The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988

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Fisher Mountain peak towers above Creede, Colorado

Fisher Mountain ski hut

Surviving another ski vacation

—TY AND BARB BELKNAP

For the past fifteen years or so, we have taken a few winter days to cross-country ski into various yurts in the mountain wilderness north of Chama. This year, we opted for a hut in Colorado, found via Google search by friends who rented the hut for three nights.

All we had to do was pack two group meals, snacks, sleeping bags, and extra long underwear into backpacks, throw the skis into the car, and follow the Rio Grande north. The route to Rio Arriba jogs over to US 285 at Española. North of Ojo Caliente, it’s a straight shot to the border through the high desert above the river gorge, offering spectacular views of the snow-covered Truchas and Wheeler peaks to the east. Continuing into the San Luis Valley, we enjoyed the sunset over the Sangre de Cristos, then headed west on SR 160 to South Fork. The Silver Thread Scenic Byway runs up a canyon alongside the dwindling Rio Grande to the silver-mining town of Creede, where we spent the night.

Creede was founded during the mining boom of the 1890s when it became home to ten thousand miners, along with dance halls, whorehouses, and saloons—operated by such notables as Bat Masterson and Bob Ford. It was said, “It’s day all day in the daytime, and there is no night in Creede.” (Whatever that means.) It was pretty quiet the night we were there. The few locals in the historic saloons complained about the long, cold winter—that last January was among the coldest months on record. A herd of deer had taken refuge in the city park.

In the morning, we drove ten miles up the valley, took the well-plowed Forest Road 526 to the hut trailhead, and skied five miles up the unplowed Forest Road 527 with “ultralite” backpacks that were way too heavy. It was a gentle but exhausting four-hour climb with a fifteen-hundred-foot elevation gain to the Fisher Mountain Hut at a 10,864-foot elevation. Luckily, the trail was broken by snowmobile tracks. All six of us fifty-something-year-olds were leaning heavily on the poles and breathing hard in the thin air, hearts pounding—none had chest pain though. Surviving the ski into the yurt or hut is always key in planning next year’s ski vacation. (Retreating downhill to the car is always an option.)

Fisher Mountain Hut was nestled in deep snow behind a stand of trees on land leased from the national forest. It was in the midst of a remodeling project by the new owner, who had added picture windows and a living room. (He promises a sauna next year.) We shoveled a path to the composting outhouse and swept snow from a large deck overlooking canyons flowing with the headwaters of the Rio Grande, and Rocky Mountains as far as the eye could see.

We built a fire in the wood stove, started melting snow for drinking water, and cooked dinner on a propane stove in the well-stocked kitchen. The hut had been supplied with an eclectic library, board games, and guitar—as well as potato chips and a nearly full fifth of tasty premium tequila that may have not been intended for our consumption. Clouds blew in from the north and it snowed another ten inches during the night.

The following days were spent exploring varied terrain, on trail and off. A couple of us skied to the top of a steep snowfield overlooking the vast Wininuche Wilderness. Powder was deep for the ski back down, but showed few signs of avalanche. Our intrepid snowshoer climbed through the woods all the way to the top of Fisher Mountain. Best of all was the broad exposed shoulder of the mountain which offered effortless, dreamy skiing with no goal but to return to the hut for dinner. Mountain huts and yurts allow a remote wilderness experience by providing exclusive, inexpensive shelter in a hostile environment.

Leaving on a cloudless nearly spring day, it took less than an hour to cruise back to the parking lot, where we had a tailgate picnic and reflected on a time gone by too fast.

For more information, visit www.creedemountainhuts.com, email kipandkim@centurytel.net, or call (719) 658-1333.


Geocache event to raise funds for literacy

ReadWest is a nonprofit adult and family literacy agency serving Rio Rancho and surrounding communities. On April 12, they will sponsor The ReadWest Geocache Challenge—Treasure Hunt for Literacy Fundraiser. Geocaching is a high-tech game using Global Positioning Systems (GPSs) to find treasures (caches) in urban and natural areas, and marking coordinates for the location of geocaches, as well as using them in the hunt.

At least twenty-five caches filled with prizes are hidden throughout Rio Rancho for this event. Teams, each consisting of one car and one GPS, will race within a specified time to see how many caches they can find. Thanks to CITI Cards, a major sponsor, there will be lots of fun prizes to be found and trophies for first-, second-, and third-place winners.

ReadWest serves approximately three-hundred-fifty to four hundred adults each year. Their mission is to teach adults to read and write in an effort to help them gain employment and increase their incomes (therefore contributing to gross receipts and tax revenue), become good examples for their children, and help families get out of the generational cycle of illiteracy.

For information and registration information, contact Susan Markin-Ryerson at 235-0714 or readwest@earthlink.net.

 

 

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