High Lonesome Hut a family affair
November 26, 2009
“For me to know a man, I must have him walk me out into his land and tell me the stories of that place he has chosen to live.” – Barry Lopez
I am hiking the Strawberry Creek Trail to High Lonesome Hut with Andy Miller on a day before a winter storm in November. The trail is 2.5 miles and is accessible by hiking, mountain biking, cross country skiing or snowshoeing; but not motorized vehicles.
Andy tells me about the hut system in Grand County that will one day be similar to the 10th Mountain Hut system, as we walk side by side on the trail and cross Meadow Creek. My two dogs and Andy’s retriever-Australian shepherd mix run around in dog heaven.
Andy tells me the history of his 160 acres in the National Forest and how he built the hut while his two sons, Skyler and Forest, grew up. His sons still come out here and work on trails and bike terrain near the hut. The bike terrain is called Huck Forest Bike Camp and features a mountain cross course, ladder trails, a downhill course and a series of gap jumps.
As we walk through spruce and fir I sense Andy’s pride in this land. He knows every inch of it and much of the terrain is named for family members. His sons grew up on this land and as we walk by a tree fort he tells me the story of his son’s building it.
As we approach High Lonesome Hut there are perfectly shaped spruce trees; and they are so green. It’s lovely to see the green, green trees. I am mesmerized by everything: the birds flying from tree to tree, watching the dogs pick up scents and follow the tracks into deeper woods, and just listening to the wind. I walk across the meadow behind the hut secretly hoping for a moose or elk to wander into the scene from the edge of it; but none come.
I tour the hut and read the 10 Commandments; wooden signs that tell guest how to behave: “place the dishes from the Last Supper into the cupboard from whence they came. Fold the blankets. Leave no food behind.” I love the smell of the hut; it’s rustic and welcoming. The hut has solar-generated electricity, hot and cold running water, an indoor toilet, and shower. I look at old posters of Winter Park on the walls as Andy lights the large masonry wood stove in the basement to warm up the hut. I understand why he wants to share this place with visitors; it is the perfect outdoor retreat.
On the way back to the trailhead, we cross a bridge his son, Skyler, is working on and pass the solar panels. Andy explains how power runs from the panels into the house. We crest Woody Hill Top, named after his dad, Elwood, nickname Woody. We pass the bike terrain and I walk near the gap jumps. We pass a hill where Andy’s friends have built a luge run and come every year to stay in the hut and plunge down the run. Just before we reach the trailhead a few snowflakes fall. We aren’t going to get the snow weather forecasters predicted.
Terry Tempest Williams says that “stories give us residency,” and I think of this as Andy tells me stories of his family here on this land he has made his home.
It is a good day in the woods and I will come back in the winter when there is more snow. Anyone can rent High Lonesome Hut, and Andy offers services such as guided day and overnight trips, gear transport, and custom meals. If you’d like a tour of 160 acres to see a landscape of rugged beauty, call Andy, and be sure to ask for the stories.
‰ Visit http://www.lonesomehut.com for more information and photos about a hut trips.
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