Author Archives: ghsmith76

Snow Mountain Ranch

Historical Posts representing Adventure Continues: Second Quarter

SnowMountainRanchSignI 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.

HistoricBarns-SnowMountainRanch

Old Barns with view of Arapaho & Roosevelt National Forests

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. SMRCabinsHowever, 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. trailridgeroad_banner_688x250I 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.

trail_ridge_road_-_elevation_profile2c_ft_mi

Elevation Profile of Trail Ridge Road

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.

Boulder Colorado

Historical Posts representing Adventure Continues: Second Quarter

Boulder, Colorado, was and is a very cool city. Sure it is a college town in a beautiful setting next to the Flatiron foothills, but in the summer of 77 it had its own post Vietnam era independent vibe. Outdoor recreation was a growth industry. Frank Shorter helped to promote Boulder as a Mecca for long distant runners. Celestial Seasonings was evolving as a Tea provider supporting a very popular Red Zinger Classic Bike Race. 78BarneyCatPearl Street was the place to be. And this is where we ended up soon after marriage. We started out living in an apartment at Lake Tantra but soon ended up as the managers for Hill House Apartments at 10th and Marine. We also got our first pet when we got to Boulder, a cat we named Barney. Steve showed up occasionally and we were spending a lot of time playing frisbee, enough that we decided to enter the Colorado State Frisbee Championships that was held at the cU camp in Boulder. Our specialty was acrobatic throws and catches, which impressed the crowds but we did not have all the other disciplines down well enough to be a contender.

Sometime that summer as I was phasing out of Colorado International and preparing to attend Colorado University, I hooked up with Mock Realty Property Management under Ken Mock, which led to our opportunity to manage Hill House Apartments. This deal gave us an apartment and a small stipend for managing the apartments. The better deal though was working for the contractor who was responsible for reconditioning all of Mock Realty properties when their tenants moved out. tulagiI got paid a lot of money for throwing on a new coat of paint in these properties. Connie was working at the Penny’s Auto Center and doing some books for our apartments which all translated into a good enough financial situation to enjoy Boulder. Pearl Street was just a short walk, the Walrus became our favorite restaurant and we spent many a night on the Hill typically at Tulagi’s.

Studying with Barney’s help

Of course the reason for being in Boulder was to advance our intellectual and artistic endeavors. I did take the 2 courses I needed to graduate from Indiana University along with a few other very interesting Chemical Engineering classes. It was Igor Gamov’s course on chemical flow dynamics that actually got me interested in computers. The course allocated a nice chunk of computer time in the CU Computer Center to work on some flow dynamics programs. I think I spent 90% of my time focusing on that small component of the course. I even resorted to begging for more computer time even though I had completed all assignments. However, the seed was planted especially when I overheard a grad student talking about accessing the computer from his apartment via a terminal. That same course also offered some great field trips to experience chemical processing. The visit to the Climax Molybdenum Mine in Leadville was way cool and the tour of the Coors Brewery in Golden ending with an extensive tasting session was a fitting way to end my college time at CU.

Connie was pursuing a degree in Theater at Indiana U. but pulled out with a year and a half to go. However, she utilized this Boulder opportunity to study with Samuel Avital at “Le Centre du Silence” mime school and took acting with Robert Benedetti at University of Colorado in association with the Shakespeare Festival. I guess we both participated a few times in the script created for watching the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” at the Boulder Theater. We also did a lot of hiking in and around the Boulder front range and continued to ski as much as possible. We had a few great nights skiing at Eldora Ski Mountain. Overall there always seemed to be plenty going on in Boulder. 

Barney the cat was working out for us, so we decided it was time to get a dog. We went to the Boulder Animal Shelter in hopes of finding the right dog in need of adoption. As we walked through the kennel there was a Black/Gold/White Shepard type dog that was sitting in silence amongst a kennel full of barking dogs.

Connie’s First Dog

We knew this dog was meant for us, however, he was not available for adoption for at least another week. Connie reminds me that I went back to the kennel everyday to sit with our hopeful new pet. When adoption was finally granted we named our new dog “Rusty”. The animal shelter required that we get him fixed but I felt like he needed to experience his libido so we got him a vasectomy. A few years later after too many runoffs for the smell of a female in heat we decided to get Rusty neutered. Rusty and sometimes Barney joined our walks down to the Boulder Creek parkway.

