Monday, March 23, 2009
On Carousels, Coffee Shops and (high) Country Lanes
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Nederland and the March Hare
by Marcelo Games
Heather and I and our two boys live about 25 miles south of Nederland, along the not quite as famous Gilpin County portion of the otherwise famed and fabulous Peak-to-Peak Highway. The more famous part is the northbound stretch along the spectacular Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, between Nederland and Estes Park with its views of the Continental Divide, pristine mountain meadows, glistening mountain streams, deer and elk migration routes, and the miles of aspen groves that draw so many here in the Autumn months to witness the yellow-orange-red explosion of color that marks the changing of the seasons. It truly is a fabulous road - and I don't mean the road itself (not the smooth asphalt, pretty lines or striking curves) but the unfathomable landscape it winds through and that makes it so very highly worthy of its "scenic" designation.
Our end of the Peak-to-Peak - while not as continually sweeping and dramatic as the north end - meandering as it does through a series of hills and valleys, cutting across the 'town' of Rollinsville and the tiny industrial zone of Mid-Gilpin-County with its library, gas station, mechanics' quonset, slash pile, car wash and the county roads-department site, offers every bit the beauty and spectacle, just cut up a bit more by human habitation and mountain commerce. Just past our neighborhood, in fact, as you begin the slow descent from our 9400' to the 9000' of Black Hawk and Central City below, the utter majesty of nature's presence unveils itself in two miles of snowcapped tundra and alpine forest that can momentarily stop the heart of even the most hardened, mountain-savvy local who dares to take a 'casual' glance. But hey, this is Colorado, and the truth is that just about anywhere you go in Colorado there's something wholly and uncommonly beautiful to be witnessed.
But I digress. My point when I mentioned how we live some 25 miles out of town, along with the fact that my other
job (the one where I don't manage vacation rentals), involves the care of 70+ alpacas on a 50 acre ranch, is that I don't get out as much as the average town-living person. More often than not my jobs consist of feeding, cleaning and mending on the ranch, or booking, cleaning and mending at the rentals. When I do get to town, it's usually to shop, attend a school function (the boys go to school in Nederland, Heather works there), visit a friend or go to dinner and then a movie at the Backdoor Theater in the old elementary school-turned-new-Community Center (a very fun and singular small town experience). Sometimes a week or two or three pass before I find myself in town, and as Nederland is a bustling and active place filled with creative, innovative and forward-looking people, I occasionally roll in to find a town not so much changed, as, well, sort of re-arran
ged... Just last month I arrived to discover that The Good Karma Center had moved from its place next door to the bank and hardware store on the west side of town, to a new place across from the Teen Center 'way over' on the east side of town (and changed its name to The Studio Darshan
). The Happy Trails Bike and Coffee Shop was in the process of moving from its own space in the train cars by the supermarket to The Good Karma Center's old spot just across the street. And to my pleasant surprise, the Carousel of Happiness was suddenly more than just a great idea and a collection of fabulous carousel sculptures warehoused in the hills, quietly awaiting a real home: the frame was up and the long-time, wonderful vision was finally coming alive in the form of that very home; right smack next door to the train cars- a new, one-of-a-kind Nederland attraction.
It's all connected after all. A town like Nederland is a dynamic, living organism, and it adapts to change and flux like any living organism; rarely is a space ever left empty for too long a time, and rarely is a niche not filled to balance out the proper function of the whole. It's like the wilds not an fender's length away from those cool high country lanes, where the aspens and e
vergreens trade off between forest and meadow; where the elk grazes by day and the coyote hunts by night; where creek, spring and alpine lake take turns replenishing the lot with runoff from the snowmelt far above, forever giving, taking and sharing in the Rocky Mountain lifestyle. It's all connected, and to be a part of it - whether working, visiting or just passing through - is a pleasure and privilege beyond imagination. Just that. Plain and simple.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Home Sweet Home-Base...
by Marcelo Games
"Birthday? My dear child, this is NOT a birthday party."
-- The March Hare
It's not an un-birthday party either, truth be told. It's...well, it's March
in Nederland; the most famous moment of our year. If anything (I slowly turn to face camera-2 over my right shoulder, voice deepening, eyes creepily squinting in the glare of the single light beaming up at me from floor level), it's a DEATHDAY PARTY...
I speak, of course, about Nederland's own (and who else in their right minds would dare claim it?), Frozen Dead Guy Days. Yep. FDGD, with its hearse parade, coffin races, polar plunge, frozen salmon toss, pub crawl, midnight champagne tour of the dead guy's Tuff Shed, and the ever-elegant Ice Blue Ball where the dead guy look-alike contest merrily ensues. It happens every March up here, and like clockwork the world ever so slightly cocks its head, raises an eyebrow, and like a passerby at the scene of a very unusual accident, just can't help but take a brief but copious look-see.
I'm having a delayed response here. The event happened last weekend. It's over-with for 2009. The fun and wackiness have come and gone like a hiccup in the Winter swirl of our mountaintop Springtime. The camera crews have sped away. The Youtube videos have been run and run again, and again and again. The hats and t-shirts, the beer mugs and keychains have been sold or stored away, and the big old beer tent has been folded up and dutifully returned to the rental center, probably down in Boulder where it belongs. A week has passed and I'm just now getting to think about it...
