Snow Mountain Ranch
Historical Posts representing Adventure Continues: Second Quarter
I again fell back on my maintenance man experience and landed a job at the Snow Mountain Ranch located between Winter Park and Granby Colorado. I’m not really sure why this option played out, might have had something to do with the foreboding reality that I was probably ready to take on a real career so I needed to make this last random fling worthy. Snow Mountain Ranch, SMR, is a beautiful piece of mountain property under the flag of the YMCA of the Rockies. In August of 1978, summer was winding down and SMR was hoping to improve winter usage by catering to skiers. They gave us a trailer to live in which was a bit rough but all in all this was turning into another great adventure. Connie worked some in the office and I set out to work on the many maintenance projects throughout the property.
Snow Mountain Ranch was the step child to the YMCA camp in Estes Park, but it had some great features, just not as much traffic. They had dorm type lodging geared to youth camps and church retreats. They had cabins available to rent or supplement other large group retreats. They had various outdoor recreation options along with a very nice gymnasium which also doubled as a roller skating rink. I totally appreciated the beauty here, but I did struggle with the lack of connectivity. I think there was only one phone and no TV which presented a problem for following my Denver Broncos.
We were truly embracing the moment realizing how unique this opportunity was while putting off that career commitment pressure. However, my resume was being circulated. So for now I fixed more toilets, beds and roofs and Connie took care of office duties. One strong memory that I hold on to reflects back to when I was repairing a roof on a beautiful Autumn day looking out at the west side of the front range mountains thinking that life couldn’t get any better. Steve visited once and we totally scored on catching large trout in a nearby beaver pond. I also created one of the first frisbee golf courses by mapping a course around the ranch sometimes even cutting down a tree and painting the stump red to act as the target pin. Some evenings we would go over to the gym and roller skate or shoot hoops. Our dog, Rusty, was also really enjoying this life, although this is where he learned about, skunks, porcupines and not to jump off a moving truck to chase a deer.
Life was fairly easy but we did have important projects going on. The director of maintenance for the ranch was a man that I quickly came to admire. He was probably in his late 30s with far more expertise than would be needed to be working at a YMCA site like this. What I learned was that he had sacrificed his promising career in engineering to live at Snow Mountain Ranch because he had a special needs child who benefitted from what life at the ranch offered. I was the young buck who was a bit green with respect to some of our jobs, but he let me learn. I totally loved learning how to run a backhoe digging trenches for water lines.
We were also building a few cabins so there was basic construction work going on, however, I wasn’t typically included in those jobs. They got to a point when they needed to pour the foundation for a couple of cabins but they were not able to acquire any cement in the area. However, we could purchase bags of portland cement in Ft Collins, but that would require us to drive over Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park to pick it up. I was expendable and so they asked me to drive our heavy truck over the mountains to pickup the cement. This seemed like a good adventure until it wasn’t. It was the end of the day when I was driving back over Trail Ridge and the weather was starting to deteriorate. I knew that the truck had a spare gas tank but when I needed to switch I realized that I did not know how to do this. I was approaching the summit from the east when I ran out of gas, I guess I was hoping it switched automatically. Oh Shit, it was dark and I’m out of gas on a narrow mountain pass with a very large truck full of cement. Another truck finally came along, but the driver also could not determine how to switch over to the spare gas tank. So he offered me the option of following him (coasting) down to Estes Park. I was supposed to stay right on his tail incase my brakes failed. We crept down the mountain with my heart pumping rapidly. Well we made it down to Estes Park where the Estes YMCA Camp came to rescue me. I was educated about the spare tank and refueled but it was late. The folks at YMCA Estes recommended that I wait till morning but I knew I needed to get back partly because Shadow Mountain needed the cement but also because Connie and I were scheduled to go somewhere the next day.
So I headed back out over Trail Ridge with snow flakes coming down, no driver side window and fearful thoughts about how I would descend the other side down into Grand Lake. I then realized why they have runaway truck ramps and there weren’t going to be any for me. I was totally petrified driving about 5 miles an hour down the mountain and arrived back at Snow Mountain Ranch around about about 4 am.
We had adopted Winter Park as our connection to civilization but it was a bit of a drive. I remember getting a speeding ticket while driving there in hopes of watching a Broncos game at a bar. The officer didn’t buy my excuse for how I did not notice how fast I was driving because of how beautiful it was out and how much I was anticipating watching the Broncos. Autumn was turning cold so we were making plans for coping with winter at the Ranch. Connie really stepped out of her comfort zone and landed a job to work as a ski lift operator at Winter Park. I think she had gone through orientation when we found out that I landed a job as a Chemist for Colorado Ute in Craig, CO. They were in the process of running one 400 MW coal fired power plant while building more. The Adventured Continued.