Joanne Palmer's Life in the 'Boat column appears Wednesdays in the Steamboat Today. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Find more columns by Palmer here.
Steamboat Springs As we hiked through knee-high wildflowers to picnic on the shore of Gilpin Lake, my friend remarked, "I'm in a bit of a food mood. Nothing seems appealing."
"Try this," I said, reaching into my backpack for a little plastic bag containing a small piece of chocolate fudge.
A pause while we remembered the tableau of vibrant colors on the way up - purplish columbines, yellow glacier lilies and fiery Indian paintbrush.
And then, I heard a barely audible "mmmmm" that telegraphed one message:
"I haven't had fudge in years. Where did you get that?"
It was time to share my secret. Serious fudge fans know there's only one place to buy fudge in Routt County - the marina at Steamboat Lake State Park.
For the past 16 years, Carolyn White, better known as the "Fudge Lady," has mixed up her sweet creamy confections for tourists and locals.
A retired school teacher, Carolyn and her husband Carroll moved to Hahn's Peak in 1993 to open a fly-fishing business. While her husband focused on fishing, Carolyn concentrated on Village Treasures, a gift shop where Hahn's Peak Cafe is located. While scouting for merchandise for her gift shop, she spied a fudge display and suggested to her business partner, Donna, that they give it a try.
"Oh, no," Donna said, "I think people only buy fudge at Christmastime."
Thankfully, Carolyn prevailed, and they sold 2,000 pounds of fudge during the first year.
Although she no longer owns the gift shop, former customers still stop in the Hahn's Peak Cafe to ask where the fudge is.
"The friendships are the best part," Carolyn said. "I've had repeat customers for years. It's so fun to see them every summer."
But the marina is not the only place where she sees her fans. Once, when she took her grandchildren to the Old Town Hot Springs, cries of "There's the Fudge Lady!" greeted her from the pool.
If there were a Fudge Hall of Fame, Carolyn would be the star of it.
During the summer, she makes 75 pounds every other week. To find her, all you have to do is follow your nose. The irresistible smell of rich, creamy chocolate will lead you to a small kitchen located in the back of the marina store. Something about this woman brings to mind a ballet. Her movements are graceful, fluid, almost choreographed. She's been dancing the same dance for 16 years, but there's joy in every step as she turns to slice open the bags of ingredients, slices the butter and pours the warm fudge into the pans.
Her laughter floats in the air and then is carried off into the building, making everyone who hears it smile.
Yes, the dry ingredients are special - shipped from Calico Cottage in Amityville, N.Y. - but they are purchased. The love that Carolyn White stirs into each batch and the pride she takes in her fudge are the secret ingredients. Those are what make fudge fans out of everyone who tastes her work.
The Fudge Lady made some new fans recently, when the Denver Broncos cheerleaders came to Steamboat Lake for a photo shoot.
Keela Harris, a former Denver Broncos cheerleader, posted this on the cheerleader's blog: "One of the most memorable parts of our trip back to the Marina was the sweet treat at the end. Karl, the Marina manager, gave us samples of the best fudge in Colorado. The Fudge Lady makes this infamous fudge, and I can vouch that this was without a doubt the sweetest way to finish off the day!"
Three cheers and a hip-hip, hooray for the Fudge Lady.