I still had a connection to my Christian Ministry roots so when I came across an opportunity for a paid Youth Leadership position at Mt Hope Lutheran Church I talked Connie into the commitment and we were sort of put in charge of the Senior High Youth Group. Maybe this was the initial stimulus which led to Connie becoming a Chaplain in later life. The experience was pretty cool culminating with a major effort to take the group to a youth conference in New Mexico. This was definitely a test for us to be grown-ups and I think we did OK. As the school year was winding down I landed a job at Arapahoe Chemical working as a plant operator. They were not hiring just for a student summer job so I failed to let them know that I was a student. This was also when I bought a Honda 550 motorcycle from a friend with plans to ride to Steamboat Springs for a short get-away. I was not an experienced rider so when I hit loose gravel on a turn coming back from Steamboat Lake, off the road and over the handlebars I went. This was one of those times when I believe God must have been looking over me since I was not wearing a helmet and I could have easily hit my head on the many large rocks in the field where I came to rest. I did, however, rupture a kidney which required a hospital visit and many days of recovery in Steamboat.

Well, Boulder had been great but that Adventure spirit was rising again. We even considered riding that Honda around the country which is what we told the church as the reason for our resignation. But of course a new adventure always presented itself. This time we were headed to Snow Mountain Ranch a YMCA property near Winter Park.


 

Next Post: Snow Mountain Ranch

Ended up as a maintenance man again at the YMCA Snow Mountain Ranch near Winter Park, CO. This was a brief Adventure in very beautiful part of the Rockies as I was considering how my career needed to get started.

Tahkenitch Dunes Loop

It is March and a stretch of good weather was upon us so where could we get-away for a short backpacking trip. Oh yes, I remembered checking in with the Forest Service Office in Reedsport a few years back asking about backpacking in that area. They mentioned the Tahkenitch Dunes area but not with my dog between March 15th and September 15th. Well this meant that I needed to do this trail now, so on March 9th Brook and I set out for this new coastal backpacking overnighter. The weather was perfect and we were due for a full moon. It was a great trip. The overall loop is about 6 miles. The inland portion of the loop does take you through a really nice Sitka Spruce and Douglas Fur forest to a high point of about 400 ft. After 2.5 miles you cross a bridge at the north end of Three Mile Lake.

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From the bridge it is about a quarter mile to the beach across the actual dunes.

Looking North at a Beautiful Stretch of Oregon Coast

Looking North at a Beautiful Stretch of Oregon Coast

Once on the beach it appeared we were alone, however, it was evident that vehicles could use the beach typically for fishing access. We hiked north looking for a good campsite. After setting up camp we prepared for some serious chillaxing. However, we were soon visited by a fairly unique recreational vehicle.

I have to admit both Brook and I were wondering who these folks were with a beach outfitted rig complete with a couple of Trump Flags. Brook and I did have a nice visit with these 2 fisherman who had caught some ocean perch. I stayed clear of any political discussions. As evening approached the cool breeze from the north was getting nippy, but the sunshine made it all good. Brook and I spent the rest of the evening enjoying our beach.

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Brook had a great time playing with sticks.

And we were treated to a beautiful sunset.

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Brook really enjoyed running on the sunset beach.

The full moon made for a great dimly lighted evening. I hung out in the tent until the sun rose to help dry everything out.

The second half of the loop took us up the beach until we cut back over to the actual Tahkenitch Dunes Trail.

We crossed the intersection for the Tahkenitch Creek Trail which looks like it would offer an even longer loop option. Overall this was an awesome overnight trip.

Conquered The Lost Coast Trail

The Lost Coast Trail in northern California is one of the few Coastal Wilderness treks in the US. The 25 mile north section from Mattole Beach to Shelter Cove is a challenge because of a couple 4+ mile low tide only passages. BryceGregTrailheadSo other then working out your logistics correctly it is a fairly straightforward backpacking trek. Of course in December of 2015 I did not get my logistics correct and mother nature hit me with an epic storm. I failed in my first attempt at the Lost Coast which is documented in my most read trip report “I lost to the Lost Coast Trail“. Retuning to conquer it allowed me to remember the pain and rejoice in the new success.

I really appreciated Bryce, an experienced wilderness survivalist, joining me for my return to the Lost Coast. With 2 cars you can pull off your own shuttle between Shelter Cove and Mattole, however, it is brutal. I think I would rather just do an out and back from Mattole and avoid the Shelter Cove roads. After way too much driving we did end up about a mile down the coast from Mattole and had an excellent first night on the Lost Coast.

The second day included a visit to Punta Gorda Light House which also is home to a rather large population of Elephant Seals.

