"So, what brings you to Breck?"
"I'm shooting photos documenting what there is to do here in the Fall!"
"Oh... well if you could say it's terrible, that'd be great. We don't need anybody else coming here and finding out how amazing it is."
"I get it, dude," I thought to myself, amused, as I ordered a Nutella crepe garnished with blueberries, bananas, and Bailey's (don't judge) from local favorite Crepes a la Cart. As I ate, I reflected on the many times those same words have issued out of my mouth, having recently lived in Seattle, Portland and now Lake Tahoe. Each city, vacation destinations swelling in recent transplant growth, have a charm all their own. Locals waver between bragging to their Instagram followers "Look how great my town is! We do all the things!" and simulateously mutter under their breath about all the damn tourists.
An infamous winter destination, Breckenridge is something else altogether; unlike any other place I'd been. It was, in a word, magic.
(Sorry, crepe guy.)
Breck is charming. Coming here in the "off-season" to shoot Fall colors was a simply stunning experience. Why? It was authentic. The "touristy" things to do here are the same things the locals do, and to my pleasant surprise, everyone was warm and welcoming to the bone. The town oozes hospitality.
The surprises didn't stop there. One of the locals told me, "People come here to ski then stay when they discover our art scene," proven by the impressive turnout I saw on opening night of the Breckenridge Film Festival. Aspen leaves, just beginning to change into brilliant vermilions and yellows, beckoned from nearby towering peaks... contrasted against scraps of last winter's snow still hanging on for dear life in crags and crannies. Foxes patrol the streets at night. Perhaps most noteworthy, the town is rich in mining history. Old flumes serve as mountain bike trails in the summer, and cross country ski routes in the winter. Everyone is either carrying a yoga mat or a bike helmet.
My companions for the week (a lovely mix of travel writers from all over the country, oh the stories we shared!) and I were hosted by the folks over at GoBreck, who created an amazing itinerary for us. Activities consisted of printmaking, a tour of Breckenridge Distillery, a French cooking class, mountain biking, kundalini yoga, and lots of local handcrafted booze. The weather was chilly and the drinks were strong.
The best moments, however, were the in-between moments... the unplanned hours spent wandering, exploring, and meeting a local on the bus and spontaneously agreeing to go on a hike with him. His name was Brian and he was hunting elk; I was hunting Fall colors. Brian taught me the difference between mountain lion, fox, elk and moose scat. He taught me what flowers to eat if I was starving. As we bushwhacked through old mining trails, we studied animal tracks and admired aspen leaves. I was later told this experience perfectly represents life in Breck.
Excellent. That was what I was after.
I spent my last morning in Breck at the local joint Cuppa Joe, my hands warmed by a delicious mug of coffee. The place was filled to the gills with locals, casually arguing over the best way to get to a particular trail destination. Rilo Kiley crooned above our heads. I say our because, after a week in Breck, I was one of them. The locals treated me like a local.
Thanks for the memories, Breck. I'll be back soon... next time in the winter for some snowboarding!