Apres Monarch

15 update Monarch Mountain: More than skiing
(3rd in the string “Competing CO” @ end of ’14-15 ski season)

Realize that Elevation Bewery is a short side-step left off rte. 50 as we return to town. I had made a few friends when I pre-ran this trip back in December. I pressed all into the corporate center. Actually they loved it too. There fast a food truck parked beside the facility with picnic tables in a court=yard serving southwest wraps with a distinctly Mexican fare. The kids all loved it. Totally casual but fully delicious

Salida is the town associated with Monarch Mountain the ski area. Salida and the surrounding area offer many activities that attract the active traveler throughout the full year. Salida is a town for all four seasons.

Our family pilgrimage was technically our annual winter extravaganza, but the vernal equinox had arrived and passed. By date and  by feel the spring of ’15, was indeed in the air of Colorado’s “banana belt”, Difficult as it is to comprehend, it’s been said there’s more to do in the mountains than ski. At least that’s what my family was now touting.

So upon their prompting, no nagging and whining, we ventured back north on Rte. 285. Just before Buena Vista by hanging a left and ascending the box canyon we discovered the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs Resort – good find. The geothermic waters seep out of a gravel soil collecting into a small stream that emptied into the Arkansas River. The warm spring sun allowed us to comfortable don our swim suits and enjoy a gay at the beach!

Like so often throughout my life, I begrudgingly went along with a grump of a heart and a chip on my shoulder confident I would be bored to tears. Wrong!  There are a couple of large, warm swimming pools just above the stream, and around them are a myriad of log cabins and structures providing comfortable rooms for the overnight guests and vacationers. However the real kick is the creek side where hot springs bubble into the flowing current. You plop your butt in the sand a la hot tub fashion, sip a select of local origin,  to soak up the sun and the scenery. We packed sandwiches and other goodies to consume on a grassy picnic plateau overlooking a bend in the flow. We passed the whole afternoon leisurely lounging about the facilities. Cool. Or better described, “warm”.

Alternating between additional days of skiing, the “men” contracted Monarch Snow Tours with guide to whisk us all about the mine area closed for winter under a heavy blanket of natural snow. Our newly found friend recounted the local history and spun stories of interest as he led us from point to point. He’d untether us in the intermittent open fields goading us to romp and frolic about testing the limits of man and machine. (All under his skilled and mindful eye). I can’t say who had the most fun: grandfather, son or grandson each on our own ‘chene.

Upon returning, we popped some corks and traded more recollections of our colorful, personal life-stories. The owner that started as an employee of a ski instructor at Monarch who began this operation as a side business. Don had purchased the whole thing a few years past to supplement his river rafting company. I anticipate a return visit.

The females spent the morning shopping in Salida. The downtown business district is a compact collection of eclectic shops, boutiques, galleries, restaurants and real estate offices. Our granddaughter has a creative flair and a vivid imagination. Rachel loved letting it all run as the women bounced door to door. So glad we went up while they delighted in gettin’ down.

On each evening we all strolled along the riverfront path and ambled among the city center street side retailers and eateries. No fast food here, only delicious owner operated facilities specializing in their own fares and delectable. So fun! So neat. Love it.

It all ended too soon. There’s still so much we didn’t have time for like : a river raft run, a zip line adventure and But I always say, leave the grandchildren “hungry” for more and they’ll run to return, even if they have to put up with us. It’s held true over the years. Too soon we grow old. Too late we grow smart. But at least there’s still time.

Come, Ski With Me!

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Long Trail Lodge

Long Trail Lodge: Another Bunny Trail Tale
Apres Life in Central VT (evening of day 4 in the string “Extended Circle” of 14-15)

This side-story or “bunny trail” hops around my “Extended Circle Route” of the 14/15 season. John and I were in Vermont capturing 5 ‘n 5. In advance planning we conferred with Jack, a native of Killington who went on to carve a career position in Tahoe, the most diverse ski region anywhere. Not only was Jack a notable mover and shaker at Squaw Valley, basin, but he married up with Virginia who was an instructor of note at Northstar resort. They have allied and aided the BSC instruction and coaching teams for years!

We sat with Jack and Virginia during one of our now well established afternoon sessions at BSC which immediately follow our Saturday lessons: Live music by leading local bands combined by BYO, pot-look snacks, munchies sharing all of which starts shortly following dismissal time at the Xtreme Team camp. Jack and Virginia return frequently to their early stumping ground: Rutland. VT and Killington resort. “If you’re going to Ver,ont. you have to meet Oke,” they advised. Did they steer us right? Oh yea! “After skiing, stop at the Long Trail lodge The manager is an old friend of ours,” we’re informed. “Oke is a character, and he has a bottomless bag of tales and stories.”

This advice is to good to pass over. After four days of John’s healthy vegetables balanced by my junk food, it was our night to enjoy a real meal. (I try to enjoy at least one decent dinner a week.) The “Long Trail Lodge” is a well regarded local spot. The food is good. The atmosphere is “my-kind” and the bar alone is worthy a visit. The Lodge lies right on the Long Trail of Vermont. Sections of the trail double as the well regarded, very famous “Appalachian Trail”.  In Vermont like all mountain states, summer is just as much if not more fun as winter.