Punta Gorda Light House around the Point

Punta Gorda Light House around the Point

Low tide was at 4 pm so we could take our time working through the 1st hazard zone for our second night at Spanish Flat. Punta Gorda was holding up well but the our treat was being able to pass by a couple hundred Elephant Seals. Calving season had just ended and a team of researchers from Humboldt State University were trying to gather data and tag the 102 new seal pups. I think we saw Elephant Seals for about 2 miles.

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This up close view of the elephant seals was awesome but now we needed to put in some miles to get through the first 4 mile hazard zone.

This was also when I started recalling my bad memories from my first attempt at the Lost Coast. But this time I did not have to jump in the ocean so the hike to Spanish Flat was quite enjoyable. Our only challenge for getting past the low tide zone was to wait for the tide to go out and then time the waves at a few of the points.

Once you are beyond the first hazard zone you are greeted with a nice long trail up on a grass shelf to get you to Spanish Flat.

Instead of having to stop and dry out I got to enjoy the beautiful scenery. We were able to camp at the same spot I had ridden out the first day of a storm back in 2015.

This day was all about being perfect. Fairly warm, plenty of dry firewood and the formation of an excellent sunset.

The sunset was awesome. The next morning was beautiful as I said my goodbyes to the Spanish Ridge that I had to climb over to seek shelter from the typhoon in 2015.

Spanish Ridge

Spanish Ridge

The remaining hike was new terrain for me. I took this ocean video before leaving.

Now on too Big Flat and the 2nd high tide hazard zone.

I think the temperature was 60 and we were hiking in shorts and it was February, this was as good as it gets.

Jane from the San Francisco area

Jane from the San Francisco area

About this time we met Jane who we ended up hiking with to our next campsite that night. We come into the Big Flat area and realize that a fair number of California Surfers had either hiked in or flown in via private planes to surf this area. Some had been there for many days. One dad said it was a constant task to feed his three teenage boys who were out surfing when we passed by. Check it out.

Soon after Big Flat through Miller Flat we entered into the 2nd hazard zone, but I did not feel that it was as difficult as the 1st.

Plus we didn’t actually make it all the way through as we decided to camp at Buck Creek which would require that we get an early start the next morning to finish the 2nd hazard area.

We had about 6 miles to hike out to Shelter Cove, but it did include some great scenery.

Black Sands Beach was very nice and empty on a Saturday morning.BlackSandsStream

We said goodbye to the Lost Coast Trail from the Black Sands Trailhead.

View North from Black Sands Trailhead

View North from Black Sands Trailhead

Then the grueling shuttle over to Mattole from Shelter Cove and then up and over the mountain to Ferndale.

Heading over the Mountain to Ferndale

Heading over the Mountain to Ferndale

We had brews and fish at the SeaQuake Brewery in Cresent City and then spent a night in Jedediah Smith State Park before driving home to Oregon.

 

Remembering the “Good”

Facebook greeted me this morning with a memory from 8 years ago when when Bryce Mitchell and I were in Cameroon, Africa, working for our NGO GeoAid, providing humanitarian aid for the Baka Pygmies in the Eastern province near Lomie.

GeoAid Team in Lomie Cameroon

GeoAid Team in Lomie Cameroon

Bryce (center) was our Director who had stepped into the role replacing his father who had unexpectedly died 6 months earlier. Tribute to Bill Mitchell

Last week I was playing golf at Chehalem Glenn in Newberg, OR, remembering that fatal day when Bill Mitchell died from a massive heart attack on the 9th hole. It was 8 years ago this week when Bryce and I were in Cameroon shoring up GeoAid with his new leadership. Unfortunately GeoAid no longer exists due to the collapse of the mining operation that supported the effort. However, much Good was accomplished.

Tomorrow, Bryce and I head to the north coast of California to backpack the Lost Coast Trail.

Lost Coast Trail - Punta Gorda Lighthouse

Lost Coast Trail – Punta Gorda Lighthouse

I have documented how this is a return to conquer for me but now I realize it was probably meant to be a reunion for Bryce and I to remember all the good that GeoAid accomplished thanks to Bryce and his Dad. The weather report for the Lost Coast could not be any better for this time of year. This is going to be a great Adventure.

Move to Colorado

Historical Posts representing Adventure Continues: Second Quarter

Steamboat Springs was in some Chaos with the ski mountain closing right after Christmas in 76. The locals were in a world of hurt while us transients made our plans to move on. I went back to Indiana for Christmas, said my goodbye’s to my hoosier friends and packed up my VW Bug with everything Connie & I would need for a new life in Colorado. My father-in-law’s was impressed for how well I packed my car. I remember how excited I was to know what my next step of the Adventure was going to be. It felt so great to have the freedom to move to this beautiful state where I knew we could get jobs and prepare for the next adventure. Connie was doing the same in Indianapolis and was starting to lay some plans for our May wedding there.