The "dead guy", as we so blithely refer to the long deceased Norwegian whose post-mortem fate has brought him to this place and bestowed upon him this radical notoriety, is - was
- Bredo Morstoel. He died, apparently of heart failure, in 1989. Not in Nederland, though he once visited as a live specimen some seven years earlier, but in the Winter hills of his native Norway. His daughter, Aud, and his grandson, Trygve (to make a long story shorter) had the old man's body shipped to a lab in California to be cryogenically frozen. With minds to build their own cryogenic facility and presumably begin a body-preservation-for-later-re-animation-and-healthy-restoration small business, Aud and Trygve bought their little piece of fated acreage just above the town of Nederland (Trygve had been living down in Boulder and must have decided Ned was the ideal, out of the way, funky kind of headquarters for a cryonics lab) and in 1993 proceeded to install the local frozen dead guy. Grandpa Bredo, as he's most affectionately called here, "resides", quite literally, in a metal Tuff Shed where every March at the stroke of midnight throngs of champagne-tipping FDGD participants pay awkward homage, listening to the unlikely story of his immortality as the "Ice Man" (Bo Shaffer) demonstrates his weekly occupation of keeping the dead guy packed and comfy in his minus 200 degree steel coffin, snug-tight in a bed of dry ice, safe and, well, solid
, inside the now internationally (in)famous abominable Tuff Shed. For the full tale check out the Nederland Chamber of Commerce website at: www.nederlandchamber.org. Hey, every town's got its own special story, right?
"I have and excellent idea, LET'S CHANGE THE SUBJECT...how about a nice cup of tea?"
-- The March Hare (again)
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Clear for takeoff...
by Marcelo Games
Heather and I traveled to Paris once. We stayed in a lovely centuries-old home in the small city of La-Celle-Saint-Cloud (pronounced la sell san clue
) where Heather's parents were living on a two year stint with IBM. There was a particular, multi-layered smell about the house and the town; a built-in smell which, like a city grid or the pattern in a fabric, underlies and its quiet way identifies the place or the fabric with the sum of all its parts. It was the smell of cheese and wine, leather and wood, grass clippings, flowers and freshly cut herbs; all imbued with the ever-present but never overbearing big city scents of newsprint, traffic fumes, coffee grounds, baking bread, and the pervasive, steamy, humid tug of the Metro, rumbling deep down in the guts of the collective "see".
The walk into the business district closest to the house (the "Village" of this particular section of the city) was about four blocks. The train ride to Paris, not ten miles away, took about 30 minutes. I remember how we'd make morning forays those four quiet blocks to the village, strolling underneath tunnels of old, broad-limbed trees that peeked over walled-in courtyards and yawned across the narrow sidewalks as if lazily pointing out the cobbled streets where once the clops of horses hooves echoed, but now only car tires whizz and fripple across the aging stone. I remember the train rides across the backs of several "Saint-Clouds" - each alike but distinct in its own unique manifestation - and the way the buildings started growing and how the scale of all things human gradually expanded, radiated outward in a deliciously ordered chaos of invention and ostentation until we'd find ourselves in the heart of Paris, dizzy with the bigness of it, the oldness of it, and the newness all at once.
But I most remember sitting at the kitchen table at "home base", talking, perusing maps and luxuriating in the sheer, incomparable glory of a few baguettes, a chunk of Comte cheese, and a glass or two (or three) of rich, deep-red Beaujolais wine. My god, the simple beauty of it!
I often wonder what it would be like to travel here, to be a visitor experiencing Nederland and the mountain region for the very first time. I've lived here nearly 20 years now, and I forget the sense of initial newness I'd felt upon arrival, but I still feel newness all the time. There's so much here at altitude, from the majesty of the Continental Divide to the stillness of an alpine lake to the funky beat of a poetry-music jam at Blue Owl Books on a Saturday night, or the the full-on blast of a rock band at the Pioneer Inn on 1st Street.
I can imagine sitting at the breakfast nook at Trail's End studying a trail map, choosing a route for the day, unaware as yet of the unbelievable, awe-inspiring hike to come. I've been on many mountain hikes and every one is new, every one is different, every one is absolutely monumental in its beauty. First there's the silence- the seeming absence of sound until your ears adjust to it, and then the slow fade-in of a breeze against pine needles, the twitterings of birdcalls, the chatterings of squirrels, the flutter-buzz of hummingbirds only an arm's length away from reach. There's the occasional wave and serene "hello" from a passing hiker, the crunch of foot falls on dirt and gravel, the steady breathing and inward stride as you make the outward connection to earth, rock, sun and sky all at once. There's the brief, once in a lifetime, other-wordly encounter with a wild creature - a marmot, a deer, a red-tailed hawk; the thrill of standing on an outcrop of rock and gazing impossibly down at post-card perspectives of valleys, canyons, meadows and lakes...and there's the absolute sublime, irreplaceable joy
of snacking on an apple at 11,000 feet after a two hour hike to the top of the world- and it's all right outside the doorway, not five miles away from home-base! It can't help, really, but be new every time, even it you've done it again and again and again.
Well, this is it, our first blog entry ever for Mountain Homes Management, LLC. Like curious, excited travelers venturing into unknown lands, we step into the newness, ever-open for whatever might come next and aware that though we might get lost now and again, we'll always find our way to wherever it is we need to be. We hope, with this blog, to offer a bit of food for thought regarding the unique experience of our mountain vacation destination (and the homes from which to explore it), featuring a hearty blend of local flavor, history, commentary, tips, information, personal 'musings', photography and much, much more.
The sky's the limit and we're only now bursting from the launch pad. Welcome to the wonderland of Nederland and beyond; the gateway to fun, relaxation, adventure, romance and high-altitude improvisation!
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