Monday, September 22, 2008


Last spring while watching Stanley Kubrick's 'The Shining' I googled the phrase winter caretaker and got a hit. An ad appeared for the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in Gothic, Colorado. I had never heard of it, but I liked the sound of it... nine or ten months alone to work on some art and enjoy the mountains... perfect.

After some fancy application writing, and persistence, they offered me the job. I was as surprised as anybody, and a little worried... afraid that I might actually like it. I had a good job in Denver, and a not so great apartment, but it was stable. I honestly didn't know I was really going until I really went.

Except for two other caretakers, and the lab's business manager (billy barr - the only year round resident in Gothic) I'll be alone. There will be once or twice monthly trips down to Crested Butte, about three miles by ski or snowshoe only after it snows. No snowmobiles or motorized anything is allowed in the valley in winter. There is a 'ski cabin' right next to mine where back country skiers can stay the night. I'll be supplying them with water and propane throughout the winter. So it's not completely REDRUM up here.

I arrived on September 1st after a long six hour drive in a u-haul. The weather was good all the way to Gunnison.

Mount Princeton

But on the road north to Crested Butte it started raining. I didn't mind. Rain and clouds give the scenery more dimension.

Highway 135

Elk Street, Crested Butte

It was near dark when I arrived in CB. It took another hour to get up to Gothic. One of the residents (George) who just happened to be walking by pointed me to my cabin. I found a bed and fell asleep.

On Wednesday (9/3) I began work crew detail with about five other guys and a supervisor. We fixed and built fences to keep cattle out of the lab's research meadows, shut down the summer water supplies, and closed unoccupied cabins. Most scientists and students were gone before I arrived, leaving their various cabins and labs to be shuttered and emptied by the crew.

Back in Denver, before this job came along, I was sitting on my ass in front of a computer for the better part of a year, and four thousand feet lower. Try carrying fifty pound bags of cement up a hill at this altitude and you'll understand why I've never been so tired in my life.

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