I had secured us an apartment in Westminster, CO, near 72nd and Federal. Connie remembers it was furnished at $160 per month. Definitely a starter apartment but nice. We arrived in early January of 77 and all was good. I took the first job I could get which was a night janitor position in a large hotel on I-25 near downtown Denver. During the day I was looking for a better job. Connie landed a job as hostess at another large hotel in Denver taking a bus to work. Soon I landed a job as a chemist at Colorado International, a chemical formulating plant in Commerce City. This job was good in that it seemed like I was following what my education had prepared me for. However, things did not totally add up for this business. I was given far more responsibility than I deserved.

Connie lasted in her job until the National Western Stock Show rolled into town. Her hotel was strategic for the hosting of the stock show where many of the wealthy ranchers came to play. The story of her dismissal had to do with her response to one of these rich ranchers who was being extremely rude. Her response back to him, that she could be just as rude to him did not fly with her boss and she was immediately terminated. She did find another job that worked out much better. A positive from our time in Westminster was our motivation to drive into the mountains for great skiing. It was good prioritization of our recreation budget. RussellKSAnd a tidbit about my old friend Steve. Turns out he found a way to return to Kansas City for a visit and on his way back got nabbed in Russell, KS, for possession of a few joints. He used his only phone call to call me to see how much money I could wire to them. Funny how the amount I could send turned out to be his fine.

I started asking more questions at Colorado International and even had my brother, a lawyer at Monsanto, do some research on this company. They needed someone who could run a Gas Chromatograph to validate various herbicide and pesticide products that they were formulating. But it did not take me long to question why we were buying raw chemicals and then packaging them to be sold at a loss. This was not a sophisticated operation and when my brother told me the owner had 22 chemical warehouses around the country, activities started to add up to a mafia type operation. Lot’s of strange things happened at Colorado International before I was able to quit latter that Summer, but I sure knew that I did not want to be apart of what ever was really going on there. The plant was destroyed after explosions and fire in December, 1977.

GregConnieWeddingOur wedding on May 7th was nice. Married in the Butler University Chapel with a dinner reception for close friends and family at the North Willow Farms Clubhouse. I never really thought about how stupid I looked in a powder blue tux but that was my favorite so I went for it. Connie and I fulfilled the wedding expectations for our families but we were ready to return to Colorado where we were set to move into a nicer apartment complex in Boulder. I think this is when I realized Indiana was a good place to be from. Some advice for men, you should not get married the day after your birthday especially near the yearly holiday of Mother’s Day. This celebration gauntlet generates far too much tension.

Once in Boulder I started focusing on completing my IU degree at Colorado University. I validated my Colorado residency by living there for a year. And to my great surprise I applied for a government scholarship to help with my school expenses and I received all that I needed. Making very little money in 1976 set me up well for my scholarship request. We did not know what the future held but we were both into the Adventure.


Next Post: Boulder Colorado

Boulder is a college town in a beautiful setting next to the Flatiron foothills, but in the summer of 77 it had its own post Vietnam era independent vibe. Connie and I truly enjoyed living the good life in Boulder.

Steamboat Springs Ski Bum

Historical Posts representing Adventure Continues: Second Quarter

It is the middle of autumn 1976 and I no longer have a job at Rabbit Ears Lodge nor do I have a place to live. But I was fortunate to get a job as a maintenance man for the Holiday Inn in Steamboat Springs. I guess my resume was strong with a few months experience as the maintenance man at Rabbit Ears Lodge. So Steve (Indian? Friend from Rabbit Ears Lodge) and I headed into Steamboat. I went to work and Steve looked for a place to live. We met at the Tugboat that first evening when Steve was excited to tell me that he found us a place to live just above the Tugboat with a couple of girls from New Jersey. Seems like I remember thinking, oh well, The Adventure Continues. Turns out it was a fairly sweet deal. The girls had the lease on an apartment with a main bedroom for themselves and a loft for Steve and I right in the heart of Steamboat Square or “Party Central”. I can’t remember if Steve got a job, but he did pickup some income dealing pot to the locals.

