Steamboat Springs There is something I've wanted to do in a hot tub, or more accurately, right outside a hot tub, for many years now.
Over the weekend, my wish came true.
Twenty of us left Steamboat Springs after work on Friday and drove west to Craig, then south to Meeker. From the outskirts of town we drove up the White River, marveling at the shadows the cottonwoods were casting in the light of a full moon. We finally parked the vehicles at the point where snow removal operations ceased.
Waiting for us was one of the strangest vehicles anyone has ever set eyes upon. Perched on top of a massive snowcat tread was the body of a white Chevrolet Suburban. A pair of giant skis was attached to the front axle.
Terry Mueller was waiting to load our gear into the back of the Suburban. The cab was so far off the ground that when it came time for our group to climb aboard (we traveled in two shifts) a portable staircase had to be attached to the rig.
Off we roared into the night on our way to Trappers Lake Lodge, 16 miles up into the Flat Tops.
All of us were eager to get our first glimpse of the new lodge, rebuilt since last summer's Big Fish fire. Terry kept us entertained with harrowing stories of how the flames swept down off the mountainsides. When the fire roared up to Trappers Lake, it claimed the historic lodge and a barn, but spared most of the rustic log cabins.
Looking at the scene this weekend, it was difficult to understand how any buildings survived. There were burned stands of timber in front of the lodge and burned trees behind the cabins, but somehow an oasis of healthy trees and intact buildings remained.
There was one other structure claimed by the fire -- the big hot tub. Mueller and his crew supervised the rebuilding of the lodge, and they didn't overlook installation of a new 10-person hot tub for their winter guests.
Half of our group put climbing skins on their telemark skis Saturday morning, slapped fresh batteries into the avalanche transceivers, and marched off in search of untracked turns beneath a rock band on Shepherd's Ridge. The rest of us set off around the lake and when the trail ran out, we bushwhacked through the powder snow. John found the easiest route through the rolling ridges studded with the blackened trunks of many hundreds of scorched trees.
The expanse of white snow, the coal black skeletons of the trees and the blue shadows they cast, reduced the landscape almost to an abstraction. After returning to the lodge we quickly changed into swimsuits and headed for the hot tub.
The floating thermometer read 106 degrees, and it took a couple of minutes to grow accustomed to the heat.
Within a few minutes, S.H. announced that she intended to climb out of the hot tub and dive front first into a snow bank. I took the challenge and vowed that if she flopped in the snow, I would certainly do the same. Then M.M. piped up and said she had been jumping out of hot tubs and into the snow for most of her lifetime, and predicted we would find the experience to be exceedingly pleasant in a tingly sort of way.
I never really expected it to happen, but the words were barely out of M.M.'s mouth when S.H. climbed over the edge of the tub and did a big belly flop into the snow.
Within seconds she was back in the hot water, exclaiming loudly about the burning sensation she felt on her skin.
Only one course of action remained -- I made a big face plant in the snow, then eased back into the tub and felt a glow spread up and down my limbs.
Take it from me -- hot tubs and snow banks were made for each other.