A world of white greeted me on my final morning at Snow Mountain Ranch. Deep powder blanked my car and was still being plowed from the campus roadways. Arriving at breakfast earlier than usual, the low sunlight caught the sparkling white branches of the pine trees atop the hill at the Commons with mountain peaks glowing in the background. It begged for a photo, but for once I had no camera with me.
By the time I finished packing the car a thick low fog had descended into the valley. All was indeed white. And so were the roads. The snowpack and ice were an unwelcome addition to the roads that were clear pavement just the afternoon before, and it was a slow and treacherous drive through the local countryside.
The Berthoud Pass, which was my most direct route to Denver, had been closed the day before and through the night due to a snowslide, but fortunately reopened early that morning. I was glad for the clear sunny skies which worked their magic on the road, uncovering patches of pavement that gave my tires greater purchase as I wound my way around the switchbacks in the mountain pass. Unaccustomed to driving on my own in dicey conditions, I prided myself that my knuckles never turned white and I safely navigated the pass. My reward was stopping at the first exit on the freeway (which was mercifully clear) to rid my wipers of ice and stand in a long line in order to savor a latte.
Finally I could relax a little and reflect on my time at SMR. That last week there finally cemented my affection for the place, and I could understand why so many senior volunteers return year after year. Good weather (no strong winds!), lots of fresh snow, excellent skiing, plentiful social events and good company all came together, and at last I knew how it felt to be part of it all. It takes a while to get acclimated to the way of life at SMR and really get to know people. I was indeed part of the SMR family. And wouldn’t you know, I reached that point just about the time I had to leave. I only wish that Rich had been able to stay and enjoy the same benefits and rewards. It was a great experience, and left me wanting to return for more.
At the Denver airport, Rich and I were reunited after a long 10 days apart while he stayed with his Dad in the hospital in Florida. We ended up cutting our time at SMR short by about 5 days, but under the circumstances, we were both ready to head for home. It was a bittersweet experience, but the bitter is fading fast leaving mostly sweet memories for me. Farewell, Snow Mountain Ranch – at least for now.