Summer of Success

Whether you want to climb the Grand Teton or simply fall in love and traipse in wildflowers, now is the time to make this summer magic.

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hat do you need to have happen to make this summer a success? Is it reaching a series of summits, or porpoising through the rapids in what is sure to be an all-time run-off thanks to the epic snowpack?

Do you need to fall in love—everyone should fall in love!—or throw the perfect backyard barbecue where the spotlight is on your super-secret hot-coal chicken sauce? Or maybe you just need an epic road trip to somewhere outside the lines of Colorado’s rectangular box.

You should go see the majesty of Wyoming’s Tetons or Montana’s pyramid-shaped Lone Peak. Or run like an unbridled pony at Oregon’s Cannon Beach with Haystack Rock as your backdrop. Or just take the short drive south to Santa Fe and get your mind blown at the immersive, experiential art installation of Meow Wolf.

Whatever it is that will make this summer as memorable as a cloud-free day in the personal highlight reel of your mind, now’s the time to plan it. Even if it’s as simple as making a garden grow, and catching a few choice shows at Red Rocks (see page 43).

Summer doesn’t last forever, you know. So as soon as you finish reading this, get outside and start soaking up some new experiences.

Wasted Time is What You Make of It

I’m telling you this, but I’m also telling myself. You see, somewhere along the line, I let the magic of summer get away from me, and all my dreams of unfettered freedom became filled almost exclusively with visions of deep snow and cold powder.

I loved the hot days when I was kid, when June to August stretched away like three straight months of Saturdays, and the only thing my brother and I had to do was get up and ride our bikes to the YMCA every morning for swim team practice.

We had summer-long passes to the old Crest Theater on Kearney Street, where we must have seen 100 movies, including the original “Westworld” and “Planet of the Apes.” We ate popsicles by the thousands, played kick-the-can until the sun went down, and if two separate sets of cousins came to visit from New York, we got to go to Elitch’s twice—the ultimate summer success!

There were unforgettable trips to Twin Lakes, and an epic nosebleed watching a storm move in from the top of Electric Pass. And there was fishing in the mountains, canoeing in Canada, and sailing with Dad on his Hobie Cat at Cherry Creek. But sometime around junior high school, summer became the season when I worked…at the concession stand of a movie theater on Colorado Boulevard, mowing lawns in Park Hill, washing dishes at Grande Giovanni’s pizza, bussing tables at Philippe’s (which I was horrible at).

In college, I spent four summers cutting trees for Swingle, the last so I could make enough money to move to Jackson Hole and buy a ski pass. Winter became my offseason, with the mud seasons of spring and fall my poorest months, and the long days of summer my one chance to put any money in my bank account.

All my closest friends were—and still are—ski bums as well. So much so that when an old-time landscaper asked a couple of us, “Do you guys ever think about taking the summer off instead?” we looked at him as if he had eight heads.

Taking Summer Back

It was when my wife’s folks moved to Salida that I began to remember what summer is, and what for me it could be again. It was seeing how most of the lifties at Monarch were river rats less interested in powder days than they were in watching the mighty Arkansas River rise again. Or standing on Main Street watching the 4th of July parade when a woman behind me said, “You all stand up for that flag now,” to a group of kids.

Most of all, it was taking the time to hold my lovely wife on a warm summer night while staring up at the fireworks.

I realized how, in summer, I didn’t spend enough time being lost in a moment. I’d been missing out on that far-reaching space-out where your mind wanders everywhere and nowhere on an afternoon hike. I’d forgotten what it’s like to grab an early cup of coffee at some mountain café and watch the day—and the world—come to life.

And writing it now, I suddenly remember how many friends have uttered the mantra, “I came for the winter and stayed for the summer,” to succinctly sum up what cemented their permanent move from East or South to the Rocky Mountain West.

Summer is the time when we all have the opportunity to reset our psychological clocks, go back into the sweet nostalgia of an extended period of nothingness, and let the heat of the sun seep into our souls like a lizard on a rock.

So yes, I am going to barbecue, and hike, and swim in the soft ripples of the Arkansas. I’ll go see Mark Knopfler fill the air with the smooth leads of electric guitar at Red Rocks. I am going to let summer work its sweet smile on me, and refill my mojo while doing it.

You go get some summer, too, and be good to yourself.

Elevation Outdoors editor-at-large Peter Kray is the author of The God of Skiing. The book has been called “The greatest ski novel of all time.” Don’t believe the hype? buy it here and read it now:

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