Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

Ted Nugent’s house times ten

First things first – I have a story in an upcoming anthology by Luca Pierro and Black Arrow Press. The book is called Santi: Lives of Modern Saints and will be out around the end of the year. Luca has made a trailer for the book on YouTube, and it’s pretty damn good. It’s here. It also has John Sheppard and Tim Gager in it, along with a few dozen writers I don’t know. So stay tuned for more details.

On Friday, I picked up Sarah from the airport (always a disconcerting drive, since you get to the airport exit on I-70 with only seconds to spare because of gridlock – a long forgotten concept to me – and then you realize that there’s this 87-mile long airport service road, and even though you’re on airport drive, you’re closer to the St. Louis Arch than you are the terminal.) Anyway we stopped in Stapleton on the way back to go to Target (how did I live for eight years with no Target and no car?) and we stopped at this place, I don’t remember the name, but it’s called Outdoor World or something. We always saw it from the highway, and I was curious what it was like inside.

Outdoor World (or whatever) was basically like Ted Nugent’s house times ten, minus the guitars. It was a giant aircraft hanger with a Noah’s Ark full of dead stuffed animals, heads on walls, and a fish tank bigger than our apartment with giant fish inside that must have weighed 50 pounds each. The general decor inside was in the “I voted for George Bush twice, and I’ve got more guns than you”. And there was every conceivable outdoor accessory you could imagine inside.

Now, I’m not trying to take a piss on people who hunt or fish; it’s just that after so much time in a giant metropolis, it’s very different to see an entire display case full of kits to make beef jerky from moose entrails. And while some people might be put off by this sort of thing, it absolutely fascinates me. I had to make a complete lap of the place (which took like an hour and a half) and look at all of the gadgets and toys and gizmos for hikers, climbers, hunters, campers, and fishers. And it was difficult only in that I saw about 16 million dollars of stuff I immediately wanted to buy, throw in the back of the Subaru, and drive down to my land. I’m not much of a camper, but after about $20,000 in purchases, I’d damn well try.

One thing that interested both of us was all of the various hiking and backpacking stuff. Colorado is like backpacking central, and we’re within an hour of at least a hundred good hikes, ranging from absolutely simple to Mount Rainier impossible. I absolutely hate the gym, even though I have one that’s free just three floors below me. The only exercise I’ve ever liked is utilitarian. When I lived at Colonial Crest and had to walk everywhere, I was in the best shape ever. Running on a treadmill does nothing for me, no matter how many songs I have on my iPod. So the thought of getting out on a Saturday and walking around a lake or a mountain or something interests me a lot more than staring at the LED hill on a treadmill. We did not make any huge purchases in this area other than a pair of Gatorback water backpack things, because they were on sale and cheap, and looked cool.

(The not buying anything was important, because if you read any hiking or backpacking book or guide, they tell you that you basically have to buy $7,000 of shit before you leave the house. I.e. you shouldn’t wear jeans; your tennis shoes are wrong; your coat won’t work; no cotton t-shirts, and so on. I didn’t want to buy anything until I could determine that I would ever go hiking more than twice in my life. So blue jeans and tennis shoes, for now.)

After a bit of homework on the web, we packed up on Saturday morning and headed for Lake Dillon, which is about an hour fifteen west of Denver, and according to some web site, has a pretty basic hiking trail. The weather was perfect, and it was a pretty decent drive. As we got west, we really hit the Rocky Mountains, and our altitude doubled in a half-hour or so. Everything became switchback roads and those truck runoff ramps full of sand. It was absolutely striking how much the terrain changed in a matter of a few minutes outside of town.

We got to Lake Dillon, which is a reservoir made when the river was dammed a few years back. Now it’s a ski town and has a bunch of outlet stores, but it’s still a very small little dot on the map. We drove around a bit, and realized… we had no idea where the trailhead was. The instructions I found on the web basically said “drive down this street, you’ll see it” and we didn’t. Eventually we found a paved path that went around the lake, so we parked there and started walking.

And here’s the stupid part. We walked maybe 100 feet before realizing it would be absolutely impossible. It was paved, it was a nice view, but it was about 20 out, and we were dressed for weather in the 50s and 60s. Also, there was this 40-mph wind whipping in over the lake that made it feel more like zero. And this wasn’t a trail – it was a sidewalk. (After more research when we got home, I think we totally missed the actual trails.) We got back in the car, and spent some time looking at all of the weird little vacation homes built into the sides of hills. We then headed back, but stopped in Idaho Springs for lunch, at this pretty incredible pizza place (and I can’t remember the name). The city there looked like Northern Exposure’s town; it used to be a gold rush town a hundred fifty some years ago. Now it’s a strip of strange little shops, and the high school team is called The Golddiggers. Odd.

Anyway, we went to Tattered Cover, Denver’s cool bookstore (Think Elliot Bay in Seattle, Powell’s in Portland, the former Morgenstern’s in B’ton) and bought a bunch of books about places to hike and crap to see around here. So plenty to do next weekend, provided it isn’t like the weather today, which is pitch black and pouring rain.