Not quite lost, but found several times
September 1, 2006
If you’ve ever read John Cheever’s short story, The Swimmer, this tale will have a certain ring to it. However, even if you haven’t read that intriguing snapshot of a man’s life, you may still find this recounting of survival in the Roaring Fork Valley to have some value beyond entertainment.Not long ago, standing on the saddle near the top of the Arbaney-Kittle trail, where most everyone turns around, I decided to take a different way down and having the unerring sense of mountainous terrain that Hugh Glass, mountain man extraordinaire, undoubtedly had, I took off on this new byway without blinking an eye. About 50 yards past a crucial turn-off point and realizing my mistake, I continued on anyway, just to see what further vistas might reveal. Soon, the Basalt (Fairview) Cemetery was in sight, and spotting a man sitting proximate to a tombstone, figured I’d see about scoring a ride back to my Jeep, stationed at the trail head. Alas, it soon became apparent that the man, in a wheel chair near the grave, was reasonably drunk and giving a sermon to all departed souls who would listen, detailing the wrongs he personally had committed against his deceased friend, lying there at his feet.Wrong guy to ask for a ride, so I quietly began working my way around the mountainside to my vehicle, making an effort to stay high so that I didn’t end up on the private Roaring Fork Club golf course. Things went well, albeit a bit slippery, until on my way by one of the cabins lining the links, I happened to glance in a window and spy a middle-aged woman, dressed only in bra and panties, standing before a mirror. It was clear she had seen me and visions of being arrested for peeping through windows went spiraling through my head.With that thought in mind, I headed for the golf course to take my chances with security rather than spook hell out of the neighborhood, as there were a couple of cabins yet to pass. Almost immediately, a golf cart containing an officious sort of person drove directly up to me and asked if I needed help. My negative answer triggered the offer of a ride, which I refused. (Before reaching the clubhouse, a total of three carts had asked if they could be of assistance, each more ingratiating than the last.) I felt totally out of place on the fairways, particularly going the wrong direction, but slowly began to reassess the situation.With my salt-and-pepper hair, shorts and hiking boots, I could easily have been a guest there, and began to feel less like an intruder and more like a man who quite possibly appeared to be disoriented or lost, or both.About dusk, I made the clubhouse and once again was stopped, this time by a young man who insisted I stop and talk to him for a while, just to let myself calm down. Knowing I had not outwardly exhibited agitated behavior, I surmised this request a little curious, but acquiesced, beginning to find this whole odyssey a bit on the wild side. The kid had grown up in Aspen and knew my family well, or so it seemed. He asked if we still had the cabin on the hill and I, thinking he was referring to our old cow camp, about 18 miles distant, replied in the affirmative. With that innocent, but misleading answer, he said he would arrange for someone to take me home without problem – it’d take just a minute to get a cart to come around.I now knew they thought I was an uncaged guest, on the borderline of embarrassing them, and as the kid went for the phone, I bolted, up the stairs, around the swimming pool, past a couple of cabins (on the hill) and into the Arbaney-Kittle parking lot. “Let’em stop me now,” I thought. “I’m off the property.”Unlike Cheever’s protagonist, Tony Vagneur knows where he’s been, he thinks. Read him on Saturdays and send comments to email@example.com.
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