As I think back about my life and where my enjoyment of the outdoors came from, I can’t help but go back to spending the summers in Colorado as a young boy. I believe I was 5 years old when we first started making our annual summer voyage to the beautiful Rocky Mountains. My mother was a high school teacher, and my father was an administrator/teacher in the same school system. I can recall that as soon as they had completed their responsibilities with the school, we would load up our Chevy van and head west for Colorado. I vividly remember heading west through the vast open expanse of the Oklahoma panhandle and staring at the horizon for the mountains. I wanted to be the first one to catch a glimpse of the first mountain. There were times that I would see a cloud or a mesa that I thought was a mountain only to be fooled until the beautiful Rockies came into view. I knew once I saw that first mountain what remained of the 14-hour drive was going to be much more exciting.

My family spent from the end of May to the first of August in South Fork Colorado. I learned to fish, play little league, and do many other outdoor activities during our summers in Colorado. I enjoyed everything about being in the mountains. I am sure I will continue to write and talk about my adventures in the San Juan mountains as long as I am able.

One of my earliest and favorite memories of the outdoors was a day hike that I took with my grandparents. I remember my older brother and I got up early and packed our little backpacks with who knows what. I recall having red kool-aid in my canteen and a hoodie. We met Granny and Grandpa at their pickup, and we headed up into the mountains to what seemed like the middle of nowhere. There was a small part of me that wondered if we were lost. We got out of the pickup and started hiking. The pines and the aspens were all around us and I remember thinking how tall and majestic they were. I recall how fresh the forest smelled and how clean the air seemed to be. We hiked for what seemed like forever but was probably only a mile or so when Granny pointed at something bright white a little way off of the trail. I ran over to it to realize it was a large elk antler shed that had been bleached by the sun. Even though it was heavy I lugged it with us the rest of the hike. We hiked a little farther and we came upon what has to be the prettiest mountain lake I have ever seen. I don’t recall the name of this little lake, but I would love to go back someday. As we approached the lake Grandpa told me to walk right up to the edge of the water. The water was crystal clear and completely still. As I got close to the edge, I noticed that it felt like I was floating but still standing on the grass. I looked back at Granny and Grandpa, and they explained to me that the moss and ground had grown out over the edge of the water and the water was actually under the ground I was standing on. It was an amazing experience. We all sat down on a tree that had fallen next to the lake and we enjoyed the cold fried chicken and butter sandwiches that Granny had packed for us. Once we finished lunch, we loaded up our backpacks and headed back to the truck.

It is 40 years later and as I write this and I can still vividly recall that day and all of the sights, sounds, and smells that I experienced. That was a great day in the woods and one memory that I will never forget.  As I have been writing this, I recall so many memories from my times spent in the outdoors. I realize that many of my favorite memories are from spending time in God’s creation with people that I love. I believe it is important for us to be intentional with those we love and get outside with them to make memories.

Chef Dan