The Long Trail Lodge has a sister camping facility. Over time it has established itself as a fine rest stop and comfortable oasis for the countless hikers to break for good food, real accommodations, a watering hole and solid camaraderie. For years guests have signed the guest book and often adding comments for fellow travelers, kith ‘n kin at home and posterity in general.

So John and I stopped in on our return from a frigid day at Killington. I was still frozen and was most likely carrying a chip on my shoulder. Bah, humbug! You could probably read it on my face. Upon entering to a warm greeting, I inquired of the front desk, “Say, do you know a guy named Okie?

“I might.”, was the cautious reply accompanied by an incisive, but not intrusive look-over.

Well, I knew instantly. “You’re him!” I blurted,” as my frosty demure was not simply melted, but rather   evaporated. “Jack and Virginia.” I continued, “send their best. They advised us ‘gotta meet Oke’. I think they’re right.”

Oke was actually working so he politely turned down my offer to tip a few with us. But he opened up and the information, jokes and stories began to flow. Virginia and Jack were right and right on. What a time. What an education. John and I did eventually took a break to eat.

Among a myriad of other BS, Oke informed us of his sign-in routine and ritual – sign the guestbook and comment if you choose. John recalled his wife’s parents had hiked the Long Trail years prior.  On the spot, during our delicious dinner, John called to connect with Bill, his father-in-law. “Yes.”, Bill replied from afar.  “In deed Pat and I had stopped to break at the Long Trail,” he continued, “but, most likely not the Lodge but the campground.”  Oke dug out the records and John poured over the archives in search of the cherished treasured signatures. All transpired while savoring a few drafts. We didn’t unearth the buried prize, but it was fun was in the hunt: searching, sharing and consuming the “Cracker-Jacks” and infrequent “peanut” en route as we “hiked” the trail back in time. The entire experience itself a memory in the making, topped with the forging of new friends. Thank you one and all.

Stop and say “hello” to Okie. Enjoy the meal or stay the night, ski the entire central VT region or concentrate on a couple fine resorts. Then share the good news.

Then, go on to day 5 … Come, Ski With Me!

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Shooting Star Saloon

Utah Tales: The Shooting Star Saloon: “The Real Après Out West”
(Part 6 of the 7 part series: Utahan Tales a 5/5 “Frolic in Utah”:  ’11-12 ski season)

This watering hole was an after though to our visit to Snow Basin on the 3rd day of the Utahan Tales 5/5 ski trip in the ’10-11 ski season.

I often ask of any local I may share a chair going up, “What is your recommendation for a stop and a brew after the lifts close? More than once I was told, “Get to the Shooting Star especially if you’re up in Ogden.” Well we were skiing Snow Basin, so that took us through Ogden. But more accurately it is Huntsville, UT that’s home to The Star.

It is just a few miles from either Powder Mountain or Snow Basin. And Huntsville is not a large town, so easy enough, we stumbled into the Shooting Star – the oldest saloon west of the Mississippi!

Carolyn was our bar keep this day. She was as colorful and as historic as the establishment itself. She knew all about the place, wasn’t shy and did make “smack” from any fast-talking skiers from back East. She can hold her own. Numerous original photos hang on the wall and spur the curious to ask, And Carolyn shares all she knew. It was fun and fascinating, even if perhaps exaggerated.

I’m a history guy, remember? I ate it up – tales and stories of Doc Holiday, Teddy Roosevelt and other historical legends I am vaguely aware of.

On the wall directly over our booth was the head mount of “Buck”. He is (or should I say “was”?) the beloved  St Bernard associated with the saloon. A character at the Star loved his dog so much, he had his head mounted to preserve Buck into posterity. Of course, I recall Jack London’s classic novel, The Call of the Wild, which relates another saga of a St Bernard and his adventures in the gold rush of ’92 and the Alaska frontier.

Now the beer was enjoyable, but the burgers were to die for. Yes we were famished after our full day of adventure and activity, but the “Shooting Star Burger” (two patties with a polish sausage in between) was truly delicious. But chips only here. Fries are probably too much work. But no matter, the platter was generous, tasty and filling.

But then I was chagrined to learn, they didn’t accept credit cards. WHAT! I don’t, or at least enough to cover the cost of the three meals I had promised to lure Jeff and Bob there. Thank the Lord, Bob carries cash. And all three of us agreed, it was well worth our time. It’s an experience I will repeat if possible.

The  not so surprising fact is: We did have hamburgers three nights in a row, but each was delectably different. And hey, all men like hamburgers. And we go Mexican on another night. Oh yea, and then there were the donuts stops for desert.

Jeff was our designated driver who didn’t mind the sobering responsibility because he did report to work on a couple of our ski days. Bob always rode “shotgun”, and I rode the “mother-in-law position, sols in the SUV back seat. It was a good spot because I often had to slap Bob upside the head when he got out of line. (And that was not infrequently.)

Come, SkiWithMe!

(You can link to other Apres experiences)

[Link to last post of this trip] [Link to prior stop on this trip] [Link to 1st day of this trip: Solitude ’11]