North America, Travel Stories

Meeker Colorado Part 1: Before

       For as long as I can remember, my family has driven across the state of Kansas and through the Rocky Mountains to to spend a week at the end of the summer in a log cabin on the river in Meeker Colorado.

We used to stay on the Evansons’ Ranch. When the owners passed away we rented cabins at the Sleepy Cat Ranch. Now we stay in cabins Theodore Roosevelt used during his hunting excursions. One of the fireplaces has an R above the mantel and a great bar attached to the living room. At night you can hear the river running over the rocks and sometimes I think about that great man, the conversations he had with his friends within those same walls, wondering if he too listened to the rapids as he fell asleep.

         I have so many memories of this place and the road trips we took to get there. There was the time my Mom and Dad sang John Denver to stay awake as we drove  through the mountains at night. The time we couldn’t find a hotel room so we parked the truck in the parking lot and my Dad slept outside in his sleeping bag until the sprinklers came on. I remember the day I caught my first big fish. I was seven and my Grandpa pointed out the perfect pool to cast my line into. I felt the tug and reeled it in myself- a rainbow trout that was a whopping 16 in. long! My Grandpa was so proud taking pictures- I remember my arm hurting from the weight of posing with that heavy fish. 

I remember the time all ten of us grand kids prayed for the rain to stop so we could go horseback riding and it did. Another time we went hiking up Mt. McKinnis and a nearby forest fire grew so close it started raining ash on our heads and the sun went dark. We scurried down that mountain as fast as our little legs could carry!

         There have been hard times here, too. The time my Grandma awoke with excruciating pain and had to return home to have her gallbladder taken out, ending our vacation prematurely. There’s the family photograph that was taken just minutes after two brothers got into a punching match-the absence of smiles from their faces says it all.

And then there was the time my family gathered together to spread the ashes of my uncle who died from cancer at the tender age of forty-leaving behind three little girls. His final resting place was the same river he had fished since childhood.

          It’s been five years since we’ve taken this family trek to the mountains. A lot has changed since then. Five years ago I was going through one of the darkest moments of my life. I was coerced into going when I wasn’t sure I had the patience or energy to endure a family vacation. On the precipice of a mental breakdown I truly believe that trip (and my family) helped save my life.  Five years ago my parents were still together and actually ended the week without a single fight. Five years ago we were all living under the same roof. Now we are apart more than we are together, each living our own dreams and forging our separate paths. But this week we will be reunited.

My middle sister spent the summer in Denver and to celebrate the end of a difficult internship, my other sister and I along with my Dad and Grandparents are meeting her in Denver before we make our traditional adventure into the mountains. This week we will fish the same river, cook the same meals, and hike the same mountain trails we’ve been hiking since we were kids. We will relive the old memories while making new ones. This place is dear to my heart because it is filled with family and to me it’s as good as home.

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