I just got back from a refreshing week off at my family cabin outside of Colorado Springs. The cabin is a wonderful place on the side of 14,115 ft Pike’s Peak that my great grandfather built back in the 1920’s. It’s a rugged place, but it comes with the complete “get-a-way” experience including a mountain stream running through the backyard.
As I recharged at the cabin, and completed various small repairs of the 100 year old shack, I got to thinking about how my visits there as a child may have very profoundly affected my life-path.
In 2007, I had briefly worked at a private practice, then took my first travel assignment at a community hospital outside of Boston. I was waiting for Kate to be ready to leave her private practice job before we set out on the road. When things finally aligned, we headed straight for a summer in Colorado Springs.
There was really no reason to go to Colorado Springs other than my experiences visiting as a child. Colorado seemed really cool, and the only part of the state I had any familiarity with was Colorado Springs. So off we went to unknowingly start 10+ years as travel PTs.
We both commuted out of the Springs about an hour South to work in Pueblo. Often, we would scoot out of work Friday night and make the 20 to 30 min drive up into the mountains to the cabin for just one night. We would wake up before sunrise in the morning to go hike a 14er (there are 50-something 14,000 ft peaks in Colorado). With the cabin as our basecamp, we bagged 10 of the high peaks that summer, including Pikes Peak.
Having grown up visiting around and on Pikes Peak, that mountain holds a lot of nostalgia for me. But also, it is objectively magnificent. At about 9,000 ft of prominence above the surrounding area, it is HUGE. America the Beautiful was written atop it. You can take a train up it, there’s a car race up it, there’s a marathon up it. What a mountain, I love it.
As that summer drew to a close, Kate and I started to consider ski towns for the winter and our second travel assignment together. All I knew about skiing in the West was learned from movies and magazines. For some reason, Breckenridge and Park City were the ski towns that came to mind, but I was open to suggestion.
At that same time, two close friends back in Boston decided they were teaming up, quitting their jobs, and headed to ski bum in Aspen for a winter. Kate and I immediately had our sights set on one ski town… a little place called Aspen.
Our recruiters told us there was no way we would find two out-patient jobs in Aspen during the winter. By using a Denver-based travel agency, we eventually found the jobs we were looking for. In December, we started working in a posh outpatient clinic in the St. Regis Hotel working with the very rich including multiple A-list movie stars. We worked at the base of Aspen Mountain and had a 3 hour lunch break specifically for skiing.
In 10+ years of traveling, that was by far the worst assignment I have ever had. It was awful. But, it opened my eyes to the West, and specifically to Aspen. It created opportunities for Kate and I to spend the next 10 years working in Aspen in the winter and traveling elsewhere in the summer.
The work that winter was awful. But the recreation and lifestyle outdoors cleared the path for a new way of living.
Now, 13 years later, we’re married and permanent in Aspen. We’ve just put our kids to bed and are sitting in the backyard as I write. We have a stream nearby that I can hear. Truthfully, it’s an irrigation ditch for the adjacent farm field. Whatever the source of the running water, I always think of the stream behind the cabin. Whenever I step out of the daily routine for a minute to look around at the beautiful mountains surrounding me, I think of the cabin and wonder how I pulled off this lifestyle.
When I was at The Cabin this past week, I realized that it was the part of my childhood that gave me a love of the outdoors. Growing up outside of Boston, we never went camping, we hiked occasionally. I won’t say it was typical, but it was a pretty suburban existence… except for one week at the rugged ol’ cabin in Colorado every summer.
Man, I love that place.