Our female roommates were not really our type so there were no sexual tensions, however, we sure did have some spats about the use of the apartment. Steve and I quickly became socially connected which in turn helped our roommates. TugboatBar-GrillIn many respects the Tugboat was our living room. We spent a lot of time playing pool and forecasting how great the ski season would be. The Tugboat and Ski Time Square was an iconic landmark during the development of the Steamboat Springs Ski Resort. Across from us was the Sheraton Hotel that encompassed the entire ski base area. There were a few condos and and some private homes, but hardly the ski area development that now covers everything down to highway 40. I was officially living the life of a Ski Bum waiting for it to snow.

My job at the Holiday Inn typically focused on fixing the plumbing but I would also be called on to drive the hotel bus which was actually a converted school bus. Not sure if I got a commercial upgrade to my drivers license but I probably should have. I did have a stressful/embarrassing event when I was tagged to drive a group of visiting travel agents around Steamboat. They wanted to go up on the mountain as far as the roads would take us, however, a blanket of 4 or 5 inches of wet snow greeted us on a dirt road which may have been today’s Apres Ski Way. Well as I started up the incline I lost traction and the bus started to slide back down the hill. Luckily nothing was up there and we only ended up stuck. This was before cell phones so after apologizing to my passengers I had to hoof my way to a phone and call for help to extract our guests off the mountain.

This time in Steamboat for me was a search for my rite of passage into my adult future. This also translated into how to manage that freedom that comes with adulthood. Sex, drugs and rock-n-roll consumed our free time and I was taking it all in while trying to manage my consumption. This small community of 20 somethings was burning the wick at both ends and I was starting to question the sanity of such an existence. Luckily I had a serious girlfriend back in Indiana who helped to keep me grounded in discussions about a more stable life passage. However, I guess my adventurous spirit justified taking it all in. Keep in mind that America was coming out of the Hippie movement which glamorized trips on hallucinogenic drugs such as psilocybin and acid. Regretfully, I agreed to take an acid trip which was about a 24 hour commitment initially to wild hallucinating fun that faded into the painful reality that your body was not supposed to be treated this way. I do remember a fairly comical event from that trip. There were a few of us who ventured out into the night wanting to play in the snow. We found ourselves over at the Sheraton’s outdoor swimming pool that was empty and frozen. We thought it would be fun to slide down into the pool on the slick icy coating. We ended up in the deep end where there is that gradual drop-off from a depth of about 4 to 9 feet. And of course we could not climb back up the incline due to the ice. I can’t remember how long we were there contemplating our predicament, but it was a bit hilarious. I’m not sure how we did get out, but it gave me a a good reason to avoid hallucinogens forever thereafter.

I had come to understand that this loose life style was not for me, but I had to navigate this current environment as best I could. Thankfully, I did benefit from the experience that this beautiful Colorado ski town was offering. I explored the surrounding area of Routt National Forest and Steve and I actually went backpacking up to Gilpin Lake. My passion for this place was growing so I was looking for a way to continue a life in Steamboat Springs, although on a more responsible path. I had even heard about the curse: In 1881, Colorow, a Ute Indian leader declared: “Those who come to the Yampa Valley to live will never be able to leave.

GregConnieCindyVW

Future Wife Connie who is still my Wife (& my dog Cindy)

My girlfriend, Connie, and I would talk about what it might be like if she joined me in this beautiful place. Out of those conversations my heart moved me to officially propose marriage over the phone and her acceptance included the stipulation that I come home to validate to her parents that it was going to be OK for their 20 year old daughter to quit school and move to Steamboat Springs. OK then, I got off work on a Friday afternoon and drove 22 hours straight to Indiana to ask for Connie’s hand in marriage and arrange for a way that she could join me at the beginning of the year in Steamboat. I must have sold myself well but I think this really happened because Connie’s parents knew she was going to do this with or without their blessing. I drove back to Steamboat an engaged man with a lot to think about. 

It was early December and there really wasn’t any snow on Mt Warner, Steamboat’s ski mountain. Everyone dependent upon the ski industry was getting really nervous. They were trying to trigger snow by seeding the clouds with silver-iodide, they were even enlisting Indian medicine men to offer their influence. But it didn’t snow, we were officially in a drought. If the ski area lost the Christmas revenue it would be a disaster, so the local merchants loaned their physically capable staff to go up on the mountain and shovel snow out of the woods onto the ski runs in order to officially open for Christmas. I participated in this effort which generated a weird kind of camaraderie but it didn’t really work. The Ski Corp officially closed right after Christmas and the snow making equipment industry was launched. I opted for new plans to bring Connie out to Denver at the beginning of the year, where we would find jobs and reevaluate our next step. The wedding was planned for May.


