Yule Log Hunt begins today
December 10, 2003
If a police force needs new detectives, it should check into one family that has more than a century of history in Routt County. These family members are the masters of the famed Steamboat Springs Yule Log Hunt.
Between Glen Farrell, his cousins Tammy Herfurtner and Shaunna Watterson, and his brother-in-law Alan Selch, the family has found the log about a dozen times in the past 20 years. Herfurtner and Watterson found the log in record time last year, finding it near a cemetery sign with just the third clue. Most years, people search for weeks before successfully finding it, Farrell said.
Today marks the start of the 24th annual Yule Log Hunt, in which a 3-foot, 50-pound log clearly labeled “YULE LOG” in 3-inch-tall, red-painted capital letters, is hidden somewhere within the city limits of Steamboat. The person who finds the log first wins $100 in “Chamber Bucks” that can be spent in any Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association-affiliated business. The chamber and the Tread of Pioneers Museum sponsor the hunt.
Selch, 48, said the incentive isn’t the tangible prize — the thrill is in the hunt and the pride of finding the log after meticulously and tediously pondering clues.
“It’s amazing how much time you spend looking through the snow,” said Farrell, 43. “I will probably spend about five hours of actually searching and digging through snow and a lot more time contemplating the clues.”
Farrell said his family members usually begin the search on their own but later get together to strategize and brainstorm the meaning of the clues and make sure no one is looking in the same place twice. That helps, Farrell said, but being a lifelong resident of the area helps the most.
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Jayne Hill, president of the Tread of Pioneers board of directors, agreed that longtime residents with greater knowledge of Steamboat history have a strong advantage over newcomers. The clues are written to include historical significance, which is why the Tread of Pioneers Museum has been called upon to help out with the project in recent years, Hill said.
“It’s amazing how some people interpret the clues to where they think it is, to where it actually is,” Hill said slyly. “I think it’s neat how people sit around … and talk about it. It’s such a social event, and it’s just a fun event and a community tradition.
“My intention is for them to find it. The key is looking near historical places, and looking for a place where it could be connected. You have to try to look around for past events that can tie into the clue.”
A new clue will be released every weekday and will be aired on radio stations and printed in the Steamboat Today.
Selch is the master of deciphering the clues. He has found the log more times than anyone else. The log has a Stanley Cup-like tradition of having the finder’s name inscribed on it each year — and Selch’s name is on it five times.
Selch remembers when former Steamboat resident John Bower wrote the clues, which were broadcast only over the radio.
“He was the kind of guy who would write those $40 legal terms,” Selch said, recalling a clue Bower wrote: “pass the halls of erudition” — erudition meaning “knowledge acquired through reading and studying” — which led Selch to find the log at Colorado Mountain College.
“Hopefully, we can keep it in the family this year,” Selch said.