Gunnison, Colorado, is a tough little town. Gritty. Old school. But under that sun-baked crust there's some real charm.
We spent a few days roaming around sunny Gunny while it was cold and rainy in the high country, and we almost didn't want to leave. Here are five ways to find the softer side of this good ol' Colorado high desert town.
1) Double duty
When world class professional bike mechanic Dan Crean was looking for a place to settle down, Gunnison had what he needed: Good trails and good folks, so he combined his two loves, coffee and bikes - and beer. OK, three.
“We wanted a place where locals could come and feel comfortable,” he said.
Double Shot Cyclery serves up Joe, brews and a wicked margarita.
2) Blue waters
Blue Mesa Reservoir is breathtakingly gorgeous, and huge. Created by the Blue Mesa Dam in 1965, the largest body of water in the state of Colorado is 20 miles long, with nearly 100 miles of shoreline.
Like fishing? It's the largest lake trout and kokanee salmon fishery in the entire state.
Despite approaching almost 1,000,000 visitors each year, there are quiet nooks an crannies galore on the 42,000-acre lake.
3) A bite and a beer
The High Alpine Brewing Company in downtown Gunnison has a growing reputation for brewing some of the best beer in the Rockies. Recently rated 14th in Colorado by the beer lover's guide Untapped, their craft beers with local hops, water and other ingredients are working for them. They also have a tasty pizza menu, and snack hits like their bruschetta, or their humus plate. For brew, try the Black Canyon stout, a dense and dark oatmeal chocolate with a nice head and creamy balance.
4) Rock to your heart's content
For the singletrack connoisseur, in Gunnison it's Hartman Rocks. With 50-plus miles of trail, this granite sage romp delivers - fast. There aren't too many killer grinds here, but the whole network of eroding granite trails flowing in between oceans of sage are constantly ebbing and flowing up and down.
“My rule of thumb is about 1,000 feet per hour,” says Dan Crean of Double Shot Cyclery.
Spend some time out here and you'll get your fill. Tight twisty trails open up to fast pedally sections, then dive back into canyons. And there is always something interesting ahead.
5) You're fired
Refuel at the Firebrand Delicatessen. This is the coolest deli we've been to this side of the Mississippi. Pick from a nice bread selection off the hand-drawn chalkboard wall menu, and don't take all day looking at all the pictures and memorabilia while ordering.
For the veg head, go for Everett's Garden Gazing Globe: Cucumber, avocado, carrots, lettuce, tomato and cream cheese. Or try The Mother Lode: Roast beef, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, horseradish and sour cream. Comes with a pickle, bag of chips and a small side. And don't forget a peanut butter cookie.