Next Post: Move to Colorado

Steamboat Ski Resort closed and I made plans for Connie and I to move to Denver. Connie started to adapt to Colorado and I found myself in a strange job as a chemist. The groundwork was being laid to end up in Boulder to finish my degree.

Exercise so the Adventure Can Continue

I do love to take off on a strenuous backpacking or hiking trip most anytime of the year with most treks concentrated during the warmer months. However, as a 65 year old man with 2 artificial hips, a suspect back weighing in over 200 pounds, I have to be careful not to overdue it. That means staying in relatively good shape year round which is only getting more difficult as the years pile on.

Hiking on the Chegwyn Farm

Hiking on the Farm

This translates into a push for daily exercise which is primarily accomplished thanks to my dog, Brook’s, need for exercise. We are fortunate to live on the outskirts of town next to a farm that provides ample routes for interesting dog walks. Brook and I probably average 4 miles a day of flatland hiking but that is not enough to keep me ready for the hike we went on yesterday. 

Every week, typically on a decent weather day, I motivate myself to take on a hike that includes a vertical climb.

Trappist Abbey Hike

Trappist Abbey Hike

Many times that may be a 5 mile loop up and around the Trappist Abbey which gives us a 1000 foot vertical. Yesterday, 12/26/2019, we took on Elk Mountain in the Tillamook State Forest which is only a 3 mile round trip but the 2000′ vertical over such a short route is punishing. One of those hikes where you do have to stop many times to let your heart slow down. A hike where an old guy does think about turning around before the summit, but that cannot happen. Of course the reward of making the vista summit is worth it, but the true reward comes from your sore legs that confirm that your body can still perform.

ElkMtnSummitYesterday was a beautiful cold sunny Oregon day in the coastal range which was ideal for the Elk Mountain climb. The trail was in excellent condition partly due to the frozen ground.

The views are better in the winter when vegetation is at a minimum. Overall, Elk Mountain is a great hike that will challenge any physically fit hiker. So I feel good that I only have some sore legs which tell me that I am still able to participate in my passion.

(See previous backpacking Elk Mountain Post – Mountain Top Experience)

What is the correct prescription of exercise for an old guy like me. I have had 65 years to learn what my body can handle. I have paid the price for being out of shape and then over exerting myself which might typically lead to back problems. I was young enough to recover and learned to be more cautious but I was able to cheat on staying in shape. Those days are over, My greatest fear is that I will injure my back causing me to become out of shape which I know will severely impact my ability to pursue my passion. Thank God, I have avoided these back injuries for many years but only because I know that I must keep my overall body strong. A back is protected by all of your muscles working in harmony. Routine exercise is a requirement for living my dream so the Adventure Can Continue.

Rabbit Ears Lodge

Historical Posts representing Adventure Continues: Second Quarter

My subsidized summer as a missionary was coming to an end and I needed a job. I fully intended to spend the upcoming year living and working on the Northside of Denver until I could qualify for in state tuition to go to the University of Colorado in Boulder. Awe, but the Adventure Continued elsewhere. Continental_DivideI answered an ad in the Denver Post to be a Maintenance Man at Rabbit Ears Lodge located between Kremling and Steamboat Springs on the Eastside of Rabbit Ears Pass. My justification for considering myself a maintenance man came from mentoring from my fixit and make do father. This job wasn’t paying much so I figured I had a shot. Plus, this was a ‘Way Cool’ opportunity to live and work in one of the most beautiful lodges in the Rockies.

So I got the job, most likely because I could talk the talk and I had a brain. Basically they gave me room and board plus a small allowance. What the heck, that was all I needed, the Adventure Continued. Rabbit Ears Lodge was currently owned by a successful Realtor in Denver. The Lodge had been a Phillips 66 Executive Retreat, but I heard they had trouble justifying its tax write-off as laws changed and they sold it in 1972. So this Realtor from Denver got it cheap and thought he might turn it into a destination resort in the Rockies. And it probably could have happened if real money had been thrown at it. Instead I got to add a unique 4 months to my Adventure.

I was able to get out of my apartment lease and I packed all my belongings into my VW Bug and drove to Rabbit Ears. I had no idea how this was going to play out but I was game for the adventure.

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Lake Agnes

The road to the property is accessed by a gravel road off of US Hwy 40 to the south just before you start your climb over Rabbit Ears pass. The 640 acre property surrounded the 110 acre Lake Agnes, which I was told was one of the deepest lakes in Colorado. Once I arrived and connected with the lodge Director, I was introduced to the small cast of employees who were responsible for running this rather exclusive mountain resort. We were all in our 20s trying to figure out where life was leading us.

