Hartley: Orchestrating a veritable avalanche of romance | AspenTimes.com
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Hartley: Orchestrating a veritable avalanche of romance

Todd Hartley
I’m With Stupid

I did something recently that was very much out of character for me, and if you know me, you know that my doing something out of character is most likely a good thing. This is not to say I’m a bad person; it’s just that the things I do that are in character aren’t generally all that noteworthy unless you consider napping on the couch while watching golf something to crow about.

Anyway, what I did was take my wife on a mystery date, which was every bit as romantic as it sounds. It was out of character for me because at no point in my life has anyone considered me a hopeless romantic — hopeless maybe, but I have to admit to coming up short routinely in the romance department.

I mean, sure, I’ve had my moments — well, moment — once orchestrating a perfectly lovely marriage proposal at a remote cabin in the scenic mountains of Colorado. But really, that was about the only Casanova-esque instance I’ve had that comes immediately to mind.

Let me start my recitation at the beginning, though. You see, having lived in the Roaring Fork Valley for roughly 21 years, I’ve driven past a place called Avalanche Ranch perhaps 60 times, and before two weeks ago, I’d never stopped there. It’s located along a scenic stretch of the Crystal River, and I imagined that it probably was very nice, but I was always on my way to somewhere else and never gave myself a reason to visit.

A few years back, Avalanche Ranch discovered a hot spring near the property and built a series of spring-fed pools. When I learned that, it made me determined to get there someday, but it wasn’t until I had a conversation with a female friend a couple of months ago that the idea of taking my wife there on a date came up.

My wife’s birthday was at the end of April, and Mother’s Day fell about two weeks later, so I asked my friend if she had any interesting suggestions for gifts. She thought a date sounded nice, and suddenly things started to click in my mind. I wanted to go to Avalanche Ranch, and there was a new restaurant in the nearby town of Carbondale I was dying to try. All I had to do was farm out our two dogs and pawn our son off on some friends for the night, and voila: I got to be Joe Romance.

So I set the whole thing up, and all I had to do was keep it a secret for about three weeks. This was actually really easy to do because my wife would never in a million years suspect that I had something romantic planned. She knew I was taking her on a mystery date, but I’m guessing she probably thought it would involve Taco Bell and a monster movie.

When the big night finally rolled around, I surreptitiously packed her bathing suit along with my stuff so as not to give her a hint as to what was to come. Then we headed to Carbondale for a wonderful dinner at Town, which is the newest venture from acclaimed local chef Mark Fischer, whose previous eatery, SIX89, was one of our favorites.

After dinner, we drove to Avalanche Ranch, which typically accommodates its guests in rustic cabins. All the cabins were sold out, however, so my wife and I were booked in a covered wagon. I realize that sounds a little odd, but it was actually very cozy and quaint. Plus, it was right next to the pools and their accompanying bathrooms, meaning we didn’t have to go far if the urge to swim or pee called in the middle of the night.

I’m pleased to say that Avalanche Ranch was amazing. The pools, separated by little cascades, were stupefyingly relaxing, and the whole place was so scenic and tranquil as to seem almost fake. Kids and dogs wandered happily about, giving the ranch the feel of some idealized hippie commune, and my wife and I both agreed that we had to come back with our own charges some day.

After a long soak and a good night’s sleep, I awoke the next morning to find a young boy standing outside the wagon, unselfconsciously peeing in the middle of the dirt road running through the property. I couldn’t imagine something like that happening at the Four Seasons or the Ritz, but at Avalanche Ranch it seemed oddly appropriate.

Todd Hartley says, “Seriously ­— go check it out. It’s awesome.” To read more or leave a comment, please visit http://www.zerobudget.net.


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