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Image: Liam Doran

People say Summit County is a never-never land—an oasis from reality where you can be a kid your whole life and have plenty of company. I like to think of it as more of a suspended state. Years pass in a blur up here, leaving a trail of adventures, sunny days, and altitude-enhanced memories that blend together into one. And no season illustrates that better than summer. 

Sometimes it seems improbable to fit four distinct seasons into 12 months when seven of those months are claimed by winter. But it happens every year, the other three seasons battling like badgers in a blizzard for the final five months. Summer, as we think of it—shorts, flip-flops, open windows—lasts about 12 weeks in a good year. It starts in early June and runs through late August, if we’re lucky. 

When I first moved here, I sampled the outdoor recreation menu. I sailed on Dillon Reservoir, ran, hiked, mountain biked, joined a few rec sports teams, and flicked flies into eddies. Gradually, I sorted through the pursuits enough to develop preferences, which, combined with the nagging time constraints of work, narrowed my focus to a few. 

A typical summer begins with the pleasant rite of reintroducing the skin of my arms and legs to the sun. I try to do this while mountain biking or running what few trails are dry in late May, or during spring ski ascents if the wind is feeling cooperative.

From there, the annual oxymoron of Summit County’s frenzied relaxation begins. Even if summer lasts 15 weeks, it still feels like six. Every day counts if you are trying to go places and do things. 

Aside from daily micro adventures like riding town trail loops, I try to do a few specific things when the weather turns warm. Among them: hiking Quandary Peak, riding the Tenmile Range crest on the Miner’s Creek Trail, camping next to a lake or two in the Gore Range, and circumnavigating Mount Guyot and Buffalo Mountain on bike and foot, respectively. 

It would seem easy enough to fit those five adventures into one summer, but it never is. In addition to family and work and a road trip here and there to Crested Butte or Creede, to do something you’ve already done means not doing something you’ve never done. The allure of climbing a new peak or one that thwarted you before, searching for that high-alpine trail you’ve heard about but aren’t sure exists, or exploring a new drainage in a neighboring range tends to win out over repeating the known routes. Not every day, but often enough to compact a summer. 

Some of my friends have different traditions, like meeting to feast at the Frisco Barbecue Challenge, or racing the Firecracker 50 on Independence Day, or skiing on Independence Day (this year should offer ample options up high thanks to a deep spring). There are annual float trips down the upper Colorado, road rides to Vail for lunch, and after-work golf leagues. I scaled back my rec softball schedule years ago, but my Thursday nights still belong to the Northside Crooks, player-managed by an old friend who answers to Sideshow, or ’Show. We started 8-1 last year before finishing 1-7, which hasn’t dampened our hopes for this year. 

All of this is to say nothing of Red Rocks shows or Rockies games or Telluride Bluegrass Festivals. Expanding your purview outside of Summit County only complicates matters further, but you get the gist. It’s a good problem to have. 

Some years the weather gods hand us a gift and extend our fleeting comfort an extra month. This inspires a rush to savor the snow-free tundra and trails, which leads to many an unplanned rendezvous at 12,000 feet. 

But even if the days do stay warm later than Labor Day, the nights still grow colder and longer, the leaves begin to turn, and soon there is no choice but to call it fall. 

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