The Cast of Characters

Ted was probably the oldest, maybe 25, and had been there the longest, which meant all summer. He was the cook and helped out in the office. He had the best room in the employee bunk house and sort of dictated the rules. Anna, a waitress/housekeeper, was a strange tiny girl who wanted to present herself as “Hippie Mysterious”. Her clothing leaned toward seductive, but she did not have the body to back it up. Leslie, a waitress/housekeeper, was mysterious in a different way, as in, why was she there. A fairly good looking girl whose story I would come to learn later. And then there was Steve, basically a handyman who helped with all of the recreational activities, fishing, horseback riding, and wilderness excursions. Steve was basically “full of shit” touting himself as being an Indian because he had the looks to back that up. And I was the maintenance man, mostly I fixed toilets, and filled in to help the guests have a good experience.

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Rabbit Ears 1980

This place was paradise for us 20 somethings who all had a touch of adventurous spirit. We did have guests but not so many that it infringed upon our free time. Steve and I were not only thrown together for various tasks, but we did seem to develop some chemistry. Steve was from the wrong side of the tracks, but he could bullshit his way into any social scenario. He knew that he could not pull anything over on me which laid a foundation of honesty that I believe he greatly cherished. Steve was wild and crazy and I helped him manage some boundaries. We had a fabulous time maintaining and promoting all of the great recreational activities offered by the lodge.

Autumn was approaching and the guest reservations were dwindling. The lodge was hoping to see a spike in reservations connected with guests wanting access to skiing in Steamboat Springs. I don’t think we really cared, we just wanted this dream to continue. However, life did change for a long weekend when the owner from Denver brought his family to the lodge. We had all gotten pretty comfortable with the minimal work by day and heavy partying at night. We had to cleanup our acts and suck up to this pompous owner. He had a son maybe 10 years old who he essentially wanted us to babysit by providing him with our various wilderness adventures. However, I believe he realized that he should not entrust this child with Steve so I was pressed into duty. It was all cool, his son had a great time and I gained the owners trust. Basically I had to vouch for how this motley crew that was running his lodge were totally capable of handling the influx of guests that he was hopeful for.

Running the lodge did require that we accomplish various service and maintenance tasks. I remember fixing a lot of leaky faucets, broken toilets and splitting a lot of firewood. I learned about septic systems and fireplaces. And I learned a bit about horses since we had 5 or 6 that we would gladly schedule for guests, although I don’t remember any taking us up on that opportunity. Steve and I felt an obligation to exercise the horses, always coming up with reasons why we needed to ride to the far reaches of the property. However, I can’t say that I ever got comfortable riding. One day Steve and I were on horseback paused at the end of a really lush green valley. Steve must had dared me to race or pretend it was a calvary charge which set us off on a full gallop down the valley. I can’t believe I hung on because I only remember pure panic. Overall, how cool was it to live in the mountains at a beautiful lodge with your own horses and some of the best fishing in the Rockies.

58bb47901640767b838af5ef1bcdaf7eAutumn at Rabbit Ears is amazingly beautiful when the aspens paint the hillsides with their flickering yellow leaves. Snow was starting to make appearances and guests were few in number. Steve was obsessed with seducing little Anna, but she was showing no interest so he was hoping a get-away to the Strawberry Park Hot Springs near Steamboat Springs would open that door of opportunity. These hot springs were a bit of a secret known only to the locals and we were more then overdue in taking advantage of them. Steve, Anna, Leslie and I headed off on this adventure thanks again to my VW. The video below shows the Springs today as a unique commercial spa operation still in the middle of the wilderness.

When we went there in 1976 it was a very unique Hippie Love-In type experience that was free to those who knew how to get there. The pools were laid out in terraces of hot to cool water with a fair amount of rock layout that provided a magically comfortable experience. It seemed like we stayed all night floating around naked under a light blanket of falling snow. I don’t think Steve had a breakthrough with Anna, but I had a good time with Leslie. In the coming days I would find out that Leslie wanted a more serious relationship. If that had a chance I needed to know more about who she was. Turns out she had lost a lot of weight and was now trying to figure out who this new skinny Leslie was. Unfortunately she was still carrying a lot of psychological baggage so I kept my distance from any involvement, plus I had learned that she and Ted had been an item which created some community tension. Leslie moved on shortly thereafter.

