Time to pack up…and go home

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Summer is most assuredly in full swing. The heat around here has been a little much for me. I don’t know what you do to cool off...there are many options, I know.
Around here there is the Ouray Pool (in its new beauty) or the state park with the lake. Both are great ideas. For me and mine, we “head for the mountains”; more directly, we head for the cabin on the ranch at the base of the San Juan Mountain range. It is easily 15 degrees cooler, secluded and out of phone range (for the most part). I have visions of Nana and Appa (names the grandkids have given us) sitting on the wood porch with a trusty rifle setting comfortably at our side and two perfectly behaved cattle dogs laying at our feet. The scene in my head is classic and very Norman Rockwell like. A blissful thought, indeed. I have made my decision...we are going to the cabin to cool off. All that I have to do is “pack up.”
You might think, “no big deal,” throw some stuff in a cooler and go, right? That would be an understatement of biblical proportions. Packing up is multi-leveled and takes a great deal of detailed planning to avoid getting “there” and not having something vital (i.e.; a lighter to start the campfire).
I have a family of four at home now; The Cowboy, the Rodeo Queen, “One Chop” Wyatt and myself. I need to pack the clothes we may need into the truck. It’s a bit cooler up there, so we leave the house in shirt sleeves and may arrive at the cabin requiring sweatshirts and jackets...that’s four jackets and an extra blanket or two. The item I forget the most often goes into the truck next...socks. All four of us get an extra pair of socks. It never fails that just when you think you are good to go, the creek comes up and the ground between the cabin and the fire is flooded. We cannot go to the cabin without access to the fire...that’s four pairs of socks in the truck.
I think I have all the extra clothing we need, I hope. It’s time to shift my thoughts to the food. Our family does not go to the mountains without cooking “taters” on the fire. But before they can be cooked they have to be peeled and cut. All five pounds of potatoes and the accompanying onion, peeled, cut and placed in a pot of warm water to soak for the drive up. Don’t forget the bungee cord to keep the lid on the potatoes or they will be soaked in warm, dirt flavored water.
The family prefers beef burgers on the open fire. So, I have to “slap” out two pounds of hamburger meat, season with salt and pepper and load them into the cooler along with cheese, mustard, ketchup, mayo, more sliced onions and buns. Did I pack the cooking oil...is there lighter fluid at the cabin...where is the lighter...did I put coffee creamer in the cooler...enough water...dish and hand washing water....WHY AM I DOING ALL THIS by myself???
I think I have all the food and drinks we might consume, I hope. Time to gather the people I am hoping to spend “quality” time with. Checklist for departure: four camping chairs, three dogs (yes they all get to go, too), two coolers, two blankets, one serving table, one lantern, one .357 Henry rifle (you never know), a Rodeo Queen, One Chop Wyatt, the Cowboy and me.
I’m so tired from prepping to “get away” ... I just want them to go and leave me alone.
It takes about 35 minutes to drive the ranch road to the cabin. In that time, we have had to stop to reload a dog twice after falling off, recover the potatoes pot once and move a log off the road to get there...but we are at the cabin.
Fifteen minutes to unload, set up and start the fire. Our youngest gets to work on the kindling, thus his name “One Chop” Wyatt. He takes the smaller cut pieces of wood stacked on the porch and uses a hatchet to “One Chop” them into submission. Hey, it keeps him busy...so it’s good.
The food is cooking, stir the taters, flip the burgers, put the percolating coffee maker on the fire, pass out the plates, open the drinks, chase down the napkins in the breeze, serve the food, pour the coffee and finally sit down and enjoy quality time with my family.
A mere 15 minutes later the sky opens up and the largest raindrops in history begin cascading down from the heavens upon our heads. New plan...throw the chairs into the cabin, cover the food with the blankets, get the jackets from the truck, convince the dogs to get inside (lovely smell) and huddle up to each other...bonding time, for sure.
I think I have had all the “get away” I can take. The cold around here has been a little much for me. I don’t know what to do to warm up...Oh yes I do...Go HOME.

Erin Stadelman is a rancher's wife and a devoted care- taker of children, grandchildren, horses and cows alike. She was awarded first place by the Colorado Press Association for most humorous columnist in 2016.