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            The following is a guest blog from Luke Mehall, Crested Butte Magazine contributor who recently moved from the Gunnison Valley to Durango. This piece is an excerpt from Luke’s new book, Climbing Out of Bed, available in print and as an e-book.

Dammit all, the world is real and everybody carries on like it is a dream, like they were themselves dreams… Pain or love or danger makes you real again.”  --Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac

What is a real mountain person? This is essentially the question John Fayhee, the editor of the Mountain Gazette, posed to me in an email. Since then it’s been lots of thinking, writing, throwing away (recycling), thinking, and here I am again, writing.             

I’ve come to the conclusion I am both unable and unwilling to define a real mountain person. The main reason is that if I wrote about what a real mountain person is, I’d be saying that certain people who live in the mountains aren’t authentic. Who am I to judge who belongs in a mountain town?  

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It was a Crested Butte kind of spring day today; it started with parkas and ski boots and ended with flip-flops and sunburn. A perfect day for the inaugural CB3P – Crested Butte Pole/Pedal/Paddle. Which, as it turns out, is a perfect event for Crested Butte.

The route followed the spring snowmelt from frozen slopes to rolling river. After an uphill/downhill ski on Crested Butte Mountain, the 50 racers bicycled 27 miles down valley to Gunnison, then hopped in water vessels – kayaks, duckies, paddleboards, rafts – and rode the icy Gunnison River several miles to end at the Whitewater Park.

  Since Poo-Fest melted away, April hasn’t had a festival to call its own, and the CB3P put April on fine display: when and where else can you ski, bike and boat from one end of the valley to the other?

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   SPOILER ALERT: DO NOT READ THIS if you’re a once or future “Downton Abbey” fan who hasn’t yet seen all of season three.

            If, however, you’ve just survived the third season, rise up, like me, in righteous indignation. How dare they?

            I mean, we’d finally got Bates out of prison and back into the arms of his googly-eyed Anna; Robert and Cora had re-bonded in their parental grief (I bawled like a baby at that scene); and Mary not only gave birth to a precious daughter, but did so without mussing her perfect hair. So – what’s with that final car scene?

    Can’t we just relax and celebrate for a while?

            The answer is: yes. Then watch out.

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            My husband Michael has turned into an uphill fiend. Five mornings a week, while I linger under warm bedcovers, he heads out into the sub-zero dark to tromp up Crested Butte Mountain and ski back down before the chairlifts start running.

            Sometimes he joins other uphillers to gnaw on political gristle (see John Norton’s story “Winter mornings with the Politburo” in the current Crested Butte Magazine). But on Sundays Michael likes to climb in solitude and spend some time on one of the pews of his alpine cathedral.

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Last year we discovered the joys and pains of the Italian Seven Fishes tradition.  My family and the Vosburgs (not an Italian among us) collaborated to prepare and consume a seven-course seafood feast, until my belly ached and I felt somewhat like a sea creature myself – perhaps a cross between a whale and a pufferfish.

            This Christmas Eve was equally painful in the gastrointestinal department, without the tasty precursor; a nasty stomach flu left me writhing under the bedsheets like I’d swallowed a 100-barbed hook. So we postponed our encore 2012 Seven Fishes dinner until Dec. 26 – and, despite my tender innards, we pulled it off in grand style. Learning from the past, we did the Prius version of Seven Fishes feasting: light, savvy and efficient. 

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My husband and I arrived back home in Crested Butte on Thanksgiving night. Devoid of turkey, our bellies instead roiled with Cheetos and Hot Tamales – per the junk-food-consumption clause in the Distance Drivers’ Manifesto. A bit buzzy after the 15-hour drive from Texas, I picked up the hot-off-the-press issue of the Crested Butte Magazine (see it on this website or grab a copy around town) and found myself doubly thankful that I got to come home to a place like Crested Butte.

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            Today I dumped the dead plants from my flowerpots into the empty lot across the street, even though one marigold bloom still shone gold among the dry gray stalks. The flowers have looked dismal for a couple of weeks now, but I abandoned them with reluctance  – perhaps honoring that one stubborn marigold or perhaps clinging too hard to the last shred of summer.

            Crested Butte constantly teaches us the lessons of accepting and letting go. Nature gives us huge gifts – wildflowers and shimmering gold leaves and sparkling snowfalls – and takes them away with equal nonchalance. We learn to let go – or live with the recurring heartache of watching one spectacular season give way to the next.

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