Day Sixteen by Dave Schultheis
Saturday, June 8, 2002 - The M Lazy C Ranch near Lake George, Colorado
We had learned our lesson from the night before and had used the oil heater to keep the chill outside the cabin. It worked well, almost too well; we had to turn it off when it got too warm.
After bathroom trips around 1:00-ish and 5:30-ish, I tried to get up and dressed as quietly as I could, but somehow managed to wake some of the others, so we had a little "cabin chat," but they wanted to go back to sleep until a more reasonable hour.
So I got dressed about 6:45 a.m. and wandered the ranch in the cool of the morning. I greeted some of the horses, watched the wranglers put out hay for the livestock and thought about how good breakfast was going to be at 8 a.m. at the dance hall, about 3/4 mile across the property.
As eight o'clock approached, I meandered down the trail, past the horse corrals and down the dirt road to the dance hall. It was a fairly new and very nice, although spartan, multi-purpose facility, with a big main room, large restrooms, a good size kitchen, and lots of picnic tables and benches for indoor dining. There were also outdoor cooking and serving facilities and bales of hay for outdoor seating.
Breakfast was also spartan, reheated donuts and what looked like home-made muffins and juice. While I don't always eat breakfast, I usually have something a little more substantial, but maybe they knew that I should be on a diet.
After breakfast and cleanup, I took a circuitous route back to the cabin area, walking across the meadow to the area they had set up as a shooting range. It was made to resemble an old western town, with a hotel and a saloon and various relics of the period displayed. Of course, everything had holes from stray bullets.
Back at the cabin area, a beautiful Road King came into view, coming slowly down the road. It was Hoppy from Oregon, who had (I later learned) stopped in town to wash his bike so she would be pretty for us.
Around 11:30 a.m. I decided to go out for a ride. As previously mentioned, Colorado is a helmet-optional state, so I left the helmet and jacket at the cabin but wore my vest over a long-sleeve shirt and was very comfortable.
You'll note the long-sleeve shirt. I learned from the Tennessee sunburn.
As I didn't know how far gas would be the next day, I fueled at a Total Station in Florissant, then got a Subway Sandwich and some juice (for later) and meandered back to the ranch. Shortly after I arrived, hamburgers, chips and lemonade appeared, along with various other cold beverages.
Also having arrived at the ranch was Amanda's friend Steve, whom I had met in Illinois last year.
Somewhere around here, a small group went horseback riding and had a good time.
Most of the afternoon was spent lounging, chatting and wandering. It was mighty warm, so everyone did the best they could to stay in the shade. It was kind of funny to watch a small crowd move in unison to stay in the shade.
There was some retelling of a conversation between the Viking Queen and a few gentlemen who were drinking on the porch late last night. This involved a bottle of a fluid called "Heaven Hill," brought by Don T. on the red Sportster with the bottomless saddlebags. I wasn't there, so it would be unfair of me to tell the story. However, this one may have already achieved the status of "legend," surely to be told again.
Ironhorse had commissioned some M.I.T.M. 2002 tee-shirts and had posted a message a few days prior. As I had been away from my computer (riding) for over two weeks, I had not seen the message, but he was kind enough to sell me one, which I have worn with pride.
TL Mitchell was not feeling well, and didn't look too good, either. He had felt poorly for a few days, and while some thought it was the altitude and he thought it might be a bug that he had picked up, it was decided that Nurse Chuck would take him into town and see what the medical profession had to say about it. So they commandeered the rental car and drove into Woodland Park.
Meanwhile, the assembled group spent long periods of time lounging in chairs and on benches along the front and sides of the cabins and the General Store, discussing the problems of the world and exchanging falsifications and exaggerations on many topics. There may have actually been a few true stories related. During these periods, massive quantities of cold beverages were consumed by the attendees and by a few of the local hummingbird population.
A group was sitting on benches at the General Store, listening to Ironhorse tell a story about some kind of a bar in Europe, when someone looked up and saw smoke. It looked fairly close, right over the hill to the north and west of us, and was thick and black. As time passed, it became clear that there was a big fire just a few miles away, although the distance estimates varied according to the viewer's experience with watching fires.
Gopher had brought some amateur ("ham") radios, and he searched some likely areas of the public safety bands. It didn't take long to find some chatter about the incident on fire frequencies. We listened to some of the radio traffic while watching various size airplanes go over our heads. We saw spotter planes and tankers enroute to drop fire retardant chemicals.
As we watched, the smoke changed color several times: sometimes black, sometimes grey, sometimes white.
This fire turned out to be the one set by the park ranger; one of the biggest fires in the history of Colorado.
Later, Nurse Chuck brought TL back from the hospital, where the doctor had suggested electrolytes and getting to a lower altitude instead of the treatment Tom had asked. He was not thrilled with the medical profession for a while.
About 6:30 p.m. I walked over hill and dale to the dance hall, site of the Saturday Night Chuck Wagon Barbeque. Others watched the wranglers hitch a couple draft horses to a wagon and rode over on bales of hay.
We had a wonderful dinner of chicken and ribs, baked potatoes, freshly-baked bread, beans and lemonade. Seconds were offered and one or two of us might have had thirds. Oh, and there may have been some beer.
After dinner, we adjourned to the outdoor hay bales for a bit of an awards ceremony. Amanda gave several awards, including those for longest and shortest distance ridden, and number of parties attended on one trip. She gave me the award for the longest distance ridden from home. Numerous pictures were taken with several cameras. Many kudos and thanks were given to Amanda for all the hard work she had put into Meet In The Mountains. Words cannot express how much people appreciated all the things she had done and time she had spent to make this whole thing come together.
Sometime around here, Ironhorse and his friend Bob left with TL Mitchell in tow. They were headed to lower altitudes to see if he felt a little better.
The wranglers brought the hay wagon around and many of us rode back across the property. On the approach to the cabin area, one of the horses started acting up. Between the wrangler controlling the reigns and Nancy M. giving old Frank a "hands-on" talking to, he managed to behave a little better and everyone made it back safely.
Because the forest fire was still putting up a lot of smoke, there was some concern that it might have gotten a little closer to the ranch. Some of the tent campers moved from among the trees to a flat, non-forested area near the cabins. Ranch staff evidently moved some of their livestock from one area to another, just to be safe.
The smoke seemed to be diminishing but it was hard to tell as the main body of the fire was over the hill and then down the other side, and we didn't know how far. I didn't think that we were ever in any danger since there was so much wide open space (a natural fire break) between the fire and the cabins.
Mark, from the Denver area, who had been off the ranch for a while, came back and reported that he could see flames from the road at one point, and had been told that 2 or 3 structures had been lost.
Around 9:20 p.m., I took advantage of a slack time at the bathhouse to take a shower, then went over to the (propane) campfire, where one of the wrangler boys played the guitar and sang songs for a bunch of us. Again, serious quantities of cold beverages were consumed.
I trundled off to the cabin about 10:30 p.m. and went to bed.
Miles for the day = 22. Miles for the trip = 4635.
Tomorrow: Where the buffalo roam, over mountain passes, and more hot and windy conditions.