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A Conversation With Curt

Steamboat Lake State Park

October 6, 2020

It started out with me saying “beautiful day” and turned into a 45-minute conversation.

His name was Curt. Or maybe Kurt. Or maybe it was Chad? Why am I so bad with names? Simple - my mind is overwhelmed with questions. Is this someone I want to talk with? Is my zipper down? Is there something in my teeth? He’s not wearing a mask - what should I do? What if he asks me for money? Is he going to ask me what I do for a living? What’s he going to think of me? Is my hair standing up?

Let‘s go with Curt - C for Colorado. He pointed out it was a beautiful day except for the smoke from the forest fires. He knew precisely where the four fires are that are bringing smoke to this area. He volunteered that he had been camping since March. Deep woods camping. I noticed his beater Ford Explorer (1998?) was pretty much filled up supplies. I did not see his elk hunting rifle.

I asked about the Aspen leaves and he said this fall has been one without a real peak. Cold and snow in August threw the trees into uncertainty he postulated.

Curt said that the forest fires are burning out the trees that have died from a beetle infestation. But the fires are not control burns and have been started by people. (Passive voice - my bad.). Covid had brought out everyone and their mother to the wilderness this summer - not just on weekends but everyday of the week. Even though Colorado had a campfire ban all summer, he observed that all these beginner campers thought it would be ok if THEY had a campfire.

Curt wasn’t too high on what Colorado has become (that pun was not intended). “Too many people have moved here” was his complaint. He opined that “Wyoming is what Colorado used to be.” “At least the 1/3 of Wyoming that is inhabitable.” I said I had friends who had spent some time in DuBois. I could tell he was impressed that I pronounced “DuBois” correctly. His eyes lit up behind his wraparound blue mirror sunglasses. “Hard to beat DuBois,” he stated with certainty.

We, of course, talked about the weather forecast because that’s what guys do. We focused on the snow and cold coming in this weekend. He cautioned me that the forecast of snow is usually not conservative - in that it snows more and for longer than the forecast.

I asked him for a suggestion of a good place to head from Steamboat. I wasn’t surprised when he suggested Wyoming. He broke out a NFS map and showed me how to get to Encampment, Wyoming. Said the two-hour drive on Forest Service roads (synonym for “not paved”) would be beautiful. Except that “Aspen Alley” between Route 129 and FSR 550 was not as spectacular as it usually is.

As our conversation was wrapping up, I introduced myself. I know he wasn’t listening. How can I be sure? Well, I’m 90 percent sure. When I say my name I usually get one of two reactions - say again or that’s an unusual name. If someone doesn’t respond with one of those two responses, I’m pretty sure my name didn’t register.

Perhaps he was wondering if his zipper were down.

are that are bringing smoke to this area.

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