Yule Log lost again

Annual search highlights history, season

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After seven years of hiding the Yule Log and then revealing its location through tortuous clues, Jayne Hill said she has yet to run out of good hiding places.

In fact, she thinks there are too many secretive spots in Steamboat Springs that are perfect for the Yule Log's seasonal home. The real problem is writing clues that can stump the famed Yule Log-finding family, the Farrells, for more than a day or two.

Hill, who is president of the Tread of Pioneers Museum and writer of the clues, vows to do better.

"They're not going to get me this year," Hill said.

Today starts the hunt for the Yule Log, a 26-year tradition for residents of Steamboat Springs and the Tread of Pioneers Museum. Although the search of the Yule Log more than likely ends with the Farrell family, it has become a tradition for the whole town, as patrons in coffee shops, retired couples eating breakfast and businesses start their days racking their brains to unveil the hidden location.

"In a world short on traditions, the museum likes to keep our traditions," Tread of Pioneers Museum Director Candice Lombardo said. "It is also what makes us a community.

For 10 days, the museum will release a clue a day. The first clue starts at the location of last year's hiding place -- this year, that spot is the rodeo sign on Howelsen Hill Parkway -- and the clues eventually will lead to the current hiding spot.

The clues are printed in the Happenings section of the Steamboat Today and are aired on the local radio stations. The final clue is released on Christmas Eve.

Always rhyming with references to Steamboat Springs' history, the clues are intended to educate and build a path to the Yule Log's location. Hill brainstorms all year to come up with a hiding spot, visits the locations several times and does historical research before writing the clues.

"My goal is for the (log) to be found. I just don't think it is fun, if it doesn't get found," Hill said. "Progressively, more and more information is given."

The Farrell family members have become Steamboat's greatest sleuths.

Family members Tammy Herfunter, Shaunna Watterson, Glen Farrell and Alan Selch have found the log four of the past five years. Last year, it took just one clue to track down the Yule Log, and the year before, it took three.

"It's not just one person. It's all of them working on it," Hill said about the family's strategy for tracking down the log.

The Farrells use the $100 prize money for a family dinner, with the Yule Log as the table's centerpiece, of course, Hill said.

Each year, the 3-foot-long, 50-pound Yule Log is hidden on public property within the city limits. At least a portion of the log is visible from its hiding place, even if it means Hill has to sweep snow off of it every day.

The Yule Log is distinctively marked in red, and the names of previous year's finders have been permanently written on it.

When found, the log should be taken into the Tread of Pioneers Museum, and the finder can claim a $100 gift certificate from the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association.

Let the searching begin.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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