Eugene Buchanan: Movement of Jah people

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Eugene Bu­­chanan, magazines editor

— Bob Marley would be proud of Steamboat Springs, where every spring break sees an exodus, a movement of the people as locals abandon mud season for greener and warmer pastures. And this year more than most, it seems that movement was to Moab.

Yep, that Utah Mecca for all things desert, including mountain biking, canyon hiking, Milt burgers and 3.2 beer from Eddy McStiff’s to bloat you afterward. Seems you couldn’t swing a dead cat this year and not hit someone from Steamboat.

Certainly there are other hot spots luring locals away from wearing galoshes in a ghost town. Places like Costa Rica, the Yucatan, Nuevo Vallarta and California regularly draw crowds from Routt County. But if you were to bet on a single city claiming the most visitors from 80477 this year, put your money on Moab.

Maybe it’s the economy that caused locals to forsake that trip to the Seychelles or Bonaire this year. Maybe it’s the fact that the ski season plain stunk, dishing up temps that reminded everyone of scorpions, sand and cacti. Maybe it’s the fact that national parks were free as part of National Get Outdoors Week. And maybe it’s the fact that Moab is simply a magnet for like-minded people who appreciate the outdoors. Whatever it is, this year saw a Steamboat-to-sandstone pilgrimage like no other.

I know because we were among the Routt County ranks making the migration. I saw more people on slickrock than I do at City Market. Mill Creek Falls might as well have been the Old Town Hot Springs. Corona Arch? Might as well have been sipping Coronas at Carl’s Tavern.

We were spared the majority of “Steamboat Does Moab.” We didn’t arrive until Wednesday night, five days after break started, waylaid first by a river trip on the San Juan and afterward by a quick jaunt to Mesa Verde. But once we arrived, it was as social a scene as the Free Summer Concert Series.

First stop: filling up our water jug at the Boyd and Berend household, where the two Steamboat families were hosting a happy hour reminiscent of Mahogany Ridge. Represented were five families from Routt County, including the hosts, the Bouchers, the Franklins and the Hobsons. From there, we headed to our campsite at Sand Flats, where several other Steamboat families already had taken up residence, including the Starkeys, the Wallisches and the Millers. Elsewhere in its nooks were the Birkinbines, the Bonifaces, the Weibels and the Skovs.

The next day saw us hike to Corona Arch, Moab’s version of Fish Creek Falls, where we bumped into the Smiths. During an afternoon squall, we found shelter (and welcome showers) at the rec center, where we ran into Cafe Diva’s Daryl Newcomb, also washing off the sand. He was camping at Sand Flats with several other Steamboaters.

Later, after dishing our daughter and friend off at a “sleepover” at a house rented by the Musselmans, we returned to our site only to see that the Flanigans had moved in.

We remained relatively Steamboat-free during the next day’s activities, including mountain bike rides on the Intrepid and Bar M trails, until that night when we bumped into the Rosemonds on Main Street, fresh back from four-wheeling in the Needles.

We managed a Routt County reprieve with a slot canyon hike near Goblin Valley on our way home, but it was short lived. Over our backyard fence, neighbor Newton mentioned that he had just returned from Moab with the entire Nordic team. The next day, I found that our friends the Frithsens and the Gambers also had put Moab on their map.

That’s more than 20 different bloodlines from the ’Boat, and that’s just from our saddled-with-kids social circle. Countless more invariably slipped through the desert cracks. For the week, I’d venture that no other town was better represented in Desert Town USA than Ski Town USA.

I couldn’t even escape it on the final day of break when I went out to ride the just-opened trails of Emerald Mountain. What trail did I find myself on after taking in the view from the Quarry? Steamboat Moab, of course.

Eugene Buchanan is the magazines editor for the Steamboat Pilot & Today. He can be reached at ebuchanan@SteamboatToday.com or 970-870-1376.

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