Boulder’s Mount Sanitas Big Holiday Weekend Draw — Like Every Other Day
Baseball great and noted dugout sage Yogi Berra is credited as having once dismissed a restaurant, saying, “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”
Boulder’s Mount Sanitas trail complex, just west of downtown, has not passed into that territory yet, but on the day after Thanksgiving, as locals and their out-of-town visitors were working off the pecan pie on its well-worn byways, that prospect engendered plenty of discussion.
“This is the most crowded I have ever seen it,” said Mike Goldscheitter of Boulder, as he made his way up the main Sanitas Valley trail on a bright and blustery morning, and another cluster of rosy-cheeked hikers surged past.
Noting that “It can get a little chaotic,” he conceded, “I think that it’s approaching” the level of being so heavily utilized that it affects the potential to enjoy one of the prized assets of Boulder’s open space system.
Asked what changes might be made, he only offered, “I think they could put some bathrooms in at the bottom.”
Joyce Beaumont of Boulder was, like many, exercising her dog — Diego, a West Highland terrier.
“What can you say? Everybody likes it,” she said. “They need different parking, perhaps,” glancing back toward the full lot that included cars with license plates from Texas and Wisconsin and many in-state.
Beaumont said that on arriving for her visit, “I thought if I didn’t find a place, I would just turn around. It’s kind of like a lottery,” finding a place to leave a vehicle.
Cara Demillo was found scrutinizing her phone while perched on a bench — “In Memory of Joe Pyzyk” — a short distance up the valley. An Atlanta resident visiting her sister in Erie, she had no complaints, noting that it’s an hour’s drive from her home in Georgia to anything remotely comparable to the Sanitas area. She was resting, Demillo said, as eight other family members, four of them visiting from out of town, trekked on ahead.
“It’s my family that’s crowding it up,” she said.
Andy Armstrong and Sherri Armstrong, also of Erie, were ambling uphill with Sherri’s mother, Dina Dixon, visiting from Olympia, Wash. Andy Armstrong said he had been there some 75 to 100 times in the past 14 years.
“I get why it’s used so much. It’s a beautiful thing,” he said, adding he does get bugged a bit by people who stray off the designated trails.
“It’s one of those gems. And you can be downtown, and then suddenly, be in the wilderness,” he said.
While the number of visitors would not leave anyone to feel quite like they had stepped inside Jack London’s “Call of the Wild,” on Friday, a visitor could enjoy the clattering of the leafless branches of growth in a nearby drainage, the rustling of the tall grasses and the moaning of swirling gusts through the ponderosa pine under an azure sky atop the ridge to the west.
Stefan Chimoskey of Boulder was working his way downhill with his wife and two sons, and he said “I think it’s still all good,” speaking of the Sanitas experience. He said that one key is to start out early.
“It’s kind of a nice community” of people who visit, he said. “People are respectful, and most people clean up after their dogs.”
His wife, Rossana Chang, agreed, and offered the thought that de-popularizing Sanitas could be an uphill fight.
“What are they going to do?” she speculated. “Put tags on us, like they do with dogs?”
Nancy Sanders of Boulder said she has been visiting Sanitas trails for the 21 years she has lived in Boulder, and acknowledged that it has become “more and more crowded, just like the rest of Boulder.” She added that she didn’t begrudge anyone else the opportunity to enjoy it, and said, “I just think we’re really lucky to have this.”
Beaumont, before disappearing with Diego at leisurely pace up the trail, suggested the great outdoors offers plenty of nearby alternatives, and likely more than a few hidden gems.
“Let’s go find someplace cool, again,” she said in a conspiratorial tone, “like Boulder used to be.”
Charlie Brennan: 303-473-1327, email@example.com or twitter.com/chasbrennan