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ADVANCE FOR USE IN WEEKEND EDITIONS JUNE 30-JULY 1, 2018 AND THEREAFTER In this July 9, 2015 photo, a woman walks through the sunflowers near Gothic, Colo., as the sun illuminates the wildflowers after the rain. The Crested Butte Wildflower Festival, a weeklong celebration starts July 6, 2018. (Christian Murdock/The Gazette via AP)

Get to Crested Butte Colorado for a wildflower wonderland

Crested Butte’s wildflowers cast a spell on Michelle Bivens at an early age. “It goes back to about 6 or 7 years old,” she recalls, when her family camped every summer among the vibrant arrays, library books in hand to identify the great variety that makes the mountain town “the wildflower capital of Colorado.” With a family of her own…

Crested Butte’s wildflowers cast a spell on Michelle Bivens at an early age.
“It goes back to about 6 or 7 years old,” she recalls, when her family camped every summer among the vibrant arrays, library books in hand to identify the great variety that makes the mountain town “the wildflower capital of Colorado.”
With a family of her own, she bounced around from Colorado Springs, to Austin, Texas, to Woodland Park over 22 years. But in 2012, Bivens moved the husband and kids to the valley that stayed in her dreams.
“There’s no place like it,” she says — a truth that comforts wildflower buffs in dry years like these when their backyards don’t yield the typical burst.
Bivens is executive director of the Crested Butte Wildflower Festival, the weeklong celebration that starts July 6 and will mean more to flora fanatics of the Pikes Peak region and beyond.
That includes George Cameron. He’s a founder of the Native Plant Society’s local chapter, a retired botany professor who’s more than disappointed by what he’s seeing, or not, in his go-to spot, Stratton Open Space.
“This is the worst possible year,” Cameron says. “I live for the wildflowers every year, and it’s very depressing when they’re not there.”
He treasures higher displays on the mountain, those that grace Elk Park and Devils Playground, for example. And while he has yet to visit with “peak season” approaching, he fears the flowers haven’t had the moisture to bloom in abundance.
“There’s been no snowpack, nothing for them,” he says. “I’m not hopeful it’ll be very good this year.”
But for the fields and hills around Crested Butte, his faith is strong. “That’s because of the soil.”
While Pikes Peak’s granite is hydrophobic, washing away moisture, the earth surrounding the glacier-formed area of Crested Butte is composed of shale that better retains water. Snow melts, and life beneath has a better chance of emerging in all its glory.
Indeed, judging by photos out of Crested Butte, the flowers are popping a week before the festival. Snow melted earlier than usual, Bivens says, and the killing cold winds didn’t strike later.
“The good news is the flowers are coming early, and they didn’t freeze,” she says.
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Get to Crested Butte Colorado for a wildflower wonderland
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