I worked the morning shift then hustled home, unpacked from the South Fork Loop, repacked and headed up to Copper Mountain to help prepare Janet’s Cabin for the winter season.
I hopped on the Colorado Trail and promptly
went the wrong way took a detour down to highway 91, dodged through a very busy golf course, climbed Westward across the Copper Mountain runs, and over an abandoned mine shaft before I reached Guller Creek Gulch. Jacque Ridge loomed and stretched along the SW, a ginger tinged Star Destroyer. Therefore Star Wars meets Pocahontas scenarios got me up the last few miles of the Gulch and just above tree line as darkness fell. About .25 miles out from the hut, a bright light was coming my way. Mike, one of the Summit Hut Association staff and our head man, had come out search for me. His concern reminded me that safety out here is never to be assumed and, therefore, communication is all the more vital. I was glad to be joining up with a group who would come looking for someone they hadn’t even met yet.
Mike led me down the side trail to Janet’s. While they insist on calling these structures ‘huts’, these are beyond anything an AT hiker could even think to dream of. 3000 square feet of unadulterated mountain lovin’ towered before me in the bright moonlight.
Inside, a central wood stove warmed the cheery main-space where a handful of folks sat around the wood tables, sipping tea and nibbling jelly beans while others drifted off to sleep on the wide, cushioned benches which line the windows. Throw pillows, dictionary, board games, all necessary and superfluous (a lemon juicer) kitchen utensils, guitar, composting indoor toilets, this hut was fully stocked. With a Sauna out back. We wandered up to the bunk rooms and I slept in a bed more comfortable than that in my house (which isn’t saying much, but is still a big deal).
I woke gently with the sun and meandered downstairs, where Mike was making sausage links and massive pancakes with berries cooked in and strawberries, bananas and syrup to spread on top. When your day starts off that great and only gets better, it is saying something.
They had done the helicopter work the day before, hauling up propane tanks and 5 chords of wood. Today was about the house work. Mike set out a list and in the naturally independent propensity of mountain folk, we each set to doing whatever needed done.
Chatting and working together, I was keenly honored to learn from life long locals and to share a similar trajectory to a other itinerants, wondering at the odds that we each be catapulted up this gulch to this cabin, for purposes of service and investment. We discovered common threads weaving us together and, while they sounded funny, eg. relation to ER personnel, they made a lot of sense.
Janet herself passed on to ski the ‘champagne powder in the sky’ in 1988 but the cabin built to commemorate her spirit compounds annually in the amount of pleasure, love, and goodness poured into it by people such as these. What a marvelous legacy to leave, and an honor to perpetuate.
Easy, Happy Dog, and I trekked back down to Copper laughing and chatting the whole way. As we came down amoungst the runs I listened keenly to their exchanges and they were patient when I asked for explanations of such terms as “skittles” (brightly clad and enthusiastic skiers and boarders, most often found in the terrain park) and “bra’ man” (males of a doobieous and laconic lilt).
I drove away with a massive grin, satiated heart, and a nasty cough.