We were given 2 weeks notice that the Lodge was going to close for winter, so we used that time to plan our next adventures but we also tried to cram in as much of this beautiful experience as we could. The main lodge was a massive rock and wood structure that wrapped around the shoreline on Lake Agnes. The lower level was mostly open space designed for indoor recreation.

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Great place to play Ping Pong

When we knew our time was nearing its end we spent a lot of time playing ping pong on a table setup in front of a fireplace that was a long as the table. Ted was the ping pong wizard, but I did end up his equal. The weather was probably terrible so we ended up playing ping pong day and night. It is amazing how good you can become during such an intense athletic effort. Of course I did draw from my youthful talent that took me to sixth grade Lafayette, IN, runner-up ping pong champion. It was a good way to phase down the Rabbit Ears experience and say our goodbyes. Steve and I ventured into Steamboat Springs where I found a job as “Maintenance Man” at the Holiday Inn. The Adventure Continued and Steamboat Springs would play a significant role.


Next Post: Steamboat Springs Ski Bum

Needing a job and a place to live, I landed just up the road in Steamboat Springs with the another maintenance man job at the Holiday Inn. I never really got to be a ski bum though, it did not snow in the Colorado Mountains during the 76/77 winter.

My Dog is Complicated

My dog Brook, @AussieBrook, and I just returned from a perfect backpacking overnighter to Tom, Dick & Harry Mountain. The weather was perfect thanks to a temperature inversion that kept the Portland area under a blanket of fog. This was important because I really needed to give Brook a positive backpacking experience since our early summer outings had soured her on the whole backpacking thing. You see, Brook, an Australian Shepard, is complicated. She is a typical Aussie in that she wants to herd, protect and keep me aware of everything.

She is 4 years old and has been backpacking with me for 3 seasons. The problem relates to how Brook will totally sacrifice her own comfort to ensure that I am protected. This translates to her only sleeping outside and typically finding a strategic vantage point from which to keep watch through the night.

WetBrook

Hiking out in a snow/rain storm 6/19

Frankly, I would rather she slept in the tent to help keep me warm, but I do appreciate her concern. However, as I mentioned, Brook is complicated. I have never had a dog that I needed to negotiate with. This year those negotiations centered around her deciding that she did not want to backpack with me. This objection relates first to the fact that she hates to ride in a car, I think this relates to her not having control of her environment. However, the real objection arose from our early season treks where she was the victim of some really bad weather. The photo above is from an overnighter to Ramona Falls in early June to investigate the Sandy River crossing in preparation for an upcoming Timberline Trail Trek with friends.

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Morning at Eden

On that Timberline Trek Brook showed her disinterest in the overall trip but cooperated just fine until the weather deteriorated. After we got hit with a snow storm, Brook disappeared by positioning herself back up the trail letting us know that she was done. In this negotiation with her we agreed to end the trek. Back home when I was preparing to go on my Lofoten Norway adventure it was obvious that Brook wanted nothing to do with it. This was OK at the time because Brook was not invited to Norway or the later Colorado Trail treks, so essentially Brook got her wish and had the summer off from backpacking. Since returning home I have been looking for an opportunity to take Brook on a positive outing. I even purchased her a new winter jacket to help get her through those cold nights.

Well our recent overnighter to TDH mountain was all that I had asked for and better. From my perspective the view from TDH of Mt Hood and the many other mountains to the north is a backpackers treat. BrookJacketClear skies is a must but getting comfortable temperatures in November was more then I could have hoped for. We made it to our campsite around 4 pm and setup camp in preparation for darkness to hit early. As the sun went down it got really cold, probably got to 38 but the breeze was out of the west and it felt good. Brook ended up laying next to the tent close enough to be laying next to my legs. Again, I would have loved to have had her in the tent, but at least she was staying close. The first time I got up I could tell the temperature was rising, it felt great and I could tell that Brook was also happy with it. She hung out next to the tent until about 1 am which was a real positive. Overall she seemed very happy at sunrise and showed her appreciation with many kisses.BrookKiss

The morning was spectacular with an awesome view of Mt Hood. Brook had a wonderful time terrorizing the local squirrel population as I enjoyed a leisurely morning taking in the view.HoodGood

I think Brook may be mellowing a bit in her objections to backpacking, but I will make sure that our next outing, probably next Spring will be a pleasant one for her.

HoodWide

However, I leave this trek with a concern. I do not think I have ever seen so little snow cover on Mt Hood.

These views of the south side of the mountain are from 110519 and 110818. The problem is not a lack of snowfall but more rapid melt-off due to higher temperatures.

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