like to call The Fantasy Bubble of the West Coast. I have very little experience of with “the West”— I’ve spent some time in Portland, visited LA, and at the end of this trip I will have a month in Colorado. But boy oh boy do I have some opinions about the region. 

The West Coast seems cut off from a lot of American reality. The fact that you can walk into a store here and buy marijuana to smoke recreationally, not medicinal purposes puts Colorado on a whole new level. Smoking for pleasure could put you in jail almost anywhere else. Also, nobody locks anything here, from their beach cruisers to their $1500 mountain bikes to their front doors. 

Cousin Jonathan and his roommates in Durango haven’t even seen a key to their house in three years. This is what happens when you go to the liquor store for goodness sake!


Crested Butte seems to embody this insularity— it’s a resort town that has the particular distinction of being artsy and creative. Sometimes I think about what it would be like to live in a place that supports artistic people and has embraced liberal and creative concepts decades ago to make them the norm. But I guess I like life to be harder, and I still want to work to transform my backward-ass, conservative hometown into a place that would welcome a firecracker like Kate. In like fifteen years. We’ll see how long it takes me to get burnt out on THAT project.

Moving on… The next day, we followed Kate’s roommate Jess’ advice and decided to hike up to Green Lake. It was 4.5 miles away. After biking this whole time, 4.5 miles seems like nothing. We figured this would be a three hour hike. Well it was 4.5 miles straight up a mountain.

After three hours in ascent I started asking Travis, “Are we there yet?” like every three minutes. I had nothing else to do that day except I really wanted ice cream, and I was expecting to have my ice cream fix fulfilled much sooner. But the hike was worth it.

We did indeed buy ice cream as soon as we got back to town. I got a single scoop of lavender honey, and Travis got a double of Thai basil coconut and pear.

Both on homemade waffle cones. People need to jump on this basil ice cream bandwagon, that shit is the bomb. If you need specialty basil, I know a GREAT little urban farm in Tallahassee that can supply you with some.

After ice cream, we had very good intentions of going back to Kate’s house and making healthy vegan dinner. Except that Kate was at the bar, and that bar happened to serve quesadillas and chips and salsa. So we ate junk food and got drunk instead. Kate showed us her studio, where she was busy at work with a volunteer getting pieces framed for Art Walk. 

She gave us shots of Makers and introduced us to her creepy chimpanzee toy.

Afterwards, we did indeed go home and do some drunk cooking, and it turned out GREAT. Jamaican style cabbage with coconut rice and curry kidney beans. YUM. We chatted with Jess and then we all had to go to sleep.

What do you think Shackelton is doing right now?